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Wednesday, October 9, 2002 

ear Today's Coach Reader:

How specialized will coaches become?

Will coaches need to specialize in order to be successful?

In the workshops I conduct on practice development, I often saw these three apparently-conflicting suggestions:

Coach anyone within 3 feet, who will let you.
When you're first starting out, experience with a wide variety of clients is even more important than specializing.  Make it easy for folks to work with you, assuming that you have the time in your schedule.  Learn, learn, learn, whether they are paying you or not.  
Caution:  Don't work with clients in areas in which you are not competent.  That said, there is likely something you can work with virtually anyone on in your role as a coach.

Select a specialty and go very, very deep with it.
Is your specialty working with women over 50?  I suggest that you get much more specific, i.e., Women over 50 who want to feel like they are 30, and who plan to live large for the next 50 years.  The latter will resonate more with your target/ideal client, even if it appears to disqualify many women over 50.  Moral of the story:  It's okay to get narrow, given that the folks who are in that segment will respond at 10-100 times the normal rate because they feel you are speaking DIRECTLY to them.

Develop/offer 5 to 10 specialties concurrently.
You really can offer multiple specialties and even have different business cards or websites for each.  I've seen a lot of coaches find one niche and stick with it -- with only 5 clients.  To be commercially successful, you may need to have multiple specialties - at least for the first several years until your reputation and marketing engine builds enough for the phone to ring by itself.

Choose specialties with long term economic value to the client.
The idea is to work with a client for the next 20 years, not just the next six months.  The coming-and-going of clients is expensive for the coach and in coaching thus churn factor is very, very high.  What I am seeing is that the coaches who have clients for 10-20 years are either expert improvers/developers of people (skills, awareness, concepts) or they are working with a client on their business or corporate situation.  Don't have this knowledge base? It's all learnable. Don't be afraid to embrace it.

That's interesting, Thomas, but what about the future of specialization coaching? 

Based on both the input I receive (1,100 coaches from 30 countries are on the CoachVille R&D Team) and what I observe directly, here are my best guesses around the future of coaching specialization...

Coaches will become situational experts.
Small business consuming your life?  
There's a coach for that.

Confused about your mission in life?  
There's a coach for that.

Seeking to rise up the corporate ladder in half the time?  
There's a coach for that.

Is it time to redesign your life from top to bottom?  
There's a coach for that.

Need a strategist for that huge project/goal?  
There's a coach for that.

Want to convert all you know into intellectual property on the web?  
There's a coach for that.

Need to run your business using a leadership vs entrepreneurial model?
There's a coach for that.

Not sure what you need from a coach?  
There's a coach who can help you clarify that.

Clients will hire us as coaches and/or participate in a highly-targeted client program that we offer them
Increasingly, clients want 'more' than a coach -- they want the structure of a program or step-by-step process to get from A to B.  After all, there is perceived comfort in a program -- the implication, if not the guarantee, is that the program has proven to work well for a variety of clients, and it means that the coach isn't making up their coaching on the spot (although that can be quite useful as well).

Leadership Training for Entrepreneurs
Mission Development for Teens
Environmental Design for those with ADD

My guess is that there will be hundreds of such modules that a coach can offer/deliver to a client so that the coaching is 'organized/focused' for the clients who prefer that structure.  (Such programs will also improve the quality of coaching because it takes the pressure of a new coach.)  These programs would last 3 months to 5 years and eventually they will segue from one to another.

We are working on a number of programs like this, such as:


And, I see literally hundreds of coaches packaging what they know into ecourses and client coaching programs. It is this packaging of knowledge -- and proven strategies -- and training/coaching solutions for the public that will go a long way to mainstream coaching and to improve the quality -- and reputation -- of coaching worldwide.

Will all coaching become modularized or packaged?  Of course not -- but with packaged coaching programs the client can receive coaching in a variety of formats and buy-in to a longer coaching term because they can see what they are going to be getting vs blindly trusting the coach or the coaching process.  The better educated the public is, and our clients are, about what they are getting and can do with coaching, the better for the entire profession as well as the client.

Comments from coaches about specialization...
Want to add your comment to this discussion?

Comment #1
"The future of coaching, when shifted into the consumers perspective is to provide dynamic, just in time learning-thinking experiences - a real shift from our current learning and e-learning practices and also the coaching by the hour concept."

Comment #2
"As a coach specialising in Financial Intelligence, I would like to encourage coaches to be brave, pick a specialty/niche and go for it. What most turns you on? You are not carving your specialty into tablets of stone after all, it's not a ball & chain that you must wear forever, but it does concentrate your mind and that of your clients on what you do best and who you can most benefit. Everyone is so scared of frightening potential clients away and in fact it has the opposite effect. It attracts the client you want. My coaching practice has taken a huge leap forward since I did so. It's not so much that the way I coach has changed but the way I market my coaching practice. The magic seems to be that focusing on a specialty/niche turns your coaching message into a laser rather than a light bulb. I only talk about financial intelligence yet attract clients who want life coaching AND financial intelligence!"

Comment #3
"Yes, to survive and prosper, coaches need to be very specific about what they know and can teach, and what results they can deliver to clients. In fact, it's essential to the credibility of the profession. You can't promise chocolate and then deliver macaroni. I recently polled my clients and found they hire me for two things: my expertise in marketing small businesses and my expertise in women's issues. I am now in the process of re-designing my practice. Thanks for Coachville. You have a clear message, you've found you're niche, and you constantly deliver. That's what it takes to be successful."

Now what?
If you are intrigued by this topic, here are some ideas...

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Thomas J. Leonard


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