This is a guest post by Tom Hunt, the Founder of Virtual Valley, a platform that connects Entrepreneurs and Rockstar Virtual Assistants with the mission of giving Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018. Tom spends most of his time helping people like you grow their virtual business on the Virtual Valley Blog and sends an AWESOME weekly marketing tip to the legends that sign up here.
There are many people in the world that want to be in your position.
They want to be where you are, doing what you are doing.
And the reason most of them are not, boils down to one thing:
All the hours strategizing, planning and executing.
The late nights recovering from website crashes.
Ducking Google's latest curve ball.
Not to mention the rogue freelancers.
Sure, some people could walk the long windy road to success alone, but most would prefer a guide.
And this my friend, is where you come in.
Welcome to the $2 billion coaching industry - a place where anyone, in any niche can make a healthy living teaching others the "tricks of their trade".
In this article I will share the simple 8-step system I used to get my first coaching client, without spending a penny of advertising.
Let's get started.
Step #1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
I don’t think I need to labor the point about "niching" down to solve a specific problem for your target customer....
But let’s complete a quick thought experiment:
You're walking down the street one morning and feel like picking up your favorite hot beverage: a flat white.
There are two options:
1) A premium chain store with a glorious outside seating area:
2) A small, local "mom-and-pop" shop specializing in a strange beverage called a “flat white”:
Which one do you choose?
Yes, the major chain might be cleaner, hipster, have better customer service, and possibly even be cheaper...
But, the small cafe will almost always win because it specializes in making the product you desire; the flat white.
It is for this exact reason that whenever you are planning a coaching program, the first thing you need to do is select a laser-focused group of people to help, and clearly define the tangible, real life outcome you will help those people achieve.
But, very few people take the time to complete this crucial first step. It will quite literally form the base of your entire business.
4 Questions to Help Identify Your Ideal Customer
There is a LOT of information out their about identifying your target customer. So much information in fact, it can quickly become overwhelming and stop you before you even start.
Audience identification does not need to be complicated. Use the 4 questions below to hit the ground running.
Note: I have included my answers below each question to give you an idea of how it might look.
1: Who can I help reach a highly desired outcome?
I have spent 3 years bootstrapping online businesses and believe that I can help any online startup, especially those run by individuals that do not have a large budget.
2: Who has significant resources to invest in my coaching program?
People currently working a day job, but are looking to start a business online to generate a side income stream and eventually grow it into a full-time job.
3: Who do I enjoy working with?
Motivated, intelligent and driven individuals that have a corporate background but do not resonate with the “rat race”.
4: Who will resonate with my story?
Any person who is currently in, or has just left the corporate world, but would like to achieve the freedom of time and location that an income from an online business supports.
If you want to take this a little further, I highly recommend you check out this article by Digital Marketer.
The article simplifies the process of building out a custom avatar for your business, and provides a downloadable worksheet to help you through the process:
After reviewing the answers, it quickly became clear that I should target individuals currently working in a corporate job looking to escape the "rat race" by building an online income stream. The target customer has little marketing experience.
Exercise: Use the four questions, and worksheet, above to identify your ideal customer.
Step #2: Define the Real-Life, Tangible Outcome
People don’t buy product features, they buy outcomes.
Prior to building out the coaching offer, it's important to clearly understand the real-world, tangible outcome potential clients will obtain.
Maybe it’s helping people build a $1,000/ month business:
Maybe it's showing people how to get 10,000 email subscribers:
Maybe it's showing people how to double their freelancing rate:
Maybe it's successfully training a dog to perform it's first trick.
The possibilities are endless.
But, the first step is always the same.
You first need to interact with your potential clients.
To do this, I sent the following plain text email to everyone that signed up for my signature piece of content list (more on that later):
From the responses to the emails it became apparent that the people I was attracting to The Marketing Messenger newsletter really wanted to grow their online businesses, but needed help conceptualizing and executing a solid marketing strategy.
So, I set out to build my entire coaching program around that one tangible, real-life outcome the target customer desired most; planning and execute profitable online marketing strategies.
Ok, I know what most of you are thinking right about now...
Broad outcome, right?
Yes. But, once you identify the high-level pain point, you can start to dive deeper.
Which part of building out the online marketing strategy is causing the most problems for the target customer?
In my case, was it:
List building/ lead generation?
Building and automating the sales funnel?
Don't be afraid to ask additional questions. If someone responds to your first email, follow up and try get them to dive a little deeper into the challenges they are facing.
Exercise: Speak with your potential clients and ask open questions to understand the biggest frustrations and desired outcomes. Dive deeper where possible.
Step #3: Build an Irresistible Offer
Armed with a clear definition of the target customer, and an understanding of the desired outcome, the next step is building out the offer.
Instead of charging for your time, charge for a package of time that will enable your potential clients to reach a desired income.
You will need to re-visit previous conversations with potential clients to understand their deepest pain points, and build these into each milestone of the coaching program.
Speaking of milestones...
I drew a timeline taking my potential client from the place they were, to the place that they would like to go.
The timeline consisted of four major milestones:
- Clear goal definition
- Building the customer avatar
- Defining the value proposition
- Outlining the promotional strategy
These milestones formed the foundation of the Small Biz Marketing Bootcamp.
The program was made up of four weekly 1-hour phone sessions (along with 2 months unlimited email support) for $397.
Note: It is important to give your coaching program a name that speaks directly to the outcome your potential clients are looking to achieve, or a pain that they are experiencing in pursuit of that outcome.
I had learned through email conversations that my target audience actually had access to sufficient marketing information, but did not know how to implement it.
As a result, the core value of my coaching package lies in the “Bootcamp” premise. The program is not just another here is what you should do. I actually walk the client step-by-step through a successful online marketing strategy, and ensure the client takes the necessary steps to achieve their desired outcome.
But, what about pricing?
I reached the $397 price point by asking the following question:
“What level of investment could be easily recovered using the knowledge and guidance that I share with my clients?”
And NOT by asking this question:
“How much is my time worth?”
Here is a book that goes deeper into Value Based Pricing:
Exercise: Define, name and price the offer that will enable your client to reach their desired outcome.
Step #4: Start Publishing
Every large successful organisation has owned media:
...you name it.
When you own the media people are consuming, you start to be seen as an authority on the topic.
And, when you have authority, people start to trust you.
People buy from those they trust.
Laura Roeder has The Dash.
John Lee Dumas has Entrepreneur on Fire.
TomHunt.io has The Marketing Messenger.
What owned media will you produce on a regular basis to build authority around the subject matter of your coaching program?
The type of content you produce does not necessarily matter: audio/video/image/written, what does matter is that you publish high value content on a consistent schedule across the channels your customer customer spends the most time on (you should know this part from Step #1).
You should also be using content upgrades and lead magnets to build your email list.
I decided to write up one learning I had regarding online marketing in a weekly newsletter called The Marketing Messenger:
You will be able to leverage this owned media channel to position yourself as an expert, build trust and re-engage potential clients.
Exercise: Plan and commit to a regular piece of signature content your potential clients will have to opt in to receive.
Step #5: Build the Application, and Qualify Your Audience
Ideal customer. Check.
Coaching offer. Done.
Owned media outlets. Ready to go.
It’s now time to open shop for a free consultation. This is where you provide MASSIVE and leave the prospect thinking:
"Wow, if I got all that for free, I can only imagine how much value I'd get if I sign up for more coaching".
The key here is to impress the potential client so much they can't help but sign up for more.
I like to use Typeform to build the applications, but a simple Google Form will suffice.
Key Questions to Ask (and Why)...
To help assess whether you will be able to add value to their business.
Describe Your Primary Business In 15 Words Or Less?
Again, will give an overview of how their business works and whether you can add value.
The Approximate Annual Revenue Of This Business?
To confirm the lead has sufficient funds to invest in your coaching package.
Your Single Biggest Marketing Challenge Right Now?
For research and to customize the approach for the free consultation.
Are You Interested In Investing Further Time & Money Into Your Marketing Success With Tom?
You only want to work with people serious enough about their business to invest financially in it's continued growth.
Where Did You Find Tom?
Measure marketing ROI.
Feel free to swipe the questions.
Once the application is complete, take the link and paste it into a notepad as you will need it later in this tutorial.
Exercise: Build out your free consultation application form and record the link.
Step #6: Construct the Funnel
This is where the rubber really hits the road...
Building the sales funnel.
For the purpose of this tutorial, I will be focusing on the tools I used to build and automate my sales funnel: Wordpress, Leadpages, Aweber, Calendly and Typeform.
ALTERNATIVE: Thrive Content Builder
If you own a WordPress website and are looking for a cost-effective way to build, launch and test high-converting landing pages (with zero coding), check out Thrive Content Builder. This drag-and-drop page builder will save you hours every week. I use it on all my sites to build blog posts, sales pages, confirmation pages, webinar promos, lead gen pages and more.
The first step in the sales funnel is to build a landing page to capture email addresses.
Although landing page design and conversion rate optimization are beyond the scope of this post, there are a few guiding principles to follow:
1) The main headline should communicate the value proposition and speak directly to the person identified in Step #1.
2) Benefits should align with the real-life, tangible outcome identified in Step #2.
3) The page should have a single conversion goal.
4) Leverage social proof to establish enough credibility and trust to where a new visitor would be comfortable giving you their contact information.
I would try to communicate a value proposition on this page that speaks directly the the person we defined in Stage 1 that talks directly to the real life, tangible outcome the are seeking that we defined in Stage 2.
Those are the very bare bones basics, but here is a good template from the folks at UnBounce:
Check out their Smart Marketers Landing Page Course.
Thank You Page
The next step is to build out the page people see after converting. It should do three things:
- Say thank you
- Enable potential clients to share with friends
- Enable potential clients to apply for a free 30 minute consultation with you
This is the page people see when they click that big blue "Click Here To Apply" button above.
The application page is where you qualify prospective clients.
If you are using Typeform, you can add your application form to a new destination on your main URL as described in this help page.
Here is a live look at the application page.
Here’s where things get interesting…
You need to create two lists within your autoresponder:
1. Signature Content List - People who have opted in but NOT applied
2. Application List - People who have applied
When a potential client opts into your signature content AND then goes on to make an application, you will need to remove them from your Signature Content list and add them to the Application List using Aweber List Automation as shown in this video:
This will enable you to promote the application to your Signature Content List without annoying potential clients who have already applied.
As soon as people sign up to the Signature Content List, you must give them another chance to complete an application if they missed the link on the Thank You Page.
Here is the exact email I send (Inspired by Nathan Latka):
Note: I try to inject some personality into the email, but still give a clear call-to-action.
Next, I “indoctrinate” each new subscriber with a 3 part autoresponder series:
Email #1 - Subject: You’re late
Here, I get “angry” at the subscriber for arriving late to The Marketing Messenger...
But finish things off by providing a link to the archives to consume previous emails.
This builds goodwill towards through the Law Of Reciprocity AND enables the person to make a micro-commitment.
They get used to doing what I tell them to.
By conditioning people to make regular micro-commitments, you improve the odds they will make a larger commitment down the road e.g. booking a free consultation (Commitment & Consistency Bias).
I also include a final CTA to book a consultation in one of the most read section of any email....
Email #2 - Subject: My Life Story
In this email, I explain my journey into online business over the past 3-4 years and link out to various different projects and pieces of content that help build authority and position me as an expert.
A number of the links above show that I have been featured on numerous reputable publications, including BBC, TEDx and HubSpot.
Again, I include a final CTA in the P.S. section of the email.
Email #3 - Subject: Let’s chat
In this email I speak directly to the fears, frustrations and desires of my customer avatar, outline the structure of the consultation call and provide a clear call-to-action.
You want to make the booking process for a potential client as easy as possible.
Use Calendly to send links to where clients can schedule a consultation at a time that works for both of you.
In the booking software, create events for your 30 Minute Free Consultation Call and 1 Hour Coaching Sessions, and share the links:
Let’s get started, head to Calendly and create a free account.
Now head to the Event Types page and select “Add Event Type” and select “One-on-One”:
Fill out the basic details of the session:
And select the times when you are available:
To increase productivity, I like to reserve one day per week for all consulting calls.
Enable email confirmations and personalize them for increased attendance.
The event has now been created and can be seen on the “Event Types” screen of your account. This is the link you will share with consultees.
There is one stage I have yet to automate. It is the decision whether to move ahead with free consultation calls with each application.
I'll will give my trusty VA Zandro the nod when I think someone is suitable for the call, and he will send the following email to the potential client:
Zandro here, Tom’s assistant!
Just to let you know we have reviewed your app for a MSS with Tom and happy to move you forward 🙂
Please head to this link to book in a time:
Just to manage expectations, if you are a good fit, Tom may offer you the chance to move forward and work with his Small Business Marketing Bootcamp, though the main focus of the call is to define your marketing strategy.
Thanks and enjoy the session!””
And then two days prior to the call, Zandro will send this email to the potential client:
Zandro here again! As you only have 30 minutes with Tom tomorrow and he wants to focus JUST on you, if you wanted to know more about Tom’s story/background, here are two of his recent podcast interviews:
Thanks and enjoy tomorrow :)”
Unfortunately Zandro is not for hire, but if you do want to hire an awesome virtual assistant, we happen to have built a marketplace called Virtual Valley.
Exercise: Build out all the aspects of your funnel and test the full process to ensure all stages work seamlessly.
Step #7: Generate Traffic
As mentioned in the headline, since building out the funnel I have spent zero dollars on traffic. Instead, I have leveraged three simple free traffic sources.
I am currently using this author bio for my guest blog posts:
“Tom is the Founder of Virtual Valley, a platform that connects Entrepreneurs and Rockstar Virtual Assistants with the mission of giving Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018. Tom spends MOST of his time helping people like you grow their virtual business on the Virtual Valley Blog and sends an AWESOME weekly marketing tip to the legends that sign up here.”
For author bio tips from the world best content marketers, check out this post.
I have simply added the landing page link to my personal Instagram profile:
I am moderately active on Instagram, which sends a couple of clicks per day.
Here are a couple of awesome posts on Instagram if you are looking to grow your profile:
The Dan Bilzerian School Of Instagram – Build A Following Without Guns, Girls and Cats
5 Instagram Hacks Your Friends Don't Know About
I also link the landing page from my personal Twitter account:
If someone asks a question regarding marketing I direct them to the landing page and also retweet each potential client that shares the Landing Page from the buttons on the Thank You Page:
Furthermore, I have set up this auto Direct Message on the account:
Here is a email from The Marketing Messenger where I outline 5 more Twitter Traffic Generating Tips.
Step #8: Learn How to Sell
Traffic is filtering down the funnel, people are giving your their email address, and some of those want to a free consult.
Time to close the deal.
But, before you cry out:
"I am not a salesman"
Know that neither am I...
In fact, before building out this sales funnel and starting the free consultation call I had never sold anything in a one-on-one setting before, which is why I am not going to go into detail on the sales process and will refer you to an awesome book on the topic:
5 Helpful Sales Tips I've Learned Along the Way...
1) Ensure you outline the agenda and notify them that you may make an offer at the end of the call if there is a fit
2) Ask questions so the potential client does the majority of the talking. Learn about their pains and make them feel understood.
3) Use the following line to segue into the sales pitch:
“Based on what you have just told me, I would like to make you an offer to join X, would you like to hear further details?”
4) If they agree spend 5 minutes talking through the features and benefits of each milestone in your coaching package and then ask, “is this something you would be willing to invest in?”.
Pause for the response.
5) Provide a payment link that is only valid during the call. This urgency will help increase conversions.
Here is the daily subscriber growth for my Signature Content List:
And here is the Daily Subscriber Growth for my Application List:
I have received 19 applications for a Marketing Strategy Session.
I have held 6 session over the past month, made 3 offers and sold 1 Small Biz Marketing Bootcamp for $397.
Not bad for a side project with zero financial investment.
Here are the tweaks/improvements I plan to make over the next couple of months with the goal of increasing traffic and conversion rate:
Invest in Facebook Ads
With audience interests and demographics nailed down, I will invest in facebook ads to drive low-cost, targeted traffic into the funnel.
Charging $50 for the first session
This will increase the quality of person that I have the consulting session with (as they are willing to invest). I also believe that this will increase the conversion rate from consultation to consulting package as the lead has already completed a successful transaction, increasing the likelihood that they would do so again.
Invest in Solo Ads/Ad Swaps
When I come across another influencer that has a similar audience, I will reach out to discuss the possibility of an Ad Swap (I send a mail to my list with his offer and vice versa) or a Solo Ad (pay a third party to promote the offer to their list).
Track Each Traffic Source
Track channel performance in Google Analytics. Double down on top traffic sources. Cut the rest.
Ready to Land Your First Coaching Client?
There you have it! The simple 8-step formula I used to land my first coaching client.
Are you thinking about offering coaching services?
Already had success?
Let us know in the comments below.