by: Melinda Cohan
This article is the third in our The Success Path series. In the first article, we explained that The Success Path is a five-stage path coach-preneurs journey, as they go from coach, to startup business owner, to CEO. To navigate the journey successfully, it’s important to complete each stage before moving on to the next. In the exercise at the end of the first article, we helped you identify where you are now on The Success Path, and what you need to do to continue on this journey to whichever stage you consider your final destination. In the second article, we went into depth about The Declaration Stage: what it is, what you may face when you’re in it, and what you must do before moving on to The Transition Stage. We recommend reading the first and second articles here before reading the article below:
If you were going to build a house, how would you start? Would you declare, “I’m ready!” and then run out to the unimproved lot and start nailing boards together? If so, you’d probably have a pretty ramshackle shelter, right?
The truth is, if you were going to build a house, you would first create a plan. Then you’d lay a foundation, right? A foundation gives your house a solid base on which to stand, so that it will be sturdy and safe!
When it comes to The Success Path we outlined in the first article in this series, that’s what the second stage, the Transition Stage, is all about: building a foundation for your business. It’s about getting prepared.
Your focus during the Transition Stage is to create the components to identify, find, attract, and engage prospects, and implement the funnels, strategies, and best practices to grow your list. Why? Because your list is the foundation for your coaching business.
Many coach-preneurs in the Transition Stage pursue their business—specifically—try to go out and get clients—without knowing, in advance, all the pieces and best practices they need, which results those pieces and best practices drive, and why they’re important.
With the right systems and processes in place, you can lay the foundation—incorporating the various pieces and best practices—for a successful business that is profitable and allows you to make that impact you dream of.
What you may be experiencing if you’re in the Transition Stage:
As startup coaches traverse the Transition Stage, they may begin to gain confidence. Although you know you have a lot to learn, you’ve put in place the pieces necessary to transition from full-time J-O-B to full-time coach-preneur. (Woohoo!)
You’ve got some cash reserves set aside, you know WHY you’re doing this whole coaching thing, and you’re READY to hit the ground running!
If there’s one word to describe you, it’s “enthusiastic,” and that’s great! (But, proceed with caution! More on this in a moment.)
To illustrate the feelings you may be experiencing, I’d like to share a few snippets from conversations I recently had with startup coaches who are in the Transition Stage.
“I don’t know how to reach people or start building a list from the start!”
“I don’t know how to reach people that I don’t already know.“
“It seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time doing things for my business every day. I mean, I’ve been busy ALL day. But I dread each week that I still have a lack of prospects, and I don’t have any momentum in this area, so I just keep myself busy hoping something will make a difference and somehow, someone will want to hire me.”
What you should know:
There’s a difference between being ready and being prepared.
Preparation brings order to the otherwise chaotic, overwhelming task of building a business. This means you take time, up front, to know what needs to happen, when!
If you don’t, everything feels urgent. You spend a lot of time just keeping busy, hoping something will pan out, and you feel pressured and fearful—and your investments in terms of time, energy, money, and resources may not pay off in terms of the business-building results you want to see.
The very first thing you must do during the Transition Stage is to find and engage prospects so that when you are ready, you can effectively convert them into paying clients. How do you do that?
List building. Your email list is your goldmine: your Number One Business Asset. Hands down, it’s THE Number One Most Important System when it comes to laying that foundation we talked about.
But we’re not talking just any email list. You see, your list is only effective to the degree that its members are:
Made up of your ideal type of client.
Excited and ready to receive the wisdom you have to share.
If your list is sloppy, created for the sake of having names in a database or a bigger number about which to boast, or if it’s scattered across multiple platforms, you’ll struggle to have enrollment conversations that lead to paying clients.
Now, we’re going to walk, step-by-step, through the four elements of effective list building, which will ensure you move through the Transition Stage efficiently.
Here we go!
How to move through the Transition Stage effectively:
Build a great list! Here are FOUR elements of a great list that converts.
Element One of a Great List That Converts: It’s Made up of Your Ideal Clients.
We mentioned above that the Transition Stage is all about growing your list. To be specific, though, we want you to keep in mind that you must focus on the QUALITY of the list you’re growing. That old adage—quality over quantity—is certainly true, here.
Let’s play a game!
I have built out two mailing lists, and you get to choose one of them to start sending communications to.
List A: The list size is 5,000 contacts, made up of a collection of people who may or may not be similar to the type of ideal client you’d like to work with. It’s in the general ballpark, anyway. These people may not be spot on, but there are 5,000 contacts! When you send out an email offering a free resource, 120 of them might open the email and click through to check it out. And about 60 unsubscribe on each send.
List B: This list has 1,800 contacts. It’s a solid list made up of the exact type of person you’d love to work with. When you send out an email offering a free resource (the same one as above,), 420 of them open the email and click through to check out the resource you’re sharing. And because this list is made up of exactly the type of client you want to work with, facing the exact challenges you can help transform into results through your coaching, only six unsubscribe.
You’d choose List B, right? (Right?!)
Yes, your ego may want the bigger list. It sounds so impressive to say you’ve got 5,000 people on your list! But, what’s more important at the end of the day? Size, or results?
(If you’re thinking size, you may want to do some self-coaching around your need for your ego to take charge of your business – and I say this with LOVE.)
Transition Stage Pitfall: Letting your ego get the best of you. In an effort to alleviate the fear they’re experiencing during the early stages of their business, many startups allow their ego to get the best of them. They want to make themselves look better by boasting that they have a larger list. But if that list is doing more harm in the long run, who does that really serve?
Bottom Line: When you focus on quality, when you put your time and attention into adding ideal clients to your list, and you’re fierce in protecting the types of people who are on your list, you end up creating a strong list that grows quickly. The people you add to your list want what you have. They tell their friends, and you grow your list faster, with less effort.
You CAN have it all: quality and quantity!
Element Two of a Great List That Converts: Its Members Are Excited to Receive What You’re Sharing.
This is where preparation is absolutely critical. You want your list to be filled with your ideal clients, right? Well, how do you make that happen?
You offer them lead generation tools that are aligned with addressing the exact challenges they’re facing, and the transformation you help them experience when it comes to those challenges.
Lead generation tools are free gifts that you give people in exchange for their email addresses. They may take the form of downloads, checklists, free reports, or blueprints. They’re also a great opportunity for the people you DO know—your existing contacts—to refer their friends to you, to give people you DON’T know a taste of the transformation you provide.
Here are five components of an effective lead generation tool – the tool:
1. Clarifies the steps necessary for the ideal client to get out of the challenges he or she has felt stuck in.
2. Conveys an understanding of why those steps are critical.
3. Provides the promise of a different possible future … and how creating those results in their life will positively impact their world.
4. Paints the picture of what it would look like NOT to pursue a path of change (and how this will negatively impact their world).
5. Gives social proof that what you’re sharing actually creates the transformation, or the end results your ideal client desires.
Transition Stage Pitfall: Telling them the HOW. Your lead generation tool should never include the HOW. Explain the WHAT and the WHY. If they want to know HOW to actually go about making the changes, well, they have to hire you to get that information. 😉
Bottom Line: The more clarity that’s present in your lead generation tool, and the more effectively it conveys the information to your contacts, the more ready they’ll be to receive and engage in what you share with them! And, as a sweet bonus, their life will be better for having read it, even if they never hire you!
Element Three of a Great List That Converts: Your List Is Organized.
This almost goes without saying … almost. It is SO important that you have your list of contacts organized in one place. You’d be surprised how many people overlook this simple, but major element of list building.
For example, one of my private clients had her contacts scattered across seven different platforms (her smartphone, an old email account, a spreadsheet, Facebook, and a couple others).
This type of disorganization in the back end makes it extremely difficult to communicate with your people … and consider how much time it takes to repeat a single message seven times and send it out seven times in seven platforms!
There are two general ways to organize your contact list when you’re first starting out (and keep in mind that as your list grows and your business evolves, you’ll likely add a deeper level of organization to this segmenting):
1. By status type:
• Prospects: your ideal clients, or those who may know your ideal clients.
• Hot leads: people who have booked a sample session, are very curious and interested in what you’re doing and how it can help them transform, but haven’t made the commitment yet.
• Active clients: paying or pro-bono clients who are actively working with you in some capacity.
• Inactive clients: former clients who are no longer working with you.
• Buyers: people who have purchased other programs from you, beyond your one-on-one coaching packages.
2. By segment.
• Marketing/networking events
• Referral source
The more organized your list is, the better you can communicate the right information to the right people to get the best conversion possible.
Transition Stage Pitfall: Diving into emailing your contacts without first putting the systems in place to organize them and streamline your communication process. Again, this is where preparation is key! The time you take to put all your contacts into one program, and to segment them appropriately will pay off in huge time, money, and energy savings almost immediately.
Bottom Line: Get organized! You’ll be glad you did. Not only will you be able to reach the right people at the right time, but you’ll continuously improve the quality of your list as you tell people only about the things in which they’d be interested.
Element Four of a Great List That Converts: Its Members Are Responsive.
A responsive list is a healthy list!
But what does it mean to have a responsive list? It means that when you send out communications of any kind—resources, promotions, referrals, content, a video—you get the best response. People open your emails, click through to the pages you’re linking to, and take the call to action you provide.
Creating a responsive list is centered upon your ability to send them quality, varied information, consistently. That means sending emails that:
1. Are different from one another, and arrive regularly.
2. Share great content.
3. Share great resources (created by you or someone else).
4. Introduce them to another helpful resource—one that helps them overcome challenges that impact their success in the areas where they’re working with you.
5. Provide fun, inspiring, or challenging personal stories so people get to know you outside of business.
Transition Stage Pitfall: Many startup coach-preneurs don’t want to seem “pushy” or “too salesy,” so they shy away from creating regular follow up. They fear being overbearing, so they go to the other extreme, and it’s radio silence, instead.
Bottom Line: While we recommend mixing up the type of content you share with your list (to keep them intrigued and engaged), we also want to remind you that consistency is queen! Send regular communication to nurture your list and build your relationship with its members.
As you now know, the Transition Stage is all about preparation.
So here are four steps to getting PREPARED!
1. Go to the various places in which you have your contacts scattered (consider them all: Gmail, Yahoo, Excel, Outlook, your smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn, that pile of business cards on your desk). Put those contacts all into one central place. For Coaches Console members, this is as easy as importing the contacts from various platforms into one organized, segmented list in your Console System.
2. Group your newly organized contacts/prospects by status type.
3. Group your newly organized contacts/prospects into segments, as outlined above.
4. Send a “Dear Jane” letter, telling all your contacts what you’re up to, the ideal type of client you’re looking to support, and the transformation your services provide. Then, ask them to opt in to your free gift or sign up for your newsletter, if they’re looking for what you have to offer!
Transition Stage Mantra.
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Confucius said it pretty well, too: “Success depends upon previous preparation.”
Choose one of these and live by it!
In the Transition Stage, the more you can focus on growing a quality list—one that is organized, engaged, and responsive—the deeper you’ll build the know-like-trust factor. When people know you, like you, and trust you, they’ll book a sample session! Then they’ll hire you, re-hire you, and refer you to their friends, colleagues, and family members.
So many startups rush straight to trying to get clients, without taking a bit of time to build a quality list and build the relationships necessary for that sense of trust. After all, that’s what great coaching is – nurturing and supporting and being of service to those we love … and that especially includes the members of your list.
Being in business is a long-term game, and when it comes to coaching, it’s all about taking time to intentionally create a solid, kick-ass mailing list that will bring you results now and in the future.
Complete the exercises in this post, and then move on to the next stage, The Attraction Stage. (This is where you finally get to go out and attract the clients who need your life changing work! It’s going to be epic!)
Watch your inbox for the next article in this series, which gives you everything you need to know about navigating The Attraction Stage.