It seems everybody’s talking about niche.
Wherever you look there are articles telling you the value of identifying your ideal client, how to do it, how not to do it, how someone else did it. It’s all good stuff, mostly. In fact, I have shared a variety of blog posts by other people on the topic via social media.
If anything, there’s just too much information on niche. As a coach, you read it, understand it and get thoroughly overwhelmed.
You get stuck!
The tendency is then to ignore the advice and carry on targeting a wide and varied market, leaving niche development to natural forces. Imagining, as time goes by you’ll establish a reputation for a particular type of coaching with particular people, and your niche will sort of evolve of its own accord. I’m sure there are plenty of successful coaches out there who developed their niche in this way.
This approach doesn’t work for most coaches, though. It’s more difficult than that.
Maybe it’s because it’s one of those things that requires you sort of have to know the answer before you start. I remember being asked by a careers master at school, what I wanted to do. I don’t know, I said. Well, come and see me again when you do. And that was that. Career planning over! He’d been expecting me to have a career in mind and I’d been expecting a little more help.
This blog post offers you a ‘little more help’ by suggesting where you might start looking for your niche. Once you’ve read it you can narrow down your niche to something more practical. And if you definitely know your niche doesn’t lie in working with leaders in the corporate sector, keep reading anyway. You might change your mind and, even if you don’t, you’ll pick up some ideas that will help you in your chosen niche area.
So what is it about corporates that makes coaching their leaders so compelling?
1. They’re big
Large corporates are colossal. Millions of customers. Global markets. Hundreds of thousands of employees. Billions of pounds in revenue.
Smaller corporates are still huge.
A single company could easily provide a living for you and multiple other coaches - although you probably want to work with 2 or 3 companies to manage the risk of suddenly losing a client.
2. There are lots of them
There are thousands of enormous companies and millions of smaller ones. As a sole-trader coach or micro-business, you’re only looking for 2 or 3 companies at any one time. Once you’re in a company, you can develop the relationship and pick up more coaching from them, instead of chasing new contacts.
3. They have big budgets
Whether private or public sector, corporates have a lot of money. They can’t go splashing it around without thought, but they do spend it with thought. If you can come up with a compelling reason for them to buy your services, they can definitely afford them.
4. They have plenty of leaders
Whether the CEO, managing the whole operation, or a key player, with no direct reports but managing multiple stakeholders, leaders are the difference between success and failure for a company. So, we’re not talking just board members here, we’re talking leaders the length and breadth of a company.
A BIG market for leadership coaches.
5. They’re always recruiting new leaders
Large companies are always recruiting new leaders to replace leaders who got promoted or have left the company. Either way the new leaders need to get up to speed quickly, in a pretty unforgiving environment.
A BIGGER market for leadership coaches.
6. They need their leaders to be good
And they really do. The global economy is growing massively. Companies haven’t got sufficiently able leaders to cope with how things are now, let alone how things will be.
Added to that, it is widely accepted that leadership development activities over the last 20 or 30 years haven’t really worked. Companies are looking round for something that does work.
Uhh ... coaching?
7. They’ve got lots of problems
Why wouldn’t they have a lot of problems? Meaning that leaders in corporates perform under enormous pressure. They have highly complex roles and the challenges they face are enormous. They need a vast array of skills, such as analyzing, planning, execution, delegation, communication. Because of the rate of change, they frequently have to work on things they have no experience with. They work very long hours. Deal with a lot stress. And they’re just people.
Good leaders always look to solve their problems. Good coaches can help.
8. Leaders make a real difference
Ideally they make a real difference for the better, although not always. The point is leaders are key players. When they raise their game, those around them raise theirs. When they improve the performance of their team, other teams and customers respond. When they transform organisations, business results improve exponentially.
The difference leaders make can be huge.
As a coach, why wouldn’t you want to work with people who make the biggest difference?
9. You can make a real difference
Improving performance is relative. A 10% improvement for someone in a limited role is good. However, a 10% improvement for a leader in a key role is 10, 20, 100 times more significant.
In addition, leaders learn quicker than most people, meaning where someone else improves by 10%, a talented leader could improve by 20, 50, 100% or more.
It doesn’t always happen but when it does it feels good if you’re the coach.
Leadership coaches make a very real difference.
10. They’re geared up for measuring results
Of course, making a difference doesn’t really mean anything unless you can demonstrate what it is. Fortunately, corporates are well used to setting goals and measuring performance against them. If you align your coaching with business goals you can measure the success of the coaching.
This enables you to demonstrate the difference your coaching makes. Essential for winning further business or new clients.
11. Leaders have line managers
Aligning your coaching with business goals is easier and better if you involve the line manager of the leader you are coaching.
At the end of a coaching engagement, measuring success is also easier and more credible if you involve the line manager.
An added benefit for you of involving the line manager is that you have doubled the number of leaders in the company who understand the value you bring (the other leader being the coaching participant).
12. There are other stakeholders
Why stop at the line manager though? Why not write up a report of the coaching participant’s success through their coaching and share it with other stakeholders. For example, the line manager’s line manager, the budget holder paying for the coaching, the decision maker on who gets coaching, human resources.
In this way you increase the number of leaders in the company who understand the value you bring.
13. You can charge what you daren’t
You’re working with leaders, delivering great results and demonstrating those results to other leaders in the company. They all understand the value your coaching brings.
Think of the value you bring when you price your services.
Don’t under charge!
14. You can build the B2B relationship with them
Having reported the success of a leader’s coaching to all the key stakeholders, keep those relationships going. Meet up with them every so often to discuss the challenges they face and where else they can use your services. Remind them at these meetings of the value you bring.
These are not coaching relationships. Together they form the B2B (business to business) relationship. It’s the B2B relationship that will help your coaching practice thrive.
15. You can leverage the B2B relationship
For your client company, the B2B relationship is about getting more value from your services.
For you, it’s about delivering a great service and winning more business.
It might be more business with the part of the company you are already working in. Or you could ask for referrals to other leaders in other parts of the company, or in other companies altogether.
16. They’re in it for the long-term
Some companies are set up to turn a quick buck. They come and go. Most companies, however, are there to stick around. Their aim is to achieve long-term, sustainable growth and success.
That should be your aim too.
Build and leverage the B2B relationship and stay with your client companies long-term. It’s best for them and for you.
17. You can tighten your niche and still have a huge market
Okay, so it all comes back to niche. Given what you’ve just read, think about what type of leaders you want to work with. What type of companies do they work for?
And don’t be scared to keep narrowing down your target market. It doesn’t matter how tight you go, inevitably your niche will still be large enough, given the fact that corporates are so big, there are so many of them and leaders abound.
18. You can build a reputation in your niche
Building a reputation in the corporate sector has certain advantages over doing it elsewhere. You work with leaders in your niche and you measure your success. You win further business from your client company. You pick up referrals to leaders in other parts of the company. And you pick up referrals to leaders in other companies in you niche.
On top of that, every time a leader you have coached changes jobs or companies, you can follow them to their new roles.
Pretty soon you discover a relatively small community of leaders in your niche, and you are pretty well-known. The smaller the niche, the more well-known you get.
19. They need you
Make no mistake, companies of all sizes need leadership coaches. Desperately!
If you haven’t got a niche, get one.
It will enable you to earn a good living doing something you enjoy.
20. It’s interesting and fun
Finally, the best thing about coaching leaders in corporates is that it’s interesting. Big money, big problems, big decisions.
You build great relationships. You get great results. And you can market your services by playing to your strengths as a coach.
So that’s it! Twenty solid reasons for working with leaders in corporates.
As a leadership coach, you will win more clients if you have a clearly defined niche – an ideal client, working in a specific type of company on particular challenges. It isn’t something that will necessarily come to you straight away. You may change your mind many times. But you need to proactively keep working on it until you are clear.
As any other type of coach, you still need a niche.
Can you think of 20 cast iron reasons to work with your clients?
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About Kevin Oubridge
I work with executive coaches who do the marketing stuff you're supposed to but aren't winning any business.
You want to win clients you like working with, get paid what you're coaching is worth & build long-term, highly productive relationships with your client companies where you win further business year on year.
Check out Blue Chip Tips my regular blog on growing your coaching practice.
Also have a look at The Leadership Coaching Alligator Handbook. Over 200 pages, where we reveal the process, tools and know-how we used to grow Accelerated Success, our thriving coaching practice.