By Elizabeth Saigal, Ph.D. CLC
The International Coaching Federations (2009) Global Coaching Client Study found that about 20% of coaching business came from a website and around 80% from direct contact or referral. This data suggests that a website contributes something to your business generation, although, it is not of primary importance. Indeed, there are many coaches who do very well without any online presence except email. It is possible to build a sustainable practice purely from referral and face to face contact and you may decide that the dedication and time needed to build one would be better committed to other aspects of business generation. It could also be that consideration of an online presence places you outside of your comfort zone. However, there are five things that are worth considering before you jump ship.
Firstly, do you want to leave 1/5 of your potential business on the table? There are people who would love to work with you who will never come into contact with you in person or hear about you from one of their connections. This is one way for them to search you out.
Secondly, how does online presence fit with your client demographic? Younger generations use the internet as their primary method of information gathering. Coaching clients primarily fall in the educated mid life category. This is a time when many people find themselves reflecting on whether their life is living up to their expectations and they are more likely to prioritize time and money to doing something about it. As new generations reach mid life, it is my guess that this figure of 20% will substantially increase.
Thirdly, it is an opportunity to spread the word about your business beyond your geographical region. Some coaches only work face to face and so can only work with people in their locality. However, most coaching is still done by telephone or videoconference so this is a great way to expand your reach - even overseas. Providing you share a common language and can work with time zones you can provide coaching services to anyone who is interested in working with you irrespective of where they live.
Fourth, for many people access to a website places you as a serious contender. It would be useful to know of the 80% who contribute to your business through personal connection how many might have second thoughts if they do not have the option of finding out more about you through a website. A website can provide a greater level of credibility and transparency and, therefore, trust with your potential clients.
Perhaps you believe that a webpage is not a reflection of the level of expertise and brilliance you possess as a coach. It is true there are many ways in which you can demonstrate your quality of service. But having a polished online presence does say something about your level of professional acumen and speaks to the all round experience the client will have. After all, how you will work together is not just about your sessions, but also about your organization, ease of contact, and billing management, all of which contribute to your overall value. However, if your website is full of errors and broken links and not usable or appealing, beware, it can have the opposite effect.
Fifth, a web presence is not just a twenty first century business card. Having a virtual calling card available 24 hours a day allows people to connect with you according to their schedule. You can use it to add value even when you are not immediately available in person and even in ways that go beyond email or telephone exchanges. A website can be place to disseminate information that provides and demonstrates value as well as be interactive.
You may disagree or identify other considerations that I have not touched on here. Overall though, when you reflect on everything that you have to gain or lose from either having or not having a website, what do you conclude? Is having a sizzling online coaching presence one of your marketing objectives?
In my next post, I will review possibilities for your website content.
Dr. Elizabeth Saigal is an ILCT Certified Life Coach. She offers Life Design Coaching for those intent on connecting with their inner truth and aligning with their intuition to live a life on purpose. You can connect with her and sign up to receive her Free Ten Step Life Design System at www.myspirecoaching.com