A common issue that most coaches face is the task of finding new clients. Now is the time that athletes are looking to set up their coming season, and are most likely to begin working with a coach. But finding these clients is often easier said than done, and while you may be working on long-term initiatives to build your brand, what you need right now are tactics that will help you sign new clients during this crucial time of year.
So, what is a coach to do in order to sign some new clients in the next 90 days? We polled the coach side of our Customer Success Team to get their best tips. Weighing in, we had Keith Watson, TrainingPeaks COO and triathlon coach; Dave Schell, Customer Success Manager and triathlon/MTB coach (fbdmultisport.com); and Jason Short, cycling coach (thresholdendurance.com).
Both Watson and Schell recommend holding clinics or seminars when possible. “Host a free triathlon swim clinic at your local rec center. The swim is always the most nerve-wracking for triathletes, especially newbies,” says Watson. He also recommends that triathlon coaches offer their services to the local swim coach to bring triathlon-specific training to the pool.
When holding any type of clinic or seminar, Schell, who has more than doubled his client base in the past year, advises handing out cards to attendees and encouraging them to contact you with questions. This will open up a conversation and get attendees interested in your services. These efforts can be done around a specific race, or on a more general topic.
Discounts and Promotions
More than just taking a percentage off your rates for a period of time, offering specific discounts can help you build your clientele. “Offer discounted coaching for a single event, kind of like a dynamic training plan, and then be sure to be very attentive while providing feedback,” says Schell. “The athletes will see the value of coaching and reach out to you to continue after the event.”
An approach that Short recommends is to send out a special to current clients offering a free month of coaching for every client they send to you. It’s a basic referral program that doesn’t take much effort on your part but can pay big dividends. It also encourages more word-of-mouth marketing from your athletes.
Short also suggests that cycling coaches offer up a few free months of coaching as a prime at a local crit race. This will bring you more exposure to the racing scene as well as introduce a qualified lead. Every client that Short has ever taken on through a prime has turned into a paid client.
Plan a weekly run or bike ride in your area. Get the word out via bike shops, clubs and other outlets about your group training. This could be a weekend ride, weekday track run or even a morning skills session. Don’t charge for these sessions–instead think of them as community outreach of your name and brand, and a valuable opportunity to meet new athletes. These group workouts can take weeks if not months to really blossom, but once they do you have a steady stream of new and returning athletes that you can potentially turn into one-on-one clients.
Check your Rates
Many coaches struggle with how much to charge. The standard thought is that if you lower your price you will find more athletes. Potentially, but what type and quality of athlete do you attract with “price point” rates?
Short has had success going the other way. He suggests raising your rates by $50 or adding another level of coaching that is $100 more than your current high level. He says, “If you want to be valued as a professional by your clients, consider pricing yourself as a professional and then provide that professional service you are charging for. Try to match your price point with the level of service you want to provide along with the type of athlete you want to attract. A higher price point will often times attract a more dedicated athlete.”
Of course, it is up to you to be ready to justify the premium, and prove that your coaching services are worth the higher rate.
If you sell training plans on TrainingPeaks (didn’t know you could do that? Here’s how), make sure to follow up when the plan is over, advises Short. “You might be surprised at how many athletes decide they would like to have a coach, once one has reached out to them. I have gotten some of the best clients, in terms of communication and willingness to pay a coach as a professional, from doing this than any other avenue I have found thus far.” If the athlete has had success with your plan, they should now value your expertise–this is the perfect time to convert them over to a one-on-one client.
Short points out another benefit of selling plans. “One of the bonuses of listing training plans in the TrainingPeaks training plan store is that your plans receive worldwide exposure therefore giving you the opportunity to develop client relationships anywhere in the world.”
Many coaches struggle to handle the marketing and promotional side of coaching. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to get in front of potential clients. Make sure you understand the needs of your specific market and look for opportunities to create a larger, visible presence–and get your name out to those athletes that can turn into clients.