by Tonia Boterf
Over the last year, I’ve been poked and prodded to ‘find your niche’ as an Internet life coach and I’ve fought it kicking and screaming. All I ever heard and was told was that you must have a niche, in order to target your audience effectively for marketing purposes and that you can’t be successful without doing so. Phooey!
Life coaching started with Executive Coaching, and then Corporate Coaching, but then became more mainstream in applying the coaching techniques to people’s everyday lives. Before the Internet, coaches worked from offices and thus had to have the skills for a broader range of issues. Along came the Internet and everything changed, especially if you coach via the phone and do not get your clients primarily from your local area.
Through the Internet, you can now find life coaches specializing in diverse areas: Christian, Divorce, Relationships, Career, Marketing, Small Business Development, Spirituality, Over 50, Youth, Organization and so forth. In the Internet sea, coaching businesses have become more specialized for primarily two reasons: (1) Internet search engines deliver results based on specific key words that consumers type in when they are looking for a life coach and (2) Coaches who want to be found by those consumers are aiming to identify and target their audience in order to laser focus their marketing efforts to reach that group. Woe to us who prefer to be more generalized in practice—for us the road is harder.
If a life coach’s background is specialized, then it makes sense to confine their coaching practice to those skills. This makes sense—as long as they are professional enough to refer their customers to another coach, or to work in tandem when appropriate.
There are some of us, though, who have the skills and background to offer a broader range of coaching services. The Internet doesn’t like generalists or those of us who don’t want to be niched in. This reality makes the marketing of our services through the Internet more challenging; it is more difficult to get high "search rankings" and it may be harder for customers to find us.
With 25+ years of professional coaching in all kinds of life areas and enjoying most of them, the idea of niching or creating boundaries for myself has left me with my phrase of "Don’t Niche Me In." Oh, I’ve succumbed some but my passion and experiences are broad and the more complex the situation, the happier I am. I would be bored if confined to a single topic area. So, I market the best that I can, but as a generalist, you just can’t list all the areas of life you can coach in.
There are subjects that I am not as well versed in as others, and there are some I really don’t enjoy and will refer a customer to another life coach as appropriate. I encourage all coaches to be clear and honest about their skills, and build a network of coaches they can refer to in areas that are outside their specialty. I also recommend that they list their specialties in some of the many coach directories that are available.
My passion as a life coach is to make other’s lives better. If someone has more skills or passion in an area then I do, my loyalty is to the customer and finding them the right coach to help them. By playing to my strengths and those of other life coaches, I feel the entire life coaching profession benefits. Satisfied customers spread the word of how beneficial life coaching is—isn't that what all of us would like to see more of – whether we are "niched in" or not?
Tonia Boterf – The Practical Expert™ (617-895-0249, www.thepracticalexpert.com) is a Certified Life Coach, Holistic Health Practitioner and LSW with 25+ yrs of experience offering strong results-oriented coaching services for those over 40 dealing with major life challenges, including caring for aging parents. Offering free and affordable sessions, quality e-books and articles.