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June 22, 2007

10 First-Time Coaching Website Pitfalls to Avoid

Mistakes cost. They cost you time, money and frustration – all things that can jeopardize the success of your coaching business.

And if, according to statistics, most coaching practices fail to grow to sustainable and profitable levels to begin with, why increase your chances of failure, particularly when your website – one of your most important marketing tools – is concerned?

If you can avoid these common pitfalls when building your first coaching website, you can put yourself light years ahead of the competition. You can also avoid the headaches, and save yourself thousands of dollars. The biggest payoff? You’ll build a rewarding practice sooner.

— Problem 1: Having a blurry vision.

Just like when you coach a client toward a goal, that goal needs to be clear, detailed and time-specific. The goal also needs to be well defined, so that the client can say, “Yes! I’ve attained this goal!” In other words, the goal is like a guiding light, helping the client to make decisions that will help him get closer to his goal – not farther away from it.

It’s like when a person says, “I want to be healthy.” While it’s a nice sentiment, those words don’t paint a clear or detailed vision of what the client really wants or needs. It doesn’t get specific enough to tell you what it means to be healthy, or how this state will be achieved, or when it is to be achieved by. It’s blurry.

Now consider your website: if your vision is hazier than the smog in LA, it’s tough to know what content to choose, what to write about, how to organize your site and, most important, what purpose it will serve. You will struggle to build it and in the end it probably won’t be very helpful.

— Problem 2: Not having a specific audience with a specific problem.

It’s not easy to get attention when you tell people, “Hey, I’m a coach. I can help you solve your problems and reach success!” Not only is a message like that general and ambiguous, it’s hard to sink your teeth into and really feel.

Such a general message is even harder to spread on the Web, because there are so many distractions and a visitor’s attention span is drastically-reduced. Websites that don’t reach out and grab don’t keep visitors for very long.

However, if your website is targeted towards a specific group with a specific problem – such as expectant mothers worried about their baby’s health; operations managers with low division output; overweight teens, to name a few – you would have an easier time gaining interest, holding attention and securing business.
— Problem 3: Selling coaching services when you are really selling solutions to problems.

Contrary to the intuition of many coaches, you are not in the business of selling coaching. You are in the business of selling a solution to a problem.

Case in point: People don’t hire a personal trainer to force them to lift weights or do cardio; after all, this takes a lot of work and effort. What they do want is for the personal trainer to help them look good and feel good. And so, they hire the trainer to help them go from lethargic, unmotivated and out of shape to fit, healthy and attractive.

Similarly, people hire coaches to help them solve a problem and obtain success – like turning a low-paying dead end job into a fulfilling, lucrative career. Thus, your website needs to be organized and written in language that talks about problems, solutions and results – that which people are buying.

— Problem 4: Not realizing that content needs to be written – and written well.

Many coaching websites go up without realizing that there needs to be this thing called ‘content.’ These sad sites usually end up bare, with a few uninteresting, empty-looking pages.

To present yourself as a professional, credible coach who can help people, you will need to write good content to:

* Explain what you do in an easy-to-understand way
* Prove to your visitors that you can help them
* Build interest in your coaching services
* Make visitors feel they can trust you
* Connect on a deeper level with visitors
* Encourage visitors to take action

Once you’ve done that, the rest is gravy.

— Problem 5: Not knowing what you want your website visitors to do.

As a coach, you are looked upon as the person to lead your clients to a better situation. And so your website will need to do the same: lead visitors upward and onward.

If you don’t have a clear sense of what you want visitors to do, your vision as a leader is weakened, and the desire to hire you as a coach is greatly diminished.

For many coach websites, you will want to lead visitors on to the action of contacting you to further discuss becoming your client. Your website must encourage action, and make that action easy to do.

— Problem 6: Hiring a friend or family member to do your site.
This always sounds like a good money-saving idea — at first. But in the end, asking a friend or family member to build your site almost always ends up as a big mistake, for several important reasons.

First, your website –which will surely require hours of a friend’s personal time – is not likely to be at the top of their list of priorities. Playing golf or going to the beach, however, will. In every case I’ve heard of, the website didn’t get done.

Second, if your friend or relative isn’t a professional, talented designer, chances are that your website won’t come out looking that great. If your pal is a pro, you can bet your unpaid dollar that they’ll be busy working on other projects first and putting your stuff on the back burner.

Third, does your friend know what works – and what doesn’t work — for coaching websites?

Unless your pal or family member is a website guru, knows the coaching industry, hasn’t any income needs and has free time to dedicate to you, you might be better off turning to a professional.

— Problem 7: Worrying about search engines too much.
While it’s important to bear search engines in mind for potential future growth and to enable prospects to find you easily, for many first-timers, search engines are given too much weight.

The reason is that your first efforts to get clients won’t be heavily Internet-based. The fact of the matter is that most coaches are not Internet gurus, don’t want to be, and prefer to do hands-on coaching.

Before you worry about search engines, you’re better off building a site with good, credibility-building content; smooth, easy-to-use architecture; and an image that your potential clients will relate to and find appealing. This will serve you much greater at the outset.

As long as your web designer is compliant with designing for search engines, so that your site will be accessible to them and that your basic tags are written, that’s all you really need to worry about.

— Problem 8: No project manager.
Whether you hire a designer or do it yourself, you’ll somehow need to manage the website-building effort. The problem is, as a coach, you’re not necessarily familiar with the website-design process; including the rights steps to get the job done to completion, and on time.

Many designers like to act as “employees” and thus don’t take the lead in terms of getting your website project done. Therefore, you are appointed as the de facto project manager and will need to stay on top of your designer, and tell them what to do, in order to get the job done – and done right.

You may want to pick up a book on managing the website design process, hire a mentor coach who knows, or be sure to find a professional web designer who will provide this kind of service.

— Problem 9: Not being able to easily update your site on your own.
If you’re a coach in business for yourself, perhaps for the first time, you’ll want to be able to make basic updates for two main reasons:

First, since many newer coaches have tight budgets, doing your own updates save you money that would otherwise go to your web designer.
You can make updates quickly, as needed, say in the middle of the night as you pump out your newsletter. Also, many designers don’t put a high priority on updates and they often get done later than desirable.

You can eventually have your VA do it.

Before working with a web designer, make sure you will have easy access to your website and can make simple updates like adding an article, updating your events page and adding a link.

— Problem 10: You don’t own your site and name.
In an attempt to make money from your continued existence and help ensure you remain a client, many web designers and design firms will register your domain name and host your website as if it were their own.

This is bad because if you choose to go elsewhere for your website development help, you may not be able to get your website and/or you may have to be a surprisingly large fee for it.

Ideally, you should own your website and domain name to give you the freedom to go elsewhere if need be, and to protect you from unexpected high fees.

In conclusion, bear these 10 pitfalls in mind as you develop your first coaching website. They will put you years ahead, save you thousands of dollars, and most importantly, help you build a profitable, fulfilling practice.

Author:  Kenn Schroder helps coaches who are struggling to attract clients. He provides web design, web marketing and search engine optimization to help you build a client-attracting coaching website. Get your FREE report and FREE newsletter to help you build a practice full of clients. http://www.CoachingSitesThatWork.com

One Response to “10 First-Time Coaching Website Pitfalls to Avoid

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