Here's a groundbreaking thought: coaching isn't about marketing.

“I come from a marketing background so, when I started my coaching practice, I focused on marketing because that’s what I was comfortable with,” says Emily Straubel, a life and relationship coach. “I spent too much time thinking about building my business through tactics.” And while that worked at first, Straubel says she ended up with a business that wasn't exactly what she wanted.

The solution? She stopped marketing and instead focused on being the best coach she could be. “That started with only accepting clients I wanted to work with,” Straubel says. “I focused on slow and meaningful growth.”

As a coach looking to form lasting bonds with your clients, your focus should be on what you can offer them that will make them come back for more again and again.

Give your clients more than they expect

“My motto is to under-promise and over-deliver,” says Chere Bork, a life coach, keynote speaker and a Certified Executive Wellcoach. “I never tell my clients I will send them a follow up email that day but I do -- I just do not promise that,” Bork explains. “I want them to feel valuable and when they feel valuable they feel confident and can easily make decisions.”

Under-promising and over-delivering are an important part of 'wowing' your coaching clients during the coaching process, making them want to stick around. “I think it is important to always give more than expected,” says Scott Nelson, a Senior Partner at Clarity Central and a Certified Effectiveness Coach “Exceeding expectations is a great way to get repeat business and referrals.” He also mentions that follow-up emails that are personal and relevant to what the client is currently working on is one small thing.  “Another is consistently asking them what they need/want from me to help support them,” he adds.

While these “extras” might seem time consuming, Straubel says she never hesitates to give her clients more time, resources and energy than they sign up for. “For me, that could mean helping someone write a difficult email to their boss or talk them through an argument they just had with their partner,” Straubel explains. “Knowing how to give targeted and timely inspiration in the middle of a crisis is what makes the difference for creating lasting change.”

Another thing to keep in mind? You should feel free to adapt those extras to your style of coaching, your situation, and the type of clients you're working with. For example, Straubel says she often places unexpected late-night client calls, even though colleagues tell her she should charge more money or that she doesn’t value her time. “That’s simply not how I set up my business,” Straubel says. “I don’t overbook my clients and I only work with brilliant people who respect me and my work; it works when you set clear boundaries and you are transparent about your business model.”

Straubel emphasises that giving more is better for her and her business because it creates better results. But in the end it's also better for her clients because it gives them the support they need, in the moments that they need it the most. And that's what makes all the difference.

Change things up along the way

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Keeping things fresh is so important for Straubel that she says she doesn't create standard packages but instead spends her spare time collecting valuable resources, lessons, practices and exercises. “I’ve built an arsenal of useful tools to give to my clients.” Straubel explains. “I want to bring the best ideas to clients in the moment they need it.”

And that's why flexibility is key, because there’s no single path that works for everyone. “Sometimes I’ll have a plan for our session, and then something will come up, they’ll mention a situation or a realisation they had and I let that guide the conversation.” And those are the moments when real shifts happen, according to Straubel. “So I grab a different book, a set of notes or a series of exercises that have been helpful in similar situations and take it from there.”

When it comes time to change things up, listening to your client's needs and desires is essential. “They are the expert of their lives and I am just their guide,” Bork says. “This is why I do not use any cookie cutter approach; even with a coach prep form, we go with the flow and coach what the client needs in that very moment.”

Add bonuses whenever possible

Bonuses or gifts can make any coaching package feel more valuable, especially if they're unexpected. For example, it has a bigger impact to not include an ebook as part of the material listed on a coaching package, and then surprise the client with it later on.

“Bonuses are important because everyone loves to receive presents and these gifts increase the perceived value of the services provided,” explains Lisa Cypers Kamen, a positive psychology coach, lecturer and host of Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio. Offering bonuses such as branded eBooks, workbooks, worksheets, meditations  or talismans provides additional service and support to the client, as well as markets your business to the client’s sphere of influence as he/she shares them.”

Bonuses come in a number of ways and platforms, and certified life coach Erik Cline says you don't have to stick to the obvious. For example, he recommends everything from books and ebooks to computer or mobile apps, or even pdf files. Even then, Cline says physical bonuses can have a bigger impact. “Its nice to receive fun, motivational emails, but it's even better when you get something sent to home or office, as these are usually more thoughtful or personal,” he explains.

When choosing bonuses, always keep your client in mind. “For example, don't send a client who is not tech savy a bunch of digital material that they will not use,” Cline says. “Or perhaps your younger clients may prefer a digital book over a paper book.”

Once you get to know a client and what they like you can then better plan their bonus or gift ideas, according to Cline.

Encourage productively during coaching

While it's important to encourage your clients forward, should coaches become constant cheerleaders? If all you do constantly is pat your client on the back, they might end up believing there's no growth left to be done. Constant cheering with no direction can actually end up being damaging.

The answer? Cheer accomplishments without ignoring the goals to come. “Its more important to keep pushing clients to what their agenda is,” Cline says. “While always acknowledging and encouraging any progress along the way, it is still important to push them to what they said was desired when the coaching began.”

In fact, the best coaching partnership is based on accountability, says Cline. “People who spend their money on coaching want results,” he explains. “When the results are achieved, that's when the client will agree that the process works. “

Your goal as a coach is to get clients from where they are to where they want to be, whether is how they feel, look, act, or think, Cline explains. “To keep a client happy and wanting to remain a client, the coach must be clear in what the relationship will be and how he/she will be as a coach,” Cline adds. “And if a client reaches a goal, the coach must ask what the client wants next, as opposed to assuming anything about the client.'

Help your clients see their goals being accomplished

Setting clear goals is very important because you can then measure progress and tweak what isn't working. “We ONLY manage what we measure and the only way to do that is to great SMART goals,” says Bork. SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely) work because a client can see where they are and what remains to be done.

And that helps your business as well because clients will see you as a positive influence. “My clients are very successful and stay with me for years and years which is great testimony for future clients,” says Bork. “I get many great referrals from them.”

Another way to help your clients visualize their progress is by holding them accountable. For example, Nelson says he often offers his clients two thought processes. “One is excuses,” Nelson says. “If they are not doing what they say they want to do then they must be more committed to something else.”

As a coach, it's your job to help them discover what that something else is, Nelson says.

The second thing to help them is to make sure they see the obstacles standing on their way. “It is my job to help them see the obstacles and empower them to find the courage to remove the obstacles,” Nelson says.

One thing to keep in mind? While goals can help create a road map of sorts, they should not become the focus of your coaching. Instead, they are there to enable both client and coach to see the direction of choice, support that journey accordingly and then allow for challenges and opportunities that might require a course correction, according to Kamen. “Congruency and alignment of the mission is essential,” Kamen says.

Keep yourself fresh

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Going back to freshen up your credentials and education is key to success as a coach. That could mean reading books, connecting to other coaches or taking new classes. “I take lots of courses and am constantly learning and share many of the things I learn with my clients,” says Bork.

In fact, facilitating client growth is directly connected to your own growth as a coach. And that's because clients could be with you for weeks, months or even years – and you might need mew techniques or tools to help them get where they need to go. “This requires that I constantly learn and share best practices that serve us on all levels (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) as well as ask my clients to coach me on how I can serve them better,” says Kamen.

How exactly? Kamen recommends asking your clients to rate your work and areas that need improvement. “This supports good communication, authenticity and demonstrates that we are not just a spokesperson for the coaching process but a solid practitioner,” Kamen explains. “Empowering the client to provide feedback to us as coaches fosters a safe haven for them to remain connected.”

While client retention is key to success in any business, as a coach you're in a unique position: Your success as a coach is directly related to your client's success. If they do better, your business will grow. Focus on getting better and giving more and your clients will reward you by staying with you.

Diana B

Diana B

Diana Bocco is a full-time freelance writer and author. Her work appears regularly in top publications throughout the world, including Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and more.

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Tags: Business