As you research how to effectively market your career coaching practice on the internet you may have noticed a lot of talk about the importance of creating a client persona. What’s all the hype about and what does a client persona actually mean? I’m going to define the term and share the research methods I used to create my own business client personas when I started my successful career coaching practice years ago.
What is a client persona?
When you are trying to figure out what the wants and needs of your ideal client are, a persona provides you with details, beyond their basic demographic information, to help you understand the challenges they face and what motivates them. It’s a fictional profile of the real people who buy, or might buy, services like the ones you offer through your business. You develop these personas from research you do on your current, or past clients and people who are in your target market. I’ve found it helpful to create different client personas depending on who my target audience is for any given career coaching service I want to offer.
The difference between a client persona, buyer persona, and target audience
It turns out that a client persona, (also known widely as a buyer persona) is not the same as your target audience. I’ve heard the terms used interchangeably but technically, the research you gather for defining a target audience specifically captures the demographic and geographic data of your potential clients such as gender, income, and location. A client or buyer persona helps you to dig deeper into understanding your target client’s personality, behaviors, goals, pain points that need solving, needs, views of life and motivators. These behavioral insights will help you to tie your coaching services to things they care about.
The benefits of client personas
While you may have gotten your inspiration for starting a private practice from your organizational work with a certain population of clients, you may find trying to attract these same clients to your private practice more difficult than you thought. Building a client persona can help you examine your previous assumptions about your target population and reveal better ways of showing them how your services are worth their time and money. Creating personas for your ideal clients provide these benefits:
- A stronger connection between your services and the needs of the client.
- Focused marketing strategies that attract the right clients and motivates them to buy.
- Tailored service planning and implementation that you know will meet client needs.
- The ability to appeal to and connect authentically with your target clients.
A human approach
When I created a successful coaching practice, it helped me to keep in mind that clients are more than statistics. They are people and, as such, bring all their complexity along with them. Developing personas adds dimension and brings forth a more complete picture of your client. This, in turn, makes it easier to define your ideal client and attract more of them.
Personas can be fun
It’s also a lot more fun than just crunching marketing data. Individuals in business often give their client personas descriptive, humorous, nicknames. For instance, I’ve heard of “Balancing Betty” to describe a mother trying to balance her home life and career or “People Pleaser Paul” for a social worker that is burned out because he has a hard time saying no to professional and personal demands. Again, you can have some fun with it while still accomplishing the serious task of creating an effective client persona. I’ve found that your ultimate mission in coaching is to understand your client’s goals and challenges. This way, you can recognize their pain points and provide solutions through your coaching services.
How do I create a persona?
I’ve found creating a client persona is easier if you have a client base to draw from; however, if you are just starting out and don’t have any clients yet, you can still create a great client persona by interviewing people who fit your target audience. These can be people found through your personal network and social media. It may be tough to get a large volume of people this way, but you’ll likely get some very high-quality interviews out of it.
One way to establish an effective persona, if you have already worked with some of your target audience before, is to think about a client, or clients, you really loved working with. What characteristics did they have? What were the biggest challenges facing them? What qualities, traits or behaviors were so appealing? I also asked myself who do I do my best coaching with? Another effective way I used to develop a client persona is by asking my top clients questions so I could make a persona more detailed. For instance, asking them things like:
- What’s important to you?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- What are some of the factors that led you to hire a coach?
- What were some of the factors preventing you from hiring a coach?
- Who do you turn to for advice or information?
Using personas intuitively
Client personas were not as well-researched and touted when I began my coaching practice. I was; however, using them inadvertently. I got into the field of coaching in order to help individuals who were looking to make a difference in the international community through international development. I understood, and looked for, people who were big-hearted with lots of good ideas but who struggled with things like organization and setting priorities. My idea of creating a client persona was really looking for people with specific personality leanings. Individuals who were interested in making a difference but who would, most likely, be challenged with traditional career coaching which was action and detail-oriented.
Use your own experience as a touchstone
I knew there was a niche market that was largely untapped because I, myself, had been in the international development field and wrestled with those same issues when it came to leveraging my experience in looking for new opportunities. It was still in my nature and my desire to make meaningful contributions through work. I had been a volunteer in the Peace Corps and so I began my transition to private practice by doing what I knew. I began conducting webinars for people returning from the Peace Corps. I gained a lot of clients that way.
Use established groups like LinkedIn to further your cause
I also began giving presentations and webinars for organizations involved in international development. Some of these opportunities came about through conversations I had on LinkedIn. These conversations about international development led to me giving feedback to individuals wanting to learn more about the field. The exposure of my feedback led to even more opportunities. I found myself giving many webinars and presentations on this topic but the outcomes, in terms of paying clients it generated, varied widely. The number of paying clients generated generally was based on the organization’s reach and the client’s alliance with my expertise.
Striking while the iron is hot
I had developed an online coaching program, as well. So, when I made presentations, or gave webinars, I would promote my online coaching toolkit known as My Career Design Studio. This was a helpful tool especially when working in tandem with my clients. It has a comprehensive approach, everything from personality assessments to how to design an ideal day. My clients loved it.
Coaching the coaches
These days, I use my expertise in training individuals to become coaches themselves. I developed a course known as the Empowered Entrepreneur Program and My Career Design Studio certification is a part of that. I learned about client personas by interviewing my own clients and used that information to create an innovative world-class training program. And, now, I still survey and interview my clients, who are learning how to become successful coaches, and I use the same types of questions I used on my coaching clients years ago.
I think you will find, like I did, creating a client or buyer persona, a worthwhile endeavor. It feels human to recognize that your clients are more than just revenue streams and, not only, is it good for the soul but it is great for your practice, too.
Learn more about us here
If you want to learn more about creating an effective client or buyer persona as a part of a comprehensive marketing plan for your career coaching business, consider taking our eight-week online Empowered Entrepreneur Program (EEP). It was created and is taught by successful career coaches. The program gives you tools specifically designed for your coaching clients and gives you access to a Facebook Group where job seekers can find EEP trained coaches called “Find your Right-Fit Career Coach. Click here to learn more about the EEP program or to speak with one of our team members. Marketing can be a natural outcome of who you are. Let us show you the tools and techniques to make it a reality!
Update! Our Empowered Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) has been renamed to Kickstart Your Private Practice (KYPP)