Coaches – How to Grow a Coaching Business in Pittsburgh


Building a coaching practice in Pittsburgh can be both rewarding and highly challenging.  I know, because I built one over the last five years.

You know that you can change your clients’ lives by helping them to build loving relationships, lucrative and fulfilling businesses or careers, the daily lifestyle of their dreams, vibrant health, and much more.

But just because YOU know how big a difference your coaching can make, that doesn’t mean your potential clients share that knowledge, or that they’re ready to pay for your services the first time they meet you.

While the days when you would say “I’m a coach” and people would ask “what sport” are largely over, simply telling people you’re a coach still isn’t enough to help them see the value of your work.

In fact, you may have had people stare at you blankly and ask, “So what does that mean?”

And even if you DO have a great marketing message that gets people interested, that won’t help you unless you put it where your ideal clients are looking for it. Having a perfect message that goes unheard is hardly better than having no message at all!

In today’s blog post, I’ll help cochin professionals understanding how to attract more leads, and how to describe your offering and nurture your leads in a way that inspires them to become your clients.

How to tell potential clients what you do in your coaching practice:

We’ve established that just saying “I’m a coach” isn’t enough. Even if you specify the area in which you specialize, such as relationships, business or success, that isn’t enough to tell people whether you can solve their problems and help them get what they want.

Here are three steps you can use to create a description of your services that gets people interested and makes them want to sign up with you.

Coaching step 1: Know who your ideal client is.

You may be thinking, “The success or relationship principles I teach apply to everybody equally. I don’t want to miss out on potential clients by excluding people I could help.”

While marketing to fewer people may sound counterintuitive, it actually helps you to enroll more clients.

To understand why this is the case, you need to look at it from a client’s perspective.

Let’s say you’re a sixty-something man whose wife died two years ago, and who wants someone special with whom to spend the rest of his life.

You’ve been out of the dating game for almost forty years, so you decide to look online for some advice.

Upon hitting “search”, you’re immediately inundated by an endless stream of free articles, videos and webinars. At first, it looks like there’s absolutely no need to spend money in order to get dating advice; you’ve got everything you need at your fingertips, for free.

Too bad so little of it applies to you.

There’s a lot of information about picking up women at bars, impressing girls, and using questionable seduction techniques that mostly work on the inexperienced and insecure… but not a lot the advice strikes you as something that a mature senior lady would be interested in.

So you refine your search. Now you’re looking for dating advice for seniors. The people who are marketing to everyone, or even to every heterosexual male, have lost you, because even if SOME of their advice applies to you, none of them have an offering that’s tailored to your needs.

In this age of information and acceleration, people often try to do things themselves. And if they’re motivated enough to make a purchase, it’s probably because the generalized free advice they were finding wasn’t meeting their needs.

People are the most willing to hire you or buy from you when your offering precisely matches their situation, problems and needs. If you try to sell to everyone at once, you might appeal weakly to a lot of people, but you’ll appeal strongly to few or none.

If you don’t have a target audience defined, I recommend that you read my blog entry at onCOREventures’ article on the 10 things you need to know about your ideal client, so you can get very clear on who you want to serve and why they need you.

Coaching step 2: Help them – and yourself – to understand why they need you.

Don’t go straight to telling people what you do and why you think they need it. Instead, ask questions to explore what they need and what they’re struggling with, so when you explain what you do, you can tailor that explanation to appeal more strongly to them.

What is their familial status? If they’re single, do they want to stay that way? If they’re in a relationship, pay attention to the way they talk about the relationship. Do they seem happy with it?

What kind of business or career are they in? Do they enjoy it? Are they really busy serving clients, or are they struggling to get revenue?

If you need to know a piece of information, such as whether they’re happy in their relationship or how much money they’re making, but you feel that asking directly would be too forward or invasive, one strategy you can use is to say, “I know a lot of (people in their position) who struggle with (the problem you want to know if they have). Have you ever experienced that?”

That way, you can ask the question without sounding like you’re making assumptions about the other person or digging for information. The fact that you know people who have that problem gives you a reason to ask.

Coaching step 3: Describe your services according to the problems you solve and the benefits you give.

Once you’ve learned about the other person’s desires, challenges and needs, tell them you think you can help them. Tell them what problems you help people with, in terms of the specific, day-to-day symptoms they experience, and the changes you create in your clients’ daily lives.

It’s important to focus your explanation on the changes you’ll create, NOT on the methods by which you create those changes. Don’t tell them you have a six-week course with lots of videos, workbooks and exercises – that’s just a bunch of extra work to add to their plates, with no apparent payoff.

Instead, tell them they’ll double their income while halving their workload, or feel loved, loving and safe around their spouse again, or create a career that enables them to wake up in the morning feeling excited about the day ahead of them.

These strategies apply to both online and in-person selling strategies.

Whether you’re talking to a potential client face-to-face, writing the script for a webinar, or creating a sales page, the same principles apply:

Know who your ideal client is, find out what they want and why they want it, and make an offer that’s tailored specifically to their problems and desires.

How to spread your message and get more coaching clients:

Now that you have a better idea of who your target audience is and what to say to them, you need to know how to get that information in front of them.

There are over a billion websites on the internet, so you can’t expect someone to just stumble across yours. Even if you have good SEO that helps people to find your site, you’ll need some additional strategies if you want to really grow your business.

Here are three methods that coaches in Pittsburgh can use to get the attention of more potential clients:

Strategy #1: Referral marketing

GetAmbassador’s collection of word-of-mouth marketing statistics tells us that 84% of consumers place partial or even complete trust in their friends’, family’s and peers’ recommendations of products and services.

When someone refers a person to you, you immediately inherit the “know, like and trust” that referrer has already built up with the prospect, so a person who’s been referred is much more likely to make a purchase than a cold lead.

When you receive a referral, you have an opportunity to enroll them with far less work than it would take to convert a cold lead into a paying client.

Your best referral partners are people who serve the same target audience as you, in a way that complements your services but doesn’t compete with them.

For example, a relationship coach who specializes in helping new parents to keep their love strong in the face of a newborn’s demands might partner with midwives, baby supply stores, prenatal care experts, or pediatricians.

A business coach could cross-promote with copywriters, graphic designers, virtual assistants, and other people who serve businesses.

When you ask someone to send you referrals, make sure they understand who you serve, how you serve them, and what results the people you serve can expect.

I also recommend providing pre-written emails, scripts, text messages and social media posts that they can tweak and send, so they don’t have to figure out how to market you from scratch.

Strategy #2: Create profiles in local directories, and cultivate good reviews in them.

If people look up “life coaches in Pittsburgh, PA”, they will see several things at the top of their search results:

  • Advertisements from people who have paid for top-of-search ad space.
  • The three-business “snack pack” that features some of the most popular or high-ranking businesses in the field.
  • Directories of life coaches on sites like Yelp and Psychology Today.

Try searching for your type of coaching, whether it’s life coaching, relationship coaching, business coaching, or something else, in your city or zip code. Notice which sites and directories are at the top of the search results.

If you create profiles in those sites, it will make it easier for people to find you. And the more good reviews you have, the higher you’ll rank in those sites.

If you aren’t sure how to go about gathering positive customer feedback, this article provides detailed instructions on how to get good reviews and prevent negative ones.

Strategy #3: Use education to draw people to you.

People may not know that they need your coaching, but they DO know they have problems, questions and desires. So while they may not be looking for your coaching online, they often WILL be looking for answers, and if you provide those answers, it increases your odds of showing up in their search results.

What are the questions that your ideal clients frequently type into search engines? Write blog posts or create videos that answer those questions.

What kinds of problems do they seek solutions to? Provide a useful, actionable solution to one of those problems in order to draw them in, then while you have their attention, educate them about the other problems they have that you can help them solve.

People often know about the symptoms they feel without knowing about the underlying disease, so start by getting their attention by talking about the symptoms they know they have, then educate them about the root cause once you’ve got them listening.

And finally, what kind of benefits do they want? If they typed “How to _” into a search engine, what would they be trying to learn how to do?

Create content that tells them how to make progress or get a result in one area, then offer to help in the other areas.

For example, if you’re a business coach, you could write an article that tells them how to create a video series for a product launch, then offer to help them plan the rest of their launch.

Remember, you’ll seldom make a sale in the first interaction.

The process of going from being a complete stranger to becoming a repeat client who refers people to you is a journey, and it’s rare that a person will skip straight to the final step.

They’ll probably need to get to know, like and trust you through your educational marketing and social media interaction before they’ll try your webinar, buy a small item like a short program or ebook, return to purchase a larger course, then finally refer their friends to you.

It’s important to understand the stages that your clients go through in the course of their customer journey, and to make it easy and tempting for them to move from each stage to the next. Every step in your journey should both provide value, and educate them about why they need the step after it.

Coaches – Want to get more referral partners, hot leads, and long-term clients?

Now you know how to attract more clients to your coaching business, and why referrals are one of the best ways to get new customers.

Your next step is to meet more potential clients, and to get more people to refer clients to you.

If you want to get more referrals and leads, and to turn more of those leads into high-paying repeat clients, I invite you to join us in our next BNI meeting.  The only real marketing that I did when I built the coaching side of my business was through BNI and the Chamber of Commerce.  I would recommend that you start at those two places as you try to create your coaching practice.

For another take on how she created her Pittsburgh based coaching practice visit this page to hear from Maripat Abbott another member of a local BNI chapter.


coaches wanted


Editors’s Note – This blog entry was created by – Frederick Geiger  BNI Area Director and owner of onCOREventures – a Pittsburgh based marketing coaching and consulting firm. Frederick has been using the customer journey and ideal client profiles in his work with his five BNI chapters in our region and we are using this material in our upcoming blog series on how small business owners can grow their businesses in our area using the BNI system and other compatible marketing techniques. He built the foundation of his current business through the creation of his coaching practice using the BNI system. – George Zacherl 

Image credit Adobe Stock


1 reply
  1. Maripat Abbott
    Maripat Abbott says:


    Many great pieces of wisdom in here for building a coaching business. I particularly like (and have used successfully) what you share about providing pre-written emails, scripts, text messages and social media posts for my referal partners so that they can tweak and send, so they don’t have to figure out how to market you from scratch.

    Thanks for your message.


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