Over the last few years the number of triathlon and endurance coaches has grown exponentially. It's a very common discussion I have with our clients using our coaching and membership platform Training Tilt. There is anxiety and even anger around this increase in competition, especially from those coaches who have been in the business for a long time.
Ultimately this scenario is here to stay and it is not unique to the coaching industry. Any business in a growing industry needs to accept increased competition.
As a coach you've got three options:
Reminisce about the good old days and lament on how these new coaches don't have a clue. Hope those days will return.
Get out of the business and do something else.
Accept that competition is part of any business and put strategies in place to protect yourself and your business to keep moving forward.
Did I say you had 3 options? Well really you've only got one and that's number 3, deal with it and keep moving forward.
Why are there so many coaches?
There are a few drivers behind the growth of new coaches in the business.
The age of the solo business
It's now easier than ever to start your own business. Technology and internet tools enable motivated people to achieve everything that's required to start a business on their own. Accounting tools like Xero, website builders, marketing automation tools, online stores, and client communication tools mean low set up cost and immediate access to the marketplace. You don't need a team of people with various skills to get started. You just need a willingness to learn, a good work ethic and a computer.
Supply and demand
The popularity of endurance sports for age groupers. Triathlon, marathons, and cycle races are now huge industries generating revenue from everyday people. There are more athletes out there now willing to pay for coaching. That's supply and demand working at its best.
Low barriers to entry
To enter the coaching industry is very easy (to be good at it is hard though). All you need to do is announce yourself as a coach and you are good to go. Once you are peddling your wares, you can coach someone over the phone, via email or signup for a Training Peaks or Training Tilt account for as little as a few dollars a day.
What can you do to stay competitive?
The surge in new coaches is a natural part of business and industry. Here are 6 strategies to staying competitive:
Stop worrying about it
The first thing to do is stop worrying. There will be lots of new coaches coming into the industry and worrying about that too much will lead to stress, anxiety bitterness about the job you love. The number of coaches out there is one factor you have no control over so stop worrying about it.
Compete on value not on price
One thing that happens with increased competition is that new coaches will enter the market and attract new business with low prices. You may be tempted to lower your prices to stay competitive. You should avoid this at all cost. Competing on price will take you down a road that will lead to frustration and bitterness. Lowering your prices will attract a lower quality of client and reduce your revenue. In a crowded market place you should compete on value not on price. Differentiating yourself with high quality "premium" services is a solid strategy for staying competitive.
You can read more about my thoughts on pricing in my post about competing on value not on price.
Focus on on your own business and don't get distracted
Just as in training and racing, focusing too much on your competitors can be dangerous. You can't control what your competitors do and if you've been in the industry for a while you'll already have a good grasp on what works and what doesn’t. If you've been successful so far, continue to focus on your own growth and development and keep doing a great job for your clients. Remember that energy flows to where attention goes. Don't waste your energy worrying about what everyone else is doing. Maintaining a high quality service for your existing clients is always the most important thing.
Diversify your products and services
Ensuring you can offer a broader range of products and services can protect you against new competition. During times of industry growth the squeeze will be applied to the most common offering of one-one coaching. If you have additional related products and services that are more difficult to replicate or get setup then some of your income will be more protected. It's important that your products and services are closely related to your core offering but there are lots of things you can consider offering to diversify. You can read more on this in my post about why products not just services will help your coaching business
You've got the coaching skills but it's also important to keep improving your skills around business and technology. New coaches coming into the market will likely have skills they can leverage to balance out their lack of experience. The most successful coaching business will be those that can combine experience, knowledge and modern business and technology skills. One of the most valuable yet least common skills in the coaching industry is internet marketing. If you can develop even a basic understanding of internet marketing and begin to implement some core strategies you will be at a huge advantage. Some useful reading to get you started:
- Automating your marketing
- Adding Google Analytics to your website
- Re-targeting your website visitors
- Building your online authority
Often new coaches get into the industry because they've decided to make a lifestyle choice and coaching seems like something that's quite easy to get into. They don't need to invest much money upfront and can get started right away.
Sooner or later they'll discover what you already know, that coaching is difficult and to be successful you need a lot of knowledge and experience that only comes with time and hard work. You'll find that hard work is what some new coaches were trying to avoid in the first place. Maybe they've left a corporate role to avoid stress but it turned out that the day to day running of a coaching business, worrying about revenue and dealing with coaching clients comes with its own levels of stress and difficulty.
I've experienced first-hand personally, through Training Tilt and through our clients’ that even though there are new coaches entering the market there are also many coaches abandoning their goals for a coaching business and either going back to the work force or trying something different. There is nothing wrong with that and it's not a reflection on their abilities. Like most things in life, things are never what they seem from the outside. It's not until you immerse yourself in something that you can determine whether it's something you want to do long term.
On the other hand, some new coaches will excel and be very successful. That's a good thing though and they introduce the healthy aspect of competition that raises the level of the industry as a whole.
Competition is here to stay. Don't let it distract you from doing what you do best, getting great results for your clients. Competition will come and go, and even though coaching is relatively easy to start it's very difficult to be great at it. Sooner or later the "not so great" coaches will be filtered out either through poor results for their clients or deciding that coaching is not a long term goal for them.
Although it is important to be patient you should still continue to develop and fine tune your own products and services to protect yourself against new competition.
At the end of the day the most important thing is to keep a cool head and focus on maintaining the quality of your services and the results you achieve for your clients. Hard work, patience and integrity will always pay off.
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