By Craig Johns
Do you know who you are and what your identity is?
Four years ago I was fortunate enough to deliver an impromptu presentation on Branding and Marketing for Coaches at the Triathlon Australia Performance Coach Course in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport. I was pretty excited to be able to speak to the next generation of performance coaches on this topic, as it is an area that isn’t given much time in the coaching world, but is extremely important to succeed in a world of limited opportunities.
“If you don’t know what you stand for, you will fall for anything.”
What follows is not only practical to sports coaches, but also to business coaches. managers and leaders.
It is common for coaches to launch into coaching as a profession, with a world of passion and emotion, and fall into the trap of coaching everyone, no matter what age, ability, desire and characteristics. Coaches are like kids in a candy store without any boundaries, and before they know it they have consumed too much and are barely able to tread water, let alone have enough energy to lift the weight off their shoulders.
A coach is a salesperson, whether they know it or not. To sell something effectively they have to know its heart and soul. To convince, motivate and inspire an athlete and team of athletes effectively, a coach needs to be able to deliver messages authentically and consistently. They need to know what it is that separates themselves, to stand out, from the rest.
It doesn’t matter whether a coach is a volunteer, works on a performance program or sets up their own coaching business, being able to clearly define and nurture their identity will allow them to cultivate a successful career and most importantly deliver an environment where success, for the athletes, is inevitable. The coach needs to position themselves in a way that allows potential and current athletes to perceive, think and feel more connected to them compared to other coaches or coaching businesses. (Bence, 2012)
“Your SMILE is your logo, your PERSONALITY is your business card, how you LEAVE OTHERS FEELING after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
Photo Credit: David Sun
Leave Your Mark
So what is branding for a coach? It’s about creating a consistent message through the way they talk, move, act, deliver, motivate, inspire and bring the best out in the athletes they are working with. It’s about developing an underpinning philosophy that the coach whole-heartedly believes in and is passionate about. It’s a way of life for the athletes the coach works with. Most importantly, it’s the distinctive aspects of the coaching style, personal characteristics and environment that leaves a mark on everyone who comes in contact with the coach.
It is important that a coach can identify what types of athletes (markets) are most suited to their coaching identity and market effectively to them. Whether it be speaking with a potential athlete for the first time or setting up a new website, the messages need to be clear, consistent and from the heart. A successful coach-athlete relationship, the foundation of coaching, is based on factors such as trust, emphatic understanding, acceptance and respect (Jowett, 2005). A clear, concise and consistent coaching brand will go along way to ensuring a successful relationship is created and developed.
People Sell, Not Products
For those starting a coaching business, it is important to know, that it’s the “person” that people are attracted to, not the product. Athletes are attracted to the personal characteristics of the coach and the business. The coaches ability to sell the products requires a consistent and powerful (coach) brand that they can passionately communicate. It is important a coach doesn’t just copy what other successful coaches are doing. They need to create their own identity.
“ Every time you shake a hand, you market your brand.”
How are you communicating your coaching identity?