You’ve done the training, you’ve got all the passion and drive, but now you have to build a client list. How do you narrow your market down to one particular focus, so you can connect with your perfect audience? Here, we asked best-selling author and business alignment coach Cassie Mendoza-Jones how to know—and attract!—your ideal client.
When starting up a business—of any kind—one question that will always come up is: who is your audience?
You may have brilliant ideas, an amazing product or the very best training in your field, but if you can’t clearly identify who you are selling to, you might be looking at a very short-lived business life.
Knowing who you’re talking to, and what problem you are solving, is crucial. And if you’re in the coaching world, knowing your niche is even more paramount. Every single thing you do—from your course creation to your coaching packages and your social media marketing—needs to talk directly to your ideal client. You need to know exactly what he or she wants, needs and connects with.
Of course. But why do so many new coaches (and some not so new) still struggle with getting their niche clear?
Knowing that this one area of your coaching business could be the linchpin to your success, we knocked on the (virtual) door of successful business coach, kinesiologist, naturopath, and best-selling author Cassie Mendoza-Jones to get her insights into narrowing down your client focus, and getting really clear on who you’re marketing to. Originally a health and wellness coach, Cassie has successfully moved into business alignment coaching, and has just released her second book ‘It’s All Good’ (Hay House.)
Ask anyone who’s built a successful coaching business, and they will tell you that finding your niche is an organic process. It’s not something you get right straight after your training. Sure, you may have indications and ideas of your ideal client and what areas of their life you’re wanting to work in, but the truth is, you need to get your hands a little dirty first before you can be really clear.
Which is exactly what Cassie found in her own business.
“I believe our niche chooses us. When I started my business, I began as a naturopath and nutritionist, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘What is my niche?’ As if I had to consciously try and work it out. I remember I went to a seminar one day on autism, which started me thinking maybe I should choose autism as my niche. I was interested in it, I could see how much it would help people, and so I thought maybe I could consciously choose to make that my focus. I bought two books on autism, and I never even opened them. And so, after a couple of weeks, I realised that my niche has to be something I am completely passionate about. It has to come to me, in a way.”
Often, your clients point you in the direction of your niche. Many new coaches hold off on putting their first package or offer out into the market, waiting for that perfect pitch. They agonise over who they are talking to and what language to use, denying themselves the very thing that will help them get the language they need: experience.
“In my case, I certainly never started out thinking I would be a business-alignment coach. I was trained in looking at people’s health! But over time, I found that I kept working with people who were going through things that, on some level, I’d already been through, or I was working through in my own life. As my work evolved, and I brought in kinesiology, my work and my niche shifted again. It certainly wasn’t a conscious choice! I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to work with entrepreneurs, and I’m going to do business alignment coaching.”
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Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan once said: “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” And it is this truth that can often guide you to your niche. Most coaches—whether business, health, relationship or spiritual—teach what they most want to master. Often it's an area of their life they are most passionate about healing themselves, and they attract clients who want to do the same work.
So if you’re struggling to narrow your niche down, take a look at what you’ve been through in your own life—because that’s what you can teach.
“I totally agree with this. I also think the area of focus may be work that we need to continue to learn. Perhaps an area of our life that we want to continue to deepen. We may have learnt that initial lesson, and then we might need to continue to deepen that work within ourselves. On some level, we’re resonating that to clients, and then they’ll pick that up and want to either learn from us, or we’ll just be deepening the work that we’re already doing.”
It’s important to remember that potential clients will relate to your personal story and the steps you’ve taken to get where you are. They want someone just a few steps ahead, and someone who can understand the process.
“More and more of my clients were entrepreneurs, and healers, and coaches, and creatives, and writers, and consultants. And the work kept shifting to become less about what’s going on at a physical level, and more about what’s going on at a mental, emotional, spiritual, creative business level, and mindset level, and it just kept growing from there. And that’s because, that was the shift that was happening in my own life too. So you just have to trust that your niche will find you. It will become obvious.”
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So you thought you had it all sorted, you were clear on who you wanted to work with, but then - you got some really misaligned clients. Perhaps it just didn’t flow, or they weren’t ready to do the work that was needed, and you found yourself uninspired and doubting yourself again.
This is a good thing!
Sometimes, the ‘wrong’ clients are actually the very right ones. They help you see where your marketing may be off, or the messaging is sending the wrong signals. Don’t panic - this is a great chance to look inward again, and make sure you’re not just following the current trend.
“What I’ve found is that sometimes we can get a little bit too caught up in looking at external factors that we think qualify what our niche is,” says Cassie. “And that can sometimes mean we miss the importance of resonance.”
In most business and marketing courses, you’re encouraged to create an ‘ideal client avatar’ - a made-up ideal client, with every little detail decided. But, Cassie warns, this can lead to assumptions that might block your real ideal clients.
“Often, in those ideal client avatar sessions, we’re told to get really clear. Like, ‘I only work with women who are between this age and this age, who are going through this, and this, and this.’ But what I found is, your niche is about resonance, and it’s not about those statistics. For example, my ideal client avatar might be called Lucy, who’s 26, works in Media and reads these magazines, and does this, and does that. It doesn’t mean that Lucy and I are going to relate on a level where we actually resonate with each other, and where I can help her and she wants to receive my support.
“So, I don’t think those specific details are important. I’ve worked with people who are in their early 20s and some who are in their late 60s, and if I put the three of us – two clients and me – in a room together, there would be this beautiful harmony, we’d all get along, and I can help each of those clients. But on paper, they are so different.”
You could also be closing yourself off from some very aligned new clients.
“When I ran my Love What You Create workshops in Australia at the beginning of the year,” Cassie shares, “it was directed and marketed to women, but one day before the Perth workshop I got an email from a guy who said ‘I’ve just come across your workshop on Eventbrite, and I know it’s for women, but could I come?’ And of course I said yes.
“He was the only man who came on the entire tour, but he was so aligned with my work and message. And he got along with every woman at the workshop! If I had said, ‘I’m only going to work with women,’ I actually would have said, ‘No,’ to someone who is an absolute ideal client. And it turns out, he had bought my book for his mum as a birthday present the week before, before he’d even met me or knew about my workshop, and then the next week, found me on Eventbrite and came to my workshop. So, our niche, and then our ideal clients, can find us through that energy of alignment and resonance more than just us ticking off a list of what we want to work with.
Let’s face it - most marketing messages focus on the struggle, and the solution that you just ‘have to have’. They point out the problem, try to sympathise with the situation, and keep rehashing the same story. Cassie warns that this type of social media focus can be limiting: while showing that you understand your potential client’s struggles is important, highlighting the benefits of learning the lesson and coming through the other side is equally - if not more - important.
“I see lots of people keep sharing the painful lesson, over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out that you’ve been there, and this is what you did to get through it, but I think it’s more important to focus on the benefits of the lessons learnt.”
In marketing terms, it used to be called their 'pain points'. The idea was to remind customers of their pain, and then tell them how you can fix it.“I don’t subscribe to that,” says Cassie. “You don’t have to make someone feel terrible, and then paint yourself as the person who will save them. You can actually promote your work in a way that of course teaches them and supports them, but it doesn’t have to be this dramatic, painful thing that you will save them from. You’re not saving them, you’re empowering them to support and help themselves. If you’re actually being authentic and living your message, the right people will be attracted to you, for the right reasons.”
“One of the greatest tips that someone gave me years ago, was if you ever feel stuck in your writing, pretend that you are writing it to a friend.”
This one little piece of advice can be the difference between an engaged community and a social media post that fades into the distance, without a single like.
“Just by picturing how I would talk about the benefits of my work to a friend has helped me so much in trying to find my voice. I think that you have to be really confident in how you’re writing, and in what you’re creating, so that when you speak to someone about your work, you feel comfortable and confident in explaining to them what the offering is. And sometimes, imagining a potential sale, that just doesn’t flow.”
Your clients are likely to be pretty savvy about marketing techniques nowadays. Many know that a free challenge will lead into a sales pitch, and a webinar will end with the launch of a new offering. That’s not to say they won’t sign up for it, or even buy at the end—but be aware that they know the tricks of the trade, so it’s best to just be authentic. Show up as yourself, give as much as you can, and the sales will take care of themselves.
And the other key component to marketing, communicating and creating content that connects? Ask them what they need and like. Use feedback forms, create surveys, send out an email asking what they are most struggling with.
“I actually started doing this without even realising I was doing it. In 2016, I ran a really short creative-based three hour workshop, and I was so nervous, because I’d never run my own event before. But at the end of the day, I gave everyone testimonial forms to fill out, and I got such great feedback that I then turned that into the Love What You Create in-person workshops. And again, at each event, I gave them feedback forms, which I then used to create the online version. It meant that when I launched the online version, I already knew that people loved the course, and the workshop, plus I had so many testimonials I couldn’t fit them all on the page!”
“I think so often we go at it the other way around. We create a course in a vacuum, not knowing whether people want it or need it. We then don’t know who we’re writing to when we invite people into it. First, we need to test the market, see if your audience is actually really resonating with the work you’re putting out there. And then, use that feedback and insight to build momentum to continue to promote something in a way that you’re marketing to people who you know want, and need, what you’re offering.”
Once you’ve got your feedback, you know who you’re talking to, and you are resonating with your community, it’s time to automate. The good news for solopreneurs and coaches is: consistency is important in your branding, so once you’re clear on the who and what of your message, just keep doing the same thing.
“When I was marketing the Love What You Create in person workshops, I obviously did lots of social media posts and I had lots of photos that I put up on Instagram, mostly using Canva!” Cassie says.
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“And then, after my workshops, I got my assistant to go through my Instagram feed, and any time there was a post about the workshop, I got her to save the caption and the photo into a Word document for me. It’s now a 67-page Word document! And so, whenever I’ve needed to promote the workshops again, I’ve been able to take posts that I wrote six months ago and re-use them. Sometimes, I’ve tweaked it, or repurposed it, or used a different photo with a similar caption, but no-one is really going to remember, and you’re always building a new audience.”
“I also get my graphic designer to make me a template that I then pop in as the background in Canva. She’ll make me one or two templates, and I can put 20 different quotes on them. And then that way, it’s always consistent."
You don’t even need to get your own graphic designer either—you can just create a template yourself in Canva and save it for all of your quotes. But this way, people will know it’s you just by looking at it, and you’ve cut out half your work.
Finally, remember that building a strong coaching business is a long-term game. Whilst it’s often sold as a ticket to freedom and success, the reality is much more like a marathon. You need to connect—and reconnect—to your audience, learn what they really need, and build their trust in you.
“For me, it’s important to remember with your marketing that you are giving them super important and relevant information that may help them. Even if they don’t buy the workshop or the product or course, they’re actually still empowered by the tip you’ve shared. And, in six months time, they may be finally ready to buy.
“It’s so important to remember to back yourself, and believe in your message. Stop looking at everyone else’s businesses and what everyone else is doing, and focus on your path and what you need to do. Stop comparing yourself. I went through it, and had to learn that lesson, which is why I wrote You Are Enough. But learning to believe in your own worth is the key to it all. The more we focus on our own brand, and the more we put our best self into our business, the more we not only love our business, the more we can actually inspire others to do the same.”