Is Coaching aCommodity?

Have you seen this kind of headline …

“Gold Trading at Record Highs”

Commodities are usually physical items that are interchangeable for one another – for example, gold, cotton and oil. There’s no difference in bars of gold or barrels of oil, so value is determined by supply and demand. When everyone wants gold, the price goes up. A surplus of oil sends the price down.

Pick a Coach; Any Coach

Nowadays I talk to my clients in service businesses about being a commodity. Like cotton or gold, you may be valuable, but if you can’t say why you’re more valuable than someone else’s bar or barrel, you end up being an undifferentiated commodity.

“Sugar Futures Down 22%”

As you may have noticed, what suffers in that situation is usually your external measure of value – your price. When the value you provide is not clear, you get resistance about your fees.

Worse, it can be hard to get clients at ANY fee. While they may not say it to your face, prospects may wonder, “Why should I hire you instead of that other coach?”

I’m referring here to coaches, but I’ve worked with Realtors, optometrists, consultants and financial planners on this same issue: breaking out of commodity status.

It may be depressing to learn your prospect has hired another, less expensive coach. But it’s really confusing to learn they went with the option charging three times your fees!

The $5 Cup of Coffee

Did you ever imagine we’d one day be paying $5 (or more!) for a cup of coffee?

Whenever anyone resists raising their fees, I think of Starbucks. And of course, Coca-Cola. In both cases, it’s not the brown substance mixed with water that gets the high price. It’s the experience – a flavor close to but unlike any other and, for loyal consumers, associations that bring positive feelings. I recently heard someone say of Coca-Cola, “It tastes like my childhood.” Other sodas can’t replace that.

The Irreplaceable Brand Experience

I defined commodities earlier as “interchangeable.” You can’t tell one from another.

Not so with a brand.

Starbucks expanded the coffee playing field from simply aroma and flavor to include atmosphere, skilled service (not from wait staff, but “baristas”), fair trade and more benefits than my poor little truck stop coffee counter had ever heard of.

How Do You Go From Commodity To Brand?

  • Know and Express Your Value. I love a “value statement” using this structure: “[Your business] helps [this target audience] with [this problem] to [achieve these benefits.] For example, Fit In Fitness helps busy moms with small children Fit In time for Fitness, so they can Fit In the clothes they love. I made that one up, but you can use the formula to make your own.
  • Differentiate Yourself from Alternatives. Have a polite and specific response to “Why should I work with you instead of that other coach?” Yes, you’ll need to study your competitors to do this, which can be enlightening!
  • Deliver an Experience. A brand is the unique identity for your business, and it’s all the thoughts, feelings and expectations that are associated with that identity as well. This total perception, living in the heart and mind of your client, is your brand.

What can you do to make working with you memorable? Multi-sensory?

How can you stand out in ways that no one else is doing? If soda pop can take someone back to childhood, imagine what you do when helping your clients change their business or lives!

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