Ep 27: Branding & Coaching: A Conversation with the Academy for Coaching Excellence

Hi everyone, welcome to the Citrus Juicery Podcast. Today we have Greg Reiner from the Academy for Coaching Excellence, who is one of our clients. He is the admissions director there, and I wanted to have him on to talk about branding and marketing, and I like one of our awesome clients.

Welcome to the podcast Greg. Tell us about the Academy for Coaching Excellence.

The Academy for Coaching Excellence is an ICF-accredited coach training school and we offer many different courses including a professional coach certification program, and we’re one of the first handful of coach training schools ever to be accredited by the International Coaching Federation.

You’ve been around for decades, right?

The Academy was founded by Dr. Maria Nemeth, who’s among other things, a master certified coach and an author. She has two great books, The Energy of Money and Mastering Life’s Energies, and she’s been developing this framework, this coaching framework for really about 40 years in one form or another. About 22 years ago, she decided that she wanted to train people as coaches in this framework, so we’ve been at it for a long time. I took the first foundational training just about 10 years ago, and that’s of course we call the Academy Foundational Training. That’s a course that is the starting point for any of our coaches, but it’s also a course that anyone can take who wants to experience transformation in their life.

I know that right now in the past when Dr. Nemeth started, coaching wasn’t a thing, but it is presently a 20 billion industry and it’s poised to be a 32.5 billion industry, big industry. Why is it as there has been such a change regarding the attitude towards coaching?

I think it’s just enough people who have experienced the power of being coached that they’re starting to spread the word people are becoming more aware. I also think people culturally are just more open to getting support in their life and asking for support. So right now, it’s a really interesting point in the industry because many people call themselves coaches that may or may not have had professional training or be accredited, and people are becoming more aware that there’s a difference between a rigorously trained coach and somebody who’s just kind of calling themselves a coach based on their own life experience and we have the International Coaching Federation, which you talked about earlier.

Why is it important to have someone like that backing a coaching organization?

It’s a way that we can all agree as a coaching industry on certain ethical guidelines that we practice so that we make sure that we’re not doing any harm. And it’s also a way to legitimize this industry so that people see it as a profession, people see the value of it, and they expect someone who’s received a high level of training, because as a coach, you’re a trained coach as well Kalika as I am, and you know that it’s such privilege be in that position with someone as they’re looking at what’s most important to them in their life, their dreams, their vision, how they want to be known, and as well as their toughest challenges that get in the way, and to be in that position is such a privilege that we want to have a way of ensuring that the people who are coaches have met certain training criteria.

I was calling myself an entrepreneur coach before I became a student of Dr. Nemeth, and now that I realized all the things that I didn’t know. I think that there’s this idea, the Johari window where there’s just this blind window and then there’s another window that’s you don’t know what you don’t know. And that was the biggest “uh-huh” moment for me. I didn’t realize that you need to learn ethics, some thing that I learned when going through the coach training program was the anatomy of a crisis, when you should refer to a therapist. One thing I also did learn is therapy looks backward and coaching is trying to help a person move forward. So if they’re trying to just reach their goals and have someone to keep them accountable in this way, then I think coaching is definitely, I can see why coaching has become such a huge industry.

It’s interesting too just even from a branding perspective, cause we see a lot of coaches come to our program and they’re starting their own business and they’re coming up with their brand and we ICF-certified coaches can be very protective of that word coach. But we didn’t come up with the term coach, there were other types of coaches before what’s kind of the life coaching industry and so it’s an interesting point where there’s I think collectively looking at how do we be very clear about what our role is, what it means to be a coach. A lot of people had bad experiences with untrained coaches, so there’s a level of trust that we wanna establish, and I think that’s part of the opportunity with our brand, our marketing, to educate people and start winning that trust of just what a coach is and that people will be in good hands if they hire one.

Certainly having those credibility badges like an ICF logo or even being part of an organization like that makes people want to hire those types of coaches and you also talked a little bit about trust, which I really believe is the real reason why people need to understand branding because it’s not what you say your brand is, it’s what everyone else says your brand is, and if they don’t feel that trust, it makes a huge difference in whether or not they’ll sign up with your program.

We helped with a rebrand for ACE how has that helped the organization?

I think when people find us either through an ICF web search or just an online search, it just communicates the level of professionalism that we’ve to believe We’ve been practicing for a couple of decades. It communicates that we’re a serious program that we train professionals and the brand is kind of that initial first impression people get, and we’ve been getting a lot of feedback that the website not just the look and feel of it, but the way that it communicates its people, see it is very clear, it’s helpful and that just lets people know that they’re gonna be in good hands, they’re gonna be well taken care of and that when they become an ACE, we use the acronym ACE for Academy for Coaching Excellence, when they become an ACE coach they’re associating themselves with a brand that they can be proud of.

Yes, and I think that if you’re proud to carry the ACE certification on your email signature, it gives you the confidence to get clients as well. One thing I also love about branding is that it shows people that you’re consistent, and I think being consistent is one way that anyone who’s listening to this podcast can help make their brand flourish.

That’s the consistency one of the things that we’re seeing is oftentimes people need several points of contact just because they’re getting so much information. And that consistency, they start to associate even something as simple as the brand colors or the brand logo, they associate with what we stand for, so it’s kind of there’s the design and the kind of graphic part of the brand, and then there’s what do we want people to associate with that, which comes to our messaging, that comes to even how we interact with people who are interested in coming to our programs, the way that they’re treated so that the two become kind of identical, that they notice that consistency of brand and they associate it. Okay, I know that these people have my best interest, I know that I can trust them, I know that they’re authentic, that they’re not trying to manipulate, and that they stand for excellence.

What type of advice would you give to coaches as it relates to the brand? I know that you’ve taken a lot of marketing courses as well, like how can coaches bring in more clients.

It’s the biggest question director of admissions that a lot of people are wondering about before they decide to get trained and have a career as a coach. So it’s kind of an interesting challenge because on the one hand, if you’re a solopreneur coach, people are hiring you, you are the brand, and you want to make sure you’re authentic, you want people to get to know who you are, your own, your energy, and your personality, and the more you put that out there, the more people will start to be drawn toward that. And people often get very uncomfortable about marketing themselves, about promoting themselves because it becomes so personal, it’s like if people don’t like it or decide to sign up or start following me on social media, it’s like says something about me, and who I am and so a lot of coaches get uncomfortable with the whole idea of marketing.

On the one hand, your brand is you as a coach, but one of the things that we train people on is you’re not selling yourself, you’re selling the product of coaching, and that’s part of the best shift people can make. It’s like, what’s the difference I wanna make for people “who do I serve?”. So that the attention becomes on the product, the difference, the change that it makes for in people’s lives who you love to support, and then it becomes easier to just kind of start communicating what you stand for as a coach, and that becomes sort of the brand identity.

One of the other things that we train new coaches on is we want them to see the importance of a brand and see the importance of marketing, having a website that’s easy to use, all of that, and sometimes people are so new to those skills that become a huge project that gets in the way of them getting their first clients. So we support people to lower the bar as much as possible, just come up with a title, oftentimes it’s just the coach’s name, a simple website where people can easily schedule appointments and make payments. Just starting with the very basics so that they can go out and start interacting and coaching clients and the more they do that, the more the brand can kind of emerge because they’re out there doing what they love as coaches. And I think when it’s related to branding and marketing, it’s also important to have a niche, you have a niche as you have, and you are a creativity coach as well. Tell us a little bit about your particular coaching niche.

I coach socially conscious, creative entrepreneurs and that’s become more clear and more defined as I’ve gone forward like many coaches. I coach people who are similar to me, my own experience, I have a background as a professional musician, has been an entrepreneur for a while, and a lot of times when people are establishing their niche it’s like their own life maybe five years ago, or 10 years ago, who would they have loved to have supported them so that they could have moved forward with a little more ease. It’s another thing that sometimes freaks new coaches out because they’re worried that they’re gonna be going too narrow and then they’re not gonna be able to find enough clients.

This idea there are not enough people if I create a niche either turning people away that I would love to support or there just won’t be enough clients for me and the opposite is true. Just about any marketing person will tell you the more specific and clear you can get, the easier it is, even just when you’re having a referral conversation, somebody can picture someone specific to more narrow you get so one of the things that we train people to do when they’re really worried about picking a niche is talk about the ideal client. One of the things that I say to coaches is, if you’re worried about your ideal client, start by focusing on your ideal next client, so you have a place to focus, it doesn’t mean that this is the only person you’ll ever work with “who would you love to work with next?” and that way you can focus your energy rather than I wanna work with everyone.

One of the other metaphors we use is your ideal client, your brand is like a beacon. It’s a beacon for the people you wanna work with, rather than a bouncer, it’s not about “oh you don’t match these”. if I’m talking with someone excited to work with me and I say, you’re socially conscious, you’re creative, but you’re not an entrepreneur, so I’m not gonna work with you. It’s not about being a bouncer, it’s about being a beacon, who are the types of people that at least match some of the qualities that I’m looking for that are gonna be drawn to me cause I’m clear about where I’m focusing my efforts.

Even Coca-Cola doesn’t sell to everyone. You would not find any Coca-Cola products at Whole Foods or Air One for example. And if people just realize that if you make the world your oyster, it’s very difficult for people to understand what you stand for and it’s good that you can stand for something. And I love the idea that you said that you can sort of separate the product of coaching and who they are, but don’t you also believe that it’s important for the person who is the coach to also be consistent, to be able to coach themselves as well. I know that Dr. Nemeth has a saying that you can’t coach other people beyond the point where you haven’t been yourself.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s about showing up in integrity, but I find that people can’t help but be themselves. For example, if you were doing content marketing and you just start writing and you just keep at it and you start making videos, the more you relax into it, the more your ideas emerge, your voice emerges, and it’s you and the people that are drawn to it, even if it’s imperfect, even if it’s a little unclear at first, are kind of pick up on your George Cow, who I learned the most about marketing from causing your energetic signature. So you don’t have to press people, you don’t have to kind of create a brand for yourself, you just show up consistently and the people are starting to notice, this something about this person resonates with me, and I think what where people get into trouble is overthinking how do I represent myself in a way that’s, and it sort of becomes about insecurity and ego and how do I make myself look good.

People get into their heads about it and they either show up inauthentically which people pick up on right way, especially if they’re looking for a coach what I think is more common with coaches is they don’t show up at all, cause they talk themselves out of spreading the word and becoming visible, and creating new content and all that great stuff. When they’re concerned about what kind of image I need to create for me rather than if you just keep showing up consistently as you say, that energetic signature will just be out there and people will notice over time.

So if someone wants to go to the coach training program or even just coach themselves, cause that’s the reason why I had signed up, is because I just wanted to be able to as a leader, as a CEO, as a serial entrepreneur, I just wanted to learn how to coach myself. How can someone find your organization?

The easiest way is to go to acecoachtraining.com or just Google the “Academy for Coaching Excellence”. What you’re describing is that’s what where I entered the program as well, you don’t need to decide to become a professional coach, to get a lot of great skills for your own life out of it, and that’s why we have everyone start with that foundational training. We do the academy foundational training it’s four and a half days, it’s all online, it’s all on Zoom, so people join from all over the great world, and we do it every two months the next one’s March, and we have another one in May. Then if you go to our website, we love to talk with you so you can either schedule a chat with me or one of our other admissions coaches, even if people come to our website and know they want to join the course we make sure to have a personal conversation with everyone so that they are well prepared for the course.

Thank you so much for this conversation Greg, I enjoyed it and I hope that people who are listening think about signing up for this course as a leader, as a CEO, or even as a parent and entrepreneur. It was so life-changing for me and I encourage everyone to check it out.