Finding Clients: The Proven Way to Identify and Get New Coaching Clients (Updated for 2019)

by Mac Gambill
Co-Founder & CEO at Nudge

It’s REALLY hard to find coaching clients, much less turn them into paying customers.

This is undoubtedly one of the greatest questions plaguing health coaches and nutritionists so when we learned one of our partners had discovered an effective model for launching and scaling their online coaching offering we knew we had to get to share their findings with everyone.

This post is all about how one of our partners launched a new online coaching program and within one month was able to convert over 40 new paid coaching clients and generate approximately $4,000 in new monthly recurring revenue.

(Further down I break down their ROI in more detail - HINT - it's pretty crazy.)

But here’s the best part…

They sent me ALL of the assets they used for this initiative.

In this post we will walk through the exact process they used to launch an effective funnel for finding coaching leads, and converting those leads into online coaching clients, so you can replicate it yourself.

Keep in mind that your success will differ based on the size of your audience and the amount of money you are willing to commit towards promotion, but this strategy is battle-tested and has proven to be successful.


Background on StrengthMatters

Strength Matters is a lifestyle brand we partnered with earlier this year whose focus is on “empowering people with the skills to change lives and make the world a fitter, stronger, healthier place.”

At this point they have multiple media properties but they started with a simple magazine they’d distribute through fitness and wellness facilities, meaning that their audience is comprised of business owners, wellness professionals, and health-focused consumers.


Their founder, James Breese, pitched me on an idea to collaborate on a new initiative which would ultimately result in the launch of an online coaching program targeting their consumer audience.

I’ve always been impressed how they’ve structured their hierarchy of offerings because they’ve structured things in a way that is easy for their audience to navigate and even easier to purchase additional value.

All that is to say that I was anxious to see how effective their strategy would be in driving premium coaching subscriptions as this was a new territory for their brand.


Their Strategy to Launch an Online Coaching Offering

Like most things they do, the concept was unique and well thought out. Rather than simply blasting their audience with “buy me” messages, he envisioned a more tactful and strategic approach, beginning with a community steps challenge.

Why is this important?

He knew VERY FEW people would be ready to subscribe immediately so he wanted to leverage a strategy that would enable them to identify those most likely to purchase such an offering AND then enable their team to properly nurture those prospects to the point of purchase.

i.e. self selection for [free] challenge + targeted intro [paid] offer
+ upsell through automation and time constraints

As a result, their sales funnel relied heavily on two areas:

  1. Being able to drive their audience to opt-in to a community-wide challenge, and...

  2. Crafting and positioning a strong introductory upsell to serve as a stepping stone for those who were good targets for their full digital coaching subscription.

Keep in mind that at each stage of any sales and marketing funnel there will be some rate of attrition so it’s important to focus on the raw numbers at the top (i.e. how many leads are you driving into the funnel) AND the number of steps and respective attrition rates throughout the prospect/customer journey.

For instance, if you drive 1,000 people to the top, how many paying customers will come out the other side?


Sales Funnel

Sales Funnel

  1. Promotion to List + Paid Promotion

  2. 21-Day Challenge Landing Page

  3. Onboarding Form

  4. Autoresponder Campaign 

  5. Coaching During Challenge
    ($49 for the 21 days)

  6. Full Coaching Offering

[Note: If you would like input on pricing we have another post outlining how much to charge for your health coaching offering.]

Ultimately most professionals and businesses overlook the importance in creating a model focused on trust and value.

Strength Matters’ model has been highly effective for several key reasons.


  • Their funnel begins with a high-value/low-risk offering (join a free challenge)

  • The subsequent upsell of additional accountability is a clear complement to help that participant increase their performance during the course of the challenge.

  • The 21-day period/coaching pilot provides a hard date for a purchase decision, removing any question as to the next step in the process for a prospect ($99/month to continue the relationship)


In this case consider the 21-day challenge as more of a defined pilot process and simply a part of the cost to acquire that coaching customer. This allows you to QUALIFY prospects and test the waters to ensure it’s a good fit for everyone, and do so in a way that has a defined start and end date.

Remember, the goal is for your marketing initiatives to weave into your sales process in a way that feels seamless to you and your prospects.

Now that we understand the strategy I’m going to walk through specific steps to get your program up and running.

Developing a Challenge for Your Leads or Prospects

Before you can promote anything you need to know exactly what you will be providing to your prospects.

Starting with a steps challenge was strategic for Strength Matters because it enabled them to identify two key attributes they were looking for in an ideal prospect:


  1. those willing to use technology to track their lifestyle, and

  2. individuals wanting to make simple improvements to their lifestyle.


This was not for body-builders or extreme weight loss, because that’s not what their coaching program was geared towards.

Keep in mind that your challenge should share the theme and topic of your coaching program, so if you are trying to appeal to those wanting nutritional support, consider a challenge where participants track servings of vegetables for a certain period.

Start by identifying the challenge that fits your audience and your expertise.

Then, look to build a basic version of your program on top that serves as a logical benefit to those struggling with the challenge or simply wanting to improve their numbers.

With respect to HOW to run a program, the Strength Matters team was exploring how they could deliver the steps challenge, simplify their coaching process, and create/deliver workout plans with the fewest platforms as possible.

The Nudge system made sense for their team because we could help them with 2 core aspects of the initiative: the steps challenge + streamlining the remote coaching process to provide deeper engagement without sacrificing scalability.

Participants were driven towards downloading the Nudge app and joining the Strength Matters challenge.


Leaderboard for the SM Challenge

Leaderboard for the SM Challenge


Once on the app they could sync up their favorite fitness tracking apps, compete with others, and easily get connected to the appropriate coach if they chose to subscribe to the full program.


You have a message from your coach!

You have a message from your coach!



Fitbot was also a logical addition to their program as their software makes it easy to create and share personal workout plans with clients.


Fitbot Homepage

Fitbot Homepage


The two combined allowed the coaches to provide an offering built around custom programming and ongoing accountability that could be delivered at scale and easily transition into the full $97/month coaching program.

As I mentioned earlier, having a hard start and end date for the challenge helped provide a sense of urgency eliminating any question of the next stage in the process.

After the 21 days participants could either continue working with the StrengthMatters staff for slightly more each month, or chose to cut ties.

One of the key takeaways here is that everything was packaged in a way that had the optics of being high-tech, high-value and was promoted in a way that always seemed low-risk to participants and was simple to navigate.

 [Note: If you are exploring tools for your offering we have another post outlining the best tools and technologies for an online coaching business.]

Marketing Your Challenge to Coaching Leads

Unless you are a professional marketer/designer I strongly encourage you to use a landing page editor, such as ClickFunnels, LeadPages, or Instapage.

They are drag and drop and don’t require any coding knowledge, but most importantly, they are optimized to convert site traffic which can make a HUGE difference early on when you don’t have a ton of traffic hitting the page.

Remember, this page is the start of your funnel so keep the entirety of your focus on the challenge and omit anything about coaching - that will come shortly.

Use a simple template with a prominent Call-To-Action (CTA) to join the initiative, and a column outlining the value of the program to participants.

Strength Matters Landing Page Using ClickFunnels

Strength Matters Landing Page Using ClickFunnels

A couple things to point out that Strength Matters really did well using ClickFunnels.


  1. The page is focused on the value to the prospect, not features.

  2. The page has a single, clear call-to-action (CTA) → sign up for free.


Once the person had opted into the program, and the email address was captured, they were then lead to a second page that first introduced the concept of working with a coach.

Essentially the page outlined some of the key ways to be successful in the program, but also shared that all the TOP performers were ones actually working with a coach.

Keep in mind that this was not focused on having a prospect fully commit to the ultimate end goal of signing up as a full coaching client, but rather, simply committing $49 (one-time payment) to work with the Strength Matters team as accountability partners to better perform during the challenge.

Even if they didn’t bite on the first attempt, the team had other touchpoints through email autoresponders and the facebook group where they could continue to highlight the value of working with a coach to boost your numbers.


Secondary page introduced the concept of working with a coach.

Secondary page introduced the concept of working with a coach.



Remember, up to this stage, participants had only minimal interaction with the Strength Matters team so it would be inappropriate to try and sell a prospect on a full coaching subscription.

However, through the Facebook group and this light coaching program their team was able to deliver value, build trust, and get prospects on a path of building that habit of purchasing, increasing their likelihood for conversion at the end of the 21 days.


Use Autoresponders to Nurture Coaching Prospects to Take Action

If you aren’t familiar with the term, autoresponders are simply your automated email workflows that you have scheduled to “drip” to an email list over the course of a predetermined time frame of based on certain actions.

In this case, Strength Matters wanted to ensure they were able to provide unparalleled value to their participants to make subscribing to the coaching offering an obvious decision.

To do that, they knew they needed to deliver continuous value that went beyond a simple Facebook group, so email was a simple way to do so.

For their autoresponders they used Infusionsoft, which enables you to create strategic sales and marketing workflows, but if you’d prefer you could also replicate some of this with a lighter tool like Mailchimp.

If you aren’t familiar with Infusionsoft, it allows you to drag and drop elements to create workflows which will then be performed by the corresponding tools - i.e. fire emails at certain times, etc.

Below you will see that they broke the customer journey into 3 distinct stages with specific email workflows created for each stage: 21-day Free User, 21-day Paid User, and $97 upsell.

This is important because it allowed them to keep their emails targeted for each respective segment depending where they fall in the process.


Infusionsoft Autoresponder Campaigns

Infusionsoft Autoresponder Campaigns



As you’d expect, the campaign for new challengers was the most critical as they needed to deliver significant value in order to convert participants from free to paid users.

You will see that the workflow consisted of 9 specific emails to be delivered at precise times throughout the course of the challenge.

1 Overview email to introduce the challenge

3 Weekly workout emails delivered every Sunday morning with generic workouts for the week

2 Educational emails on importance of water consumption and activity

3 Emails introducing other Strength Matters content channels through which a prospect could gain more value

Autoresponder Campaign for New Sign Ups

Autoresponder Campaign for New Sign Ups


At this point we’ve created our challenge, our market pages, as well as our email workflow, so now we can use some of the content for our promotional strategy.


Promoting Your Challenge to Find Leads for Online Coaching

As I mentioned earlier, there will be expected attrition at every layer of your funnel so you are going to want to do what you can to maximize the amount of leads you can drive to the challenge, realizing that some may opt-in but not participate, and others may participate but not be interested in working with a coach.

That being said, an obvious starting point is leveraging your current following, regardless of whether that’s an email list, a social following, or podcast audience.

Strength Matters used a multi-channel approach, leveraging their email and social followings to kick off their promotional strategy, framing it as a fun way to get in shape before summer.

Like any promotion, the key is making sure your messaging touches on a clear value proposition, and that your marketing language is consistent between your promotion and the landing page you intend to drive prospects.


Strength Matter email and Facebook Ad Copy Promoting the Challenge

Strength Matter email and Facebook Ad Copy Promoting the Challenge



In addition, Facebook allows you to create highly targeted campaigns that can result in inexpensive traffic and leads if you craft your landing page correctly.

By using an established landing page system, like Clickfunnels, Leadpages, or Instapage, you are setting yourself up to hit a higher conversation rate than your basic website - probably in the range of 15-35% depending on the value proposition and the effectiveness of your ad.

The fact that the challenge had a defined start and end date means that they began promotions weeks in advance to ensure they had the numbers to make the challenge entertaining for participants as well as to maximize the potential for coach subscriptions after the 21 days.

For some perspective, Strength Matters has an established following so the $100 spent on Facebook ads was mostly to better understand the effectiveness of that acquisition channel for future challenges.

Everything is easier if you have an established audience to which you can market your services, but if you are reading this without much of an audience then I’d strongly encourage you to explore a more robust Facebook campaign to drive inexpensive traffic to a landing page.

This will allow you to test your acquisition costs and benchmark the conversion rates across your funnel to gauge whether or not this is feasible until you have more of a list built up.

 [Bonus Material:  All-Access Webinar Upgrade - James Breese' Client Generation Campaign In His Own Words]

How a Challenge Fueled Their Online Coaching Business

While they are still early in their journey, Strength Matters has undoubtedly pioneered a replicable funnel that effectively converts non-paying audience members to paying coaching clients.

What’s most interesting is they’ve now benchmarked the funnel and can begin optimizing conversion based on the performance of the first cohort.

Here’s the thing:

While the results are promising, there is still plenty of room for growth based on the number of leads they were able to drive to the top of the funnel.

To better illustrate the “success” of the campaign I’ve mapped out the funnel to visualize the relevant numbers at each tier as well as the respective conversion rates.

Every funnel will have different conversion metrics so I include these more for the sake of identifying areas to place additional attention within your own funnel.

From Analyzing the Funnel We Can Easily See Areas Worth Exploring for Refinement or Optimization

From Analyzing the Funnel We Can Easily See Areas Worth Exploring for Refinement or Optimization


At first glance there are some obvious takeaways:


  • Of the 783 that signed up for the challenge only 180 people actually participated.

    That could be due to a multitude of factors but based on the performance of the rest of the funnel if the team could improve the number of participants (from sign ups) to even 30% (from 23%), that would result in 53 full coaching subscriptions compared to the 41 they initially closed.


  • Over 80% of those who tried coaching during the challenge became full online coaching clients.

That is HUGE and speaks to the importance of allowing prospects to “try before they buy.”

It also shows that the Strength Matters team should do whatever they can to drive people to try coaching as there is a high likelihood that person will become a full customer once they’ve had a taste of their coaching offering.


Remember, it’s difficult to improve all your numbers at once, so it’s important to start by focusing on one tier at a time.

This will let you measure the effectiveness of any specific change you make to optimize your funnel.

For instance, if Strength Matters wanted to improve the number of participants from those that sign up they could consider editing the value proposition copy on the landing page as well as the initial emails in their email campaign.

However, if they do both leading up to the next challenge it then may be difficult to understand which action improved conversion rate, or worse, they may even cancel one another out.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Based on initially selling 41 full coach subscriptions and their price point of $97/month, the Strength Matters team was able to unlock approximately $3,977/month in recurring revenue.

Keep in mind that at this stage all of these clients have been managed by a single coach so ultimately this could have all been done by a single professional… with the help of marketing automation and the right tools of course :)

While writing this post I asked for updated numbers and was surprised to learn that they had since reached 52 total coach subscriptions sold, to which their founder replied that the additional accounts had come from referrals.

Based on the new client count I now have them at about $5,044/month in recurring revenue.

Here’s the thing.

The challenge provided their team with more than simple revenue. It allowed them to begin creating a fan base of loyal customers who could then begin sharing their experiences, while at the same time provide a new email list of targeted leads to which they could then market the next challenge AND their new coaching services.

Looking at the pricing pages of the services Strength Matters leveraged to put this together we can estimate total costs to gauge a rough ROI from running a program like this.


Nudge Coach




Total Monthly Costs: $450-$1,100 (Depending on the plan and scale)


To calculate a bit of a raw return on investment (ROI) we will plug some of the known numbers into the following equation. Thank you Investopedia :)

Keep in mind this is simple looking at our return based on our monthly expenses on the tools to power the initiative, not taking into account one-time Facebook promotion of man hours into set up or coaching.

Although, the Strength Matters teamed mentioned that one coach was easily able to manage their 40-50 clients based on the services they were using.

roi calculation.jpg


ROI (low cost estimate) = [$5,044 - $450] / $450

= 10.20 or 1020% return on investment

That’s over a 10X return!


ROI (high cost estimate) = [$5,044 - $1,100] / $1,100

= 3.59 or 359% return

Even at max cost it’s over 3.5X return!


At the end of the day Strength Matters’ success stems from the fact that they delivered a great experience to their clients built on top of a fun, innovative challenge for their audience.

They were intelligent and tactful about their strategy and the tools they leveraged, and as a result they were able to create an attractive new revenue stream for their business that they foresee growing nicely over time.

I encourage you to borrow all of this knowledge and experience so that you can create your own offering that can result in over $50,000 in recurring revenue each year.

Hey, let’s work together on this.

Tell us what your audience looks like in the comments below and let’s see if we can come up with some challenge ideas to get your program started!