Identifying The Right Coach-Client Ratio For Your Programs

About how many clients can a coach effectively manage or engage through a digital or remote coaching model?

Co-Founder & CEO at Nudge

This is one of those questions that we get quite a lot. As you’d expect this can have massive implications for a business, so it’s encouraging that it’s become a topic of discussion in the industry.

Ultimately any service business comes with its share of challenges, but accurately estimating coach-client ratios, or the upper limits to the number of clients or patients you can serve will have significant implications for your business.

Consider this, we had a partner recently share with us that they wanted to launch a low cost coaching model for a monthly fee of $19/month. We talked them out of it, but let’s run with this example to highlight some of the notable friction points with foresaw with the model, even if enabled by scalable remote coaching software and best practices.

Let’s assume the following …

  • They intend to pay their coach(es) $45,000/year or $3,750/month

  • They have a low-touch, scalable coaching program that allows the coach to manage approximately 200 individuals at a time

  • The desired monthly fee is $19/month/client

As a result, assuming the coach maintains a full book of clients at all times (not likely), the total revenue potential from this program per coach is $3,800/month… you can see pretty quickly that there’s a problem.

Imagine what would have happened if this company had dedicated money towards marketing a program built around sub-optimal unit economics like these. They would have constantly been fighting issues with cash flow, and attempting to drum up margin where there really wasn’t any.

It’s for this reason that it’s worth taking time to seriously consider your coaching model and target coach/client ratios.

After weeks of working with the team I’m excited to announce that we’ve created an online calculator to help you estimate your coaching threshold based on key factors and an analysis of required time needed to perform each action.

The Online Coaching Ratio Calculator

Every model is different but after analyzing programs being run by our partners we identified the key factors impacting a coach/client ratio, and put them into a simple assessment that you can fill out by clicking the button below.

Just answer a brief list of questions about your program and our team will do the calculations and email you educated projections that include:

  1. How much coaching time will be required per client (or patient) per week.

  2. How many total staff hours will be required to coach your members.

  3. How many team members you will need to do it effectively now.

  4. And even an estimate of how many coaches you will need based on your projected growth one year from now.

Factors That Influence The Coach-Client Ratio

Sessions, Personal Messages and Group Communications

These areas can have structure within the program but it’s worth considering that over-time changes occur based on the behaviors and needs of the client or patient. That’s all to say that over time the time requirements for each action may decrease.

Specifically, Group Messaging can be very effective in later stages of behavior change as the individuals at this level need to stay connected and provided with support, but may not require the same amount of time as new clients.

Impact of Coach Training and Experience

One of the most significant factors relating to estimating coaching capabilities is training and experience. Coaches with low or no training may not yet have the skills to efficiently engage members, meaning that each coaching task requires greater amounts of time per member across the board.

The main problem is engaging within a remote, asynchronous methodology while still using a traditional methodology based on scheduled sessions.

Therefore, as a coach gets more comfortable with engaging clients remotely and their respective workflow and coaching technology, their efficiency and effectiveness will increase resulting in them being able to manage more people.

The Impact of Documentation & Prep Time

This differs significantly depending on whether you are coaching independently or are a part of a coaching team within an organization. While independent coaches may perform basic note taking, those within an organization may be required to document encounters in detail within EMR or similar systems.

It’s pretty obvious that this factor can greatly influence your workflow and the amount of time required in administrative time in-between coaching sessions.

Prep time must be looked upon as a fluid variable because it is highly dependent on the type of program as well as the engagement parameters that best fit the individual member.  Some members require greater and more long-term touches, however, others less so.

In general, keep in mind that when it comes to health coaching and behavior change, time and touches are typically more highly front-loaded and gradually turn into ongoing support, advisement, and continuing education.

More Questions To Consider With Your Model

While we covered the practical elements that can shape your coaching ratio, don’t forget that this can also be influenced by more business-related factors or considerations as well. Some of these come down to the type of business you have or are a part of.

Full-time vs. part time coaching?

An obvious limitation to the number of individuals you can manage is time availability. If the remote coaching offering is intended to be an extension of an in-person model, resulting in a hybrid model, then you or your team may only have a handful of hours each week to commit to remote coaching. This brings us to the next point.

Is this a Value-Add vs. Stand-Alone Offering?

Ultimately we generally see that remote coaching is either included as a complementary piece of what is traditionally been an in-person experience, or that a business has launched a fully remote offering. If this is a value-add then you may simply be focused on enhancing the client experience in order to improve results or lifetime value, or mitigate customer churn.

As a result your remote coaching strategy could incorporate either regular or on-demand touchpoints to present what feels like a “concierge” service to your in-person clients. This has a high opportunity for scale and could even be managed by non-coach or clinical staff serving as “navigators” or client/patient success staff.

Conversely, a fully-remote mode would have a more defined communication strategy resulting in a standardized approach to client focus in-between coaching session (i.e. tracking or journaling protocol) and messaging frequency and type. Depending on the level of personalization and the desired frequency of touchpoints, these programs could vary significantly in terms of scalability.

What is your target revenue goal?

As I illustrated above, your revenue model can have a significant impact on your target client ratio. Ultimately your monthly fee per client and required number of clients to hit your target revenue goal are inversely related meaning that the higher the price point the less clients you technically need to have a sustainable program.

For instance, if you are offering a low cost offering then you may need to coach potentially hundreds of clients to hit your target revenue goal, meaning that you would need to focus on some of the key “levers” that enable scale - limiting any dedicated coaching sessions, use of coaching platforms, heavily relying on asynchronous communication (especially group messaging).

That said, I’ve begun seeing some newer, premium coaching models that may be charging clients closer to $1,000/month for service, meaning that the coaches would only need to manage a fraction of the clients for the business to be profitable. In this case coaches can allocate far more time to each client justifying the higher price tag. But of course, the expectation will be that a lot of value is delivered.

While program styles, methods of delivery and levels of personalization will always vary, one thing that holds true is that the unit economics must work for the program to be sustainable and viable over the long term.

Hopefully this post, and our online coaching ratio calculator will be a big help as you form and refine plans to implement and grow your programs responsibly.

If you have any questions about the role the Nudge platform can play in delivering your programs, we’d love to talk. Schedule an intro call with us here.