Top 4 Pitfalls of Offering a Remote Coaching Program

Remote health coaching programs give you massive potential for growth and profitability, but the rules for success aren't the same as any old program.

by Mac Gambill
Founder and CEO at Nudge

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to host onboarding sessions with dozens of hungry and eager professionals looking to launch or enhance their remote health coaching and engagement programs.

Here’s the thing - it was an eye-opening experience. Unfortunately there are still far too many professionals out there with questions on how to launch and scale successful remote coaching models that engage clients or patients.

Our team is determined to continue sharing all the best practices we learn from working with hundreds of professionals each year so below are the absolute, most notable issues and pitfalls we’ve seen professionals encounter with their online and digital coaching programs.


Pitfall #1

Understanding where digital or remote coaching fits within their current model (i.e. making the transition from face-to-face to remote models).

Do I introduce this to all my clients?  Is this only for those who’ve completed a program? Do I charge extra for additional accountability?

Most businesses wrestle with this question so I want to make sure to share some suggestions based on what we’ve seen that works.

There are several logical areas to integrate remote coaching/accountability into your business which I’ll outline below. In general I’d suggest introducing this to paying clients first before expanding into other segments of your business.


(A) For Engagement In-between Sessions (Client Management and Experience)

In all likelihood this is the main reason you would be looking into remote coaching to begin with. In this case you already have the foundation together in terms of a basic coaching offering, and as such, you are able to shift attention towards the following:

  1. Improving efficiency - how do I manage clients at scale?

  2. Improving your effectiveness - how can I ensure my clients are successful?

  3. Increasing perceived value of your offering - how can I maximize my revenue potential for my offering and time?

Ultimately a remote model can address all three areas with minor adjustments, such as altering communication frequency with clients in-between sessions.


(B) For Sales and Lead Capture (Client Attraction)

We are fortunate enough to have partners who’ve found incredibly creative ways to use health tracking and online coaching as a key aspect of their marketing strategy. I regularly mention our friends at Strength Matters, who’ve started using free challenges (steps, water consumption, etc) as ways to attract leads into their funnel, then using a low-cost accountability coaching offering to kickoff the “coaching relationship”.

The idea here is to create a replicable funnel in which you can attract leads who are both interested in engaging with technology AND wanting to focus on lifestyle improvement. Both are important traits for identifying ideal clients, so this will help ensure that you are introducing the idea of remote coaching or engagement to those that are willing participants and real prospects.


(C) As a Low Cost “Maintenance Plan” Following Your Core Program

This is a great thing to consider if you have clients enrolled in a program with a specific start and date as it can help improve client success as well as lifetime value.

If a program like this is your primary offering (i.e. they are NOT also on a membership fee) then you run the risk of having a high churn businesses where clients leave after you’ve cycled them through your program.

A maintenance plan can be a logical next step for clients as it helps ensure they retain their results from your program while at the same time enabling you to provide value for a minimal fee.

For instance, consider transitioning clients to a maintenance plan ($19-49/month) following completion of your program, during which you will monitor their progress remotely, check in regularly (every multiple weeks or once per month), and they will have access to additional content (such as a webinar).

The result is a highly scalable plan requiring limited time to manage, while at the same time keeping clients on a light subscription plan in case they need to cycle back through your program.

Remember, on average it costs 7x more to sell to a new customer than to an existing one.


Pitfall #2

Failure To Weave Together Key Components to Create True, Concise Remote Coaching Solution

One of the most unexpected pitfalls businesses encounter when trying to adopt a remote coaching and engagement model is failure to properly integrate elements of their offering into one, concise solution.

Rather than making remote communication and engagement feel like a natural extension of the offering it ends up feeling disjunct and ancillary, leaving clients confused on the real value of your service.

Keep in mind, there are core aspects that are common to hybrid models (in-person + remote engagement) as well as fully remote offerings. Clients initially pay for your services because of the value YOU bring, so it’s critical that they recognize the value you bring regardless of whether it’s consumed in-person or through other communication channels.

While tools and technologies can greatly improve your efficiency, if they aren’t implemented and integrated properly the end result is a jumbled mess (for you and clients) that likely negates any improvement to effectiveness.

Consider technology as an element that ties your offering together, not as a separate piece or tangential.

Core Elements of a Remote Health Coaching Solution
  • Face-to-face sessions (in-person or through web conference)

  • Data for benchmarking (i.e. biometrics, assessments, etc.)

  • Educational content based on the program or offering (PDFs, videos, etc.)

  • Remote touchpoints for engagement and accountability (coaching systems or texts, emails, etc)


Pitfall #3

Knowing How to Effectively Onboard Clients Onto Online Coaching Systems

It’s no surprise that businesses are starting to flock towards online coaching systems to streamline their remote coaching and engagement process - these systems can significantly improve both efficiency and effectiveness… if approached correctly.

The first things I always share with businesses looking to implement a remote coaching offering is that even the best software will fail if it’s not implemented properly. It’s for this reason that we spend so much time on an effective process and strategy during our Accelerator program for professionals using out software.

This will differ slightly for each businesses depending on factors, such as in-person or remote onboarding, but we suggest the following approach to limit pitfalls and ensure clients are onboarded for success.

Cohesive Concise Remote Coaching Program
  1. Face-to-face Onboarding
    Don’t rely on clients to onboard themselves on a system in their own time. There are always questions and it’s critical that you are there to emphasize the WHY in terms of why you use a system.

  2. In Partnership
    We call it the “Help me, Help you” approach for a reason and it’s critical that your client understands why using a system is important for you AND for them. Frame the conversation around this helping you stay on top of your communication to provide better value and service to your clients.

  3. Set Expectations
    This is regularly overlooked but working with clients remotely can be a slippery slope in terms of work-life balance. Some professionals make themselves available to clients 24/7 while other prefer a more regular work schedule. Addressing this and other expectations will mitigate risk of issues occuring or communication abuse in the future.


Pitfall #4

Knowing How To Monetize An Online Coaching Model

Most professionals recognize that by including a remote element in their offering they are introducing a new level of service to their clients; however, where most struggle is whether this should be included within their current offering or if this should be a standalone, remote service.

We’ve seen both work well, but it’s all about how it’s packaged. Concierge models generally pride themselves on being premium services so the inclusion of a remote element can be included to help increase the perceived value of the offering, or even to help increase the price point. We typically see this a lot within private medical practices and other member-based models where individuals may be paying hundreds of dollars a month for your services.

Conversely, a remote coaching program can be a standalone product, either marketed independently or positioned as an upsell for current clients or members.

If you already have a client or member-base that revolves around some type of in-person interaction then we usually suggest introducing a hybrid coaching model rather than attempting to shift to fully remote offerings all at once. This could include light accountability and coaching in-between visits or session for a small upcharge or provided at no charge to “premium” clients.

Everyone is attracted to the idea of a fully remote model where they can have complete work flexibility but that model ultimately comes with significant challenges, most notably finding clients to sustain your business. The key to doing this successfully is having a prospect pool you can draw from immediately, such as a member-base or a sizable online following or email list.

If you are coming at this from a brick and mortar business, consider the hybrid model (face-to-face plus remote coaching) as a stepping stone towards a fully remote model thereby allowing you to begin working with clients remotely, refining your approach, and gaining client testimonials necessary to market to other prospects.

As an example, I spoke with a professional recently who kickstarted his model by providing remote coaching services to members across multiple fitness facilities, allowing him to build up his clientele while getting his online marketing engine off the ground.

Most professionals and businesses generally fall within this subset unless they are able to draw from a substantial online following which can expedite time required to scale.

As an example, Strength Matters, launched a digital coaching program by marketing a free steps challenge to their audience and subsequently offering coaching to anyone wanting extra accountability during the competition. From there, they simply told participants they could continue the relationship for a monthly fee following the challenge resulting in a seamless transition to their full coaching offering.

Remote Health Coaching Business Models

You can read all about the Strength Matters strategy for monetizing online coaching here, but ultimately they were able to have quick success because they had a substantial following to draw from, and they had a well-crafted marketing funnel to identify prospects and convert them into coaching clients.

These conversations revealed some of the most pressing issues within the industry, including the need for more guidance on how to use technology to properly engage people remotely, as well as insights on the most appropriate business models to improve the feasibility of remote programs.

If you are interested in learning more about the business of remote coaching and creating your own business model for a remote health coaching program enroll in one of our courses.