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October 7, 2010

Easy Information Support Systems for Your Group Coaching Program

easy_buttonSome people get stuck thinking about offering a group coaching program because they feel intimidated by the technology options to support the program. Forums? Membership sites? Email lists?  Which is right for your program?

Let's boil it down to ONE thing: keep it easy. Easy for you as the group leader and easy for the participants.

Easy Option #1. Email
I've participated in several group programs in the last year that were email only.  No forum. No logins.  Everything got distributed by email.  These work particularly well for small groups, like a dozen or fewer members. At first, I thought "Yikes, this is going to be a ton of email." And at first it was. But things settled and over time I have come to appreciate the simplicity of this approach. These were not programs that had a lot of reference material so there wasn't a great need to maintain a location to find things. The email was great for timely messages and no one had to remember an extra password. The casual nature of email also promoted a lot of interaction between members of the group.

Easy Option #2. Set up a blog on a password-protected section of your site
I like for my group coaching programs to have their own domain names. That domain name, e.g. program.com, can serve as the sales page for the site and a sub-directory like program.com/private can host a password-protected blogsite to support the group coaching program. It's straightforward to install another instance of WordPress into a sub-directory. The control panel of your hosting account usually offers an option to password-protect that sub-directory and it's contents.  By doing this you have created one user name and password combination for all members of the group to use. Not everyone likes having to remember another password but it's very easy for you as the leader to manage the class resources since you already know how to manage a blog. The password-protected blog posts are a great way to ask members of the group to check-in via comments. Blog posts are also an easy way to start a topic for your group and keep all the information for that topic together in one place. By using Feedburner, you can make it easy for participants to subscribe to the program's blog in their email or an RSS feed reader.

Easy Option #3. Use a membership site plug-in like Wishlist Member
If you want to springboard from a public blogsite to run your program, give everyone their own login and you want the flexibility of a forum, I recommend WishList Member. It also supports various levels of membership. WishList Member is especially attractive because it does not charge a monthly fee. You buy it once and you own it for the lifetime of the site. They also have an unlimited license option so that you can use it on multiple program sites. If you haven't considered treating your group coaching program like a membership site, I truly think it's worth the learning curve. For a large group coaching program where participants come and go, running it like a membership program is a perfect match.

Laurie Foley

Laurie Foley, Blogging Expert

Laurie Foley has been helping people and organizations thrive online for more than 15 years. Resourceful and intuitive, she's an online business coach and dedicated guide for those who want to create meaningful work and amplify their message. Besides writing as Group Coaching Mastery's Blogging Expert, you can find Laurie at http://lauriefoley.com and on Twitter as @lauriefoley.

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May 5, 2010

Is Money Hiding in Your Group Coaching Blog's Comments?

dollar300Ever found a dollar bill on the ground? Pretty exciting, huh?

Would you like to find a hundred dollar bill… or even a thousand dollar bill?

You don't have to loiter in the bank parking lot hoping someone will drop a large bill. Just go back and review your blog's comments over time. There is money scattered all over the comments section of your blog!

Here are five easy ways to profit from your blog's comments.

1. Notice when a blog post strikes a nerve
Example: A relationship coach writes an article about becoming the person you want to meet. She gets a dozen comments from people saying that they want to take her advice and are trying, but each commenter is struggling to achieve that. That coach could take the questions that are being asked in those comments and create a four-week coaching program with those commenters in mind as her ideal learners. The commenting system even makes it possible for her to reach them to follow-up and gently make sure that they know about the program!

2. Use your comments as a filter for topics
Are you writing about a range of topics? Suppose you are a life coach who writes about productivity, work-life balance and self-care. All wonderful topics but there is a strong likelihood that if you review your posts and comments over time, you'll notice trends that certain topics evoke more responses than others. If your productivity posts generate lively discussions and lots of "thank you" comments, use that as a cue that your audience wants more than just posts on that topic. You could host a quarterly productivity check-in call that could generate a low-stress stream of income for you - and probably inspire lots more blog post ideas, too!

3. Recognize what doesn't work
No matter how good a writer you are, some topics may never get any traction in the comments. Maybe the topic isn't consistent with your brand or you don't bring the same energy to it. If the blog audience doesn't love it, then you might struggle to find program customers, too.

4. Test a topic in your blog
Experimenting with topics in your blog is a great way to find out what resonates with your audience. Before investing a lot of time and resources into developing and marketing a class or product, try blogging about it for a while. Not only is it a great way to create content that you can later use in your program, but it will help you probe the interest of your readers.

5. Engage with your commenters
Comments are often quite short but tantalizing. Sometimes you can reply to a comment with something as simple as "I'd like to learn more from you about your idea" to foster a constructive conversation. It's always valuable to thank your commenters, too.

Your blog is a big part of your marketing effort as a coach. Try mining your comments as a way to painlessly convert that investment into a handsome return.

lauriefoley100

Laurie Foley, Blogging Expert

Laurie Foley has been helping people and organizations thrive online for more than 15 years. Resourceful and intuitive, she's an online business coach and dedicated guide for those who want to create meaningful work and amplify their message. Besides writing as Group Coaching Mastery's Blogging Expert, you can find Laurie at http://lauriefoley.com and on Twitter as @lauriefoley.

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February 20, 2010

Does Your Group Coaching Blog Have A Blue Plate Special?

coffee-handClients of group coaching love to learn extra, bite-size information about your specialty. Are you regularly crafting one of the easiest types of blog posts to provide them with an ample buffet of resources?

I call it the Blue Plate Special Blog Post.  Like the diner version, it is accessible and reliable.  It's a standard type of post that many pro bloggers use and here's how you can serve it, too.

In a restaurant the special is often a pre-selected set of items: an entree and sides.  In the Blue Plate Special Blog Post, it's a set of delicious links that you have hand-selected for your ideal learner.  By offering a short commentary, you can make the links even more appealing and relevant.  It's especially powerful for learners if you choose related links so that the post has a theme. Many bloggers choose a particular day of the week to feature their round up, much like the diner might serve recurring entrees on certain days.

The Blue Plate Special Blog Post offers several benefits:

  • You establish more authority on your blog by showing that you are connecting with other relevant sources.
  • Your readers receive quality content.
  • You create frequent content for your blog with greater ease.
  • You get more mileage from research that you are doing for your own business by turning it into helpful resources for your readers.
  • You contribute links to other bloggers, increasing the likelihood that they will notice your blog and might link back to you at some point, improving your blog's performance with search engines.

Try branding your Blue Plate posts to make them recognizable for your readers. This technique will build your brand as well!  For example, Chaos to Clarity, a technology coaching and training business, calls them "5 Lucky Links" and they post every Friday.  Patti Digh, author and retreat leader, collects links for her audience on "thinking thursday."

Just like the diner uses specials to bring hungry customers back for more, the Blue Plate Special blog posts can do the same for your blog.

Was this post tasty for you? Do you have other techniques for conveniently creating frequent content for your ideal learners?

lauriefoley-photo

Laurie Foley, Blogging Expert

Is your online presence energizing you or overwhelming you? Laurie Foley is an online presence coach who helps people and organizations thrive online. With more than 25 years of technology experience and 15 years as an entrepreneur, she is a resourceful and intuitive guide for those who want to establish a strong personal brand and learn the vital social media skills to flourish in a rapidly changing environment. Besides writing as Group Coaching Mastery's Blogging Expert, you can find Laurie at http://lauriefoley.com and on Twitter as @lauriefoley.

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