John B. Lazar and William Bergquist
It is quite a remarkable and revealing exercise to revise an analysis of professional coaching that was written eleven years ago (by Sheila Maher and Suzi Pomerantz) and then revised by the same two authors seven years ago. This analysis specifically focused on the marketing strategy that makes the most sense given the changing landscape of professional coaching in the United States and throughout the world. We wish to add our own analysis in 2014 to this ongoing narrative, and provide several specific recommendations to the contemporary coach about how they might most effectively market their own professional services.
Marketing Life Cycles and the Reality of 2014
The original article (which is attached to this essay) concerned marketing life cycles and the status in 2003 of professional coaching. The authors observed, quite rightfully, that the practice of coaching is not new, but has been around for many centuries and in many different societies. As a “professional” practice, professional coaching is usually considered an invention of the 1980s and by 2003 was an expanding human service area which Maher and Pomerantz considered to be “mature” with regard to the marketing cycle. Was it going to soon decline – as an attention-getting but temporary “fad” – or was it to become established and sustainable?
Maher and Pomerantz proposed in 2007 (article is attached to this essay) that coaching had not only reached its maturity, but had actually declined somewhat in terms of its previous pattern of rapid growth. They recommended in both 2003 and 2007 that professional coaching could be firmly established and sustained if it provided leadership, created specific credentials for executive coaches, demonstrated return on investment, developed partnerships with mental health professionals, and internationalized executive coaching.
In the last seven years, much has happened. It’s worthwhile to review and reflect on where in the world we are at this time – our impressions, supported by some data.
Professional coaching seems to be expanding over the past five years. Growth isn’t occurring at the same rate throughout the world; faster in regions where it is a newer phenomenon, slower where it has already become established. Further, the level of sophistication with which coaching is understood also varies, by region, sometimes by industry, even by company within industry (based on first-hand experience using coaching). With such heterogeneity of experience and understanding of the possibility and opportunity that coaching presents, coaching providers must take a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to their marketing and sales activities.Download Article 1K Club