The coaching industry is one of the largest online-based verticals, boosting more than $1B in 2018 and over 50,000 coaches. Coaching is an unregulated industry, which means that tomorrow you or anyone else can easily throw up a website, create social media channels, buy followers and likes (or enter into engagement pods to beat social media algorithms), and slap a label on yourself as an expert without anyone questioning it.
In an unregulated industry combined with the internet being the Wild Wild West, consumers must be discerning and know how to perform due diligence searches in order to vet who is in fact a true industry expert. Keep in mind that real influence can’t be bought or exaggerated. If you peel back the layers of the onion enough, you will be able to understand what makes an industry expert or industry influencer, and what doesn’t.
They Interface in the Public Eye
True industry experts are out there, day after day, providing deep insight and knowledge on the subject matter and trends, up close and in-person. They interface with business professionals through speaking engagements, in-person interviews, and industry conferences (as a speaker or attendee) to continuously boost authentic visibility and authority. They don’t hide behind a social media profile or a computer screen and just discuss content views or “likes” on posts in order to persuade audiences for mass appeal. Having 30K followers, 1M views on a post, or 400 likes on a post means nothing if you aren’t out there in the public eye sharing the knowledge. Industry experts don’t leverage those things to create validity where it doesn’t exist otherwise. Keep in mind that social media algorithms allow people to game the online space. You can create large followings on LinkedIn by simply requesting connections in mass amounts or accepting each and every person who requests to connect with you. Look to see what’s out there about the individual besides their social media posts or follower counts. Likes and followers mean nothing if you aren’t out there speaking to industry members and professionals and sharing the knowledge you possess as well as willing to learn from others in the industry.
They Know How to Build Real Influence
Since the online coaching industry is rampant with “fake influence” that can puffer a person’s image, consumers and the general public must look behind the scenes and determine whether the coach is a true expert in a niche. Building influence requires putting out a continuous amount of good and consistent content for others to digest – that they can relate to, take action on, and learn from. That content is seen on multiple platforms, not just LinkedIn or their own website or even in a bought press release. They don’t call themselves #1 or “the best” based on self-ratings, hubris, self-inflation, or personal opinion. They consistently defer to third-party sources to evidence that rating or ranking. True industry experts are actively publishing engaging content in multiple forms and getting featured in content publications consistently (not just once or twice and calling themselves an expert). They are walking the walk as much as talking the talk.
Always get on the phone with the “expert” or coach. See how much information they really know about the subject matter, the resources they are willing to provide you with, or whether they are just trying to simply convert you into their next sale. Spending just 15 minutes on a call with that expert will give you immense insight into whether the influence is real or just puffery.
They Build Community and Respect Other Industry Members
A true expert is always willing to engage with other industry leaders and build collaboration as well as encourage community over competition. Experts in niches are not afraid to spread the wealth and point you to another expert or industry member if he/she is a better fit for you. A true expert is confident in their abilities and respects other industry members for the value that they also bring to the table. Remember, there is always enough room and space for everyone, but a true expert will not need to puffer themselves incessantly or bash a competitor to secure a client or sale. Experts earn their trust and respect by showing they are member of a community and willing participant in an industry that favors collaboration over competition.
Industry expertise is important, but so is an authentic brand and that brand’s message. What makes someone unique and different is a big part of that brand development. Brand marketing is a telling sign of an expert and there should be uniformity, authenticity, and alignment each and every step of the way. Before you hire your next coach or expert, consider these tips and don’t be afraid to ask questions.