Episode 59: Scaling Small: Group Programs – What You Need to Know

In part three of our scaling small series, I'm answering the questions I get asked most frequently about starting, launching, and growing group programs in your coaching business.

59: Scaling Small: Group Programs - What You Need to Know

Today is part three in our four-part series on scaling small, all about how you can grow and scale your coaching businesses without overwhelm and in a way that promotes sustainable growth.

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Show Notes

Today is part three in our four-part series on scaling small, all about how you can grow and scale your coaching businesses without overwhelm and in a way that promotes sustainable growth. Now that we’ve covered growing your business using a workshop and a membership model, we’re diving into group programs.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know this is far from the first time I’ve talked about groups on the show. I love groups and I think group work is so much fun in a coaching capacity and that's why I want to spend time on the podcast talking about the different ways we can support our clients through groups.

In this episode, I’m sharing the five key elements you need to create and launch a group program that’s aligned with you and your business.

Topics covered

  • How to decide if launching a group program is right for you
  • Figuring out the theme for your group program
  • The ideal size for the first round of a small group program
  • The immense value of personalized invitations
  • How 1-on-1 experience helps you in your group program
  • Determining the right timing for your program
  • The main difference between a course and a group program
  • How to create and structure your group program
  • How the Grow With Groups retreat can help you develop your group program

Resources mentioned

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I'm your host, Lee Chaix McDonough, and we are now in the middle of our special series all about scaling small. Today is part three in a four part series, all about the ways in which we can grow and scale our businesses without overwhelm, without trying to do too much too fast, and in a way that promotes sustainable growth. So in part one, we looked at how you can grow your business using a workshop. And in part two, we talked about growing your business using a membership model. So if you have not listened to those episodes yet, no worries, you do not have to have heard those first before you listen to today's episode, but you may want to catch up on them. So we'll have links to the show notes to Episode 55, about workshops and (Episode) 57, about memberships. 

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 Today, I am going to be talking about group programs, and specifically I'm going to cover some of the questions I get asked most frequently about starting, launching, and growing group programs. Now I absolutely love groups, I think group work is so much fun in a coaching capacity and that's why I wanted to spend so much time on the podcast talking about the different ways we can support our clients through groups. And in fact, those of you who have been listening for a while know that this is in no way the first time I have talked about groups on the show. In fact, last year, I did a mini podcast series all about groups. If you've not heard that series, you are not going to want to miss it. So that is Episodes 37 through 40 of the Coach with Clarity Podcast, we'll make sure there are links to the show notes for that series as well. Now, all of this is leading up to a very exciting event that I am so thrilled to share with you. On Saturday, April 17th, I will be hosting the Grow with Groups Virtual Retreat. Grow with Groups is designed to help you get everything set so that you can launch and run your first or your next group program. So in one day, you will get clear on who your ideal group member is, and how that might differ from your ideal one on one client. We're also going to explore what you want to be in your group program, how you're going to structure it, what activities you may want to include in order to serve your clients, and then we're even going to get a jumpstart on how you can find your first members for your group program. So we cover a lot in one day but what really makes this special is that we are focusing on implementation, I promise you, this is not going to be a full day of me talking and you listening, quite the opposite. I'll be doing a little bit of talking and a little bit of content sharing, but the bulk of the time will be spent working on your group program together. So you will have some time to brainstorm and create on your own. We will also have breakout groups where you will be able to connect with the other attendees, get their feedback and input on your group, and you can provide feedback to them on theirs. And then there will also be time for questions and direct feedback from me. So the focus of Grow with Groups is on helping you get ready to launch and run that group. It also extends beyond just that one day, you're going to get access to a follow up Q&A, a follow up coaching call, all sorts of good stuff. But you have to sign up and secure your spot today because spaces are limited. I want to make sure that this is an intimate experience so that you get a lot of hands on time and attention to build your group. It is going to be a phenomenal experience and I would love to see you there. So head on over to CoachwithClarity.com/GrowwithGroups to get all of the details and to secure your spot today. I cannot wait to see you at Grow with Groups, it is going to be so much fun. 
 
All right, so let's get to it, let's look at the most common questions I hear about group programs. So question number one is kind of the mother of all questions and that is, how do I know if I should launch a group program? So how can you know if now is the right time for you to do a group and if the group model is best for your business? Well, the first question I'm going to ask you is whether you enjoy group work and whether specifically you enjoy facilitating groups. I am all about building coaching businesses that align with your values, your strengths, and your priorities. So if you are not someone who enjoys groups, if you don't want to facilitate groups, if you vastly prefer one on one work, then I'm going to suggest to you that we take the group model off the table, because you should never feel compelled or cajoled into doing something in your business that doesn't reflect who you are, or how you want to operate. So if you are not interested in groups, if you don't like groups, if you have no desire to facilitate a group, then the answer is going to be, you should not run a group program, stick with one on one, look at other ways to grow your audience and bring in revenue perhaps through courses or books. We can definitely talk more about that either one on one or in the Coach with Clarity Membership but again, there are other ways to grow and scale your business outside of groups. So number one, do you enjoy groups? And if the answer is no, then let's not worry about it. Let's take the group model off the table, but if you do enjoy groups, or you're at least intrigued by the idea of facilitating a group, well, then I want you to think about question number two. And that is, whether there is a common issue or challenge or opportunity that your ideal clients face. So thinking about the people you most love to serve as a coach, is there a common theme that emerges in your work with them? Is there something that they want to achieve? Is there a roadblock or barrier that just about every single client of yours faces? What are the issues that every single one of your clients is facing? If you can pinpoint some common hopes, dreams, fears, struggles, aspirations among your ideal clients, then you may have a good theme for a group program. So as an example, the very first group program I ran was called From Couch to Couch. It was an eight week program designed for therapists who were interested in building a coaching business, and I built that program around the common questions and problems and also opportunities that I was seeing in my one on one clients. So we needed to talk about making sure we knew who their ideal client was, how to use language that really spoke to them, how to create a message that would resonate, and then ultimately how to create programs and offers that their ideal clients would respond to. This was the kind of work that I was doing repeatedly with my one on one clients, and to be honest with you, still do. So I saw that as an opportunity to create a group program around that theme. So my question then for you is, what theme would you want to create a group program around, and the best way to identify that is to think about what you are commonly seeing in your clients. Because if you have a lot of clients who are experiencing a similar situation, then that may just point to an ideal topic for a group. So if you're interested in running groups, you have an idea of a concept that you could build your group around. 
 
Then the last question I want to ask you is the extent to which your network can support your first group. When we think about your audience, your clients, your colleagues, the people on your email list, the people who follow you on social media, the people in groups that you're in, is your network large enough that you could sustain a first or an initial group program? Now if the answer is yes, if you can already think of several people that you feel like would be a good fit for your program. Awesome, then let's go. Let's do this. Let's talk about what that first program might look like. If you have some concerns as to whether you have enough reach to fill a group program, then maybe what we first need to do is look at how we can build up your audience a bit. So this is not a reason not to do a group program. But we may need to do some prep work first, so that you have enough people in your network that would either be interested and prepared to be in a group program, or can connect you with people who would be a good fit for your program. So we do want to think a little bit about reach, about network, about audience size, to think about whether we have enough people to make a group program worth it. And that actually brings me to the second most common question I get asked about group programs, which is, how many people do I need in a small group program? When I'm thinking about launching a group program, what's the ideal number? As with most questions, the answer is, it depends. But I will share with you what I have found works for my small group programs and I really put the emphasis on small. Now I would say the bare minimum you need for a group is four, anything less than four can be a little tricky, because sometimes you may have a member who's not able to attend a live session, you may have a member who is not as engaged. And so we want to make sure that we have enough people in the group so that if there's a member or two who can't come to live calls, or can't otherwise be present, it's not going to tank the group. And so that's why I think, definitely minimum four. But ideally, we'd be looking around, I'd say six to eight, for me, six to eight is really the sweet spot for a small group program, especially the first time you are running it. Because the first time you run any program is essentially a beta round, you're trying things out, you're testing what works. And so when you keep it small, you can get feedback from your members, they can be a part of creating that group program. So I really love keeping that initial round small, and I just think six to eight people for a group program is ideal. Now, certainly, if you've got more demand than that, and you want to go up to ten, even twelve, by all means go for it. But understand that as the group size gets bigger, you may find that the intimacy and the connection drops a bit. So that's a bit of a balance to consider is, how important is it for your group and for your theme? How important is that level of intimacy and connection? That's going to vary group to group, so that's something very personal for your program. But that's also why I find six to eight, really the magic number because you can still have that level of connection, of intimacy, of depth, and it doesn't feel like it's getting too big. 
 
So given that, given that we're really aiming for, let's say six to eight people in your group, going back to that first question, can your network support that? When you think about the people who are already in your world, can you think of four, six, even eight people who might be interested in participating in your program? Or people who can connect you with someone who would be a good fit? If the answer is yes, fantastic. And in fact, I'm going to encourage you to reach out directly to those people, and invite them to be in your program. We've talked about this on other episodes before, and I will stick with it. I believe one of the most powerful and effective ways of bringing people into our group programs is through a personal invitation. So if there is someone in mind that you know, would be perfect for your group, invite them, send them a private email or Loom video, or text, or phone call, whatever is going to work best for you, but reach out, personally invite them. And when you make that invitation, be really clear about why you are inviting them specifically, what qualities do they possess that would make them a perfect fit for your group? Why are you so excited to work with that person in this capacity? The more personalized you can make the invitation, the more likely that person is going to say, yeah, this really is for me, I want to be a part of this, what's next. And you don't need a fancy web page or anything like that. In fact, on Episode 57, when we were talking about the membership, I mentioned how for my founding members, I literally had a one page PDF, that I sent them with all of the details. That's it, and that was enough for me to welcome in my initial members and get things started. So once you know who you want to invite, make those invitations, it's the best way to launch your very first or your next group program.
 
Okay, the next question I want to talk about today is whether or not you need a lot of one on one coaching experience before you launch a group program. So I have a short answer and I have a long answer. Short answer, no. That's it. You don't need a lot of one on one experience to start a group program. Now for the long answer, it's still no, but you may want that one on one experience. I believe that when you have a fair amount of one on one experience to refer to, it's going to help you as you build out and ultimately run your group program. So having that one on one experience helps you identify the commonalities in your audience, and that's going to help you develop the program itself, as well as your marketing materials. So when you understand the common desires that your group members are going to have, when you know the things they've already tried, and it hasn't worked for them, that's important when it comes to creating your program and also talking about it and explaining how it differs from all of these other things. When you understand the typical journey that your client goes on, and also the obstacles they might face along the way, that's going to help you as you build out your program structure and you think about the activities you want to incorporate. So having that frame of reference through your one on one work can really be helpful. You'll also start developing your own signature process or framework that you use with your one on one clients, and it can be modified for your group program. So the more one on one clients you work with, you're going to start to see patterns and themes emerge, not just in them, but also in you, how you approach certain topics, how you provide guidance and support, that's going to be the foundational components of your signature process. So the more you're able to do that work and test it out and get results with your one on one clients, the more confident you're going to feel about bringing that into your group program. And then leading with it, as you talk about what you do, I find that clients feel so comforted when they know that you have a process in place that you will be guiding them through. And that process is something that you can refine and hone through your one on one work. So that's another reason why you may want to have a fair amount of one on one experience before you launch your group program. Now, does that mean you need it? I'm not gonna sit here and say you absolutely need it. And in fact, I know some coaches who have started with groups, because that's what they love to do. That's what they're passionate about. And so far, be it for me to advise them not to do that, but I would also suggest that if you are going to start with groups, you better have a very clear understanding of your audience, of their needs, of what they're looking for, and how you are going to meet those needs, how you are going to fulfill on the promise you're making in this group program. So if you're not using your one on one work to support that, you want to be clear that you have other ways, other experiences, other evidence that's going to support the work that you do. The last thing I want to say about whether you need a lot of one on one experience is that your past or current one on one clients could potentially be ideal members for your group, or, and or they can refer people to the group as well. So having a breadth of one on one experience can help you when it comes time to actually filling your group. And in fact, a couple of my initial From Couch to Coach members had been one on one clients with me in some capacity, same goes with the Coach with Clarity Membership. So having that one on one experience may make it a little easier when you're launching your group program and trying to find members for it. Even if they are not ideal members, they may be connected in communities and with people that would be a good fit. So again, having that one on one background can really help you when it comes time to plan, launch and fill your group program, so just a couple of things to consider. If you're thinking about going straight into groups, versus doing some one on one coaching first. I'm here to say there's no right or wrong answer here. And yet, my preference is to have some one on one work under your belt, because that's really going to make the group process a lot easier. 
 
Alright, so we have covered three questions so far. How do you know if you should launch a group coaching program? How many people should be in your small group program? And do you need to have a lot of one on one coaching experience before you get started in groups? The next couple questions have a lot to do with the group itself. And so one question I hear is, well, how long should my group program be? How long do we meet? How often do we meet? And this is another question where the answer is, it depends. It really depends upon the purpose of your group, and the desired outcome. So I have been in group programs that have lasted a few weeks, I've been in group programs that have lasted a year or more. And the length of time for each group really depends on a variety of factors, but the main one is, how long will it take for your group members to meet the desired outcome and for you to fulfill the promise that you've made in that group program. Now, let me preface all of this by saying it is okay to not have the answers to those questions locked down, especially if this is the first time you're running a group program. You may not exactly know how long you're going to need to provide all of this and that's okay. That's why we run beta programs. That's why we test things out. So don't let the not knowing stop you from taking action. This is where you want to craft a hypothesis, and that hypothesis can be informed by your previous coaching work. Again, this is one reason why having some one on one coaching experience can be really helpful, because you can look back at the work you've done with your other clients. And then you can hypothesize, okay, I think it's probably going to take eight weeks or twelve weeks or six months for people to achieve this desired outcome. And I'm going to build my group program around the idea that it will take this long for them to accomplish this thing. But remember, everything is data. So just create your hypothesis, test it out, get feedback from your participants, and that's going to help you refine your group program as you go. 
 
So you've got your group program idea, you've got the promise or the desired outcome, you're starting to think about how you're going to structure it. And then comes the question, okay, well, how much content do I share? And what really differentiates this group program that I want to create from say, a course? And so that's another commonly asked question that I hear what is the difference between a course and a group program. I would suggest that the main difference between these two is where we place our emphasis, are we placing it on the content and the curriculum and the specific things that people are learning? Or are we placing the emphasis on the process on the journey and on the community? Now, for more on this topic, I'm going to refer you back to Episode 38, which is in that four part series I did about groups. Episode 38, is an interview with my very good friend and learning design expert, Emily Walker, and Emily and I talk at length about what differentiates a group program from a course, where the overlap is, and the considerations we want to keep in mind when we're developing our group programs. So Episode 38 is a fantastic resource if you are asking yourself this question, you're definitely going to want to go back and hear directly from Emily, her thoughts on that. But briefly, I would suggest that in a course, the emphasis is really on learning and applying new skills. And so the facilitator likely has a curriculum and the goal of the course is for the student to walk away with additional knowledge. So they're acquiring knowledge in the course and then they're going to implement it pretty much on their own. And any sort of group oriented activities in that course, are really there to supplement the learning. So with courses, the focus is on knowledge acquisition, and then hopefully a little bit of implementation as well. In group programs, on the other hand, I would say the emphasis is really on the experience, and then on the implementation. So yes, the facilitator may absolutely provide some content, I definitely do in my group programs in the Grow with Groups Virtual Retreat that's coming up, even in the Coach with Clarity Membership, there is content there. But that's not necessarily the focus. The focus, and truly what I believe is the magic that happens is when we are in community with each other. So it's not so much about the what, but it's about the how, and it's about that intangible co-creative process that happens in a group program. That's why it's so important to be clear on who your ideal group member is, and to do a little bit of vetting, especially if you're creating a small intimate community, because you want to make sure that you are cultivating an environment where people can really connect with and serve each other because in group programs, it truly becomes a co-creative experience. So yes, as the coach, you are there providing the structure, the guidance, the feedback, and the input and your group members are there providing input as well. It's a shared responsibility so allow your group members to be a part of that co-creative process. And that is a very different way of viewing the experience than in a traditional course, where you have a facilitator or an instructor who's teaching knowledge, and the students are receiving it. So that's how I separate or distinguish between a group and of course, yes, there's going to be some overlap. But in a group program, we really are highly concerned and really focusing on the experiential qualities versus the content. 
 
All right, my friend, there's one more question I want to address in today's podcast episode about group programs. And that's the big one, how do I create and structure my group program? Like that's the mother of all questions, right? That's why we're all here. Well, first off, we are going to go into this question in so much detail during Grow with Groups, so again, if you are interested in launching your first or your next group program, definitely check out the Grow with Groups Retreat that's happening on April 17th, but let me provide you kind of a nutshell version of my answer to that question. First, we want to make sure that you're clear on your ideal audience and who you are serving in your group. Once we know who your audience is, and we know the desired result, so what they want to accomplish during your group program, then you can start to conceptualize your approach. When you are defining your concept, you want to think about the structure of your sessions. So what's going to happen within a given session and what it's going to look like? So maybe we're talking hot seat coaching, maybe we're talking formal lecture, Q&A style discussion, there's all sorts of different ways that we can approach the structure, and you may find that you use a different approach with different sessions, based on where you're at in the journey of your group program. So we want to think about structuring the sessions and we also want to think about the activities we want to include in the program. Sometimes this will look like icebreakers to open a session, sometimes it might include breakout groups, where you're having activities and even smaller groups, and then coming back as a large group to discuss, maybe you're including things like centering activities, journaling, different types of hands on implementation activities, all of which should be designed to support both the overall ideal outcome of the group program, and also the goal for that specific session. So we're thinking about structuring the session, we're thinking about activities we want to include and then also, outside of the group sessions, we want to think about what, if any, support you'll be providing. A lot of group programs do come with an added support element, maybe that looks like a private Facebook community, it could look like a private voxer thread or slack thread, whatever platform you choose, you may find it really helpful to have some sort of community based support between sessions. It builds camaraderie, it builds intimacy, and it also gives your members a direct line to you if they have questions between sessions. The other thing you may want to consider is whether a hybrid approach to this program will work for you. And when I talk about hybrid, I'm really looking at supplementing the group program with some one on one support. For example, when I ran From Couch to Coach, it was an eight week group program. So there were eight group sessions but I also included three one on one calls, I included a call before the first group session so that I could get to know the members and get really clear on their goals and expectations for the program journey. There was a call that I conducted after the midpoint of the group and that was more of a traditional one on one coaching call, so that they could receive some support around a targeted issue. And I could model what a one on one coaching session looked like. And then after the group ended, I had a third one on one call available to my members that they could book at any time, whether it was a week after or a year after the program ended, I wanted them to feel like they could have some follow on support with me after the group experience. So From Couch to Coach truly was a hybrid experience with group sessions and also some one on one support as well and I found that worked very well for my audience and for the theme. So you might also want to consider a hybrid approach to your small group, but regardless, you're definitely going to want to think about what, if any, support you are providing between group sessions. 
 
Okay, my goodness, have we covered a lot today. This is a perfect time for us to take a breath, take a breather, and transition into this week's Clarity in Action Moment. This week's Clarity in Action Moment is brought to you by, surprise, surprise, the Grow with Groups Retreat. I know I talked a lot about it at the top of today's episode, all I want to do is remind you that you can secure your spot in our virtual retreat on April 17th by going to CoachwithClarity.com/GrowwithGroups and it will be an opportunity for you to get hands on support and guidance as you build out your first or your next group program. I would love to be a part of your journey. So I hope to see you at Grow with Groups. All right, my friends for this week's Clarity in Action Moment I am going to ask you to grab a pen and a piece of paper because I have five prompts or five statements that I am inviting you to respond to. This is going to help you get really clear on some of the core elements for your small group program. So if you've got that pen handy, here we go. The first statement is, “I want to create a group program for…”, and then you can answer that with your ideal audience. So this is where we're answering that “who” question, who is your program for? Statement number one, I want to create a group program for, and then you can fill in the blank. Statement number two, “These people want…”, and then I'm going to invite you to answer what it is they most want to accomplish or achieve after your group program. So what is the ideal result, what are they heading for? Then the third one, “They have not achieved it yet, because of…”, and then fill in the blank. Why have they not yet been able to accomplish this goal, or to bring this vision to life? Number four, “My program will help them do this by…”, and then you're going to talk about the “how”. So this is how your program will help them achieve that goal or that vision that they've not yet been able to bring to life. Then finally, statement number five, “At the end, they will be able to…”, and then you're going to be very clear on the promise you're making from your group program. So to recap, here are the five prompts, the five statements that you are going to complete:
  • “I want to create a group program for…” 
  • “These people want…”
  • “They haven't yet achieved it, because…” 
  • “My program will help them do this by…” 
  • “At the end, they will be able to…”
And I cannot wait to hear how you answer all of these prompts. We are going to dive into this in the Grow with Groups retreat, so head over to Coach with Clarity.com/GrowwithGroups to secure your spot and let's continue the work together. I hope this Clarity in Action Moment helps you describe who your program is for, what they want to achieve, the obstacles they face so far in trying to make it happen, how you can help them overcome those obstacles, and then finally, the promise you're making with your small group program. When you have those five elements in place, you are in a fantastic position to start conceptualizing your program. And finally, to market it and launch it to your people, and it would be an honor to partner with you in that process through Grow with Groups. That's it for me this week, my friend, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I'll be back in your feed next week. So until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough and I'm reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.
 
 

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