Updated: Jan 6
What if I could tell you that you’re likely working harder, not smarter for your business coaching clients? It might seem counterintuitive that we, as business coaches, spend so much time guiding our clients to easier solutions for their business, but oftentimes neglect our own. However, there are solutions out there that are either made precisely for our business or can be easily adapted.
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As a business coach myself, I want to offer some special, direct perspective about the 7 online business coaching tools that you should be using in 2021.
I would hazard a guess that you’ve given your clients some variation of the following advice: ‘If there’s one area of life you don’t want to feel frustrated by, it’s running your business. You should be able to know where you’ve been and where you are going. But in order to get there, sometimes you need help.’ That might even be your primary sales pitch to a potential client. Business coaches provide solutions to business problems, by the very nature of our jobs.
I have yet to meet a coach that hasn’t felt the irony of our job in some way or another. Spending our days making client’s lives easier, at the cost of our own. This is precisely where business coaching tools come into play. The tools that I will lay out for you today will empower you to provide actionable insights to your clients while also making your job significantly more efficient.
Intrigued? Just dying to sarcastically ask “what kind of business coaching tools should I be using?” Our lot is a know-it-all bunch so I’m sure there’s some skepticism hiding in there… but fear not!
Here are 7 of the best business coaching tools you should be using in 2021.
One note before we dive in: Each tool has varying degrees of usefulness for both the coach and the clients. For each of the tools below we are going to break down, to some degree, the benefits to each in order to aid your decisions on how best each tool will work for your business coaches.
The business coaching tools with the most client facing impact are, of course, the ones involving finances. Most, but not all, KPI’s stem from financial metrics and therefore we spend an exorbitant amount of time in presentations and meetings with our clients on the subject. Hence, our prominent placement on our business coaching tools list.
1. The Budgeting Tool
Before we ever bring on a new client we ALWAYS ask them if they have a budget. Their answer is a solid baseline for what type of financial related analysis you will have to provide as well as their ability to pay your invoice. Introducing a budget tool will help you get the initial data you need to create an operational budget for your clients. This will help you more easily forecast future profits based on previous income and expenses and upcoming expected opportunities.
Best Budgeting Tools:
Excel (or similar): The most common and easiest to start with is a simple spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel is a great starting point when used correctly.
It is critically important that you utilize a trusted or highly rated excel template designed for budgeting correctly. Budgeting, in general, is a simple process, but as with anything else excel, it can be easy to misplace data in the wrong cell etc. which could become disastrous for a client.
Quickbooks (or similar): The great thing about the accounting software tools is that they likely have a budget tool built in.
However, depending on the size of the business and whether or not they have outsourced their bookkeeping or not could determine your ability to capitalize on this tool.
Budgeting Tools Benefits For Business Coaches:
Let’s start with the obvious: budgeting tools allow you to help guide the client to better spending decisions and therefore more effective growth. But also, by utilizing a tool you are able to provide a simplified and low labor function for you and your coaches.
As I mentioned at the beginning, you’ll also get an inside look into their spending capacity and can monitor their capacity to afford your services. This might be a bit of a more cynical, yet practical look at the benefits. However, if you don’t utilize a budget tool and regularly review it with clients then there is a higher chance they will find something else to spend their time and money on.
Budgeting Tools Benefits For the Business Owner:
Typical small businesses operate their spending on the FBN system. What is the FBN system you ask? Fly by Night… a.k.a Seat of the Pants budgeting. Providing the business with a budget tool allows the business owner to have a realistic view of their future spending.
If deployed correctly, you could even utilize a visual representation of the budget as the year progresses. Think: amount budgeted vs. amount spent YTD.
2. The Financial Analytics Dashboard Tool
Any business coach worth their weight needs to be creating and monitoring the KPI’s for their clients. Most of the KPI’s you will be spending your time on are going to be financially related in some way. This is where the Financial Analytics Dashboard Tool comes into play. A financial analytics dashboard will help you and your clients see trends in your revenue and expenses, among other things, over time.
The first thing that you’ll want in any good financial analytics dashboard is to have the ability to customize. Each and every client that we have will have a different mindset, goal, KPI’s or even just the ability to use their brand colors. Therefore, a cookie-cutter dashboard just isn't going to cut it.
What is a Financial Analytics Dashboard?
The importance of visualization, hence the dashboard, is hard to quantify. By the nature of our role as business coaches, we know firsthand how busy our clients can be. Having something as basic as color coding your KPI’s (i.e. Green for good, Red for bad) empowers your clients to gain critical business intelligence at a glance.
Basically, a good analytics dashboard should be simple and easy to follow, so you can get better insights into your financials, and see revenue trends and breakdowns over time. See what’s working well, what’s not working in your business or your clients’ businesses.
Best Financial Analytics Dashboard:
While it may seem obvious that I am mentioning Pineapple’s solution here, I can assure you that my mentioning is unbiased. Plain and simple: their dashboards check all the boxes for what the business coach AND the client needs.
Pineapple’s Financial Analytics Dashboard provides the Customization (CHECK!), Visualization (CHECK!), Connectivity (CHECK!), Ease of Use (CHECK!), and most importantly its Affordability (TRIPLE CHECK!).
Financial Analytics Dashboards Benefits For Business Coaches:
The up front and center benefit to us as business coaches is the reduction of labor spent manipulating raw data. Even if you consider a tool outside of what Pineapple offers, the absolute minimum you should be looking for is the ability of the tool to pull from existing systems. No more pulling reports in Quickbooks, exporting them to excel, making graphs, etc. etc. etc….
With a dashboard customized for each client you can simply spend your time doing what you’re good at, making informed recommendations to coach up your clients to success.
Financial Analytics Dashboards Benefits For the Business Owner:
From the years that I have been coaching small businesses, I can say one of the largest stressors for an owner is to make critical decisions. When you, as the coach, work with them to develop their KPI’s and then use a tool such as the financial analytics dashboard you are giving them far more than simple graphs and metrics, you’re giving them confidence.
Confidence and a finger on the pulse of their business is easily the benefit here for the business. But I would be remiss if I also didn't mention the second stage of those two: faster business growth.
A suite of marketing tools will let you see things such as what you are spending on and if it’s even worth it. They will also show you where your customers are coming from and how they heard of your business.
3. The ROI Tool
Let's take a moment to review the basics that you need to know about ROI tools for business coaches. And by basics, I mean basics...
What is an ROI Tool?
An ROI (return on investment) tool will help your clients decide if your marketing expenditures are worth it.
You can calculate it yourself by subtracting the initial value of an investment from the final value of the investment. Then divide this number (the net return) by the cost of the investment, and multiply it by 100. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage and is an often-used universal measure of profitability. For an excellent guide to the basics of ROI tabulation check out this great walkthrough Jack with Pineapple put together.
This helps you focus your efforts on those actions that produce the most return. Conversely, it allows you to identify what is costing you more than it is bringing in as a means to find savings within the business.
There is a big asterisk next to any ROI tool: it still requires a significant amount of proactive work on your or your client's part. Proper acquisition of data is paramount. A simple example would be to begin notating how all new customers of the business encountered the business (i.e. ‘I Googled XYZ’). However, the best ones will automate or minimize as much as possible.
Best ROI Tools:
We are back to… Excel: Honestly, Excel works here, but the amount of labor involved in making this a viable tool for either you or your clients sort of eliminates itself from contention.
Imagine it, you have to enter the ‘project’, then enter (accurately!) the costs of the project, then you have to manually measure all the data… only to enter that too! Depending on how many clients you juggle at a time, you might even be able to hire a full-time employee just to track and enter what’s needed to give effective advice.
ROI Calculator Tool by Pineapple: As part of their bigger picture Marketing Dashboard, they also offer a ROI calculator. Which works well if you are utilizing their other products already because they will have access to the needed data most of the time.
Look above and picture yourself performing all of those tasks. Nightmare right? Pineapple’s solution transforms that potential data hellscape into a rolling meadow on a cool spring morning.
ROI Tools Benefits For Business Coaches:
I can tell you right from the start the BIGGEST benefit having an ROI tool has done for me as a business coach. I now have the power to show my clients that the thing they just “know” works, I’m looking at you ‘neighborhood magazine’, and putting it into irrefutable data to show how much of a waste it really is.
I mean honestly, how many times have you warned a client against spending money on something with a track record of failure only to be ignored? Having this tool in your back pocket gives you an ‘I told you so’ even if you never actually say it.
Additionally, you can use the data from multiple clients over time to build better cases against the wasteful spending of future clients.
ROI Tools Benefits For the Business Owner:
As much as they will hate it, an ROI tool oftentimes will awaken the business to its marketing failures. When looking for waste within a business, net negative ROI marketing projects are the lowest hanging fruit.
We still encounter new clients that swear by the Yellow Pages for example. In fact, they are downright terrified to stop paying for paid listings on YP. In the 9+ years I have been a business coach, I have yet to see YP spending produce a positive ROI. Having a tool like this with historical data has been a godsend for preventing future waste.
4. The Marketing Dashboard Tool
This is the perfect time to transition into the more overarching Marketing Dashboard tool. I decided to place the ROI tool above this one because of both its importance, but also because it requires a vast difference of work for the business coach.
What is a Marketing Dashboard Tool?
To simplify and explain what I mean by that is that ROI requires a lot of hands-on monitoring and data acquisition. Whereas the Marketing Dashboard can mostly be pulled from existing systems that are readily available. Or another way to look at it is that ROI tracking is more a micro view (per project) and the dashboard is a macro view (company-wide analytics).
Think of this dashboard more along the lines of Marketing Specific KPI’s. Website traffic, phone calls per week, conversions, conversion %, etc. are all the types of things you might see on a marketing dashboard.
Much like the Financial Analytics Dashboard above, you would expect that you and your clients would spend a portion of your meetings reviewing the dashboard.
Best Marketing Dashboard Tools:
Google: For the type of people who go on to become business coaches Google’s free tools can go a long way. Analytics, Developer, Tag Manager, and Search Console are all fantastic data collection tools in their own right.
But…. that is also their downfall. Each one is essentially unique and independent. They each have different menus or ways of presenting the information in easily readable ways. Like I said, some of us thrive in complexity, but at the same time that is not the best way to provide effective coaching to a client who does not do well in the realm of raw data.
Marketing Dashboards by Pineapple: As I allude to above, the best business coaching tools are useful to both the coach and the client. Pineapple’s dashboard is able to pull from all of the Google products listed above plus many others.
By aggregating all of the data and presenting it into a combination of core vitals and visualizations, the Marketing Dashboard gives you and your client all of the information that you need in a simple, easy to read format.
Marketing Dashboards Benefits For Business Coaches:
There is a theme forming here that lends to the entire purpose of this article: time saved. I personally love diving into Google products, doing cross-tabs or projections etc. However, as much “fun” that it is, it is still extremely time consuming.
The reality is we only have so much time in a day. For business coaches, the more time that we spend performing analysis, the less time we have for bringing on another client.
To put it another way, the more time you save here, the more clients you can take on. Every coach has a maximum number of clients we can take on at any given time and remain effective. By reducing your workload you increase your personal income potential.
Marketing Dashboards Benefits For the Business Owner:
This one gets lumped largely into the same explanation at the Financial Analytics Dashboard.
In short, this provides the business owners with a simple, yet effective visual for the health of their marketing efforts. Where the former gives you a finger on the overall pulse of the business, this one is sort of like having your meal plan of how well you’re feeding your business.
5. The SEO Tracking Tool
The dreaded SEO term. There are very few out there that truly get SEO the way they should. This fact applies to business coaches just like any other business. In fact, it may be worse because business coaches are generally Type A personalities and they often THINK they know even if they don’t have a clue.
What is an SEO Tracking Tool?
Let’s start super basic: SEO tracking tools can monitor and report how well your website is doing in SERP, or search engine results page, results. Basically, how easily potential customers can find your business online.
What the SEO Tracking tool does is a combination of several key items. First and foremost, it can track your ranking in keywords over time. The importance of keyword tracking needs little to no explanation. Second to that, they also generally give you warning should a website not quite match the format or content that boosts those rankings. Some tools even have the ability to read your content and kick out recommendations on how to improve based on your competitor’s efforts.
Best SEO Tracking Tools:
The choice between the following items really comes down to how much effort you want to put into your SEO efforts. I would recommend weighing in how much benefit each can bring directly to your coaching business in addition to what it can do for your clients in order to find the right solution for you.
Moz: The best way to think of Moz is that they are a simplified snapshot of your clients ranking. It is relatively basic in nature. It does provide you all the key information you need to pass on to you clients. It also is able to detect website issues, but beyond that it does not have much more technical operation.
I can say that Moz does have an extensive library of support articles to help guide even the most novice business through to some SEO success.
SEMRush: SEMRush is the Cadillac of SEO Tracking Tools. Its level of depth and complexity in results is astounding. For example: you can set up competitor monitoring that will not only notify you when they release content, it will give you an analysis of how effective that content is and whether it is working for them or not.
Just like Google, this is also its weakness. The amount of tools and avenues you can find yourself with SEMRush is daunting and is not for the easily distracted.
Hire A Pro: This one is somewhat counterintuitive for this article since I am recommending traditional tools. Typically we think of tools as software or similar that is designed to make our workload easier. I’ll toss a wrench in here and challenge you to think of services as business coaching tools as well.
The purpose of finding the tools that you need in your coaching business is to streamline both your labor and improve the benefit that you provide to your clients, right? There’s no reason that a pro should be disqualified from that definition… plus SEO is a bit more tricky and justifies a pro more so than the other tools here.
I often work with companies like BartX Digital to analyze and compile useful SEO data for my clients. As a bonus here, if there is an issue with a client’s SEO, you have the solution baked into the cake as it were.
SEO Tracking Tools Benefits For Business Coaches:
One of the biggest determining factors for a business coach’s success is built upon how successful your clients feel after working with you. While this somewhat applies to other tools in this article, SEO is the most important to key tabs on as a business coach.
To elaborate, you could be giving the best advice possible and they may even be listening to most if not all of that advice. Yet, things still keep feeling like they are slipping in terms of sales or the marketing dashboard items. Chances are the SEO related items are handicapping the business, and therefore you as a business coach. By using this tool, or a pro, you protect yourself from undeserved ire from your clients.
SEO Tracking Tools Benefits For the Business Owner:
Like our suggestion for the business coaches above, a business owner’s SEO might be influencing other metrics within the business.
The best way to demonstrate this is to give a simple example: Your business is developing a new product. You choose an avenue to market the product and engage with proper ROI techniques. Six months after deploying the product/campaign you review your ROI only to find that it is negative and sales are lower than expected.
The problem could easily have been because you did not effectively research or prepare your website etc. for ranking in your new product’s keywords. Think: A pest control company beginning a lawn care service. Chances are your website had zero ranking or keyword usage for lawn care… which in turn skewed your launch and ROI.
Operations tools will help you set and achieve goals, as well as track and manage your projects. These tools are great for helping you create and achieve your long-term vision.
6. The Goal Setting Tool
There’s a reason why goals are taught consistently and universally. Human behavior has proven time and time again that when a realistic, yet difficult goal is set for one’s self you are more likely to over-perform or achieve that goal.
What is a Goal Setting Tool?
Goal setting tools come in many forms and can consist of visualization apps, questionnaires or surveys, or SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses. Quick reminder: SWOT analyses are common ways of forcing you to see what your organization does well, what it does poorly, what potential good opportunities exist, and what external threats exist.
The basics here is that you want to find a tool that can help you determine the realism of the goals, their attainability, and their prioritization (if applicable).
For example: If we are setting a sales goal, we want to first determine the realism for the data point we set as the goal. Typically we do this by choosing a % Increase for the prior year(‘s) sales. However, care must be taken to account for new or lost products etc. You don’t want to over or under shoot your mark.
Next, we want to determine the attainability. You might be asking what the difference is, and it is a bit of an overlap. However, attainability comes down to more things you would see on your marketing dashboard. Do you have the resources to deliver on orders (capacity)? Do you have the marketing budget needed to achieve the goal? Questions like that are what determine the ability of the client to meet the goals you set.
Best Goal Setting Tool:
Most accounting softwares have some sort of goal setting function within them. Typically they are limited to accounting-based functions (revenues, expenses, etc.) which places them at a disadvantage for our purposes.
There are several goal setting platforms out there and I recommend trying a few to find the one that works best for you. However, I strongly recommend giving Goalscape a shot first. The primary reasoning is for the combination of visualization along with the ability to make anything a goal with ease. It allows you to tier the goals to create a visual progression as well.
The major downside to it and others like it is that they are rarely compatible to pull data directly from other resources such as Quickbooks etc. Unfortunately, that is going to be the case with most if not all goal tools that work for the uniqueness of business coaching goals.
Goal Setting Tools Benefits For Business Coaches:
Having a goal setting tool enables the business coach a way to hold their clients accountable in a way. While Project Management Tools (see below) have a literal task by task accountability, the goal setting tool gives you a way to show the results of the clients efforts.
In other words, if the client is completing the tasks that you are giving them as a coach then they should be seeing results on the goal tool. If goals are not being met and you also see they are not completing tasks you not only have a way to put the clients feet to fire, but you also get a nice little CYA built in for your work.
Goal Setting Tools Benefits For the Business Owner:
The visualization of goals is easily the most beneficial aspect of a goal setting tool. It’s best to picture how a small business owner typically imagines their goals. Something like: “I will increase revenues by 10% this year!” In that scenario they may be doing much of what they think they need to do to achieve that goal, but realistically they will only ‘officially’ check at year end.
A tool such as Goalscape allows you to set monthly, weekly, and yearly goals to all be tracked simultaneously and then presented into a visual to see what the progress is. Allowing the business owner, again, to keep a finger on the pulse.
7. The Project Management / Tracker Tool
One of the most frustrating things as a business coach is when you work hard to come up with a game plan for a client only to find that they haven’t accomplished a single task by the next meeting. Needless to say, having a tool that provides some accountability for clients is crucial to effective business coaching.
What is a Project Management Tool?
In a way, I have saved the last great small business coaching tool for last. Enter the Project Management Tool. The best thing about this tool isn’t its real world functionality, but its cross use for your own internal operations as a business coach.
Any good project management tool should allow for collaboration, task management, project timelines, and availability planning. But I will toss in a few that are far more simplistic, but have a massive impact if used regularly.
Playing off of the Goal Setting Tool, the goal here is to give the business coach the ability to hold their clients accountable for tasks or projects that you create to aid them. As a business coach we are often giving recommendations as a means to the actual “coaching” aspect of our job, right? Documenting and assigning these recommendations allows you a way to track if there has been any progress made in between client meetings. How granular you choose to make it depends on your own coaching style.
Best Project Management Tools:
There are several hard core project management software options out there you’re welcome to explore. But I feel that in our role we need something clean and effective without all the mess. Below you will find varying degrees of complexity and depth, but all will remain within the ‘simple’ realm.
Trello: Most people are familiar with the basics of Trello. It is used widely throughout bigger corporations as mostly a delegation tool for management. However, it works well for business coaching.
I encourage you to try it out, but essentially it works on a Card system where the top level cards are projects with sub cards being smaller key tasks. Additionally, each card can have sub tasks within them along with assigned responsibility.
Monday.com: The primary difference between Monday and Trello is that Monday puts far more emphasis on workflow. This comes down to more of a style and/or need difference depending on the client or the coach.
The benefit to a workflow style, in my personal opinion, is that it creates a far more effective visualization of where and how a project moves. The downside is that it can be a bit more involved in terms of setup and management; requiring much more engagement from the client over Trello.
Momentum Dash: My personal favorite! Momentum is a very simplistic variation of project management. However, I find that that’s exactly what works best for both my coaching style as well as the clients.
The idea with Momentum is that you create simple lists and then check off the tasks as you complete them. Not unlike an old school checklist on a notepad. Having it as a chrome extension tied to your google account means that you have access to it from anywhere as well. The gorgeous landscapes and positive quotes are just icing on the cake!
Project Management Tools Benefits For Business Coaches:
The benefits here are essentially the same as for the Goal Setting Tool: Accountability.
It is worth reiterating though that this tool in conjunction with the goal tool empowers you to provide documented and verified tracking of client engagement. If you give recommendations and they do not follow through you can not only hold their feet to the fire for their own growth, but also it provides you proof that you are performing your function as designed and that the lack of growth is on them. Again a bit cynical, but necessary.
Project Management Tools Benefits For Businesses:
Again, most of the benefits carry over from the Goal Setting Tool.
I would change the word used to describe the benefits to the business owner to: Empowerment.
If you can successfully train a client to utilize a PM tool or you are effective in utilizing it on their behalf, the amount of success you generate will be astounding.
Build Your Coaching Business: My Final Take on Using Online Business Coaching Tools for Success
There’s no getting around it, I have thrown a ton of (valuable) information your way. But by using these business coaching tools, you will be far more capable at guiding your customers (and yourself) to success.
Since you, as the reader, are most likely a business coach yourself you’re likely conducting a lot of the core functions described here. What I am aiming to do is to provide you the tools necessary to improve your quality of life (and work!). Each and every one of the tools I have listed here have some benefit to you and your clients.
Key Benefits of Business Coaching Tools for Business Coaches:
Efficiency and Accountability.
Efficiency: As I mentioned earlier the more time you spend on running reports or organizing data is time lost that you could be using to coach another client. Our revenues as individual business coaches have a hard cap; there is only so much time in a day after all. So any time lost is potential income lost as well.
Accountability: Our reputation as business coaches comes down to how effective we are at creating success for our clients. However, we are not likely to be on the ground, if you will, with each client. When we give them tasks, ultimately it is on them to complete them. By providing yourself the tools to hold them accountable you can increase their success but also build a wall around your reputation.
Key Benefits of Business Coaching Tools Points for Businesses:
Visualization. Visualization. Visualization.
Business owners only have so much time to devote to any given task. Typically they are wearing a plethora of hats, which often takes their eyes off the ball. It’s honestly a necessary evil within small business ownership, but that does not mean we don't have ways to combat it. By providing your clients with visualized information parsed out in easily digestible snippets you are able to give them the critical data they need to grow within the limited time they don their executive cap.
It's now time to build your coaching business, and these online business coaching tools will help. Until Next Time!
Ryan Pope, Owner at Out of the Box Advisors
A Note For Pineapple Consulting Firm
If you’re struggling with how to implement new tools into your business, or you need help reading the data and making sense of it, the experts at Pineapple Consulting Firm can help. They love being able to help out with creating these tools and dashboards to help you and your clients know their performance inside and out with easy updating capabilities too.
Why Pineapple Consulting? Because they have the experience, tools, and passion. They love working with small businesses and solopreneurs, especially business coaches and consultants.
That’s why they’re Pineapple Consulting - they want to bring you peace of mind and save you time, so you can spend more time enjoying your vacation in the tropics and less time worrying about your business.
To learn more about our custom executive coaching dashboards or their other products, contact them today!
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