Ascending the Client Acquisition Staircase: A Step-by-Step Guide

Last week I held an in-person event called Dare Greatly in the Coaching Arena and I shared a staircase metaphor to help the attendees to see how to build their client acquisition pipeline.

I’m excited to share this powerful metaphor with you here.

Each step on the staircase represents a phase in the journey of your potential clients, from their first awareness of you to when they decide to work with you.

As they climb the series of steps on the staircase, each further step represents your potential client’s deeper level of engagement and trust with you.

Every step is crucial for you to build enough of a lasting relationship with the client for them to purchase – in order to be ready to buy your services, they first have to know you, to like you, and to trust you.

Let’s start at the bottom of the staircase and work our way up to the top.

First steps: Building awareness and interest

Your initial touch points might be social media posts, networking events, introductory emails or calls with people you used to know.

It’s not just about ‘know, like and trust’. Your content, whether it’s in a verbal conversation or posted on social media, needs to show people you can help them to solve their real, tangible problem.

Inspiring quotes often aren’t enough for your potential client to even step on to the bottom of the staircase.

For your message to be impactful, they really need to see that you understand them, their everyday life, what problems they’re experiencing, their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations.

You need to step into their shoes enough for them to be reassured that you have their best interests at heart, and that you understand them.

When you are creating your content, really think about your ideal client. Where are they at right now?

Are they comparing the end of this year to the last, thinking it’s not as good as the last?

How do they feel? How can you help to really capture what they’re feeling, well enough that you know them more than they know themselves?

That is what we are aiming for in your content and in your conversations with your potential clients.

Then, you’ll have their attention because you understand where they’re at. They’re aware of you now.

Hopefully, you have now got them to take those first steps on the staircase.

They are vaguely aware of you. They are mildly interested in what you’re saying and what you are doing.

Midway steps: Deepening engagement and trust

Let’s talk about the midway steps now, which represent deepening engagement and trust.

Your strategies might include creating a lead magnet, which is a free PDF of value-adding content that you offer to people in exchange for their email address.

This is something that I teach in my programme, The Business of Coaching, because there are quite a few techy processes and strategic steps to make this approach really work effectively.

I was in a funnel project for an entire year, just learning about how important it is to create the right lead magnet with the right title, the right subtitle, the right follow-up emails, and how you can really use those emails to nurture people even further.

So, there are a few steps to this, but essentially it’s about offering something of high value to that client in order for them to think that it is valuable enough to give you their email address.

Then, you have the opportunity to build that relationship even more, by using email as well as social media.

You’re now showing up in two places in their world.

If, for example, you are networking, this would include follow-ups with the people that you have met.

Maybe you’ll be seeing if you can arrange one-to-one calls with them, so that you can engage in more meaningful conversations.

Or, you could maybe share valuable insights through emails.

If they’ve mentioned that they’re interested in something in particular, you might want to send them a helpful article or something else that’s useful, which will help them to get to know you, like you and trust you.

This part of the staircase is where consistency will also come into play.

It used to be said that people needed seven touchpoints to buy. Now, it has gone up to 21 touchpoints to buy. So, in other words, people need to see you and the things you’re doing at least 21 times before they really know you enough to buy from you!

Because of that, we could even think about our staircase as having 21 steps, but that might feel too tall a mountain to climb, so let’s go back to the first steps, then the midway steps where we’re deepening engagement and trust.

Highest steps: Establishing expertise and credibility

Now, we are moving up the staircase to our highest steps, where we are establishing your expertise and credibility.

This part might include them reading your blogs, listening to your podcasts, watching your videos on social media or on your YouTube channel. Anything that gives them a good opportunity to binge on your content and move them up those 21 steps that little bit quicker.

Depending on your niche and what sort of work you’re doing, establishing your expertise and credibility might include publishing articles where you can borrow the trust of the magazine or newspaper that they already know and trust.

It might be guesting at events, where you are borrowing the trust of the person who is hosting the event – the attendees are far more likely to trust you in this environment, because they trust the person who has invited you.

There may be webinars where people get to come and meet you, hear what you have to say and see if they like your approach.

Or maybe you could host a live, in person event, like I did last week. It’s another way of getting people to climb that staircase, step by step, knowing you better with every step they take.

Each step is also giving them greater insights and increasing their learning.

If you are helping people to learn and make progress, when the time is right they are far more likely to think of coming to you, thinking that you have already helped them to make progress, so you can maybe help them to make even more progress.

These highest steps are all about showcasing your expertise.

You might want to write white papers, talk at events, host ‘lunch and learns’.

Where you choose to show up and have visibility will depend on your niche.You might want to write a book. There are all sorts of ways to establish yourself as an expert in your space.

So, now we have built your brand and we have showcased your expertise.

Your potential client is now nearing the top of the staircase.

You’re at the top!

This is where we convert your lead into a client, if they are the right fit.

It’s when they get to decide whether to engage in your services, and when you get to decide whether you want to work with them too.

This step is most likely to be a Discovery Call. If so, make it an effective call that can convert prospects to clients.

Help them to see where they are now, and where the gaps and blockers to their success are. Find out where they want to be and how you can help them to get there.

If it is a lower cost item, or if you have built up a lot of trust and expertise and case studies, you might be able to convert them from a sales page.


You have moved that ideal client from not knowing you exist,  up the staircase to seeing you as an expert, someone they trust to help them with their problem.

Go shallow and go deep

Let’s recap the importance of the steps, so that you can ensure you’re not missing anything out on this journey, because I know a lot of people stick to the surface level, i.e. social media, and it’s just not enough to get people to convert.

I see it as the ‘shallow place’ to show up.

Yes, it’s important to be visible and consistent, and social media can be an effective shallow place, as it’s a great way to get in front of a lot of people.

But we also really need that ‘deep nurture’ place.

The deep nurture is the higher steps; our podcasts, our blogs, our YouTube content. It’s our events, our speaking engagements, our white papers and the books we author.

It’s whatever we can do to really showcase our expertise, beyond vaguely inspiring people when they are busy scrolling through social media.

Have a think about where your shallow and deep nurture places are, as you are likely to need both.

What about your website?

You may be wondering where your website fits into the steps, and how you can drive traffic to your website.

The truth is, unless you have a very established website that has been trusted by Google for years, or you are consistently paying a lot of money for great SEO, or you have been regularly posting blogs on your website for a really long time which will boost the algorithms, it is highly unlikely that you are going to appear on the first page of Google searches.

So, the way you drive traffic to your website is through showing up.

Once people have heard of you, they are then likely to look up your website to check that you are an established business person and to find out more about you.

The fact that people are very unlikely to find your website by chance, before they’ve heard of you somewhere else first, means that your website isn’t going to play a big part of the ‘early awareness’ stage of your buyer’s journey.

In summary

You might be thinking that all of this sounds a whole lot of work, and you may feel quite daunted. But it’s so worth it when a client signs up!

And just think how great it feels to add value to people, even with your free content, and how lovely it would be for someone to get in touch and tell you how much they have benefited from your advice and made progress.

Yes, of course you need paying clients too, but it’s also really rewarding to have a strategy, to really show up, and to help people at every step of the staircase, so that you can make the difference you are here for.

Good luck! Let me know how you get on.

Prefer Audio? You can also listen to all my new content on my podcast Women in the Coaching Arena

Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you grow your coaching business:

1. Love coaching, but struggling to get clients? Download the 12 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Clients now.

2. Interested to know more about the Business of Coaching programme? Click here.




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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.