As a new coach, you know you’re about to change some people’s lives for the better. You’re set on offering a group coaching program, but first, you want to make sure you don’t sign clients without an organized plan.

Not sure which program structure is for you? Well, there are many ways to go about this. The program structure you choose will largely depend on your financial goals, as well as the amount of time and energy you’re ready to invest in the group.

Before you launch a group coaching program, let’s discuss your options. In this guide, we break down three of the best group coaching program models, along with the pros and cons of each:

  • Cohort Model
  • Open Enrollment Model
  • Membership Model

Let’s take a look!

Top 3 Group Coaching Program Models For New Coaches

Group Coaching Model #1: Cohort Model 

First of all, what’s a cohort? Consider it a class or group of clients that are about to experience an amazing transformation with your help!

The cohort group coaching model allows these clients or group members to begin your group coaching program on the same start date. In this way, there’s a sense of camaraderie that’s developed over time — which might not happen with other online group coaching programs.

For example, maybe you create a 90-day program, and you launch the program three times a year — in the spring, summer, and fall.

In this case, you’d have your spring cohort, summer cohort, fall cohort. Or maybe you’d refer to them as your March cohort, July cohort, and October cohort.

Instead of enrolling a massive amount of clients each season, you get to limit each cohort to a specific number, so you have enough energy for each individual.

Another benefit of limiting your cohorts is that the clients can get to know each other and engage in conversation through video calls and group texts (if that’s something you provide in your program).

However, if you’re hiring an assistant or associate coach, then you could create smaller teams within each cohort. This extra support allows you to increase your capacity, serve more people, and scale your income.

Now what about completing the program? A helpful way to think about this is to imagine your high school graduating class. With the cohort model, your participants will embark on a shared experience and collectively “graduate” from the program.

Pros of the Cohort Model

If these perks excite you, then you might choose the cohort model for your new coaching program:

Accountability & Shared Experience

Having a group become clients, go through your program, graduate, and become alumni together is a powerful shared experience. They’ll all be working through the same material simultaneously and can work through their questions and roadblocks as a group.

Your group might even feel more accountable to the program if they see others progressing and hitting exciting milestones! 

High-Touch, Personalized Experience

Because the cohort model requires minimal automation and focuses on live trainings or online courses, your participants receive a high-touch experience with a deep level of support.

Strong Alumni Community

The fun doesn’t have to stop once your program ends! With a cohort model, you can foster a strong alumni community. Maybe you have a private alumni Facebook community or host in-person, alumni-only events.

Sense of Urgency to Join

When your audience knows that you only facilitate a few cohorts a year, it might put more pressure on them to join and sign up during your launch. Similarly, if you only offer limited space in your cohort (for example, 10, 25, or 50 people) they’ll be eager to snag one of the limited spots.

Cons of the Cohort Model

Here’s the reality of choosing the cohort model for your new coaching program:

Limited Scalability

For your cohort group coaching program to feel manageable and intimate, you’ll most likely want to limit the number of students in your cohort. For example, it’d be difficult to welcome 100 or 200 new students at the same time — especially if they’re all getting some sort of onboarding call or personalized welcome.

Of course, if you have associate coaches you’ll be able to increase your capacity, but you’re still more limited than a program with continuous enrollment. 

Limited Time to Join

Sometimes, you might get a lead who missed your most recent launch and is frustrated by the 2-3-month waiting period between launches. There’s always a possibility that you could lose leads who were hoping to join in between cohort start dates. 

Limited Recurring Revenue

If your group coaching program is 90 days long, you could potentially run it four times per year. Sounds awesome, right?

But what if you decide that 90 days is too tight of a timeline for your clients to see results…and you’d like to extend your program to six months, or even a year? The cohort model doesn’t work quite as well for those with longer group coaching programs.

Are you getting pumped about your new program? ‘Cause we are! Now, let’s look at the next model…

Group Coaching Model #2: Open Enrollment Model 

The open enrollment model for group coaching programs works on more of an evergreen basis.

This means that rather than students only being able to enroll at set times during the year — like our previous March-July-October example — they’re able to enroll in your program all year long. 

This type of group program structure usually requires a higher level of automation and a marketing funnel that’s well thought out. 

Rather than scheduling a launch that includes a live, free challenge a few times a year, you might create a free, prerecorded webinar. Those who are interested in the webinar topic can watch a video on their own time, which leads them to inquire about your paid program. 

To provide solid customer service (and prevent stress on your end), you’ll have to carefully plan your systems so that your client onboarding process runs smoothly. You want students in any time zone to be able to enroll, no matter the day or hour. 

This means you’ll have a continuous, rolling enrollment process, with new faces joining your group regularly. People will also “graduate” or exit your program at different times.

Many group coaching programs choose to have limited access to the group (i.e. 3-month, 6-months, or even 12-months of access). Often, coaches opt for limited access because it gives their clients a sense of urgency to finish the program within the allotted time. 

Because I’m sure we’ve ALL experienced joining a course or program with lifetime access…and then having it sit there collecting dust because there was no time pressure!

Having limited access solves this program.

With this model, you may want to support your students through a weekly or monthly office hours call, where anyone in the program can ask questions related to whatever module or concept they’re currently working through. 

Pros of the Open Enrollment Model

Are you interested in the open enrollment model? Here’s why you should be:

High Scalability and Revenue Potential

As compared to the cohort model, this model is easier to scale, as it leverages automation…AKA you get to make money any day of the year, without being tied to your computer.

Unlimited Time to Join

Students are able to join based on the convenience of their schedules. This way, they don’t feel rushed to make a decision that doesn’t quite feel like a “heck yes, let’s do this!”

Peer-to-Peer Guidance

While students won’t be going through your program as a cohort, there are still opportunities for students to connect with one another. If you have a program Facebook group or community app, advanced students can support those who are new to the program, since they’ve already been in the newer students’ shoes. 

Cons of the Open Enrollment Model

Hmmm, maybe the open enrollment model isn’t for you if these features are deal-breakers:

Complex Marketing Funnel

If you’re new to entrepreneurship (congrats, BTW), the automation and funnels required for this model might be overwhelming. You’ll need either solid tech knowledge or enough funds to invest in done-for-you marketing support. This way, you can properly set up your program for evergreen enrollment.

Limited Sense of Community & Accountability

Because students are constantly coming and going, there will be minimal shared experiences among participants. They might not feel as connected as they could be, since they’re working through the materials at a unique time from everyone else.

Need for Consistent Lead Generation

Generally, if you have a smaller audience, creating small cohorts (with model #1) is the way to go. On the other hand, the open enrollment model will require consistent audience growth, so you have enough leads expressing interest in your program throughout the year.

Low Urgency to Join

Another reason evergreen models can be tricky is buyer psychology. Sometimes, people are better prepared to make decisions when there are clear constraints and a sense of scarcity. If we know enrollment closes tomorrow, we’ll do what it takes to quickly join. But if we know we can join at any point in time, there’s less of a reason to immediately pull out our credit cards.

Now, here’s a plot twist: You can coach new clients through a monthly membership…

Group Coaching Model #3: Membership Model

Another great way to leverage your expertise with a one-to-many offer is through a membership model. This is one of the most popular group coaching models, however, we often don’t think of a membership as a coaching program.

That’s because instead of creating a start date and end date for your program, you are expanding your offer into a low-touch, long-term experience.

Similar to the open enrollment model, a membership model allows individuals to sign up at any point in time.

But instead of the program ending after eight or twelve weeks, for example, each member continues to receive guidance and participate in group conversations for as long as they want. That is, as long as you’re still paying for your membership platform, like Circle.

Pros of the Membership Model

Ready for this alternative style of group coaching? Let’s make sure you’re into it:

Baseline Recurring Revenue

While you may not be signing clients for thousands of dollars, you are guaranteed at least some consistent income each month. Think about it: If you have an audience of 1,000 people, and 5% of them decide to join your membership at $30/month…a measly $30 suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

That’s 50 x $30. Would you take an extra $1,500 a month? We sure would!

Create Once, Deliver Always

With a membership, you don’t have to design additional features or educational materials based on individual clients’ needs. Instead, you get to create the most important membership features upfront and continue to deliver them to each member as they join.

More People Served

Because you’re placing a limit on the time and energy given to individual clients, you get to welcome in more clients at a given time. As long as you (and your team) can handle it, this is your chance to serve an unlimited amount of clients who want to learn from and grow with you.

Cons of the Membership Model

Make sure you recognize these points before creating your new membership:

Limited Accountability & Personalization

Because memberships are priced lower than typical group coaching programs, members might not receive the support needed for huge transformations. (When we compare a $30/month membership to a $3,000 program for 90 days, the difference becomes super clear!)

The lack of 1-on-1 attention that members receive from you may demotivate them…and eventually cause them to opt out of the membership.

Low Urgency to Join

The hope is that new members join each month, but you’re not necessarily prompting your audience to join at a particular time. Because of this, your audience might be interested, but not super motivated to join *right now* as opposed to a month from now.

Membership Platform Needed

In order to provide your membership deliverables in an organized way, you’ll most likely need to invest in an official app or software that connects your members with exclusive content each day, week, or month. This adds another expense to your overall business plan.

What We Covered

Although cohort, open enrollment, and membership are all effective group coaching models…there’s no one right way to structure your group coaching program.

The model you choose will depend on many factors, from how you work best, to what kind of experience you’re looking to create, to your level of experience in business, and more.

No matter what kind of group coaching model you choose, be sure to set your group program up for success with a solid group coaching contract.

Let us know in the comments… what kind of group coaching model are you most interested in?

Check out our ready-to-use, lawyer-approved, plug-and-play legal contract templates, so you can upgrade your client contract while staying Protected & Profitable™✨

Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you. Grab our FREE Legally Launch Guide to get the legal lowdown on everything in entrepreneurship, without the confusing mumbo jumbo. We’re serving it up straight and to the point. (Heads up: It’ll forever transform the way you view your client relationships!) Grab your copy now!

*The information presented in this blog post is for educational & informational purposes only. This should not be a substitute for customized legal advice from a licensed professional in a private setting. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney. This is not a law firm.

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