How to find the best coaching community platform?
Many coaches seek out or create communities for their clients. It is often said that creating an ‘online course’ is the answer to many coaching business problems.
For some of your clients, a group coaching process may be the best way forward. And that’s another kind of community – one in which people on a coaching journey (and you, their guide!) can support each other.
The reality of creating either of these is often a lot more work than you might expect and it’s easy to be overwhelmed when searching for online tools.
Happily, for coaches or coachees, it’s easier than ever to create a community using online tools. The big question is, which platform?
The key questions that we get asked by coaches looking at setting up an online community are:
- Which platform is best for coaches?
- What features do I need (and what can I do without)?
- Does it work, or is it just marketing hype?
In this article, we’ll run through the platforms we researched when creating Better Braver Bolder.
(BTW, full disclosure: there are some affiliate links here, but that has not influenced the article in any way. As you will discover, this post is really just us sharing what we found, rather than us recommending it.)
Don’t jump into looking at options too quickly
Before your google finger starts twitching, it’s worth remembering that the platform is only half the story here. An online platform is just a tool and to choose the right tool for the job, you need to know what the job needs. In other words, just why are you building a coaching community? What’s the community’s purpose or aim? What kinds of interactions do you want people to be able to have? Is it just for keeping in touch and exchanging information, or do you want to run workshops and courses online?
For example, Better Bolder Braver is an online community that focuses on marketing for coaches. We wanted to create a space for interaction, guidance and support, with a dedicated area for learning and courses. We needed a platform that could handle both a community space, and a course delivery platform.
Not all coaching platforms are the same
Maybe that’s a bit of an obvious statement but it’s true. There are two main types of coaching platform: community and course delivery. Here’s the difference:
- A community platform, however many functional bells and whistles it has, is a space for people to get together, interact and share: ideas, thoughts and advice.
- A course delivery platform is about delivering coaching materials (videos, courses, worksheets, and other resources and materials), usually in a structured sequence of steps that your clients can work through.
The first is focused on connecting people, the other aims to provide some or all of the coaching journey online (kind of the e-learning version of coaching).
You might want one without the other, or both. You might want to start with one and then build the other. This is why you need to be clear about what you want – both now and in the future you’re aiming for – before you choose a platform. Otherwise, you might paint yourself into a corner.
Which platform? – making a choice
Here are some of the online platforms we looked at for Better Bolder Braver, and what we thought of them.
Upcaoch “helps coaches organise, systemise and scale the impact of their coaching programs so they can deliver remarkable results and keep their clients longer”. The Upcoach system takes care of all aspects of your coaching business, including your community. It also does appointments, courses and finances. It is the one tool that does everything you need.
Pros: Everything in one place: coaching, courses, worksheets & community
Cons: You have to fit your business model to they way it works (although this is a proven way of working, so not necessarily a bad thing)
A simple and effective platform for building courses and delivering learning. They have kept the platform super simple which means it’s one of the most cost-effective platforms available, and they don’t take a cut of the course revenue. For something simple and clean, this is a great platform that focuses on doing one thing really well – delivering courses and learning without all the distractions and complications that other platforms have.
Pros: Very simple, cost-effective and no % cut of revenue fees!
Cons: Doen’t do some of the more complex things that other options do (which makes it a lot easier to use in my opinion)
A great-looking platform with a simple workflow for creating and delivering courses. Has straightforward options to get you started and more complex options for those with a specific business model in mind. Overall a great course delivery system that will give your online coaching courses a very professional look and feel.
Pros: Easy to use (for you and the client)
Cons: Needs external email marketing
Packed with features, we were excited to get started with Learn Worlds. The website promised great things and it delivered on the course delivery side. This was the most flexible platform we looked at. However, it soon became clear that there are just too many features to make this easy to use. It does a lot, but you need to spend a lot of time setting up to get it going. Also, while Learn Worlds claims to offer community functionality, in reality it is just a blog that members can access. There is no interaction beyond the blog’s comments section; users cannot post or create content.
Pros: Packed with features for advanced users or seasoned pros
Cons: Might be too complicated for simple courses
Podia is good for simple courses. The back end probably makes sense to the Podia team but we struggled to work out what to do or how to get it set up. The professional image of the website soon gives way to ‘tech’ settings and muddled menus. There’s no real community function beyond posts that you can broadcast to ‘members’.
Pros: Cost-effective for very simple courses
Cons: Complicated admin area
Teachable looks great and delivers a very stylish setup and delivery experience. It’s simple to set up and features lots of options that make getting your coaching course online a breeze. Courses are presented and structured well and the features seemed well thought out. This was our favourite of the platforms focused on course delivery. However, the community is just a blog feed for paying clients.
Pros: Looks great and is simple to set up
Cons: Expensive, unless you pay a transaction fee
This is a beast. While relatively high costs are a barrier to entry for many, it does do everything you might need. Kajabi is effectively a one-stop portal for your coaching business, offering integration of your website, products, community and marketing efforts in a single dashboard; although again, the community element seems more focused on ‘client management’.
Pros: It does everything
Cons: High costs and limited styling
The only platform that really does both course delivery and community. The platform looks great and is super simple to set up, and great for your clients too. You can use it with just the course delivery element and then build a community later, or the other way around. Unlike the other platforms, your community can interact and share content, respond to polls, join groups, and discuss topics they’re interested in. The course delivery is slightly more limited than the other platforms but for the majority of coaches, it will be all they need. The platform has its quirks and limitations (as they all do) but if you’re building a community and selling a course on top, the business model works.
Pros: Simple to use for you and the client
Cons: No waitlist/pre-sales for courses
Having read this far, it won’t surprise you that Mighty Networks is the platform we chose for Better Braver Bolder. It may have a few limitations on course delivery but we can work with those. And the flexibility, ease of use, and multiple ways of interacting make it ideal for the community we are building.
Be practical – it’s unlikely the perfect solution exists
Put simply, you will have to compromise. Trying to find the perfect platform is a fool’s errand – they all fall down in one respect or another. But if you have a clear idea what you want to achieve with your online community, you can draw up a list of ‘must have’ aspects and features and use that list to find your best-fit platform. Remember, the platform is just a tool (albeit an important one) and as long as it is driving the core of what you want to achieve, then it’s the right one for you.
Do you need to build a community?
Make sure you think about this before you commit to a platform. If you want a community for you to connect with other coaches, maybe you don’t need to start from scratch. Maybe there’s one out there that would welcome you with open arms (Better Bolder Braver says, hi!)
If online course delivery or a community for your clients is your goal, you need to be clear on what value it is going to add for your clients – how will it serve you and them better? Getting people to join a community takes time and energy, so be sure before you choose to create one. Otherwise, it will only distract you from other, more impactful work.
The best advice is to sign up for some free trials, take the platforms for a spin, and see what feels right for you and the community you want to build.
If you want to learn more about the community we build for coaches then learn more and join at BetterBolderBraver.com