THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS FOR YOUR YOGA BUSINESS
The global yoga fitness industry is worth approximately $80 bn today and spending by yogis increased by 87% between 2011 and 2015. This has resulted in a great opportunity for those willing to complete their teacher training and create a living for themselves doing what they love.
More and more students of yoga are now thinking about starting up their own business, evidenced by the fact that more and more studios are populating high streets up and down the country.
But how do you go about building a yoga studio that can stand out from the competition; and how do you get those all important early students? And how can you ensure you have a healthy stream of followers and students that allow your business to have longevity, as opposed to failing in the first 18 months, like so many early stage businesses do?
The most critical part of building a successful business, as a business, is being able to get your message out to people who are interested in it and convincing them to come to you as opposed to all the other studios out there. Obviously the authenticity, skill, and sincerity with which you teach yoga is very important but those are features that will likely keep students coming back for more; first you have to get them through the door!
The marketing landscape for all businesses, but yoga businesses in particular, has changed dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years. The advent of the internet and social media in particular means business owners need to understand and engage strategically, rather than use a ‘spray and pray’ approach to marketing.
In this article I will walk you through some key steps you need to be familiar with to attract students to your yoga studio, irrespective of whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for a while but are seeing sub-optimal interest from students.
THE BENEFITS OF MARKETING YOUR YOGA BUSINESS
Hopefully you will understand the need to market your yoga business; that is, to increase the level of interest in your business. However, there are a number of very specific reasons why you ought to pay attention to your marketing efforts for the betterment of your business.
Build Initial Trust
Yoga, like any service business, is a practice that is built on trust. When people’s health and lives are concerned, they will only seek advice from those they trust and believe can help them, and who they feel comfortable with.
You may well be able to convince friends and family to take a class or to buy your products and that’s because they already trust you. For everyone else, you need to build that trust, which takes time and requires you to get your foot through the door in the first place. This can be through word of mouth of your friends or family, which is a very credible marketing tactic in itself, but if you really want to scale your business, other marketing tactics I will teach you will really help to supercharge the growth of your business.
Demonstrate Your Authority
A critical component of getting people to trust you is to get them to believe that you know what you’re talking about. With a largely unregulated industry such as yoga it is important to demonstrate your authority and grasp of your craft to prospective students. This means allowing people to see your enthusiasm, knowledge, and passion for yoga.
If you are able to teach something actionable and insightful to potential students that will have some impact in their lives no matter how small, they will come back to you (instead of someone else) to learn more. Marketing is the best way for you to achieve this goal and deliver your value to the masses.
Articulating your USP
In a market where there’s a lot of noise, such as yoga, it’s imperative that you are able to stand out from the crowd by highlighting the attribute that is unique about you and what you do.
The reason that many yoga businesses fail is because they are no different, or more importantly, they don’t present themselves as being any different to any of the other yoga businesses in town. So why should anyone come to you as opposed to others who may be established for longer or have ‘better’ teachers or facilities?
Used correctly, marketing can help you to articulate what is special about you and your business. This is known as your unique service proposition. And before you say there’s nothing special about you or your business, stop. Everybody is unique and everybody’s journey is different – it’s just a question of identifying this about your business and telling the story in the right way.
Increase your following
The compounding effect in business is an important concept that has helped some of the world’s best and biggest companies to grow. Facebook, for example, grew by small communities (colleges in America) adopting the platform and sharing with their friends.
It is important you also use marketing as a means of increasing your personal following so that people can gradually get to know you and your style of yoga. This will, in time, encourage them to work with you, either by taking your classes, attending your retreats, or buying your products.
Supercharge business growth
Ultimately, and as outlined at the outset, the reason you should be interested in marketing your business correctly is because this is how you achieve business growth.
All of the other reasons highlighted above are the other small pieces that, bit by bit, will help your business grow. When combined, the right marketing approach is what will make the difference between you actually doing what you love for a living and struggling to make ends meet, which is a problem so many yoga entrepreneurs face.
COMMON MARKETING MISTAKES YOGA ENTREPRENEURS MAKE
Before we go into exactly what you should be doing to market your yoga business more effectively, it would be worthwhile to identify and outline what you should not be doing, or what you cannot afford to do when trying to market your business.
The importance of this is because running a yoga business, alongside your own personal practice of yoga, takes up a lot of your time. As such, you need to make sure you’re not wasting your time doing things that don’t give you the required return on your investment of time, money, or both.
Mistake #1; relying on ‘traditional’ marketing only
There was a time when every ambitious local business was advertised in the Yellow Pages, which made sense given their distribution door-to-door. That trend has subsided and I can’t remember the last time I had a Yellow Pages in my house!
Relying on traditional print marketing is not a problem in itself; but it becomes a problem if you rely only on print marketing.
Developments in technology in the last couple of decades has meant that people rely much more on the internet to help them get answers to questions they have, whether that’s ordering a book, ordering a taxi, or finding a yoga class.
Mistake #2: suppressing your personality
As explained earlier, one of the key attributes to a successful yoga business is being able to establish trust with existing and prospective students. One way to do this is to allow people to see your real personality.
Unfortunately I see too many people copying what someone else has said or done, or they play it safe, which comes across as bland, boring, and uninspiring. A successful marketing approach should allow you to confidently express your ‘voice’.
Many people shy away from letting their personality shine in marketing initiatives or are not sure about what their ‘voice’ is. In my experience this requires practice and experimentation to try different things until you find a tone and message that reflects you, whilst at the same time resonates with your targeted audience.
Mistake #3: trying to be everything to everyone
Successful marketing is not about reaching out to everyone and anyone; it is about reaching out to just those people who are on your wavelength, and are interested in the same areas that you are interested in.
Trying to be everything to everyone results in tears as you may build up a following or be visible everywhere, but if the audience doesn’t resonate with your message, then it is all to no avail, as it will not materially help your business. This wastes time.
Being focused on what you stand for (your voice, your USP etc.) will help you to niche yourself and your business, and that’s a good thing.
If you can niche your message and business to a small group of people who are passionate about one specific area / offering / service, you will remain in business, stay in demand, and be able to charge a premium for your products and services.
With this in mind, let’s move on to specific tactics you need to be deploying, or at the very least, considering, in order to market your business more effectively.
Having a website presence is almost obvious these days; however, there are many yoga entrepreneurs that I know who either do not have a website, or have one that is dated and difficult to navigate.
Your website is your ‘shop-face’; it is where people may initially come to find out more about you and what you have to offer. As such, you want to make sure it’s presentable and informative, and allows people to understand how they can start to build the relationship with you.
If you’re just starting out, WordPress is perhaps the easiest way to set up your website. Established sites such as CNN and Sony Music and Vikasa Yoga all run off WordPress because it’s easy to get up, and easy to maintain thereafter.
The easiest way to begin with this is to start with a hosting provider, which is where your site will be hosted. Example hosting sites include HostGator or Bluehost. Both are equally good and I use both for my websites. The good thing is that you get good support with both and so if you ever come across a problem, they can more often than not help you out.
If you don’t have a website and need to set one up then check out this video which talks you through how to sign up with, in this case Bluehost, and then how to download WordPress to have the beginnings of your website.
There are many themes you could have for your website from places such as Genesis Themes. However, I would encourage you not to get too wild with the appearance of your site and look for simplicity and ease of use for visitors over creativity.
Having a website in itself is often not enough though. The website is great for people to come to you but you need to grab their attention first and get them intrigued.
This is where the blog comes in. Your blog can be integrated with your website as, after all, it is just a series of pages on your website that are organised sequentially to allow you to talk about areas of interest to you and your target audience.
Blogging is really about sharing your insights, as a teacher in the yoga space, with an audience that is also interested in this space. The more you blog, the more you increase your following and the more engaged of a following you attract. Blogging allows you to increase your authority, develop trust, and highlight your USP, which results in increasing your overall following.
Consistently blogging is something that most people, including myself, struggle with from time to time. It’s not important that you write a two thousand-word blog post every time, just a few hundred words will suffice. But it is important that you get into the habit of blogging consistently.
One very important element of marketing for your business, especially when you have a blog, is building up your email list.
What is an email list I hear you ask; well this is a list of emails that you collect of people who are interested enough in what you have to say. And the earlier you start to collect emails for your business the better.
The reason we collect emails is so that people who have come across your business and are interested in your message are not lost in the internet never to be found again.
If they come to your site, the chances are that they will continually be interested in what you have to say, and will be interested in what you have to sell, be it yoga classes, retreats, or other yoga related products.
Collecting emails through a mail service provider such as MailChimp (which is free) is a great way to communicate news and offers knowing full well that there is likely to be interest.
Over time, you will want to increase the size of your email list keeping in mind that it’s not the absolute number of emails you collect, but rather the quality of emails you are collecting. You could have a list of five thousand people but when you send out an email to them almost no one opens it. Much better to have a small list, say even five hundred people, if that list is more engaged and will actually read and hear your messages as you send them out.
SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE
Having a social media presence, similar to having a website, is stating the obvious. However, what social media platforms should you be on and what do you share with your audience?
The largest of the social media platforms has become an essential staple of small and medium-sized, as well as large businesses everywhere.
Many of you may already have a personal Facebook page where you share information with your friends and family. But to really get the most out of Facebook, you need to create a business page on Facebook that allows you to spotlight your yoga business.
You can check out this link in order to understand how to create your very own Facebook business page.
Further, there are many groups about yoga on Facebook and I would advise that you join ones that appeal to you so that you can learn and build relationships with people in those groups at the same time as sharing your material within those communities too.
Some groups to check out include Yoga Studio Owners, Yoga Teacher Marketing & Networking, Private Yoga Teachers and the Digital Yoga Academy.
In terms of what to share, it’s open to your imagination. Keeping in mind the need to demonstrate authority, foster trust, and express your personality, you can share details of your personal practice, news you find on a niche area of yoga that appeals to you, or information on classes or an event you are offering.
One thing to be mindful of is to reflect on how you personally use Facebook. Reams and reams of text are not likely to attract attention to encourage people to continue reading; high quality images (with text if necessary) lead to the best levels of engagement.
You can use a tool such as Canva to help you create great, customised graphics to use on your Facebook business page to really get people’s interest.
Although now owned by Facebook, Instagram deserves its own focus given the level of impact yoga teachers are having from using this in the right way.
Instagram is very much a visual platform and is able to combine still images with video very effectively.
The most successful yoga entrepreneurs are able to grow their Instagram following by being authentic, and by being themselves. This is not a platform where you want to post general pictures of others that you find off the internet. On Instagram, in order to build an engaged following you need to let your personality shine and let people into your own world.
Share pictures or videos of positions that you do; talk people through what you are learning to let them know that you’re also a student of yoga and not a know-it-all. This will make it easier for them to relate to you… and trust you.
Clearly the quality of what you post is key. You cannot post poor quality pictures and videos and expect people to keep coming back fro more. This doesn’t mean you need a photography studio in which to shoot, but does mean that you should pay attention to basics such as lighting and sound.
There are, of course, many other social media platforms that you could consider such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest etc. However, keeping in mind one of the mistakes I highlighted entrepreneurs make about trying to be everywhere, I would encourage you to build your following on Facebook and Instagram before you feel the need to go anywhere else.
Of course, if you are more familiar with, say Pinterest, than with other platforms and already have a following on there, then you should continue to build that out.
Everything we’ve discussed so far is what’s known as ‘organic’ marketing i.e. this is marketing whereby we attract users for free.
Paid advertising is a form of inorganic marketing because here you will be acquiring, or buying followers.
Why would you want to do this?
Well the main reason is because it can take many months, even years for you to build up an engaged follower base using organic methods such as blogging, for example. And in order to do this it will require a significant time commitment every single week.
Paid advertising allows you to use platforms such as Facebook to target the exact audience you want to put your business in front of.
Facebook has the best paid advertising platform by far. And this is represented by the fact that in 2016 $27 bn was spent by marketers around the world using Facebook.
Why do so many people spend so much money on Facebook advertising?
The reason is because the data that Facebook has on all of us allows it to target people for products and services in very specific ways.
For example, if you wanted to get students on to your yoga retreat that is happening in Bali in September and wanted to attract students who are from the UK and US and have a particular interest in breathing and earthing, say, in addition to having some previous yoga experience, then you could target them specifically through Facebook’s algorithms.
Typically you would offer a cheat sheet or a guide that is advertised based on what you think people would be interested in (based on who you are targeting). Facebook will send your ad out to people who meet your criteria and when anyone clicks on your ad, they will be asked to give you their email address in exchange for the cheat sheet guide. This email will be captured in your email funnel (as discussed earlier), allowing you to sell to them in due course.
How much does this cost?
Well that’s the beauty; you can spend as little or as much as you’d like to. Clearly you will need to spend a decent amount in order to get things rolling, say $5 a day for a couple of weeks say, but as you get to know the platform and how the Facebook algorithm works, it’s possible to spend $1 in acquiring a customer, and sell them products or service that are multiples greater than this resulting in a fantastic return on investment.
If you’re serious about growing your business, and need to do this in days and weeks as opposed to in months and years, then you cannot ignore paid advertising on Facebook.
Hopefully you can see the importance and real benefits of having a well thought out marketing strategy when it comes to trying to start or grow your yoga business.
It is definitely about embracing technology, which will make your life easier, but bearing in mind that it’s important to get your specific message across. Being niche in your marketing strategy, and in your business overall, is not a weakness but a real strength.
Social media plays a big part in everyone’s lives and presents a real opportunity for yoga businesses to grow beyond their wildest dreams. The advent of paid advertising means within a few months you could build a solid, sustainable business that can allow you to do what you love.
By Kosta Miachin
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy.