low-cost techniques to build your yoga business
“Hey AlÃ³n, it’s not “Gorilla Marketing,” it’s “Guerilla Marketing!” I know, I know. But guerilla is a name for a member of a para-military unit — hardly a yogic concept.
Guerilla Marketing is a business term for a type of low-cost, hands-on marketing that small business owners can utilize instead of spending (often wasting) a lot of money on conventional methods.
So from now on, for our yogic purposes, it’s Gorilla Marketing, which is more in line with ahimsa, and sounds like much more fun.
Building a yoga yoga business is a long-term endeavor. Many have found that even with yoga’s growing popularity, you can’t just hang up a sign and have crowds rush in to fill your classes. Admit it, you secretly wished that would happen, right? We all have.
Gorilla Marketing is about using your personal energy to let your community know about yoga and your business. This requires organizing yourself, making a plan, committing to it and then hitting the streets, shaking hands, putting up flyers, talking with people, networking, smiling, eating bananas and showing everyone the inspired sparkle in your eyes. In essence, it is presenting exactly how you feel about the gift you’re bringing to the world — no matter how many times you’ve done it.
The word enthusiasm comes from its Greek root en theos, which means “possessed by God”. It is our duty as yogis who are changing this world one person at a time to be as enthusiastic with the 1000th person as we were with the first few we excitedly spoke with.
If you allow yourself to burn out, or even burn low, what impression will your diminished energy give the person who you’ve never met, the person who has never been exposed to your yoga business? Will they want to come do yoga with you?
Whenever you leave your comfort zone to do Gorilla Marketing, don’t forget to take your enthusiasm with you. If you forgot it, go back and get it. Let it shine out your eyes. This is especially important as we discuss Gorilla Marketing strategies because they simply don’t work well with low energy or a questionable attitude.
In all the examples that follow, consistency is the key. Doing Gorilla Marketing for one or two weeks is not enough. When word-of-mouth referrals make up the bulk of your business, you can change tactics — but ask any successful business owner and they will tell you that even when you’ve become successful, you just can’t stop marketing
For many of you, the “business” side of yoga will sometimes make you want to quit.
There are many parallels to this in the yogic journey. Would you be who you are today if you had quit your yoga practice when it got difficult or when you bumped against that unresolved “stuff” in your body and mind? I remind myself, and often my clients, that little of any real value is accomplished inside our “comfort zone”. You know this, you teach this – it’s the same in the business of yoga.
“But AlÃ³n, I just don’t like selling!” Neither do I. Marketing your yoga business is about bringing your gift to the world, not selling. The moment you find yourself trying to convince someone that they should do yoga, it’s not yoga. Yoga is about magnetizing, not selling.
With that in mind, let’s review the most popular Gorilla Marketing techniques:
1. Stamp or print your business cards with a coupon on the back for a free class, and mention it when you hand it out. This gives it more value and people have a reason to hold on to it.
2. Have your car window painted with a compelling headline and your studio’s contact info. Everywhere you go, you’ve got a moving billboard! If you don’t want it painted, you can get a magnetic sign (which is usually smaller).
3. Make sure your class schedule is available just outside your main door in a holder close to eye level. This is important if you have any foot traffic around your studio.
4. In addition to a website, use a voice mail system to offer a 24-hour recorded message with general information such as directions, the types of yoga you offer and its benefits, and recordings of student comments and testimonials.
5. Ask your students for referrals. This is especially effective in the first few weeks of a student’s practice, when they are really excited about the results and new benefits they are enjoying. Give them a coupon for a free class for their friend. Then reward them in some meaningful way when their friend buys a class card.
6. Go to networking meetings for local business owners (i.e. chamber of commerce). Talk openly about why you do yoga. Be an example of a calm, grounded person. Create group yoga memberships for employees of these businesses, helping owners increase worker satisfaction, productivity and reduce absenteeism.
7. Get free publicity. The media loves human interest stories. Tell the story of why yoga is so significant in your life. Send out a press release to lifestyle editors of local publications.
8. Do free open studio demonstration days. Show all your different yoga styles in demos and short sample classes. Do a retail trunk show or big clothing clearance sale at the same time to draw even more people in. Involve your teachers; make sure they are on board with your marketing efforts. Work as a team in promoting the event.
9. Choose a charity you believe in and find a way to be of service to the community by donating classes for fundraisers. Some of my clients teach yoga in women’s shelters and prisons. Do this first and foremost because it feels right in your heart”¦ and word will get around. A press release might be appropriate.
10. Create an email newsletter. As far as expense vs. results, this is by far the most powerful mass communication method I know of.
11. Position yourself as a local expert on yoga. Speak and do demos at public gatherings, health fairs, farmer’s markets, etc. Write and submit articles for your local paper about the benefits of this lifetime practice and use case studies from your student base. People want to work with an expert. Be that expert.
12. My experience is that yogis and potential yogis are a tactile group. It’s not that we don’t use the Internet, we do, but we also like to touch things, hold things, read. This makes brochures a good Gorilla Marketing choice. These days, with online printing houses, prices for snazzy full color brochures are better than ever, and you can order just the amount you need, as you need them. Most yoga businesses have a brochure. We’ll briefly discuss what makes a good one, and then expound a bit on what to do with that stack you ordered.
A good marketing piece should include your logo, a compelling headline, photos of happy people doing yoga, photos of staff (are you smiling?), testimonials, a map of where you are, website and phone information and an offer of some kind — preferably one that requires they bring in the brochure for redemption. If you can make time for it, write a code on the back of each brochure for each business that has agreed to carry your brochures, so you can track where they have come from. Your brochure should also highlight descriptions of the meaningful benefits that yoga can bring to the reader. It should not, however, include information that is likely to change often.
As soon as you have your brochures, get them out there! Don’t just leave them at your studio. Typical destinations are health food stores, community bulletin boards, cafÃ©s — but let’s focus on how we can expand on this and actually build community at the same time.
Around your studio are dozens of other small businesses run by people who you can go visit. Get yourself a bunch of Lucite brochure holders for about a dollar apiece, and go talk to your neighbors. Get to know them, network, make friends.
These can be complimentary businesses like chiropractors, massage studios, naturopaths, doctor’s offices and acupuncturists. But also consider other businesses where customers wait to pick up their orders: take-out restaurants or dry cleaners as an example, and places where clients wait their turn, like hair and nail salons.
Tell them that you run the local studio and you’re out getting to know business owners in the area. Suggest that you have a gift for their customers, maybe in the form of a free class. Ask them if you could leave your brochures (with the offer prominently displayed on the front) by their cash register. Offer the owner a free week of yoga to experience what you are offering their clients. You will be surprised at how many people say yes.
In all outreach into your community, be proud of what you’re doing. Remember, you’re not begging for business, you’re offering something that changes lives! Why be shy when promoting something that has brought you so much? How many times have students who were previously part of the “yoga-is-not-for-me” crowd thanked you from the bottom of their hearts for what they have received from your yoga?
OK, I can hear you thinking: “It all sounds good, but I’ve done many of those things!” Yes, most entrepreneurs begin a new venture with a lot of energy and excitement. But ask yourself if you are still doing these things with the same fervor and dedication as when you started? Have you slowed down or burned out? Have you quit doing them altogether? This is a labor of love. You have to keep going. If you judge the results after one month, you might be disappointed.
People need to see even well-crafted marketing messages a few times before responding. We are all flooded with so many offers each week that only the ones that are consistent and meaningful to us are allowed through our filters.
The bottom line is that if people don’t know about you, they can’t do business with you. Develop an internal predisposition toward marketing and building awareness of your brand and your offer. At the end of each day, ask yourself: “What did I do today to build my yoga business?” Make adjustments if your answer isn’t convincing.
Gorilla Marketing takes time. It takes time for the energy around your studio to take on a life of its own. But when it does, when you hit critical mass — well, you still can’t stop — referrals will start doing most of the marketing for you. Until then, unless your current karma includes the resources of a huge marketing budget, you need to be at least a part-time Gorilla.
So take on that yogic attitude of clear, detached offering, and go out in the world with confidence. Smile. The people you meet need to see yoga in your eyes. They need to feel that you can lead them to what they see you already embody in your life — peace, strength and joy.
Walt Whitman said, “Forsake all inhibitions. Pursue thy dreams! Embrace thy inner Gorilla!” OK, so maybe that last part was mine, but Walt’s message is very good advice.
Get out there and make it happen.
yogabusinesscoach.com – 800.399.2977