Harnessing the Power of People
The most powerful and most yogic form of business development is not found in advertising or marketing, but lies in the art of Building Community. This unique practice magically grows your business while simultaneously preventing attrition, and is especially important when working with small budgets. Rarely, however, is it given the attention it deserves.
Building community ultimately serves to bring yoga into the lives of a growing number of people in the most organic way – drawing people in like a magnet and keeping them dedicated to their practice at your studio. Yoga communities make people feel warm, happy, included, and welcomed: emotions that are pivotal in creating that ineffable “buzz” in and around your business.
To your students, the experience at your studio must feel like more than just yoga classes and an occasional cup of tea. Is the air alive with conversation between classes? Are the classes busy? Do people linger? Shop? Are there well-attended social activities during off-hours? If your immediate response was not very enthusiastic, your business would likely benefit from some strategic community building.
In today’s fast paced TV-driven culture, with its packed schedules, impersonal communication through technology, and long lonely commutes, we have lost the true art of community. People rarely ”˜drop by’ to borrow a cup of organic sugar, and the last remaining ”˜porch’ neighborhoods are unfortunately fading. Especially now, many people do not feel a sense of being nurtured anywhere in their lives and long to feel a part of something. Fortunately, that yearning can be satisfied though the beauty of a vibrant and inclusive yoga community.
Like attracts like. People naturally talk to each other about things that have touched their lives. Once people feel the warm embrace of community at your studio, they will encourage their friends to join them. More students coming to your studio allows for an even more lively community to be built.
It’s good for everyone involved.
This in itself should be incentive enough; but in terms of business building strategies, nothing you can do in advertising or marketing can compare with the long-term results that come from building the fabric of community. Building community requires communication both from a central source, such as your studio, and between members who use your studio as a hub in their social structure.
For your part of that communication, here’s the secret: It’s not about you: it’s about your students!
In conventional business, the focus is usually on how great the product or service is, how it is better than the competition’s, and so on. As consumers, we’re numbed by thousands of repetitions of the incessant ”˜Bigger, better, cheaper!’ message conveyed through the mass media.
Forget about emphasizing that you are The Only, The Largest, The Longest in Business. That type of positioning gets filtered out of a person’s mind just like the rest of the advertising noise we are all subjected to.
Instead, celebrate your students, teachers and community, and do it often.
Even ts such as yoga-related workshops, kirtans, meditation gatherings, charity and seva events are obvious ways to solidify your studio as a place of gathering and learning; a place where one can come regularly to meet friends, exchange experiences, feel like a part of something in today’s increasingly busy world.
But more importantly, Yoga communities encourage and inspire individual members to safely grow beyond their preconceived limitations. It is your job, as the owner, to create this container of safety and support.
There are many methods that are instrumental in building community, but for this article, let’s focus on the most important:
Celebrate your students
In my work as a coach, I am constantly reminded of how uncommon it is for people in our society to feel celebrated.
Ask your dedicated students to share their experience of how yoga has changed their lives. Make sure to mention that you will publish their story, and that it will inspire others who may not know what benefits a yoga practice offers. Post these stories on your website, use them in brochures; keep a binder of them and make sure it is in a conspicuous place so that students can leaf through it between classes.
Each month, pick an inspiring yogi with a great story and make them the Student of the Month. In your interview, have them expand on their experience, focusing on how their life has changed since they started yoga. Then get their approval to publish a few paragraphs celebrating their accomplishment. Take a picture of them smiling and add it to the story along with your logo and an appropriate headline. Buy an inexpensive 8.5×11 frame, insert the page, and hang it up in your studio where everyone can see it. Do this each month, every month, until you have a wall-full of celebrated, happy yogis.
Celebrate your teachers
In the same spirit, interview each of your teachers get to know who they are, what’s important to them, and why they teach yoga. Write them up, frame them, and display them in your studio. Many students never get to experience more than one or two teachers; this will help bridge that gap and draw your community that much closer.
It’s important to consider that these methods are not a quick fix; they are a part of the culture of doing business through community building. For yoga business owners, this practice is likely to become the most satisfying aspect of running a studio, since it is usually an important reason you wanted to open one in the first place.
You’re probably thinking: Gee, I’m already so busy, and this seems like a lot more work. Just remember, people make decisions emotionally, and are most likely to respond to things that have meaning for them. If you want to create a warm buzz around your studio that naturally draws in new students through word of mouth go out of your way to celebrate them. Nothing is more important to your business, or your heart. u
AlÃ³n Sagee, The Yoga Business CoachTM -800.399.2977 – yogabusinesscoach.com