marketing with meaning part 1

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was inspired by an unlikely metaphor for marketing. I found myself meandering through a music store when I unexpectedly came upon the sound of a tuning fork. It occurred to me that just as vibrating objects produce sound waves, the relational vibration that an organization sends out to its key constituents—employees, customers and investors—via its marketing efforts, essentially produces its success.

I am in the hospitality business and, admittedly, I spend a lot of time thinking about these three key relationships and how marketing affects each. The tuning fork serves as a useful illustration of how a vibrating object can produce a resonant sound. So, when you think about how to approach marketing for your yoga business, listen to the sound that is emanating from your efforts. Perhaps you could use the help of a relational tuning fork.

You belong to a growing group of progressive entrepreneurs who adhere to socially responsible methods as part of their business plan. But often, when it comes to marketing, many of these organizations falter. Although it’s been given a bad rap for a very long time “marketing” is no longer a dirty word. And, it is critical for your success that you market your yoga business. The good news is that it’s possible to engage in strategic marketing without compromising your values. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I have spent the past 25 years building a successful business based upon the premise that “creating opportunities to celebrate the joy of life” (my company’s mission statement), can drive profits and meaning simultaneously. Strategic marketing has been essential to this mission. So, with the help of my colleague and co-author of Marketing that Matters, Eric Friedenwald-Fishman, I’ve developed 10 practices that can help anyone to infuse meaningful marketing into their yoga business—healing arts or mainstream enterprise.

So let’s consider the following practices as a kind of tuning fork for your yoga business. They have proven to be tangible tools in helping my employees to become more engaged in their work—further allowing us to engage our “audience” in a meaningful way.

Practice 1: Don’t Fear Marketing – Use it as a Core Business Strategy

Strategic marketing is not a prescribed set of tactics (advertising, media relations, direct mail, social media, promotional offers, etc.). Strategic marketing is acquiring a deep understanding of the needs and desires of your existing and potential customers, and designing your yoga business (products, services, customer experience, etc.) to meet and exceed their needs. Strategic marketing drives success by connecting customers with your answers to their needs. Example: Luna Bar. Clif Bar’s core idea for creating this product was that active women needed an energy bar and have different nutritional needs than men. This strategic marketing decision to design an energy bar specifically for active women led to many other strategic and tactical choices which meaningfully differentiated the brand. Marketing should be “at the table” from the beginning. You must clearly distinguish between strategy and tactics and develop and use a marketing plan.

Practice 2: Know Yourself – Build Upon Your Mission

A clear mission and a strong brand platform authentically inject marketing into the daily operations of your yoga business and empower staff, strategic partners and customers to serve as messengers. Using these core aspects of your company’s soul and identity as decision-making tools will help you make strategic choices that advance your mission, build your value and align with your company’s and your customers’ values. Example: New Leaf Paper. As its mission, New Leaf seeks both to deliver a quality product to the marketplace and to change customer and community expectations. It promises “to inspire—through our success—a fundamental shift toward environmental responsibility in the paper industry”. New Leaf’s mission drives its marketing goals to increase market demand for its product, while its marketing success advances the company’s mission to change the paper industry. To know yourself, you’ve got to clarify your mission—and live it. Then, build a strong brand—and live it.

Practice 3: Define Your Goals – What’s Your Definition of Success?

Setting your goals and making them measurable can help maximize your marketing impact. Define your own measures of success that integrate all of your bottom lines, reinforce your value and values proposition and create greater alignment with your mission. Example: Joie de Vivre Hospitality. In my company, we work with an outside customer satisfaction measurement group that monitors daily feedback from our hotel guests. One particular score is the employees’ “can-do attitude” (the number one determinant of whether a guest will return for another visit). We pay special attention to this one. And if the company can average a “can-do” score of 92 percent for one year, then our top two senior execs and myself come to the annual holiday party dressed as the Supremes, performing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Good fun, yes. But seriously—measuring performance and setting goals is a key marketing goal.

Practice 4: Know Your Audience – Be Aggressively Customer Centered

Place your customers’ needs and desires at the top of your business goals. Developing and investing in methods that help you to understand who your customers are will ensure that you meet your goals. And if you meet these goals, you will find yourself well on your way to building the lasting relationships that can transform a run-of-the-mill venture into a successful and socially responsible business. Example: MoonDance Painting. Owner Gabe Luna-Ostaseski created his business based on the gut instinct that a lot of prospective customers would prefer an environmentally sensitive painting contractor. Yet they didn’t know he existed. He resourcefully contacted the local Whole Foods Market community relations office and suggested they sponsor a “Green Home Series”. The net result was an event where Gabe was able to connect with the perfect niche of new customers—and at the cost of only $100 in actual marketing expenses.

Practice 5: Question Conventional Wisdom – Don’t Limit Your Market

Expanding your vision for your organization can open up opportunities you hadn’t imagined. Questioning assumptions about your customer, designing your product or service to respond to broader needs, creating marketing that reflects and resonates with your larger audience and building connections to your broader customer base can greatly enhance the economic and social performance of your company. Example: Arvind Mills. The world’s fifth largest manufacturer of denim, this India-based company realized that the majority of Indians couldn’t afford jeans at $40-$60 per pair. So they questioned the assumption about how jeans were to be delivered to the customer and developed Ruf & Tuf jeans, a ready-to-make kit of components (denim, zipper, rivets, and a patch) priced at $6. Kits were distributed through thousands of local tailors in small villages who marketed the kits to the community. Ruf & Tuf jeans are now the largest selling jeans in India. The old adage “never assume…” fits perfectly in this context.

Marketing is truly about creating relationships. But for socially responsible businesses this is about more than just the quantity of interactions with the customer. What is essential is the quality of those interactions, which help to build relationships that result in friends for life. We’ll explore Practices 6–10 in the Winter issue. u

Read part 2

Read next >> 3 ways to make your yoga class more trauma sensitive