Filling Your Classes For Less Than a Cup of Coffee a Day
Why would someone choose your classes over other yoga classes? There are lots and lots of yoga teachers; all of them wanting to have a decent number of students so that they have sufficient income.
Developing ads can be quite simple if you have done the preliminary work. Who would you like to attract to your class? Who is your ideal student? And most importantly - what are your values as they apply to your yoga business? If you can’t answer those questions, then you won’t have successful advertising. You have to target very narrowly and advertise to a certain person that has a certain need that you can fulfil. Do you know what that person wants and how you would meet their need? For example, is the potential student that you want in your classes is looking for variety in yoga: you might offer many different types of yoga like acro yoga, couples yoga, kids yoga, dance yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and chair yoga. For a potential student that likes variety, this schedule is probably ideal. But if you want to provide a complete experience in a specific niche or from a particular school of yoga, then these kinds of classes will attract a quite different student with different needs, and your advertising follows from those needs.
In addition to attracting a student that wants classes that fit with your values, there are two kinds of potential students: those looking for a class and those not interested in yoga classes at this time. Individuals that are actively looking for a yoga class unless they want classes from a specific school of yoga will likely choose based on location and time offered – in other words convenience. These students are looking for a yoga class to improve flexibility or open stiff joints and every yoga class fulfils that need. This is the potential student’s view of yoga; you have to change that view so they understand there are other benefits to yoga in your classes. People looking for classes are unlikely to choose to travel some distance or attend at a less convenient time unless you can offer them something in your yoga classes that can help them with their needs besides improving flexibility.
Offering something more than a yoga class will be even more important for people not even looking for a class. These are by far the majority of people not taking yoga classes; the number of people actively looking for a class is low. For those individuals who don’t know how they might benefit from yoga and are not looking for classes, you need to have a strategy to catch their eye and get them interested in coming to a class. What could you develop that may be of interest to them that you could reasonably associate with your yoga classes and fits your values and goals? Yoga for golfers maybe? So how do you catch the interest of some of these “non-yoga” people and move them into a class when they never thought much about yoga. Again, you have to fulfil a need or meet a challenge they have in their life and yoga becomes part of the solution. What are their needs and challenges that you can assist with using your yoga knowledge? Convincing them that yoga is a part of the solution will take attendance at several classes but getting them in the door is the first and critical step to increasing your student numbers. Do you have a niche you would like to offer classes in: kids, seniors, pre and post natal, yoga therapy, meditation, yoga philosophy or do you affiliate with another person that offers something that fits well with your vision of your yoga classes? Offering a “vanilla” yoga class will probably not bring in a lot of people except those looking for a class locally and your “vanilla” class is convenient. As yoga teachers we know that each yoga teacher has their own style and own way of unique teaching, but people not taking yoga classes can’t make that judgement until they have been to several classes. You have to attract them into your class by helping them reach their goals or meeting their challenges.
You have to make yourself stand out – the yoga training schools are pumping out new teachers constantly – and you have to think strategically about what you want your classes to look and feel like to yourself and to your students. Unless you can differentiate yourself in some manner (and this differentiation will start with your values and principles – not with the student), it’s likely you will not be as successful as you wish.
Advertising can be quite easy; newspapers and radio stations are quite happy to sell you ads but their only targeting is likely to be geographic. A vanilla class with vanilla advertising is likely to receive a poor response. Those not thinking about yoga won’t respond to it and those looking for a class will only want to know time and place. But if you talk to them about what you can do for them in addition to the known benefits of yoga, then these potential students start thinking in a different way about yoga. It is more than stretching and flexibility; it can help me with something that is difficult in my life that I don’t have a way to fix (for example, golfing is asymmetrical and a golfer may as a result have very uneven abilities on the sides of their bodies. Wear and tear on one side is one reason many golfers have shoulder replacements. Yoga can help with that unevenness). You have to know what you want to give your students that fills a need they have. That is what you advertise. Those looking for a class will be more likely to come to your classes if you are meeting their needs even if it’s not as convenient as another class. Those not interested in yoga classes may be very interested in what yoga has to offer if it is something they need; at least it starts the conversation. And let’s be honest you might not want to teach every person walking in the door. If you are trying to fulfil your values through your business, then some people will not match with those values. It’s ok to not teach everyone. Although authentic is a very overused word, you have to let your values drive your teaching to have a successful business.
I did fill my classes with ads that cost very little, but they were targeted very closely to my market. I choose to teach in a niche area – seniors – because I want to maintain mobility in seniors and assist in improving their quality of life (my values). So did I want the person that wants to try every new yoga fad that comes along – no and I would recommend other classes to someone like that to meet their need for variety. There are lots of opportunities in yoga to offer yoga in different ways but offering everything without any idea of what kind of student you want to attract will have little traction in the competitive area of yoga teaching and you will waste your money on advertising. A business person told me that he was happy if he got one response to his newspaper ads. That’s a lot of money for one person to buy a cup of coffee.