Let’s get the old “authentic yogis don’t market themselves” juggernaut out of the way first up, shall we? If you’re a yoga teacher trying to make a living in this big world of money, you’re nothing like the ganja-smoking, dread-head, blissed out yogis of yesteryear. Your personal yoga practice may be traditional and your devotion to the tradition may be unconditional, but when you step onto the mat to make a living, you’re a professional. Professionals need marketing.
Whatever your personal motivation for becoming a working yoga teacher, I daresay your desire to share yoga with the world was top of the list. To share and teach, you need to communicate. And that’s what marketing is all about.
Marketing is about clear communication
Marketing suffers under a terrible reputation. Particularly in yoga, many view it as sleazy, dishonest and in-your-face. Please don’t let the actions of marketers who lack imagination and morals colour your perception.
At its foundation, marketing is simply about clear and compelling communication. Marketing seeks to communicate the value at the heart of a product/service as effectively as possible.
Teaching is also about communication. In just 60 or 90 minutes, you need to communicate the essence of yoga – not only the asanas. You are trying to get at the heart of a long and complex tradition and explain it as simply and powerfully as possible. Normally, you do this by making the asanas and teachings relevant to your students.
Communication is what people hear
When you tell your class to “place your left hand to the outside of your right foot” and not everybody does it, you don’t stop to berate yourself for terrible instruction, you just try again: “Bring your left hand onto the mat, on the little toe side of your right foot”.
Communication is not about what you say; it’s about what people hear. Your students will hear your instructions differently, so you’ll need to adjust, with new phrases, by demonstrating, and by physical adjustments. And, despite your best efforts, they won’t all be listening all of the time, so you need to repeat yourself.
It’s the same with marketing – this is a constant process of refining your message for your audience so that they can understand it. Some people will prefer to hear from you face-to-face, others read every email you send, yet others are addicted to Facebook. You need to talk to people in a way they understand – which may mean dropping the new age talk. And you’ll need to repeat yourself.
Serving only those who are ready
As yoga teachers, we don’t roll out our mats on the side of the road and bully people into joining us. Although we may believe that yoga is for everyone and anyone may experience its benefits, we also know that we cannot bamboozle people into trying something if they’re not keen.
It’s the same with marketing. We are all on different paths, going different places. We need to create marketing only for those ideal clients who stand to gain the most from our business. We need to first define who our ideal clients are and then narrow our focus so we’re talking just to them.
People are busy, and distracted. They are constantly filtering out messages that aren’t relevant to them. When your marketing is broad and general, it becomes invisible. Effective marketing is highly targeted, personal and direct. Just like yoga teaching.
Focus on why
When you’re instructing a class, you’re unlikely to go into significant detail about the muscles, tendons, bones, hormones, lymph system and digestive system. You may, instead, focus on the broader, underlying theme of the class or name the top two benefits of an asana.
It’s the same with marketing – save the who, what, when and where, and jump straight into the why. Focus on the benefits and the underlying motivation for your business offerings. The fine detail comes later.
A little a day, every day
Yoga teachers have natural discipline to do their yoga. We know that a little a day every day is far better than splurging on two hours of yoga, followed by … nothing. We know that health is not a quick-fix pill but a long-term, proactive commitment.
Welcome to marketing. A little a day, every day is far better than nothing, followed by furious activity and desperate discounting. Building a tribe of people around your yoga business happens slowly, over time. You gain people’s trust by being consistent. So you need to do whatever marketing you do – whether blogging, email newsletters, social media, advertising, networking or event sponsorships and partnerships – a little a day, every day.
Most importantly, keep on keeping on. The world needs more yoga teachers who can thrive in business and bring yoga to more people.
By Brook McCarthy
Brook McCarthy is a yoga teacher, writer and director of Yoga Reach online marketing consultancy. Yoga Reach specialises in face-to-face and online courses, training and business coaching especially for yoga teachers and wellbeing professionals. Learn more on authentic, effective marketing by downloading the Authentic Marketing Manifesto – http://yogareach.com.au/marketing/.