As yoga teachers, we can experience a sense of comfort and satisfaction in knowing that the services we provide can be life-altering for our clients. But in order for us to share these services, our potential clients must know that we are there! This is marketing: reaching out to people so they know you exist and have services and goods to offer them. Sounds easy, right? The thing is that there are a ton of businesses trying to grab people's attention, and some of these businesses will sacrifice the truth to be heard. This is where ethical marketing comes into play. You don’t have to be sneaky and manipulative in your marketing, but being heard amid all the chatter takes strategy that is honest, smart, and effective. I’ll show you what I mean.
Yoga teachers spend countless hours teaching, traveling from class to class or client to client, planning their next class, or doing their accounting. With so many other duties demanding precious time, marketing and promotion can fall by the wayside. In fact, simply thinking about marketing makes many of us anxious. We’re undoubtedly passionate about sharing the practice of yoga, but we have no clue how to reach people, and we may feel timid about self-promotion. The good news is that while passion can’t be learned, marketing can be! Before I get into the practical tips, I’d like to first acknowledge two contributing factors to this struggle.
In my work as a career coach for yoga teachers, the first obstacle I see teachers stumble over presents itself right out of the gate. The reason marketing makes so many teachers squeamish is that the moment we begin to think about it, the fear of self-promotion creeps in, which feels very ego-driven. From this perspective, teachers tend to think of marketing as advertising personal skills and talents, but you aren’t actually marketing yourself: You are promoting (and selling) transformation and a better life through yoga.
When you view marketing your business or service as self-promotion, that’s exactly what it will be, because you are placing yourself at center stage. The thing is, it’s not about you. The work you do is about the people you serve and the teachings of yoga. Take the spotlight off of yourself and focus your marketing on how you can help people. When the fear creeps in, check your ego and remind yourself that it’s not about promoting yourself—it’s about serving others.
Another stumbling block to successful marketing is that teachers often jump straight into the implementation phase of marketing without spending any time in the foundational phase of planning. For example, a teacher I worked with named Rachel asked me: “How do I get my name out there? I have a website and a Facebook page, but they don’t seem to be working.” After I perused her website and Facebook posts for a few minutes, it became very apparent that Rachel hadn’t thought at all about the people she’s actually serving, what they need, and what motivates them. Once we were able to address those essential planning elements, her marketing efforts became much more effective and produced clients.
If you’re ready to get your name out and maximize your potential, these steps will help you attract a tribe of students who resonate with your teachings and are eager for more.
1. Identify a Niche
Marketing is so much easier when you know exactly what you offer and concentrate your efforts on one group.
When you “niche down,” you become known as an expert and the go-to person in your community. It brings clarity to your business strategy and liberates you from the confusion and guesswork of trying to appeal to everyone. When everyone is your preferred audience, your message gets watered down, and so does the quality of your service. Plus, a niche gives you the space to be authentic to yourself in terms of what you teach, without worrying about being liked by every student you encounter.
Marketing is all about knowing your audience, and it’s extremely hard to get to know your audience when your audience is everyone and anyone. For example, Rachel offered senior yoga, yoga for athletes, and kids’ yoga. By trying to focus on three different populations, not only was she spreading herself thin, but her marketing message was confusing. The home page of her website presented info about all the services she offered, which was too much text for a home page, and it didn’t speak to any one group. An effective home page starts with grabbing the attention of your visitors before they hit the back button, and the way to appeal to athletes is completely different from the way you’d appeal to parents and kids.
Simply put, when you try to be everything to everyone, you end up talking to no one. Gain experience in one area first, learn from your wins and mistakes, and establish your authority. Then develop a second niche if that suits you, or transition to something else if that’s the way life is guiding you. But get really good at one thing initially before you consider expanding.
2. Know Your Clientele
Market research is a huge component of successful marketing and it is overlooked far too often. As I mentioned, the key to effective marketing is knowing your audience really well, and that comes from research. Simply identifying a group of people you want to work with isn’t enough. You have to know how to help them and what they really want help with. Ask people what their major life challenges are and talk to them about them. Yep, that’s right: I want you to have actual conversations with folks in the niche group that you want to work with. Don’t assume you know what they need. Believe me, taking the time to complete this step in the beginning will save you a ton of time in the long run.
In conducting your market research, you’ll want to gather as much demographic information as you can, such as age group, gender, income level, hobbies, lifestyle habits, family and marital status. This type of information is super helpful in knowing how and where to reach them, which is crucial for marketing. However, what I’ve found is that the most important part of market research is identifying the common struggles of your target group and what motivates them to take action in life.
For example, let’s say you want to work with busy moms who need private at-home sessions. First, find out what the real-life struggles of busy moms are in your unique region of the globe. Maybe it’s challenging for them to spend quality time with their kids. Next, find out what it would feel like for them to have a solution to this challenge (this is what can motivate them). Maybe it’s the comforting feeling that comes with spending time with their kids when they are able to be fully present and attentive. Lastly, figure out how you can help them achieve that desired result. In this scenario, the mom is motivated by her kids and being the best mom she can. You help her by delivering convenient at-home classes focused on self-care and mindful practices. You both know that when she takes care of herself, she’s able to be present with her kids and is more adept at caring for them.
Understanding the needs and desires of your target group is essential, not only for your marketing but for the development of your offerings as well. It’s pretty simple: The more you know about what your clients need, the better you can serve them. You can also collect this data from online market research. By reading blogs, forums, and publications that cater to your clientele, you can find out more about what matters to them, what they struggle with, and what common characteristics may exist among them.
3. Craft Your Marketing Message
Now that you’ve collected data about your niche group from online research and in-person conversations, it’s time to craft an all-encompassing message that represents your offerings. This is your way of communicating how you can serve those in your niche group in a relatable and effective manner. Come up with a few sentences that clearly express what you can do for your niche group. Use this message as the basis for all of your outreach and marketing efforts. This message is essentially the language you use on your website, the words you put on your flyers, and provides the inspiration for the images you use on both.
Address these six components and ask yourself the following questions to create your successful marketing message:
1. Target: Does your messaging target your niche audience? As in, will the people you want to work with be able to relate to and hear your message? Or are you still trying to target everyone?
2. Attention: Will it grab their attention? Are you addressing their pain points and challenges? Are you speaking their language? Can they see themselves in the images you use?
3. Transformation: Do you clearly communicate how you will help them change their life for the better? How you will help them resolve their issues and overcome their obstacles?
4. Uniqueness: Have you highlighted your area of expertise in such a way that makes you stand out in the crowd? Is it obvious why anyone should choose you over the next teacher?
5. Trust: Does your message build trust and show that you are trustworthy? Why should anyone believe you can help them? Hint: Because you’ve personally been in their shoes and/or you’ve helped someone else through it before. Testimonials, reviews, analytics, and data are very useful in building trust.
6. Brand: Does your messaging align with your brand? Are you being consistent with it, from your website to social media posts to in-person conversations? Does your brand represent your message, and does your message represent your brand?
4. Implement and Share
Now that you know who you want to work with, how you can best serve your niche audience, what they need, and what motivates them, you’re ready to start sharing your message with the world. This is the implementation phase of your marketing efforts, when you can now begin to promote your services on your website, with flyers, through Facebook posts, at events, and to your current students. Keep in mind, especially with face-to-face interactions, that marketing isn’t about promoting yourself—it’s about the people you serve and creating transformation.
For more guidance on marketing and creating a successful career as a yoga teacher, check out my book, The Thriving Yoga Teacher: How to Create a Sustainable Career Doing What You Love.