Yoga is big business: $84 Billion worldwide, and growing by 10% per year. New studios and instructors are constantly entering the market. What distinguishes the practitioners who succeed vs. those who fail? Awarenow, the all-in-one business management platform for coaches and wellness instructors, surveyed some instructors and advisers on and off of its platform and came up with the following four keys to success.
Yoga Business Tip #1: Stake Out a Niche
Sure, the yoga industry is growing, but it’s also already a very crowded field, with over 41,000 studios in the United States alone. This challenges practitioners to stake out an attractive and viable niche within the field. Indeed, as Megan Forziati of TrinitiYoga.com explains, “there are so many yoga studios, teachers, online courses, and websites out there, [so] it is necessary to stand out among the crowd.”
One key implication of this, as per Mado Hesselink of TeachingYoga.net, is that “[because] there are so many different styles and aims of yoga, you need to be explicit about what kind of yoga you offer and the expected outcomes of learning it.” Robyn Parets, Founder of Pretzel Kids yoga, gives the examples of “chair yoga for seniors, creating a fun workshop that you can run at studios, or even teaching goat yoga! There is a glut of yoga teachers and if you can hit upon something different that works, that will help you grow your business.”
Finding that niche can be a challenge. What drew you to yoga? What makes you want to share your approach to yoga with others? What is your intention? What makes your perspective unique? Are you trying to help people get fit? Reduce anxiety? Find exercise they can do at home? Whatever it is, it’s crucial to keep Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez’s advice in mind to never “sell based on price . . . [which] will only result in short term gains and not in loyal customers.”
It’s a two-way process. Not only do successful coaches draw upon their own purpose and goals to find a niche, but they also look for opportunities in the market and find ways to marry the two. Hope Zvara of Mother Trucker Yoga has a great example of this from her own journey:
I looked at where my students were in their lives and created hybrids from those needs. When I was in the season of having children, many of my students were, too. Both they and I wanted social time and wanted baby yoga and time to work out as a new mom. So I created Baby Woga (Stroller Walking and Baby Yoga). We would go for power-style walks, stopping along the way to do yoga, weights, or resistance band mini workouts and then make it back to the studio for 20 minutes of baby yoga. The entire experience took like wildfire and moms were referring other moms to join in. And in the winter we offered a playgroup for moms with young kids. Yes, parents paid to bring their kids to our studio to play and chat with other moms and caregivers. Everyone won.
One of the key elements here is that a niche is only partly about what you offer; it’s also about who you offer it to. As Blanca Vergara explains, “with a focused target market, you will notice that it is much easier to communicate with your audience. You find their specific pain points and the exact words that they use. You can even improve your service offering and charge higher prices.”
Yoga Business Tip #2: Nurture Your Community
Successful yoga instructors, studio owners, and wellness practitioners agree: think of yourself as building a community more than building a customer base. In the Mother Tucker example in the previous section, the owner was able to understand the needs of her community and even offer services that had nothing to do with yoga. Amanda Webster explains this more broadly:
Yoga is such a personal experience for people that my biggest tip for anyone trying to reach new students is to genuinely connect with people. Don't just try to sell them your programs and packages. Take interest in their journey and find ways to connect with them even if they don't want to work with you. Maybe this is by providing short free meditations on your social media once a week. Even if that person doesn't resonate with your style of Yoga, perhaps they have a friend who does. If you've made a genuine connection, when that friend is looking for a new studio or instructor, guess who is going to come to mind?
Some ways to build and engage with your community include private Facebook groups, quick 1-1 check-ins, and that old standby, email. Indeed, Jennifer Dixon of Thrive Yoga and Wellness advises instructors to “not be afraid to email. I don't spam my clients, but I send a weekly email that has studio announcements, and I also include a personal piece. It's the personal stories that help you feel connected to your tribe.”
If you nurture and engage with your community, you’ll find that you will naturally become aware of their needs and interests. Robyn Parets shares the kind of insight that she gets from regularly engaging with her clients and how other practitioners can follow her example: “At this time, many people are Zoomed out. With the weather getting nicer, consider running pop-up outdoor classes (socially distanced). Run a couple of free classes and then kick-off a paid session with a theme (think: stress-relief yoga, family yoga, get in shape yoga, etc.).”
If you are stuck or looking for inspiration, check out the competition for ideas. This is very useful in general for yoga instructors, as suggested by Miyagi Jordan of SPARTAFIT, who shared that “one little trick is to not train at the same studio that you own.”
Yoga Business Tip #3: You Are (Part Of) The Product
One of the most important parts of building a community is letting your audience develop a connection with you personally. Paul Harrison of The Daily Meditation shows how expressing yourself ties together so many of the themes we’ve explored in this article about building a community and staking out a niche:
My number one tip for running a yoga business is to exude your personality. There are so many options for people to learn yoga, including local studios, apps, and websites. Most big cities already have more than enough studios. The number one key to success is standing out. And in my experience, the best way to accomplish that is by pouring your personality into your branding. Do not be afraid to deviate from the norm. You don't want your yoga business to be identical to all the rest; you want it to stand out. And the best way to make your business stand out is to ask how you yourself, as an individual, stand out. What is unique about yourself? Perhaps you're the fun and friendly type, or the philosophical type, or the super-serious type. Whatever stands out about you as an individual, use that for your branding. This will create cohesion between the business owner and the business, and will ultimately create powerful branding that helps the business stand out from the pack and to gain new clients and members.
People don’t need to learn yoga; they need to learn yoga from you. The only way to make them do that is to put yourself and your uniqueness out there. As Brian Robben of Robben Media puts it, “when people feel a connection to the business owner, they are much more likely to do yoga and bring their friends.”
Indeed, your personality might be what brings people in the door in the first place. John Frigo of Best Price Nutrition says, “many people are intimidated going to a yoga studio for the first time. They worry they won't be able to keep up, wonder if people will be nice to them, etc. By having an online presence people can kind of get to know you without actually knowing you and people feel more comfortable coming in.”
Yoga Business Tip #4: Believe in Yourself
Most people who teach yoga do so because they want to help and share their gifts with others, not because it will make them a fortune. Carolyn Cairns reminds instructors to “be firm with your decisions and don't let people abuse your kindness. Be confident that your students will keep on coming back because you are a good yoga teacher.”
Kelly Bryant expands on this point:
The hardest thing that Yoga instructors face is the ability to combine the generous heart of service - that so many yoga teachers have - with a willingness to charge for services and operate like the business they are. The most important thing instructors can do is get really honest about operating budget, expenses, and what they need to be making. Ideally, my advice would be to charge a little more than that. Making a livable and decent salary will allow you to show up with generosity and a full cup that you want to be able to serve from. This is important because it will reflect in everything you do; from life at home, to teaching classes, to managing the paperwork behind the scenes.
If you have a gift and calling to share your love of yoga with others and benefit their lives, then experts agree that your best course of action is to believe in yourself, stand up for your vision, and apply best practices to achieve lasting success.