Few businesses have been disrupted as much by the coronavirus as yoga and fitness studios, which formerly depended on in-person coaching and now need to move online.
At awarenow, the all-in-one business management platform for coaches, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when transitioning your practice online. Here’s what we’ve learned:
You CAN Do It
Managing an online business if you haven’t done so before can seem daunting, but it really shouldn’t be. For one thing, you’re probably already running some aspects of an online business, e.g., social media posts, website development, even online advertising.
In addition, it’s not like your competition is made up of former Google engineers and digital marketing gurus - you probably have as much digital knowledge as most other yoga instructors or studio owners. Besides, according to expert digital marketer Nicholas Benedict,
“everything changes so quickly in online marketing anyway. Best practices from four years ago are out of date or counter-productive today.”
Finally, competition is only important in the context of your overall market size. According to Ryan and Alex Duo Life,
“running a health business online can seem ultra-competitive, but the market and demand (particularly during COVD-19) is enough for all players, both local and global.”
Define Your Audience
Trying to be something for everyone is a recipe for disaster. Start by defining who your programs are for. Learn their needs and goals so you can customize your marketing and lessons for them.
As Shayan Fatani of PureVPN notes,
“not every human being is expecting the same outcome for a specific decision. For example, one person may go to the gym for physical wellness while another may choose to workout to feel better mentally. . . . Identify your unique style …. Originality is what gives your brand a personality.”
Get Your Marketing Started
Once you’ve defined your audience and reached out to existing clients and people in your network, it’s time to build your audience with social media. As one way to do this, Shawna Newman or Skipblast suggests that
“short teaser lessons can be uploaded to YouTube, with a call out at the end of the video and in the description to funnel people to the paid courses.”
While social media is a great way of expanding your reach, it should not be your primary tool to broadcast to leads and clients. There is no guarantee that a social media platform will show your content, even to people who “like” or “follow” you. As Ryan and Alex Duo Life explain:
"For new digital entrepreneurs, I recommend finding a way to capture email addresses and start by sending newsletters. Not only is this an extremely effective way to engage your audience and let them get to know you, it can have lasting and profitable effects when rolling out online programs.When working online, email addresses (and not necessarily likes or follows) is what will monetize your online business."
While this may sound like a lot of effort at first, it does get easier. According to Kenny Trinh, CEO of Netbook News,
“You need to work hard getting those first few clients, but the good news is that they’ll be the one who will bring more customers through network referral.”
Use a Platform
Virtually all instructors surveyed recommended using an online coaching platform instead of trying to combine separate tools for streaming, billing, scheduling, and trying to keep email, text, and social media communications with clients and leads all in one place.
As Katie Holmes of OutwitTrade points out, using a platform is
“much easier than doing everything on your own website which will easily take weeks of work and technical expertise.”
Get Your Setup Right
You don’t need a studio-quality setup for your instructional videos or live streams, but do pay attention to lighting. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com advises practitioners to
“make sure your yoga studio space gets as much natural light as possible. This can be difficult to manage if you shoot from home, so it may be worth the investment to purchase a ring light with a stand when shooting videos."
While you’re at it, take a moment to experiment with how sound comes through on your videos or streams. As Nesa Leonardo of Yogaba.be recalls:
“At first I thought I needed to speak loudly to make sure my mic picked up my voice on the computer. Most mics are sensitive enough to pickup your voice in conversational tone, even with the computer across the room. The more conversational in tone the calmer you and your students feel during the practice. Be yourself, and you don't need to over project.”
Nesa also suggests that instructors
“have a clean and mindful space when you run live shows. While the occasional kid or pet running in the screen is fun, be mindful of others time and investment.”
Finally, don’t neglect the administrative details of moving your business to your home. For example, many practitioners might be eligible for additional tax deductions relating to part of their home serving as a work studio. In addition, Tracy Hayes of Amplified Movement advises that
“with all of the changes to taking things online, I'd recommend a yoga instructor contact their liability insurance company to ensure coverage.”
Plan Lessons with a Home Audience in Mind
Home-based instruction is necessarily going to be different from instructing in a studio. Anne Patrick of AnnieOm.com advises home-based instructors to
“think about sequencing without using props, or offer common household alternatives. This makes your practice more inclusive and more universal. If you want to use a yoga strap offer they could use a regular belt or dish towel instead. Offer books instead of blocks, bath towels instead of yoga blankets, and pillows instead of bolsters. It's an opportunity to be more creative in your own sequencing and how you share yoga.”
That said, Anne Patrick points out that mindful instructors can preserve a lot of the value of in-person instruction by following a few practices, e.g.:
"Welcome your students by greeting them as they enter, say their names, just as if you were welcoming them to a physical room. Look in the camera as you talk to them, so they feel a personal connection, and you'll feel one too. It's good to remember you are teaching to a community even if they aren't in the same room with you."
Give yourself time to rest and recover. I can teach far fewer classes online than in person. I have to demo much more on the virtual platform making it a more physically tiring practice. I find not teaching to people in a room is more energetically taxing as well. With people in the room I can hear if they laugh at my dumb joke or if they are forgetting to breathe in a difficult pose. It's a lot more energy out without receiving feedback. So give yourself more time to rest and take care of yourself too.
In addition, instructor Nesa Leonardo advises coaches to
“encourage others to open their cam, so you can still help them (a little) with alignments and poses.”
Upsell and Leverage Additional Income Streams
Once you have a regular roster of classes and clients, you can think about expanding your practice. Perhaps there are group coaching clients who would be willing to pay more for additional 1-1 classes. Or some clients might be open to purchasing a recurring membership for your classes, which gives you some predictable and stable income. (As per above, an all-in-one platform like awarenow.io can allow you to easily scale in these and other ways).
Ben Stanford of SEObetter notes that with an existing client base,
“you can also on-sell other services or affiliate products to grow your monthly revenue.”
Creatively, Jason Parks, President of The Media Captain explains that
“once you get a nice following, you can start selling products by a Shopify store to sell via eCommerce. Your clientele will want to wear the yoga pants and shirts you are wearing for your classes as will your core following on social and this is an additional revenue generator along with your online classes.”
While moving your operations online can seem daunting - especially while dealing with all of the other stresses and disruptions caused by the pandemic - it doesn't have to be complicated. Get set up on a coaching platform, follow the best practices from practitioners and other professionals above in this article, and be willing to adapt to changing circumstances. With any luck, you’ll find yourself with a thriving practice that can continue or grow even as the pandemic hopefully winds down in the future.
Read more about our all-in-one business management platform here: https://awarenow.io/