It can be a thorny question in the yoga community – does yoga need marketing, and is there a right way to market yoga?
One reason for this is that it’s easy to confuse marketing with marketing techniques. Many marketing techniques leave us cold, as they play on our fears and insecurities, or outright lie as they attempt to subtly manipulate us into buying a product or service.
However, the way marketing means “taking something to market”. If we’re offering yoga, we need to take our services to a “market” so people can benefit.
Seen in this way, doing a great job with our marketing as yoga teachers and studios means that we’re getting the good word out to as many people as possible, so as many people as possible can benefit from yoga. And that’s got to be a great thing that will serve the world well.
Once upon a time, the market was in the middle of the town square – that’s where someone would bring something in order to sell it. Now our ‘market’ is wherever people’s attention gathers. Capturing that attention in some small way, reaching and and connecting with people, that’s the name of the game.
The Yoga Lunchbox spoke to Jenifer Parker about marketing yoga. She’s spent the last year setting up her new mind body business, which means thinking about how best to market. Here’s what she had to say:
What’s your yoga background?
I’ve been doing yoga since childhood, and teaching for nearly 15 years. I started teaching yoga as a full-time profession about 8 years ago, and also began to train teachers at that time.
What’s your current involvement in yoga?
Aside from my own personal practice, I teach classes, private lessons, and workshops and train teachers. I also own and run Healium, a holistic health center on Lambton Quay in Wellington!
What does “marketing” mean to you?
This is a great question because it does have many meanings to different people.
Most people think of it only in terms of promotion – and, in particular, self-promotion. For a lot of yogis, the idea of self-promotion is tough because it seems like crass egotism – which is something we strive to overcome through our practice.
But I really think of marketing in a different way: I think of it as reaching out and striving to meet new people. For me, it’s really about human connection.
- How can I connect with people who are like-minded?
- How can I connect with people who are also interested in the things that interest me?
- How can I create and co-create a community of people who are diverse, yet connected by a common interest, perspective and experience?
Is there room in yoga for marketing?
I think there is, particularly when we focus on marketing as community building.
I also remember, if I am looking for like-minded people, those like-minded people are also looking for me. We all seek community and connection.
Do you see other yoga teachers or studios as competition? If not, how do you see them?
To me, studios and other teachers and classes are not in competition. I think of them as a part of my community.
Living in a new community, a new culture, I am deeply reliant on them. I have observed how they reach out to clients and potential clients, how and when they schedule and price classes, and for insights on how people here perceive yoga. They are absolutely necessary for my success here too.
And also, I know what I’m good at, and with this, I am not the right or best teacher for every student. Thus, I am always recommending to students to try other teachers, other studios, and other experiences. Not because I don’t love or want them with me or in my classes, but because sometimes a different style or teacher is a better fit for that student. So, these other teachers and studios offer what I cannot!
And I’m really impressed with the sense of community that exists between teachers and studios here. It’s very open – everyone has been very, very welcoming to me, and I am deeply grateful for that.
Do you think there are ways that yoga teachers and studios could work together to market yoga collectively for everybody’s benefit?
Yes, I think that there are many creative ways to do this. I already see a lot of them in play here, too. Two studios or a studio and a teacher who may not work there hosting a retreat or workshop together. Or, posting or announcing each other’s special events.
The Yoga Lunchbox is a great method that teachers work together for individual and mutual benefit. A sort of combined effort like this one is a great forum for teachers and studios to promote yoga as a whole, while also promoting their unique expression of it. And, people come to the web site seeking information about yoga – and they begin to discover which teachers, studios, and styles resonate with them. It’s great. It’s building community!
What do you think is the general public’s impression of yoga? Does it need changing?
This is tough for me to speak to in regards to New Zealand. I haven’t had enough experience here (in the 10 months I’ve been here) to learn what the general impression here is. In the US, it’s either thought of as “the way to look like Madonna” or “that woo-woo spiritual thing that hippies/new-agers do.”
The real question to this, then, is what is yoga and how do we demonstrate through our various materials what it is? Well, yoga is something that can help some people of the similar body type and practice style look like Madonna, and it is also that woo-woo spiritual thing that hippies/new-agers do. But, it’s also a lot of other things. So how do we depict that diversity?
Showing yoga’s accessibility and diversity will reach those people who aren’t practicing yoga. Show them how it is already their interest, how it will work in their lives, and how you are working on that in your practice, teaching, and studio. Then the community grows and the broader understanding of yoga grows too.
If you had $100,000 to play with on an advertising campaign, how would you sell yoga? Does yoga need to be “sold”?
The real cornerstone here is what is above – educating on what yoga is, and demonstrating how most people already practice yoga in some form or another, they just don’t realize it!
I remember speaking with a prospective student and he said he would “never do yoga” because of the “woo-woo spiritual” misunderstanding. He then went on to describe how he did walking meditation during his lunch breaks. He didn’t know this was walking meditation. He didn’t know it was a technique used in yoga!
After telling him that his lunch-walks were yoga, he got curious and took a class and realized what yoga was for him. Today, instead of being that lone fellow who does weird lunch-walks, he’s part of a community of people!
This is a prime example of educating people, really, it’s showing them how yoga is already a part of their lives, no matter how small, and then inviting them to explore more, inviting them to join us.
So, if I were to have $100,000 to spend on a campaign, it would probably involve hiring the right people to design and launch a campaign about how real, grounded and adaptable yoga is. Though, we probably wouldn’t need that much money. We could really do a lot with it, though!
Anything else you’d like to add about yoga & marketing?
For anyone starting on this process for themselves, keep the focus simple – what do you want people to know about you, so that it resonates with them and draws them to you?
Whatever is unique about you is an important part of the equation. A friend of mine always includes a picture of her with her horse. She loves that horse! She attracts so many horse people to her practice just through that image. Another friend of mine loves to paint, so she tends to attract a lot of artists. Yet another is in a 12-step recovery program, and so she attracts a lot of people going through that.
At the end of the day, being who we are and teaching from our heart and experience, we will find the people whom we need and who need us. Remember, as we are seeking out them, they are also looking for us. So, how do we let them know where we are?
What about you – do you think yoga needs marketing? What ways of marketing your studio or classes has really worked for you? If you’d like to use The Yoga Lunchbox for marketing your yoga-related products or service you can download the advertising rates and placements here, or email me directly with any questions here.