by regular columnist Elissa Jordan, Adventures in Teaching
Lots of things have been happening in my yoga teaching world over the past few months. I’ve been quitting classes, starting classes, transitioning classes, having classes covered for me and covering for others.
The quitting, starting and transitioning came about as I took stock of how I was spending my energy. I realised changes need to be made to ensure I was being of service to those I was meeting on the mat.
Covering classes and asking teachers to cover for me is part of the natural flow of teaching life.
I’ve been teaching yoga for a while now and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I’ve learned as much about what to do as what not to do. That’s inspired me to write a series about the nitty gritty of being a yoga teacher.
Part One – Growing a New Yoga Class:
I’m a busy person. I don’t have a whole heap of time available. My key mistake when I first started teaching was picking days and times for new classes that suited me.
Of course a class time has to be when I’m available, but it should not be based around convenience. Rather, it should be based on your target audience and their key behaviours.
For example, if you’re in the CBD, lunchtime and after work are best. If you’re in the burbs, later in the evening or weekends might be a better option.
Bear in mind, these aren’t hard and fast rules. When I last caught up with Linda Ryder of the Yoga Centre Southland, located in Central Invercargill, she’s said that her class times are later to allow for Southlanders to get home after work, have a bite, get the kids squared away and then they’re keen to get to a yoga class. A 5.30PM class at her studio would be too early.
Even when catering to the expected needs of their target market, I’ve seen teachers, both new and experienced, who create a new class only to abandon it a few months down the road. So what’s going on there?
It could be any number of things:
- the information the teacher is basing the class on is false (e.g. students saying they want a particular day/time/style, but then not showing up when it’s on offer)
- the teacher just doesn’t want the class if it’s not easy (e.g. lacking the fortitude to tweak and polish a class plan until it really shines, even when that takes several months)
- or sometimes life happens and things just don’t work out.
In my experience the biggest challenge to growing a new yoga class is the “build it and they will come” mentality. Want to know if your class is based on wishful thinking or solid planning? Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself:
Define your target market for this brand new yoga class:
Who are your people? The ones who are drawn to you and your style of teaching? And who do you want to reach? Are you going for beginners or kids? Cyclists or retirees? Are the people you’re trying to target those same one who are drawn to you?
- Who is your target market?
- What are the needs of that market?
- What makes you uniquely qualified to teach this market?
Choose a class name that’s informative and accessible
Beginners especially can be intimidated or put off by complicated or unfamiliar names. People want to know what they’re going to get before they buy it. I’m sure it’s happened to you, ask someone what kind of yoga they practice and you’re met with a confused look, “Yoga yoga?”
- What is your class name?
- Why have you picked that class name?
- Will this be recognizable and accessible to your target market?
Make sure you have a growth plan
Most new classes will start with no one in them. But growing your class isn’t just about getting students through the door, it’s retaining them, and getting them to come back.
- What does your class growth plan look like?
- How do you go from 0 to 20?
- How long should that take?
- Where is the critical point where you can no longer sustain a growth phase?
- What numbers do you need in the class to make it viable?
Think about your Lifecycle plan
Write out your plan, so that 6-weeks, 6-months or 6-years down the road you can review it to see if you’re meeting the goals you set for the class. If you have a goal that’s not being met, what can you change to ensure it happens? If you don’t plan long term eventually your class can stagnate and people will start to look elsewhere for how to grow their practice.
- What is your class lifecycle plan?
- Where do you want your students to be on Day 1?
- What do you want them to have learnt by Day 10?
- How about Day 100?
Create a marketing plan
You know your target market, you’ve named your class and you’ve planned your class to the last detail – great start. Now, how are you going to attract that target market and let them know about your fabulous new class? Your marketing plan should be linked to your growth plan as it’s not just something you’ll do once and forget about it, getting the word out is an ongoing job.
- What is your marketing plan?
- Do you have a website, Facebook page, flyers, business card, sandwich board?
- Have you gone into local offices, community groups or schools to let them know?
- Thought about offering a promo on the likes of TreatMe or GrabOne?
- Have you advertised on a local events website or community newspaper?
Don’t forget to do solid market research
Some centres, like Wellington, have a yoga teacher on every corner. It’s a saturated market, but talented teachers are still able to make some headway as punters become more discerning. Other small centres, where there may only be a single studio or a handful of teachers, may not be any more attractive as the demand may not support an increased supply. What’s the yoga market look like where you are?
- What are other successful teachers doing?
- What can you learn from them?
- Have you talked to students in your class, either as a teacher or as a student, to see what’ important to them?
- What can you offer that’s not already out there?
A successful class doesn’t just happen overnight. You need to know your market, you need to speak to your market, you need to plan, you need to get the word out to your market and you need to be able to stay flexible and tweak your plan as you go along. It takes work. It takes commitment. And it takes focus. Much like yoga really, and much like what you expect of your students when you ask them to show up week after week after week.
In short: If you want to run full yoga classes – Plan for success; know your market; and remain flexible.
Check back soon for part two, covering and transitioning classes.