Business, Yoga

A new Coach Bag or Yoga?

Last month I read an eye opening post about marketing strategy + psychology on Psychotactics.com. As soon as I read the opening paragraph I immediately thought “hmmm interesting, I should tweet this shit out.” I never did – it’s their fault, they didn’t add a share link to their post. Seriously? Who writes professional articles about marketing + advertising and doesn’t add a share link to the page?  WTF.   Anyway. The article flips the idea of competition on its head.  Once you wrap your brain around the concept its logic is so very obvious you’re wondering why you didn’t come up with it yourself.

Cliffs Notes version: the article redefines the narrow application of your competition. The example they use in the article is a ‘kitchen designer’s’ perceived competition is other kitchen designers, when in actuality, their real competition could be a car salesman.

(Photo courtesy of http://themonarchhouse.com)

Get it? No? Ok, let me explain by bringing it into our yoga world. I am wordy, so this may take a while, bear with me…

Your biggest competition isn’t the yoga studio opening up 5 miles away, its the Coach Store.  It’s the Gap. It’s  Antropologie, Ann Taylor, Home Depot and those god damned emails from Joss & Main. It’s what ever that potential student is spending their money on instead of your classes and your studio.

While we all think everyone should practice yoga and it should be available to the masses, the dirty little secret is that it’s expensive.  Those that can afford it (I’m not talking uber rich 1%ers, I’m talking average middle class people with mortgages and student loans) do so because they have made yoga a priority in their life. Their priority is your benefit.  I know at first pass, that sounds uncomfortable, but YOU were put on this planet to share your gift of yoga. You can’t do that if you’re stressed out over your bottom line and paying your bills. 

The students that ritually purchase 10 class packs or annual memberships at a yoga studio are your bread + butter.  Keep doing what you’re doing in class to retain these students, you don’t need to market to them, you need to keep them happy. The new students, Groupon users and the student that pops in once every month or so? They’re different. These are the ones you have to convince to go to yoga (regularly) instead of buying a new Coach bag.  This is why your biggest competition is not the studio 3 miles away or even be the other local teacher offering killer privates at stupidly cheap rates.

Your biggest competition is  whatever else that potential student is spending their money on.

The challenge is to shift your marketing and sales pitch to persuade students to go to yoga instead of  buying that Coach bag.  This is a no-brainer because it’s not risky.  You won’t lose any loyal students by testing this theory out. They already know what’s in your awesomesauce,  they’re drinking the kool-aid and they want more. This shift will only impact the  PRFs (Potential Raving Fans). Now don’t assume switching up a flyer or interacting with your Facebook fans a little differently is going to be enough, you need to follow through to seal the deal. A successful follow up will convert Groupon purchasers into Raving Fans who will come to class instead of going shopping. WIN WIN.

An amazing side effect to this shift in marketing is the energy associated with your prosperity.   Shifting your ideas about what your competition is in reality will allow you to release competition, insecurity and even jealousy. Letting go of this kind of negative competition makes room for effortless prosperity and abundance. This naturally builds community. When you stop hating on the new studio that opened up down the street, you can work together.  Maybe you can plan a kick ass event, bring in your favorite “guru” or yoga celebrity that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford on your own?  We’re so much more powerful when we’re united.

Next week I’ll talk about conversion and creating a sales culture in your studio without feeling totally gross.

Branding, Business, Yoga

The Groupon Effect – Yoga Style

yoga_studio_groupon_deal_bizeebeeI will be the first one to admit that Groupon (LivingSocial, AmazonLocal, Deal Chicken,  etc.) deals for yoga studios are bomb-digity for my wallet.  I started seeing them about two or three years ago and scooping them up left and right. They were a cheap perfect way to explore new studios and classes outside of my local stomping grounds.  When I was with LBG, my former business partner and I used to buy them monthly to scout clients.  We visited studios all over NJ, NYC, Long Island and Philadelphia.  It was an awesome way to connect with studio owners. Each studio’s energy, vibe and kula is so different from the next.  Our business budget never could have afforded to pay full price for all of those classes.  I don’t think we could have traveled so much or taken so many yoga classes if it weren’t for social couponing.  It really was great for our growing business.

I became a Groupon Yoga junkie. Each morning I would check my emails scrolling through to the fitness/yoga deals. There was always one to be had.  Even though I was driving all over the tri-state area exploring yoga studios, I rarely became a returning student after my deal was used or expired.  I just waited for the next opportunity. The more I started practicing at random new studios with new teachers, the less loyalty I had to my “home” studio.  Even my loyalty to the studios I taught at started to wane. That’s when I realized, this whole social couponing thing is not as awesome as it seems. Once you sever your connection to the money, you’ll realize it’s bad for the studio and bad for the student as well. Here’s why:

Social Coupons devalue your studio. It’s a brilliant business model for Groupon but it undermines the longevity of your studio and the value of your teachers. Let me break it down for you… a studio offers yoga at $20 per drop in, but offers a [Groupon] special of $35.00 for 5 classes ($100 value). The studio also has to pay [Groupon] 50% of that – so basically the studio just gave away a class for about $3.50.  For small studios with an owner teaching the majority of the classes, this may be fine.  For larger studios that pay their teachers competitive rates, this is simply bad for business.

There’s no incentive for studio loyalty. The benefit (in theory) behind social couponing sites is that they have the ability to reach a larger audience. People that have never tried yoga or never stepped foot through the doors of your studio are more likely to test the waters  for under $40 for multiple classes than they are for a $20 drop in.  It’s great for the commit-a-phobe and the uber busy.  “Whoops, I forgot to use my $35 groupon before it expired” is a little different than “Whoops, I paid $70(usually more)/month and only went to 2 classes.” What it isn’t great for is committment to practice at your studio. You’re going to need a pretty fabulous hook to inspire them to become a member of your kula instead of grabbing the next deal at another studio around the corner or even 10 miles away. Don’t believe me? A recent study by Rice University found that nearly 80% of social coupon users are first-timers, and only 20% of them become repeat customers.

Social coupons disrespect your regular members. In any business, the customer/client wants to be valued. It’s inherent in our ahamkara. Building a yoga community takes time, dedication and lots of love. As studio owners and teachers, we are guiding our students on their yogic path. There needs to be trust and mutual respect. Skilled teachers with individual followings aside, the difference between a yoga studio and a fitness center is the sense of community. Members of a thriving (and financially viable) yoga studio are members of your family. It’s the heart of your business. If you offer the same yoga class or workshop that they have been buying for years to a new customer for less than half the price, it’s going to hurt.

Social coupons dilute your brand. (See also, devalue + disrespect above).  Ok, so it’s hard to talk about your yoga studio as kulas and then talk brand. It’s just so dirty. But brand is more than simply marketing, it’s the personality of your business. It’s what your customers students identify with. Think about the master of all yoga branding, Lululemon (and disregard the fact that their brand has shifted from 100% yoga to a yoga-running blend). Can you imagine a Lulu groupon popping up? No, because it would never happen.  Lulu has taken years to impeccably build their brand. It offers something of value and status, but that’s another discussion. If they were to offer deep discounts on their $95 yoga pants (they’re even 50-65 bucks at the outlets) they in essence would be saying, “we charge too much” and we’re willing to be flexible with the value we place on our products.  Something tells me this isn’t an option for that yoga giant.  Do you think a $20 drop in is too expensive for a full service yoga studio?  I don’t. $20 is average in my local New Jersey-metropolitan NYC market. Sure, I wish my drop ins were still $12 like they were in Boston in 2004.  But I strive to be in the present.

So, there you have it. The reasons why this Groupon Junkie thinks social couponing for yoga studios sucks.

 If you have a different experience or opinion I would love to hear from you!