Lockdown generated a surge in the number of online yoga practitioners, spurred on by an urge to maintain some form of physical fitness and mild sanity while confined indoors for 23 hours a day.
Even now, numbers in online classes remain high, as more practitioners opt to tune into their Friday night Nidra class from the comfort of their own homes.
How can you connect with this new online audience?
The truth is, growing your client base requires more than posting your online schedule and expecting new students to swarm in. It requires rigorous strategic planning, data analysis, and market research… topics not necessarily covered in your teacher training. Understanding and actioning the following points are fundamental to establishing a client base that will last both on- and offline.
First things first, it’s worth asking yourself what class size do you actually want? Contrary to what Instagram may have you believe, a larger following does not necessarily equate to success or, more importantly, job satisfaction. In fact, having a large client base can create more challenges as you find yourself catering to a wider range of needs. This is not only time consuming, but can also negatively impact your teaching as your attention is spread between a wider audience.
Taking the time to assess your ideal number of students is the first step to building your client base. You never know, you may well find it is big enough already.
In the yoga world, it is tempting to be a “Jack of all trades”: a teacher for everyone, every need, every style of yoga. In doing so, you cast your net wide: catching an eclectic mix of students. And yet, as the common adage goes, the “Jack of all trades is master of none”. While striving to cater your teaching to everyone, you ultimately fail to genuinely connect with anyone.
Building a lasting, reliable client base requires honing in on your speciality and interests. Again, this may require some “soul-searching”. What is your niche? Why do you teach yoga? Who do you want to teach? The responses to these questions will give you better insight into your teaching style and purpose. This process of recognition will help you understand your strengths and limitations as a yoga teacher. In doing so you will be in a better position to define and connect with your target audience.
Love it or hate it, social media is the most effective way to attract and connect with your audience. According to the Global Digital Review 2020, the number of social media users exceeded 3.8 billion in April 2020. With an annual growth rate of 9.2%, it’s highly likely some if not all your students are on some form of social media.
However, this doesn’t mean simply posting photos of yourself performing Gandha Bherundasana, impressive as it may look. To be able to employ social media as a means to build your client base will require forethought and planning. Consider which platform your audience uses, what content will be most interesting to them, when are they online and which device are they using?
Being aware of the above allows you to create targeted, useful content that will be relevant to your students and saves you from spending time on ineffectual posts. Each post also functions as a hub of data, showcasing what content your audience is most interested in, when is the best time to upload content and which platform garners the most response. Clever!
In order to grow your class size, you need to understand your target audience. The most effective way to do so is to ask your current students for feedback. Ask your students why they attend your class, what they like about your teaching, what they would like more of, what experience they have of other yoga styles and teachers, how often do they practice… the list goes on. Ascertaining and analysing this information should give you better insight into your strengths and the aspects of your teaching that your audience most responds to.
What’s more, when you have outdone yourself with online surveys, email questionnaires and class feedback, you can then use your social media platform to ask potential students what they would be interested in learning from you. Polls, quizzes and questionnaires posted on your profile are an usefule yet informal means of assessing what your wider audience is interested in gaining from you.
While on the hunt for more clients, do not neglect your current students. These practitioners are your foundation and your ambassadors: it is your existing students who will mention you to their friends, recommend you to a colleague or suggest your class to a neighbour. As word of mouth is often cited as the most effective form of marketing, it is worthwhile spending the time to forge genuine connections with your existing clients.
To do this requires taking a real interest in your student’s practice and life outside of the studio; ask your students how they are finding the class, if they need additional support, whether they would like to focus on a particular area. Such small gestures will ultimately advance your perceptiveness, communication skills and compassion: all essential skills for yoga professionals.
While growing your client base is often seen as a marker of success for teachers, often the greatest reward is establishing meaningful relationships with a selection of students.
Looking to run online classes? View our Free course to teaching online here.