Keeping Students Coming

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When opening a yoga studio, a number of factors—your location, marketing, teaching staff, and pricing—all conspire to draw students in. But whether or not they continue to attend classes at your studio is solely up to you.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it means that your business is in your own hands. There are plenty of things you can do. Here are three practical ways to help you convert visitors to your studio to regular members of your yoga community.

First of all, your yoga studio has to be collaborative in order for it to be a success. If you approach it strictly as an owner-operated business, you are likely to run into trouble. Tim Dale, who owns Yoga Tree studios in the San Francisco Bay Area, learned this firsthand. Dale recalls a recent occasion when he changed a class schedule without consulting or notifying his students. “It was really put in my face that I’d made this decision without discussing it with everyone whom it affected. My staff and students communicated some really negative feelings to me about it. It was a valuable lesson about the importance of community and my need to demonstrate more sensitivity around these decisions.”

Operating collaboratively means communicating with your students and staff. Create an email list and check in with them often. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t, and then make changes based on what you’ve learned.

Next, be confident in the value of what you have to offer. Jonathan Fields relied heavily on his own sense of self-assurance when he launched Sonic Yoga in Manhattan. “I was comfortable that I had something to offer. I believed in my heart that I was about to do something powerful, and that I would just put it out there with the goal of making it very clear what Sonic Yoga was going to be about and why it might be different.”

Remember that you need to continually articulate the message of your studio to your students and staff. That means knowing what you’re all about, and having the confidence and awareness to keep reinforcing that truth.

Finally, getting to know your students may be the smartest strategy of all. Telari Bohrnsen, who owns One Yoga in Minneapolis, still staffs the front desk herself, or else asks her husband (an eight-grade science teacher who works weekend and night shifts) to do it. Says Bohrnsen, “I think it’s really important for customers to see the same faces all the time in order for the studio to become a home.” She says it is as useful to her to know her students well. “I know 75 percent of the students’ names when they come in the door. We say hello; they can fight with me if they think they have more classes; I advise some of them over the phone. We have a real relationship.”

Even though you may feel like you have a million things to do to keep your studio running, make desk time a real priority. Be available to answer questions and address your students’ concerns, or make sure your staff is able to do so. As you get to know your students as people and create a genuine bond with them, you’ll find the benefits go far beyond the success of the studio—you’ll be creating for yourself a rich and rewarding community of friends.

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