by Jenny Flynn

In the third and final post in this series on the business of yoga, I’ll share some ideas around how to develop a supportive community for you and your students, on and off-line.

How can I support my students ‘off the mat’ with useful advice and practices?
How can I develop a community that’s rewarding for my students and viable for me in this busy world?
How can I engage with a larger audience to help grow my business?

First we explored finding confidence and clarity with what you’re offering. Secondly we looked into generating a greater understanding of your audience, what they need and where to find them. Now we can focus on how to deliver inspiring resources through building a supportive community.

Gratitude for where you are – excitement for where you’re going.

Do you find the idea of marketing your services daunting? Perhaps superimpose the word ‘sharing’ over ‘marketing’ and see how you feel. Rather than thinking about it as being separate from what you already do, think about it as building on the foundations you already have, slowly opening up to a wider audience, organically over time.

Start from the ground up

You may have found that supporting your students through classes, workshops and handouts, etc they have recommended you to friends? So start where you are, continue to support your existing network/students/clients through ‘word of mouth’ and if you decide to branch out online, allow social media to do a lot of the work for you, as it’s designed to do – extending word of mouth online!

1. Support your students

What contacts do you have in the field that you wish to develop?
Pause for a moment, and with a little smile of gratitude think about what you already have. Maybe an email list of past/present students? Content you have created in the past for your classes/workshops/studies or other promotional ventures. Explore any other contacts you have within the industry that perhaps you can develop to share collaboratively between your students. Now consider how you can firm that foundation:

  • Sounds simple and silly, but actually tell student about what else you do/offer!
  • Create ‘extra content’, handouts etc to hand out at classes.
  • Create questionnaires to find out more about them and what they would like to learn more about. Ask questions in class and add make notes after each class, keep learning and save the information in one place.
  • Collect emails on a piece of paper at every class/event.
  • Hand out new student info & offers at your classes. Perhaps ‘bring a friend and both get half price class’?
  • Print is not entirely dead! Some local flyers well placed in relevant shops/community centers etc. Door drops however tend not to work so well, remember it’s all about targeting your efforts.
  • Develop your teacher/practitioner contacts, how can you help each other/share resources and lighten the load?!

Supplement this with the information gathered in the previous post about what your students need. You can use this to refine your handouts and develop your content reources.

2. Create a Newsletter

Before building a website and launching into Social Media, this is the simplest way of extending your support to your students, developing your relationship and reminding them of your offerings.

You can even send one out direct from your email address, although I would recommend an online service such as Mailchimp. It’s easy to use, there are beautiful templates and it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers.

What to send?

  • Encouragement in their home practice
  • PDF versions of your handouts
  • Other links based on your class themes from other websites
  • Seasonal information: recipes, practices, balance your dosha, etc…
  • Your workshops, term dates, events…
  • Perhaps other classes in the area which compliment yours? You could even contact those teachers to help promote each others classes…
  • Anything else that may benefit them – blog posts, videos, websites…

Keep the design simple, content and copy informal and allow the content you already produce to flow through here. Ensure you make a comment about sharing the email with others that might benefit from the information.

You might find that this is enough for you or at some point you may find you have the motivation to expand your efforts…

3. Create an online presence

This gives you an online calling card and if you would like to expand your reach to help more people, it is essential to do so. So, what do you do online currently? If you use Facebook, and your audience does too, a Business Page, like this would be good place to start. If you use Google+, create a Page here. These are free, respond well in search engines and may be enough of a presence online to begin with.

Remember who you need to be targeting if you work with industry professionals, people in homes or children. If you are on LinkedIn for example, you can export your list of industry contacts to use for targeting emails. You can also focus your online presence here to begin with, developing the contacts you already have and exploring Groups for business.

If you have nothing set up, there are many free options for creating your own site, from wix, to Squarespace, to WordPress. If you feel you need help developing your site, of course there are designers to work with and it’s important to find someone you trust and will work with you to find a price point and service appropriate for you. Deciding whether to DIY or employ a designer is often comes down to which you have more of: time or budget! Finding a designer is a little like finding a yoga teacher – word of mouth is often the best way!

Keep your site simple to begin with and expand as you feel comfortable. It’s your online business card so people need to know concisely, who you are, what you do and how to get in touch. And of course where to sign up to your newsletter!

4. Growing online

If feel excited here to move into Social Media, remember this: Content is King! Keep coming back to your core offering for inspiration – why do you do what you do and how does this medium support that?

If you enjoy writing, you might consider developing a blog on your site or contacting some relevant online blogs/forums where (from the previous post) you know your students/audience spends time. Offer to write a blog post or series based on content you already have. Creating your own blog has many benefits, from search engine results, helping place yourself as an expert in your field and of course focusing on what will help your audience.

Choose your route, be it Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, based on a happy medium between what you feel comfortable using and where your audience spends time. You’ll want to integrate your chosen route with your website and include a link on your Newsletter and email footers.

Create a list of pages/posts you find informative and share them through your Blog and/or Social Media routes. Brainstorm what you can post about and keep a list that you can come back to for inspiration.

The trick with all of this is to start small and grow at a pace that feels comfortable. So rather than launching into multiple sites; focus on creating great content for your existing students, tweak it for your online audience and share it through your website, emails and and one avenue online.

What’s next?

Of course there’s too much to discuss in one little post but hopefully this provides a helpful overview for helping to support and grow your community. If you’ve found anything that works well for your business, I’d love to hear it. Please share below to help support this very community of teachers and practitioners!

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If you’d like to take this further, contact us to register your interest for the next ‘Branding You & Social Media’ event. Alternatively you can find out more about my professional services and how to work with me at Unfold Digital.

What’s your story? I’d love to hear your thoughts, experience or issues you have found with developing your business. Please leave your comments below…
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