When Tania and I first started Yoga Hawaii in 1999, the internet wasn’t such a big thing, especially for small businesses like ours.
Nevertheless, I built a website the old-fashioned HTML way, and eventually over the 12 years we owned the yoga studio, converted it to a WordPress platform (FYI: that’s the one on which most websites today are built).
If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve also started collecting email addresses from the very beginning, using some sort of email service provider like the one I use now on BlissfulYogini.com, which is Aweber.
You might be wondering, what good would that’ve done?
And why is this relevant to what I’m doing now as a yoga teacher?
Well, teachers need students.
Most yoga teachers these days rely on the yoga studios at which they teach to build their classes for them through studio promotions and advertising.
They might also have a subconscious thought that, “As long as I’m a good teacher, then students will show up for my classes.”
I think that USED TO be true, before the inundation of yoga studios and gyms offering a huge variety of yoga classes at all hours at highly discounted prices.
But now, teachers need to be a little more savvy about building their classes and retaining their students.
How having an email list helps you build your classes
We don’t like to think of having to compete as a yoga teacher, but the reality is that students have a choice, and unless you’re finding ways to deeply connect with your students and provide some sort of ‘added value,’ then you might not be the one they think about when they plan their yoga classes for the week.
Creating a mailing list of your students allows you to CONNECT and COMMUNICATE with them, and ultimately to provide VALUABLE resources and SUPPORT for their yoga journey.
The big studios are doing this but the added advantage that YOU have, is YOU—a unique being who cares about the individuals who come to class and wants to help them improve their health, life and evolve the planet, in a very personal way.
An email list will allow you to build a community and will help fuel your dream of sharing the gift of yoga.
What exactly can you do with an email list?
Here’s how a list can be helpful to you. A list is useful to:
- get the word out about a new class, workshop or retreat you’re offering
- provide a cheatsheet or other kind of resource to your students
- give seasonal suggestions about their practice or an Ayurveda tip
- send out your schedule of classes as a reminder of your class times
- find out how you can serve your students better
- announce the class theme you’ll be working on that week or month
- suggest a complimentary service you might want to provide for your students
- inform students of a change in class times or a vacation you’ll be taking
- educate students about yoga as a way of life or a philosophical concept
- remind students to continue their home practice between classes
This is all good stuff!
In essence, your email list, if used to communicate regularly, can become a little bit of sunshine that your students look forward to receiving.
You might be saying, “I already communicate with my students through Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/other-social-media-outlet. Why do I need a list?”
The answer is: You don’t ‘own’ those platforms and can’t control their longevity (remember MySpace?). Nor do you own the connections, or contact names. The social media platform owns them and controls what they can see of your feed.
By contrast, an email goes directly to the student without that intermediary. And you’re in charge of that connection.
This is important. It’s well known that social media platforms frequently change the way that users are fed content. Facebook is the most notorious in this respect but the others also make periodic changes that affect how well your posts get seen, and how messages get delivered.
And email is a great way to communicate with your audience on a more personal level. There’s just something about receiving an email from somebody that makes it extremely effective at getting a point across, or encouraging someone to take some kind of action….like come to your class!
How to collect student email addresses for your list
As I mentioned, if I were to do it all again, I would start collecting email addresses from day one of my teaching. This is a chance for you to learn from my mistakes (you’re welcome 🙂 ).
Chances are, if you’re already teaching, you might feel like you’re a little behind in this aspect of your yoga business.
But it’s never too late.
Here are some ways that you can start building your list TODAY:
- whenever you teach, offer to send your students your full schedule of classes if they leave their email address with you;
- create a Facebook PAGE (not your personal profile) and a landing page for people to sign up to receive your email newsletter (you can see one of ours here; we use aweber for this too, but there are other ways to do this—a subject for another post);
- start a simple online blog and collect names there;
- hand out a business card that encourages people to email you for a special resource/cheatsheet/guide. Let them know when you send it that you will also add them to your list.
Where do all these names and email addresses go?
Another good question.
The short answer is: an email list service.
There are a number of good ones. Here are three well-known services:
You can get a free 30-day trial period with Aweber by clicking here.
MailChimp has a free service, up to 500 names. After that, you must pay to maintain your list there.
ConstantContact has a free 60-day trial period.
For now, you can just manually enter names onto your list. Eventually, you can do this by linking your email service up to your website, blog or Facebook page.
How often should I communicate with my list?
You can capture email addresses until the cows come home and only email your students every once in awhile–but let me tell you why I think this is a bad idea.
One of the advantages that you have over the large yoga studio chains that are popping up all over (six have opened here in Honolulu in the past year!), is that you can create a RELATIONSHIP with your students.
In the not-too-distant past of yoga, the teacher/student relationship was a very sacred one.
And even though (for good reasons) we’ve moved away from that model somewhat, the yoga teacher is still very important for a number of reasons.
Here are just three reasons:
- You are a role model.
- You give the student faith in yoga practices when his or hers begins to wane (and it will).
- You provide loving support for the individual’s unfolding.
There are probably even more that you can add to this list.
Being in touch with your students on a CONSISTENT and regular basis will show that you care and are wanting to establish that CONNECTION with the student.
However, everyone is busy these days so you need to be discriminating about your own time expenditure…and if you think that once a month is all that you can manage to send out a little newsletter, then just stay consistent with that schedule.
If you can send a message more often—say, twice a month or once a week—then again, consistency is king here.
What you write in your emails doesn’t have to be “news”—it can be anything really. But, it’s important that you consistently contact your students and provide them with some kind of VALUABLE information to remind them of their relationship with you.
By now I hope I’ve answered many of your questions…if not leave a comment below and I’ll answer them, each and every one!
If you want more about how to build an email list, let me know in the comments. If there’s interest, I could cover the actual steps to set up your email service provider using Aweber as an example (it’s not as hard as it sounds).