Have you ever met someone who could really benefit from yoga, but had no real idea what yoga is? For example, have you met someone who had back problems and after you got to talking with them, you explained that yoga could help their back? The next thing you know, they are a regular student and maybe even a client for private sessions.
In this article, I’m going to share with you a strategy for bringing people like this into your studio day after day – all without you even needing to be the one who initially talks to them.
The basic idea is that you make an arrangement with some other professional or business who serves customers who might also wish to take yoga. They refer people to you, and in exchange, you refer people to them. The technical name for this is a “Business Alliance.” Here’s an example:
Jenny owns a yoga studio. She has a teacher who is qualified to teach a gentle yoga class for people suffering from low back pain.
Rob is a chiropractor. Many of his patients suffer from low back pain.
Jenny contacts Rob and explains that her studio offers a yoga class that might be of real benefit to his patients who have low back pain. She asks if he’s familiar with yoga as a therapy for back pain, and she invites him to attend a class that is specifically meant for back pain sufferers (the class is free of charge for him, of course).
She also explains that she would be happy to offer a special discount for his patients. He checks out the class, sees that the teacher knows her stuff and she could really help his patients. Jenny agrees to give Rob’s patients a 10% discount on all classes and private sessions. She also tells Rob that she will display his business cards at her studio and refer students to him.
It is a total win-win deal. Jenny gets students and clients who would never have even considered yoga before, and Rob has another way to help his patients relieve their back pain as well as getting more patients for himself.
There are a number of variations on this, but I think you get the general idea. I love alliances because everyone benefits AND, they are free to implement. So, here are some additional details. First, who can you create alliances with? Here are some possibilities (but by no means limit yourself to this list):
o Massage Therapists
o Rehabilitation clinics
o Doctors (those who deal with ailments that yoga can help)
o Ob/Gyn’s (prenatal yoga)
o Pediatricians and hospitals/birthing centers (postnatal/new mom yoga)
o Wellness centers
o Weight loss clinics (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc.)
o Therapists (yoga for stress relief)
o Hair dressers
o Day Spa’s
o New age churches, spiritual centers, classes or teachers
o Sporting goods stores (Including specialty stores like ski equipment, golf, etc.)
o Athletic teachers and coaches (Tennis pros, golf instructors, etc.)
o Organic produce stores
Basically, they are businesses or professionals that make your student’s lives easier or sell products/services that support their health. They tend to work best when your “alliance partner” has direct, individual, contact with the potential student. In other words, when a doctor suggests yoga to a patient, there’s probably an 80% chance that patient will show up at your studio.
You will want to personally introduce the benefits of yoga to a potential alliance partner. They may know about yoga, but also may be totally clueless. Talk on their level. And always, talk in terms of how it will benefit them and their clients or customers. Avoid focusing on you and your studio beyond what it will do for them.
This is so important, I’m going to repeat it: always talk in terms of how it will benefit them and their clients or customers. As fascinating as your studio and even yoga is, people would much rather talk and listen – and work together – when it is of clear benefit to them.
Next come the details of the arrangement. You want to provide your alliance partner with coupons, business cards, fliers, brochures, etc. that they can give to people they are referring. These items should provide the potential student with a special discount on class card purchases. Appropriate discounts are generally in the 10-25% range. It will probably also let them take one class for free.
You ideally want it to indicate what specific benefits the person will get from yoga (this might mean different fliers or coupons for different alliance partners. For example, a postcard-sized coupon for chiropractors might talk specifically about how yoga relieves back pain, where the one for Weight Watchers would emphasize yoga as exercise to support weight loss.
Tailor your handout to the target market you’re after. If it’s a coupon, it probably speaks for itself. If it’s a business card, put a special stamp or sticker on it to indicate that when it is presented at your studio, the bearer is to receive a special discount. It should be a unique marking so that you can know who it came from (or you can just ask the person). This is so you can know things like “Jody’s Hair Styling gave us 8 referrals this month, but Dr. Brown only gave us 2.” More on using this kind of info in a future article.
The other half of the alliance relationship is that you will promote your alliance partner’s business. This might look like putting out their materials (cards, fliers, brochures, etc.) on a table by the studio door. It might include having teachers mention them at appropriate times (i.e. in a back pain reduction class, “By the way, I know a number of people in the room have been using Dr. Brown, a chiropractor in town, to help with low back pain and are getting good results. If you’ve been looking for a chiropractor, talk to me after class and I can give you more info on this.”) Perhaps it includes putting an ad for them in a newsletter (or even having them write an article for it). Maybe it means listing them on your web site. You decide what you can do.
Remember, you are never trying to be like a telemarketer salesperson and sell people stuff they don’t need. On the contrary, you are doing this because it may be of real benefit to some of your students and clients – you want to help them.
Finally, there are some variations on the above model I’ll just briefly mention. One is that instead of promoting an alliance partner, you can simply give them something (cash or services) in exchange for their referring clients to you. Maybe you give them 10% or $10 for each referral who buys a class card. Maybe you give them free yoga. Again, whatever feels right for you.
Another variation on the overall model is to have alliance partners pay you for promoting their business (in addition to referring people to you). This works if you have a lot of people who you can promote to. Often, it is worthwhile after you establish an alliance program and it is clear to your alliance partners that they are getting clients or customers from you.
By all means, try variations of your own. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – if something doesn’t work, make a note of it and move on to another variation. Business alliances are a proven strategy that have been used for many years. Let your studio benefit and help others at the same time.
I know I’ve covered a lot in this article, but hopefully it will get you going in the right direction. As always, feel free to email me with questions (I’ll answer them in my blog) and especially with your success stories.
To your success,
P.S. I’d like to give special thanks to Kirsten Elfendahl, Manager and College Administrator at The College of Purna Yoga (www.yogacenters.com) for providing background for this article as well as a model of a working implementation of a successful business alliance program. Definitely check out their web site.