I don’t have a particularly big following or much experience with running yoga retreats (in fact, any!). However, I managed to sell out my first yoga retreat in the first month of releasing it, which has been surprising to most. Especially since some of my fellow retreat leaders struggle with filling their retreats and making them profitable.
In case this is useful information for retreat leaders of others looking to run retreats of any kind in the future, below I am sharing what allowed me to do this.
For the past 6 or so years I’ve worked in Sales for various companies, big and small. From working at Microsoft to a Sydney tech start up to now a Consultancy, I’ve gotten to understand how to create and sell a product which people want to buy. Then making the process of buying that product from me straight forward.
I’ve also built up a good understanding of what selling really is and isn’t and have become an absolute lover of selling – weird, yeah I know 😉
What Sales Isn’t
Creating what you think is right and then pressuring people into buying it from you.
What Sales Is
About understanding who your audience are, listening to what they need and delivering something which ticks all their boxes. It is crucial to make this whole process extremely straight forward – the easier you are to buy from, the more successful you will be.
Business can be remarkably straight forward but we often overcomplicate it. You don’t need to be a brash sales person in order to be successful (I’m far from it, in fact I can be more on the introvert side when working with clients).
You don’t need to be spammy, messaging people over and over again about why they should buy from you. It doesn’t work with ‘big ticket’ purchases and this is annoying for the prospective buyer.
A high-end system for tracking people interested in your retreat is not needed for the average yoga teacher – just a basic Excel document (or equivalent) however, IS key. Allowing you to keep track of availability, when to give a gentle ‘nudge’ to prospective yogis and ensuring your finances are 100% in check.
Therefore, using my business experience, this is how I made selling out my retreat happen in 30 days …
1. I Established Who My Target Audience Is
This is crucial for any business to be successful and allows you to build a product which is exactly right for my audience through researching what their specific needs are (Step 2).
I’ve been working on establishing who my audience is for the past 18 months and won’t delve too much into this process here. For me it is 30-55 year old females, living in the UK, with a basic-medium interest in Yoga. Be as specific as you can. It is this group that I am most passionate about working with (my private clients all fall into this category) and I feel this group are most compelled to have some of what I can offer.
2. Market Research
Establishing what your audience is looking for before creating the product is key. I once met a woman who had newly created a yogurt company and looking to grow. I asked how she’d done her market research to select what flavours she would create and where she would sell it.
Her response was ‘I don’t need to – I’m into yogurt myself and know what does and doesn’t taste good and where they can buy it from’ … oh golly I thought to myself, this chick is in dire need of some market research.
Recalling back to my days at business school… ‘You are just one person. One brain. One set of opinions – your opinions are biased and not reflective of your target audience as a whole.’ Therefore it is crucial to delve deeper.
I chose to interview 30 people in my target audience on what they’d be looking for in their perfect retreat. Asking them a series of qual and quant questions.
From doing this I found that;
- A Greek Island was the preferred destination (choices included Croatia, Ibiza, Spain, Italy)
- Villa over hotel was by FAR the preferece, even if this meant a 20% higher cost
- Lots of free time desired
- Personal development exercises NOT wanted
- Secluded area desired
- Beaches nearby was a game changer
- Sharing rooms/beds was not something people minded
- Including flights, £1000 for 5 nights felt about the right amount
- People wanted a less spiritual, more straight forward approach to the yoga classes
- A lighter focus on meditation than what some other retreats offer
- Simplicity – getting there, the yoga itself
- Healthy food desired but it doesn’t need to be Michelin star
- People wanted to spend more time out of room than inside
- People wanted local cafes and shops to be in walking distance
- VERY open for beginners – one of people’s biggest blockers appears to be having the confidence that they will be able to keep up
3. Simplified Pricing & Creating Urgency
No discounts. No payments over a long period of time. 50% deposit minimum.
To drive urgency, I know discounting is popular. However this can massively erode your margin and I’m not a big fan of people paying different prices, so I chose to keep clear of this tactic.
Instead, I was honest with people about the level of interest I was having and giving them the option to ‘pencil in’ their name and to come back to me within 1 week with their deposit in order to confirm their spot.
4. Using Beautiful Imagery
It was important for me to choose a beautiful villa – this was clear from my market research and from speaking to people at retreats I’d attended. I found mine on Air Bnb, but then went directly to the owner in order to avoid the additional 15% fee. Crucial in order to maintain a decent margin for me.
People don’t need to see every picture of every room. Instead I chose to focus my imagery on what my market research tells me really interests them in a yoga retreat… relaxation, nature, aspiration yoga pictures, delicious food.
5. Great Customer Service!
Something I really pride myself in as a sales person. Over the years I’ve created some small inbuilt rules to ensure I’m consistently top of my game.
One of these is that I acknowledge any customer questions within 1 hour and respond within 4. If this is not possible I let them know when I will respond by and check that this is fine with them. If urgent, I prioritise.
Also this point ties in to point 6, below…
A typical day in the life of a sales person is about 90% listening and 10% talking when speaking to customers. This is often a surprise to people I tell.
‘Why is it this way?’ This is the only way which you can you make a fitting recommendation – by REALLY understanding what you client needs, their pain points, goals and challenges. Perhaps t they are looking for a relaxing break but don’t feel good enough with their yoga practice to attend. Perhaps they have food allergies that they feel will complicate things or not sure about travelling alone.
Therefore, when people approached me with questions regarding the retreat, I really listened and understood what they had to say. This builds trust which will inevitable convert into some people purchasing and allows me to help them overcome any blockers which may be holding them back. 9/10 times I could help them to overcome these blockers.
Also, if I didn’t think my retreat was fitting to a persons needs, I would reccomend them elsewhere, to what I feel would be the right for for what they need. By taking a longer term perspective on this and still building trust, perhaps they will come back for my next retreat or recommend a friend to my retreats? From my sales experience I know this strategy really works – sometimes I have clients coming to me that I spoke to 12 months ago but it wasn’t quite the right timing. I heavily recommend taking a long term view on things.
7. Understanding My Competition
This is another crucial component in my day job as a sales person. This allows me to understand what people are willing to pay and it allows me to understand where a ‘gap’ in the market may be for creating something new. In the yoga retreat world, to me this means understanding what other yoga teachers offer which people flock to, pricing, how they market retreats.
Do this by looking around the internet (obvious), asking fellow retreat leaders a LOT of questions and perhaps going to a few retreats on your own (best way in my opinion) – make notes and ask the retreat leader and attendees questions.
I’ve been on a few myself. The types of questions I asked fellow guests were around how they came to hear about the retreat, what drew them in, what they thought about pricing and what are the one or two things that could be even better on the next retreat they attend.
8. Features Tell Whilst Benefits Sell
Overloading people with information is overwhelming. At the same time though you want to make sure you are giving your audience sufficient information in order to make a decision (the features). These features tell people the things they need to know (rooms, timetable, location), but are not going to excite them to purchase.
Therefore, I really recommend on hone in on what going on the retreat could mean to an individual – what will the benefits be for them? Perhaps increased clarity, relaxation, they will come away feeling rejuvenated and having learnt a lot more yoga? This helped me to structure the vocab I used on my marketing collateral.
Coaching with me
For 1:1 coaching on how to improve your yoga/wellness business, please get in touch for a free initial consultation. I coach you to reach your specific goals and share recommendations on:
- Business development – finding warm leads and how to nurture them into paying long-term clients
- How to prioritise your time in order to focus on the areas where you REALLY earn money
- Negotiation and the importance of sticking to your guns with pricing
- Customer service best practices learnt through my career at Microsoft
- Building start-up sales processes – I’ve done this at two companies, where sales processes previously did not exist
- Creating pricing which leaves both parties feeling happy