Keeping your students happy and coming back to practice should always be at the top of your studio’s priority list. Retention challenges are something every studio faces, but you can learn from other studio’s successes of how they make their studios enjoyable and keep students returning.
Flor Frey, an owner of Yoga Sol in Minneapolis, Minnesota, credits her diverse teaching team and variety of classes with helping retention. “While our large teaching team is diverse, they all have one thing in common,” said Frey. “They are passionate about teaching at Yoga Sol and do a wonderful job of making an individualized connection with students that walk through our doors.”
Additionally, Yoga Sol’s innovative pay-what-you-can model makes it unique and sets it apart from other studios in the Twin Cities.
“It’s such an incredible value; you simply can’t refuse it,” said Frey. “We believe yoga is an experience meant to be shared regardless of socioeconomic status, age, gender, orientation or physical ability. As a social enterprise, we are in the business of advancing public good. By harnessing the latent power of business and connecting it to a higher purpose, we are able to make an even bigger impact.”
Incentives and a range of classes offered can help improve your studio’s retention, but it won’t solve it overnight. Yoga Sol has been serving the Twin Cities area for eight years, but their numbers aren’t always perfect. “Retention is hard,” said Frey. “According to our 2018 Year-End Community Survey, Yoga Sol has a 55% student retention rate.” Their long-term retention rate is determined by the percentage of students that have been attending the studio for one or more years.
Yoga Centered Studio and Boutique in Hilo, Hawaii, runs a program at the beginning of each year called 40 Days to Transformation to help with their studio retention. “This is a very affordable health and wellness program that combines yoga, meditation, mindful eating and other self-care practices to help introduce the yogic lifestyle on a more sustainable basis,” said Molly Masaoka, the studio owner. “I think these kinds of immersion programs, workshops, retreats and other special events help students to solidify one’s commitment to a path of yoga, whatever that looks like.”
Kim Saunders, the founder of Lift Yoga and Body in Alpharetta, Georgia, focuses on the little things to help with the studio’s retention. She understands ‘life happens’ and some students will leave the studio for a few months. The trick is making sure they come back to your studio. Even the littlest things, like parking, can help.
“Because we provide such a unique combination of extremely talented teachers, large and beautiful studios, and abundant parking, this brings people back, time and time again,” said Saunders. “Parking is a rarity in Alpharetta now and it is a non-issue for us. We want things to be friendly, meaningful and easy.”
Lori Denton, the owner of Lift Yoga and Body, said Saunders’ variety of programs that she built into the studio is what always keeps people coming back. “I was talking to one of our members just the other day who had started out coming to power classes and unfortunately had been in a car accident that injured her shoulder,” said Denton. “Instead of having to give up her practice entirely, she switched to more restorative classes until she had recovered and built enough strength to return to the power and sculpt classes.”
The variety of classes ultimately kept this member at the studio.
Lift Yoga and Body uses data to observe what classes are popular, days of the week and class times that are trending, and more. However, Denton warns owners not to get caught up in the data when making decisions. “I learn so much by talking to our members. We have one class that if I went purely off of the data, I may decide to cancel that class because of low attendance,” she said. “However, when I talked to the students after class, I realized that some were our most loyal members.”
Different studios use different methods on how to battle studio retention. You should ask your students for feedback on the studio, why they keep coming back, where could the studio improve and what they enjoy. If you’re not sure where to start, follow Frey’s five pieces of advice on retention:
Follow your north star:
“Be authentic and stay true to your higher purpose or mission. Following our north star drives our strategic direction and has allowed us to stay relevant with students over the years.”
“Staying adaptable amidst a continuously changing environment is key. If you notice students’ preferences changing, don’t be afraid to explore those changing preferences. Rigidity for the sake of ‘but we’ve always done it this way,’ just won’t cut it.”
“Data is an incredible tool to be leveraged. Use data to get a solid picture of what’s going on at your studio. Data can help you understand if students are not coming back, and even go further and uncover the reasons why.”
Try new things:
“Always keep a pulse on your core customer/students. Try small experiments, do beta testing in certain classes, gain valuable feedback and adapt accordingly. Experimenting in small ways allows you to fail fast, i.e., learn faster. Keep what works and leave the rest. Trying new things keeps things fresh and students coming back for more.”
“Reward those that stick with you through a loyalty rewards program, perks, discounts or even an ambassador program. Rewarding loyalty helps students feel connected, and in turn fuels retention.”