Four Critical Ways to Improve Student Retention



When a student does not sign up with you after your free class, are you disappointed? Do you feel slightly embarrassed about the possibility that the client did not like your teaching or you, and that was the cause of their not wanting to come back? The truth, for the majority of these situations, is that your potential new student not signing up with you for continuing classes has nothing to do with the quality of your yoga teaching or the class itself. To become masterful at client retention you’ll need to master more than great yoga teaching skills. There are four critical processes we train our yoga business owner clients to use in their businesses to improve the number of clients and students that return again and again.

Here’s the #1 secret to student retention. When you understand the goal of what the customer/client/student wants to achieve with their body, mind, or spirit, you create a plan together to achieve that. This should happen at or before that first free class or free taste-test of their yoga experience. It may seem to your new prospective student that they are looking for a good yoga class; but what they really want is something deeper, some quality they want for their life or being. Yoga is the process, the vehicle they use to get there, wherever their “there” is. Help them articulate what they want to achieve and why, and then create a plan to help them achieve it. What do I mean by plan? How many sessions will help them reach short term goals or achievements? How many times a week would be best? Would this plan include combination of private training and group training? What is the best plan of action given the client’s desires, current physical limitations, time/money budget, and other considerations?

If you rush through this part of your first session with them just to get to the hands on part, you will miss the most critical components for causing student retention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s the quality of the teaching and that alone that will cause people to stay and sign up or renew. Your clients/students must have a goal and a plan.

#2 Your students must see that they are getting results and progressing. Once you and your student have settled on a plan for their body or other aspects of their beingness, it’s your job to ensure the student sees they are getting results in accordance with that plan. When people are getting results, when they are making progress, they see value. When your customers are getting value they will spend the money and stay. How conscious and deliberate are you with these processes? How effective are you being at these types of conversations with your students? If not so well, consider finding out how to improve this aspect of your student management systems. If students are not rebooking, that means you have set no goal for your student’s body, you have no plan to achieve that goal, the plan isn’t scheduled, or you are not helping your students be present to their results and improvements.

One way of ensuring your clients really see and be present to results and progress is to verbally point it out to them. They are not trained to see their progress and results in yoga the way you are. If they are like most people, they are really present to the negative stuff—for example, what they aren’t doing, getting, or achieving—and they are not really conscious of their accomplishments. But how do you do this in the midst of group training? Every yoga class I have ever participated in ends with a blissful meditation or breathing or deep relaxation. That’s certainly not the time to be having a verbal conversation with your students about their external and internal accomplishments. Yet it's critical that your students be present to the results and improvements in their body and beingness that your yoga training is providing them. To bring this element in naturally, subtly, and consistently, talk with your students at the end of class, during the calming period.

At the end of class, while your students eyes are closed and they are very present to their bodies, direct them … “Gently check in with your body. Notice if you have less stress then when you walked in. Notice if any aches or pains or stiffness you walked in with have diminished.” Since you now know in which areas your students are working toward improvement (they now have a goal and a plan), ask about each area of a person's experience - including their emotions and mental state. You can have them gently raise their hands if they notice they are calmer or if they feel more grounded. By asking these questions and giving your students the opportunity to answer, you help them acknowledge the results they get after each class - which in turn reinforces to themselves the value of why they come to your class. You are anchoring that your teaching and your process in this class made a difference. It is important that you lead your students to connect these dots.

#3 Educate and Inform your clients; consistently reinforce yourself as “expert”. Firstly, acknowledge to yourself that you are an expert at what you do and that you have more advanced knowledge in this area than the majority of your students do. Clients and students who come to you and feel they are constantly learning new things that benefit their lives and make them healthier will not only stay, but will refer more people to you. They start to recognize you as a valuable resource, and see that you are an expert when it comes to the health and well-being aspects of their lives. Make it a point to consistently bring information to them, especially information they can use. Educate them in your newsletters, or have a weekly health topic in your studio that helps your students engage in conversation about that topic. If you have a central bulletin or announcement board, write your topic in large text and work a theme around it for the week or month. Never stop educating and informing your clients. It’s not only smart as a business owner because it provides increased value to your customers, but it is also what our Western culture is trending toward. We research more, we are more sophisticated buyers, and we want to learn more and know more.

#4 Communicate with your clients and students. Stay connected and create deeper personal relationships. Trust and familiarity are the two most powerful conditions for gaining and retaining students in a yoga business. Be sure that you have in place structures and systems that allow you to stay deeply connected with your students. This will help create and maintain a "community". Get to know your students. Find out what they like. Get nosy and interested in them. Taking consistent actions such as using warm welcome letters, birthday cards, asking about their family, and other forms of communication demonstrate your interest in and connection with your clients. Not only does this build and deepen trust and familiarity, it’s what people and customers are craving today. We want meaningful encounters with those we do business and spend time with. That means communicate with them—verbally, as much as possible—and not just when you want to offer them some deal so that they will buy something from you. How would you feel if every time someone was communicating with you it was to ask you for something? One tactic is to combine #3 and #4; this way, you can consistently stay in touch with your students by providing them with timely, meaningful information that has educational value—without asking them for something in return.

Each of these four components is like a spoke in a wheel. If one or more is missing, it makes your wheel weak, bend, and crumble. If you apply all four components in your business, your retention wheel will be very strong.

Renae Bechthold, a professional yoga business coach, owns Metro Yoga—a business development company for yoga business professionals. She can be reached at 877.239.0340 or


Abundant Living: "The Yoga Professionals Guide to Earning $100,000 a Year" is a free, 59-page downloadable guide that teaches you the fundamentals of starting and operating a successful yoga business. You will learn:

• The Concept of Profit
• The Physical Game vs The Mental Game of Business
• How to Make an Inventory of Your Skills
• How to Design a Yoga Business Plan for Success
• How to Market Your Yoga Business and Attract New Clients
• How to Manage Your Cash Flow

To download your free copy, just click on this link: Yoga Business Guide.

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Comments (3)

Said this on 3-8-2012 At 06:57 am
Renae, this is really well written. What you have outlined really comes back to what for me is a fundamental business principle --- SERVICE. Yoga teachers have so much to offer and learning to approach their yoga business from the point of view of serving. The other point I particularly appreciate is about establishing yourself as the expert. It's an interesting dynamic to really take your seat as a teacher, yet remaining a humble student. Ahhh, the play of polarities in the play of Consciousness. Again, well written!
Said this on 3-8-2012 At 08:31 am
Thank you Melanie. There are many parallels between yoga philosophy/practice and authentic business. The key is knowing how to bridge those mirroring principles to each other as well as take on a level of consistency and rigor when growing a yoga business. If more yoga professionals understood, from an action perspective, how to apply SERVICE in the most powerful ways, they would attain better results for themselves as well as for their yoga students and ultimately for our communities as a whole. I appreciate your keen eye in "getting it."
Said this on 9-15-2012 At 05:33 pm
I will be sharing this article with all of my teachers. Thank you for your wisdom.
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