Guest Post: Everything you know about student retention is wrong

This post is a guest post from our friends at Signpost

Student retention. It’s the sisyphean struggle most yoga studio owners know all too well. Keeping classes full and students committed to learning the practice requires diligence and creativity. Part science and part art, the first step to improving retention is committing to a data-driven approach. This will be invaluable in diagnosing issues and identifying areas where your retention strategy can be fortified. We’ll walk through this process to calculate the stats that matter most to your business, and explore techniques for boosting student engagement.

Combatting Churn: What to do before, during and after class


The easiest way to combat student churn is to make sure that you and your instructors are focusing on the right routine before, during and after classes. You should be arriving early and taking some time to clear your head and mentally prepare prior to class. Focus on your intentions and be present. Your mood can set the tone for an entire class, so try to stay aware of what you’re conveying to your students.

Be there to greet them and make an effort to learn their names. They’ll feel like they’re being welcomed back to a community when you make this simple gesture. When you encounter a new student, take some time to learn their name and spend a few moments chatting with them about what they’re hoping to get out of their practice. This is also a great opportunity to inquire about any injuries or illnesses that might inhibit or be aggravated during class. Let them know how to modify various poses, or at least give them a heads up on any materials they should grab (foam blocks, elastic bands, a towel, etc.), to help them alleviate pressure in injured areas.

Don’t be afraid to spend some time just chatting with students and learning more about them. This is the best way to forge these important relationships. Check in and see where their head is on that day, or ask very specific questions that they can’t respond to generically, as is usually the case when people are asked how they are. “What was the best part of your day so far”, “What is something you’re looking forward to the most right now?” or “Anyone have any fun travel plans?”. Whatever it takes to break the ice and encourage participation.

After class, be sure the instructor is available for an extra 15-20 minutes to interact with students and properly conclude their time together. Make it clear that you’re available if anyone has any questions or is looking for guidance with their practice. Again, this a great opportunity to bond with students, and maybe target those who tend to be more reserved in front of the entire class. Give individual feedback and tips on the ways they can improve. Perhaps the most important, be supportive and let them leave with some words of encouragement to fuel their excitement about this journey.

Education and Approach: Positioning Students for Success

Many students decide to start practicing yoga because they’re looking for a healthy activity that they enjoy doing. They are seldom realistic when it comes to their expectations for themselves, or the rate at which they’ll become proficient in advanced techniques. It’s up to you and your instructors to set expectations and be clear and honest about the amount of work and consistency required to develop the skills and strength required for advanced asanas and sequences.

Setting them up to succeed can be a difficult task because you don’t want them to get bored with existing beginning or intermediate poses and programs. As you already know, it’s a very personal journey for each individual. The key is to create variety in order to keep them engaged, and satiated instead of launching into new challenges they’re not yet ready for. Try to create a diversity of sequences with their existing skill sets. Sprinkle in only a few new poses at a time, and make sure you give these time for students to develop and master. Moving too quickly will lead to frustration, especially for students who only come once a week, and will cause them to fail out.  

In order to keep building up their strength and skill, it’s essential that they attend classes on a regular cadence. Try creating your own loyalty or VIP program that motivates students to attend more regularly. Whether it’s a free class for every month where they attend at least 2 classes a week, or a points system that rewards them with branded water bottles, mats, clothing, etc., they’ll be more likely to follow through on this commitment to the practice.

You can may also want to consider investing in marketing automation software to help you stay on track. Signpost’s Mia, an AI-driven CRM, knows who your current and prospective students are and sends them the right emails, at the right time to keep them engaged. She also identifies advocates and amplifies their reach to drive more five-star reviews, loyalty and referrals. Automating your digital outreach can help ensure that no matter how busy you get, you won’t drop the ball on retention.

Use Recurring Revenue To Bolster Retention

Implementing a recurring revenue model is a great way to secure guaranteed income, month after month. This is when plans automatically renew on a consistent basis (usually monthly). To do this successfully you have to start with pricing. Make sure that your unlimited plans are priced according to your mid-level students. Many studios base it on their top-level contingent of highly engaged, devoted students that consistently attend multiple classes a week. Identify your mid-level students and determine a price based on their average monthly attendance.

Too often studios worry about leaving money on the table, but it is much better to have slightly lower price point and vastly improved retention in the long run. You can also try adding different benefits to this unlimited membership, or transforming it into an exclusive club, which provides access to exclusive perks. Similar to the loyalty program outlined above, these could be a small welcome gift, a discount on any products you have available for sale, branded gear or a private lesson. Or, you could combine both models to reward students for staying on the unlimited plan for various lengths of time.  

Make sure to also reach out and ask for feedback and send some check-ins to see how they are enjoying the classes and if there’s anything they’d like to see incorporated. You can take some time to follow up and address questions or concerns they might have expressed during class (or in your discussions before and after). If they mentioned a favorite type of pose, perhaps offer to show them some modifications that they might also enjoy, or to work them into the next class. If you’re not sure what they like, ask.

You can supplement these efforts with a handwritten letter welcoming them to your studio’s community, or call them to check in. Try organizing an event for new customers. Whether an introduction to meditation, or a clean-eating potluck or dinner. Invite a few of the top-level students who have been attending for a while, so they can tell them about their own journeys and challenges they’ve had and encourage them to remain dedicated. When your students forge a connection with each other, as well as instructors they are more likely to feel like a part of the community and return.

Keep your eye on the big picture

As is often the case, it’s vital to look at the big picture when focusing your energy on student retention. When you know what churn you’re up against, you can start implementing these retention techniques to improve your rates, and also employ some customer acquisition strategies in order to bridge the gap and continue to grow your business.

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