In every issue of the Teacher Newsletter we explore practical and inspiring ways for you to engage your practice and expand your business. In April we launched a special 10-part series that will guide you in the most important actions you can take to ground, stabilize, build, and develop a thriving teaching practice. Last month we looked at Step Three: Create Your Brand.
This month we are moving on to Step Four: Building Your Marketing Database. Over the next several months, we’ll elaborate on each of the remaining six steps, offering practical strategies and tips.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s transformational masterpiece The Tipping Point, he writes: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”
Gladwell describes the three types of people necessary to create social epidemics which I refer to as “information viruses.” They are:
1.) Connectors are always reaching out, moving, sharing, calling, and connecting people to other people and ideas in the energy flow. In ayurvedic terms, connectors are Vata types, full of energy and enthusiasm and able to quickly grasp new ideas.
2.) Mavens are information specialists or experts who accumulate knowledge. Mavens are characteristically Kapha, methodical and possessing a great capacity to retain information.
3.) Sales people love to compel and persuade with charisma and passion. These are typically Pitta types – enterprising, energetic people who like to take command of a situation.
While mavens are a font of information, they are rarely proactive in spreading the word. People have to come to them to find out information. Sales people are highly effective at compelling – they convince everyone who comes into their world – but again, people have to come to them. And then there the connectors – they still have their Rolodex from when they were five years old. Their gift is the ability to network, to connect, to touch multiple points and bring them together.
Understanding these three types is extremely valuable in building a database – which can be the lifeblood of your business model and your ability to truly get the word out about you and your teachings.
Developing a database is purely a function of collecting contact information from people – all people…including those in your neighborhood, your workplace, your travels, your house of worship or healing, and your community.
But it doesn’t stop there. We meet people every day; we exchange, interact, transact, and trade. The key is to develop an effective approach to gathering and organizing the contact information about the people you meet. Here are the seven steps I have found useful in creating a powerful database:
Step One: Collect contact information from everyone in your world right now. We live in a digital age and the easiest, most effective, and lowest cost communication is email. So begin by collecting the email address of every single person you know. If you can, collect phone numbers from these people as well so you can text them. If that seems daunting, an easy way to connect to people without being intrusive is to open a free Twitter account and invite every one of those people to “follow” you on Twitter. Your communications are limited to 140 characters but this form of viral communication can allow you to reach everyone in your world in seconds.
Step Two: Build your social media platform. If you don’t have one, YOU MUST CREATE YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE TODAY. Facebook is currently the number one social media platform in the world. Others may eclipse its power and reach and in time we may incorporate the next “big” thing into our life. But for now, create a page and begin to connect with likeminded individuals – maybe they like yoga, or meditation, or mind-body medicine, or Ayurveda, or dogs, or spiritual work, etc.
You can join clubs and organizations through Facebook and truly forge bonds with individuals with deep common interests. In the process, you will continue to build your database of everyone who “friends” you on Facebook. Another social media platform that is geared more for professionals is LinkedIn. Here we have the ability to connect with deeper business aspects of individuals in our database – people’s education, job status, roles, and business networking history is clearly displayed in the LinkedIn world.
Step Three: Take stock of all of your affiliations. These include everyone you know through your involvement in the realm of business, family, community, recreation, religious or spiritual organizations, clubs and associations, etc. Reach out to all these people with requests for their contact info. If someone doesn’t want to share this information with you, chances are they don’t trust what you will do with it or they don’t see the value. You need to assure them that you provide value and they can trust that you will never share their data.
Step Four: Regularly share something of value. The number one reason that the database grew was because we shifted the newsletter’s purpose from a monthly advertising newsletter to a richer content online periodical that offered something of value. We began to include articles from Deepak and David, poetry, the teacher feature, tips on meditation and yoga, and an encouragement for readers to ask questions, which began a beautiful dialogue between the Chopra Center and its constituents. We offered regular features that helped people see the Chopra Center as a resource for fulfilling their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Why wouldn’t someone sign up for a newsletter that would give them value AND would protect their contact information? There is no barrier to entry – everyone who cares will sign up.
But even after we shifted the content, the database wasn’t growing quickly enough for our needs. My solution was to create a mid-month newsletter that was simply a gift. The mid-month newsletter was filled with pure and unconditional gifts – an article on practical steps to wellness, a free guided meditation, an ayurvedic recipe, readers’ stories of triumphing over adversity, etc.
We called this newsletter mini-Namasté and now it is called Agni Light. The purpose is the same and its viral impact generates several thousand additional Agni Newsletter sign-ups every month.
Step Five: Walk the talk in all your communications. Every day I receive five to ten “blogs” or “sharing newsletters” from those looking to build their businesses. Most of them imply that their email is filled with valuable information. That’s actually not the case – their daily blogs and weekly emails are smoke-screens . . . a Trojan horse concealing the true purpose of the contact. What they really want is for me to buy something – an upcoming seminar, an empowerment workshop, a yoga retreat – all disguised as valuable information. For five years, a yoga teacher has been sending out emails every two weeks – each email starts off like there is going to be a valuable lesson . . . but very quickly it devolves into a pitch for her yoga retreats. Now in its fifth year, I’ve stopped reading her content because I feel it doesn’t provide me with any value. I just look for what she’s trying to sell me to see if it’s a retreat that would appeal to me. But I stopped seeing her as a provider of value. That’s a shame. So stay true to the reason you became a teacher. Channel the universe and share these teachings from your heart and others will see that intuitively. Don’t feel the need to let desperation flow through you rather than abundance. When I see a teacher in a constricted mode, the last thing I want to do is see what they are offering. I want to learn from those you exude abundance – not scarcity.
Step Six: Offer free lectures, introductory classes, and teleseminars. Cast your net wide and share selflessly. The world will beat a path to your door. When you offer these teachings as a taste to those who want to dip their toe in first, you will be amazed at the passionate response. Most people want to know that there is value before making an investment. The fastest way for you to demonstrate this to those who you are connecting with is to offer the free experience. Then let them make their own mind up based on the value they perceive.
These free classes should be structured a few times a month so that there is virtually no barrier to entry. Perhaps every other Friday evening or Sunday morning you offer a 90-minute introduction to whatever YOU are passionate about. Make sure there is a valuable take-away such as ten steps to better nutrition or an easy method to reduce stress in your life or even a monthly potluck dinner for likeminded individuals where you lead a group meditation and then discuss a spiritual or wellness-related topic.
Step Seven: Partner with Likeminded Businesses Ideally, partner with someone who has a database that’s bigger than yours. Starting off, your database will most likely have fewer than 50 email contacts. By following the previous six steps, you will build it to more than 500. Then it’s time to find a partner who will share their database or at least drive traffic to you. The obvious places to start are businesses that resonate with you, such as yoga studios, chiropractors, wellness centers, organic markets, etc.
When someone allows you to use their database, treat it like it is a precious gift. Offer extreme value to these people and DO NOT TRY to sell anything. See what value you can offer this partner. Perhaps the email blast goes to everyone in the partner’s database announcing your free class. This creates a value-added service for your partner, and those who respond can be added to your database. Do this with ten partners and very quickly your database will be filled with people who like, prefer, or value what you have to offer.
These seven steps will help you establish a strong base of likeminded individuals who care about what you do. These people have trusted you, so don’t take them or their needs for granted. This connection is precious and when you have truly established a love connection with this database, ask them to bring a friend to a class or workshop. Exponentially you will expand your world, share the light, and increase the love in your life.