A guide for organising yoga retreats

In this guide we highlight the different steps to organise your next yoga retreat. From preparing what your program will look like, to budgeting costs and marketing your retreat. Whether you are about to organise your first retreat or you are looking for some ideas to improve, this guide will give you the inspiration.

Here are the 8 most important steps to plan and execute your yoga retreat.

1. Define your target market

The main goal when you are planning a yoga retreat is, of course, to find enthusiastic people to sign up. As a first step you need to find these enthusiastic people, meaning you want to target people that are a good fit with your retreat. The most successful entrepreneurs understand that only a limited number of people will buy their product or service. The task then becomes determining, as closely as possible, exactly who those people are, and ‘targeting’ your efforts towards them.

Who would want to book your retreat? You might already have a program in mind that naturally leads you to picture your group of yogis moving through your morning hatha yoga flow or having one of your delicious vegan dinners. Or you may have a reference from former retreats that you have organised or retreats that you have attended yourself. Who are your current customers, and why do they buy from you? This information all contributes to the type of person that could benefit from your retreat.

Let us assume you do not have a program set in stone yet. In this case, you should start by looking into your target audience to see what they look for when booking a holiday. We state holiday here and not a retreat, as you might also want to target people that have not attended a yoga retreat before, in addition to regular retreat goers. This decision for targeting depends mainly on the reason you feel people will buy your ‘product’, which is always one of the following; To satisfy basic needs To solve problems To make them feel good

You need to determine which of those reasons your retreat addresses, and prepare to market it accordingly. Your product may fit more than one reason. To choose one reason, makes it more simple to create a tailored program for your audience and to solidify your marketing efforts.

Let us say the main reason for people to book a retreat is to make themselves feel good. This is a common reason that people would choose a retreat over a normal holiday. You can then start to segment the market and look at the characteristics of the people in this market. Think about characteristics that could be potential indicators for the people that would book a retreat, such as; age, gender, income, marital status, family life cycle, etc. Next, you can go into the psychographic characteristics of that group of people and look at lifestyle, interests, attitudes, and beliefs. The more indicators you can think of that you feel are relevant, the more specifically you can target your market .

If you feel like all this research is hard work,, check out your competition. Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? This is interesting in any case really, as you do not want to go after the same market. You may find a niche market that they are overlooking.

2. Choose a location

Location is one of the biggest considerations for people interested in going on a yoga retreat. You may already have a location available, but here are two handy tips if you don’t.

The first tip involves travel. This very much determines the choice of location. What are the possibilities to get to the venue, how far is the venue from the closest airport, how do your guests get to the venue and how far are you from any activities in the area? These questions will help you find out whether your desired venue is feasible from a financial and logistic point of view.

Try to visit the venue before booking so you can see the actual space for your classes, whether the location offers enough possibilities for your group to relax, what the surroundings look like, etc - experience the event for yourself first.

3. Define themes and activities

Most yogis are stringent about looking after themselves and many are pursuing a vegetarian or vegan diet. Perhaps you want to run a completely vegan or vegetarian retreat , or you want to take it to the next level and provide a detox/juice retreat. Depending on the target market you have defined, it is useful to create a theme around your retreat that fits your market and is portrayed easily to your potential guests.

Use the theme of your retreat as an umbrella for the activities you want to offer. Again, your defined target market helps you a lot here. The more detailed you have defined who your retreat goers are, the more you know about their hobbies and interests. Look for activities that meet these interests.

The same goes for defining your yoga classes and the type of yoga you want to teach and practice. Connect your classes to your theme. You may also want to include the surroundings of the venue and prepare for a yoga class outside in nature if this has a strong connection to your theme.

4. Budget and price your retreat

First, understand the expenses you will need to make before setting the price for your guests. This will help you price your retreat so that you can not only cover your costs but also make a profit. Make sure to leave some room in your budget for unexpected expenses. Common retreat expenses include: Accommodations/ lodging Food and drinks Excursions Transportation costs (pick-up from the airport) Staff (chef) or co-teacher pay Marketing costs

Once you have a clear picture of your expenses, you can determine your desired profit and calculate a price per student. Think about the number of guests you need for your retreat to make that profit.

5. Set-up the program

By now you have a clear idea of what components your retreat will consist of. You have ideas about the activities your potential retreat goers are interested in beside yoga itself, as well as information on the length and intensity of the classes you will give, the food you will serve and against which costs.

Additionally, your plan should include the duration of the retreat and the size of the group to create the total experience. It is like when you first started out as a yoga teacher and you prepared all the details of your class; do the same thing for your retreat.

Look for the right sequence of activities and a good balance between high intensity and relaxation. Include activities outside of your venue so your yogis also get to enjoy the environment. Depending on your retreat theme this could involve a nature walk or a visit to the local town. Put your ideas on paper in the form of a schedule to help define a good flow. A schedule that is too busy will be overwhelming, but one that is a little light on ground will not leave your guests feeling satisfied . Your guests want value for money, and even if you offer an excess, they can decide to opt-out of activities once they are there.

Once you have made a schedule for your retreat including all activities from start to end, you can use this to attract your audience. It is a very clear way of showing what your retreat is about. Make sure you communicate the main elements of the schedule to your customers- they do not need to know they are having a vegetarian lasagne for dinner and tiramisu for dessert. The schedule should give them an indication of what the program covers in terms of which form of yoga you will teach and practice, number of classes, other activities that are offered, what the time schedule looks like for arrival and departure, approximate timing of the activities, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. Explicitly communicate any optional activities where possible so free time is covered in the program as well.

6. Market your retreat

Timing is important when marketing your retreat. Start marketing activities 3-6 months prior to the event so your potential guests have the chance to get a good deal on airfare and accommodation at your location. This also gives you more time to fill your retreat.

If you are organising your first retreat, or you do not have a large customer base yet, the location for your retreat is of great importance. Popular locations, in general, require less marketing effort - your potential customers already search for yoga retreats in Ibiza and Bali. This will make it easier for you to encourage people to sign up for your retreat.

Regardless of your retreat location, the question here is; How do you make sure your potential guests find your retreat? You can use social media or the web - select the channels in which your target market is active.

Create an event on Facebook indicating date, time, and venue and invite your network. Direct the people to the booking page on your website. Target clients from one of your former retreats with an incentive to rebook or to refer a friend. Use Instagram to share photos of your retreat location and/ or former retreats you have organised. This is very easy, but effective advertising. Paid advertising campaigns is another option, especially for your first retreat.

When you have a landing page that communicates your retreat, think like your customer does when searching online. What keywords would he/she use in, for example, Google when looking for a yoga retreat? It is said that the first 200 words within a web page are given most value by search engines for their website ranking. Use the right keywords and place them correctly. Try not to overdo it - Google can penalise you when you are overusing keywords, which could result in a lower ranking of your page. When you feel like your web text, containing your keywords, is pleasant to read, you can assume you are safe.

7. Organise for high customer care

If we do not get a good night’s sleep we may not physically be able to do as much and find it hard to focus and concentrate. All this means we do not get the best out of our retreat experience. There may well be reasons beyond your control as a retreat owner that means a guest does not get a good 8 hours, however, it is your job do everything you can to ensure they are well rested. Show willing and empathy to make things as peaceful as possible. A comfortable bed, enough covers (and hot water bottles) for cold nights and fan or AC for warmer settings, are some simple ideas to provide a quality service to your customers.

Another aspect is the food. You need a top chef who has experience and knowledge of how to make three exciting meals every day for the duration of your retreat. Even if your guests have never stepped foot in a yoga retreat before, there will be an expectation that the food will be amazing, and abundant - this includes healthy snacks and drinks.

To come back to the schedule, your guests have decided to come on a retreat to be looked after. They want, not just their basic needs met but also their more human cognitive functions of thinking, to be taken care of as well. They will want to be told what to do, where and when. Have your scheduled printed out for each guest at the start of the program in order to minimize decision-making efforts for your guests, so they can completely relax.

8. Gather customer reviews after the retreat

After the retreat has come to an end it is important to obtain reviews from your guests. Not only as useful feedback to improve your next retreat - the advantage is that you can use some of the most valuable reviews as testimonials. Testimonials are the perfect tool to convert skeptical potential bookers into clients.

To sell an experience, rather than a product is what testimonials do, and, in fact, is exactly what you do with your retreat. Ask your most satisfied or loyal customers if you can use their feedback in a testimonial for future event communications. You can ask them right after the retreat ends with a hard-copy form or send them a questionnaire after they get back home. To understand why customer reviews are so important, read this blog.

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