How a Yoga Instructor Built an Online Business
"If you build it and then market the heck out of it, then they'll come..."
Recently, I met with Alanna Kaivalya, the Yoga Doctor, to hear about how she’s using Deadline Funnel to increase conversions for her online courses and yoga certification programs.
Watch the video, read the transcript, or listen to the audio below!
AK: It’s my pleasure, Jack. I’m really excited to chat with you today.
JB: Let’s start with your business. Why don’t you talk about your business, who you serve, what you do, and how it’s evolved over the past several years.
AK: I am a lifelong yoga instructor. Essentially I’ve been in the yoga industry for 17 years. I have specialized in training and educating teachers and even taking them further once they’re already yoga teachers, being able to take their level of education up a notch. This was something that I was doing live and in-person, in studios for a very long time and when you teach a teacher training, it’s a two-hour commitment, which can be exhausting. It’s very time-consuming.
I was traveling. I was on the road for probably 50% of my time for ten years straight, doing all of this teaching. At some point I realized that trading my time for money was … it was not only limiting for me, it was also limiting to who I could reach. I also realized there were some problems with the in-studio experience that I wanted to solve. I’d been a real fan of online learning and education for a long time.
I was actually the very first yoga teacher ever to do a podcast and I had a very successful podcast starting in 2005. Over two million people listened to it. And that really got my attention as a way to scale and as a way to reach people who wouldn’t normally have access to awesome yoga education. In 2015 I became the first person to put a full 500-hour teacher training online and since then I’ve also created a whole bunch of my own continuing education courses. I’ve really fallen in love with it.
As a medium, teaching online is really incredible. It’s a wonderful way to work with people. It allows me to increase the accountability for their knowledge, to follow up with them. We give them a real individualized and personalized experience in their learning process. So I absolutely love that. And that’s what I do.
JB: I’m curious, before we dive into the nitty gritty of the marketing side of things, it must have been interesting going from teaching teachers in a one-on-one or maybe a group environment, but everyone’s in the same room, to teaching them virtually. How do you deliver that … what sort of obstacles … how have you gotten around some of the obstacles that might be there because you can’t see how they’re instructing? Is a lot of it … does it even require showing someone … because I guess you’re not really teaching poses are you?
AK: No, I do. It does. There are a lot of obstacles. One of the things that I … I really focus on setting the bar very, very high and my standards are very, very high. I wanted to ensure that as I moved the in-studio training experience online. When I was getting my doctorate I had the good fortune of actually taking a few classes online. And I thought to myself, “If I could take doctoral-level courses online, I could probably figure out how to do yoga this way.”
The delivery of my online teacher training is actually with a learning management software that is the same type of learning management software that universities use. There is a super-high level of accountability. I’m able to track everyone’s progress. They actually have to upload assignments to me and their assignments are videos, so they have to record themselves actually teaching, actually doing the poses, actually adjusting students, actually talking about what they’ve learned.
I have a team of mentors who then review all of the video assignments to offer personalized feedback for each and every person based on what it is that they see. I have, of course, an online forum, a private Facebook group where we interact. I do lots of live webinars with them to take their questions and follow up. What’s really blown me away is actually how personalized and individualized we can be, so that we can target each and every person and make sure that they are learning and understanding the material all the way through. Then at the end, they actually have to teach an entire class for us. And in an in-studio experience, that’s impossible.
If I have even ten students, having everybody teach a class, that’s a full ten hour day. That’s not even counting feedback and all that stuff, so moving it online allows us actually to see everybody teach by the end and they’re amazing. They’ve completely … I had a certain level of standards and they have just completely overwhelmed me with how well they’ve done.
JB: I know that one of the main things that you use to get new clients on-board is webinars. Can you talk us through what you’ve learned about webinars over the years, maybe some tips and how you use it in your business?
AK: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I have run into, is because this is the first online teacher training program, nobody has ever done this, everybody’s wondering how it works. How does it work? What do you do? How do you actually become a yoga teacher online? I realized that in order to get people to jump on-board with me and really been a maverick in this process, I needed to hyper-educate them about exactly what they were going to get, exactly how the program works, exactly what’s expected, exactly how we deliver the information, what their participation is.
Like I said, my love affair with online learning has been … it’s been for a long time, so I had done webinars in the distant past, just as ways to educate people on certain topics. So I would do a webinar, say, on a certain micro-topic in yoga, and people would join me for that. I’d never thought of it as a sales mechanism. But the reality is, when we launched the online course, I had this idea in mind, “Oh, if you build it, they will come.” It doesn’t work that way, Jack.
JB: It doesn’t.
AK: If you build it and then market the hell out of it, then they’ll come. I had to figure out what online marketing was on the back end. It wasn’t really something that I was involved with or really understood, but we launched this amazing course, we had a great initial launch. As I was finding out, initially launching something is fairly … it’s not easy, but it’s a lot easier than creating an Evergreen system where people are consistently enrolling with you. I learned that webinars were a thing, so I started researching online marketing and I thought, “Well that’s something I can do.”
I basically put together a webinar. And the first ones I did were just on Google Hangouts, just literally inviting my Facebook community, like “Hey, come check it out. I want to tell you about this.” And it actually did really well. It was the comfort that people need in knowing what the process was, how the online training works. And also increasing that trust factor, where they’re able to see me, I’m here, I’m reassuring them that I’m here for them every step of the way, and that was really important.
Seeing the response with the webinars, I was like, “Okay, well this is something that we need to consistently do, because want to see me, they want to have all information, so how do we do this on a regular basis?” And that’s kind of where my, I guess, webinar life started.
JB: Initially you were doing these live and then at some point you decided you wanted to try to ‘Evergreen’ your client acquisition. Can you talk about that, because I know for a lot of people it’s pretty common to have some struggle going from doing webinars where you schedule them, you do them, and then you have some sales. But to move from that to having the thing running all the time, can you tell us about that?
AK: Yeah. I mean, part of it is just necessity. I really wanted to be able to have this evergreen consistent enrollment and we were scheduling the webinars every Wednesday. You’re doing the same webinar, the same spiel every Wednesday, and some Wednesdays you’re totally on and some Wednesdays you’re not super on and you see that reflected in the numbers. So it became really apparent to me that if I can do one where I’m on and I nail it and that’s a high-converting webinar, then I should probably just run that one over and over.
It took me a little bit of research to find the right webinar platform because there are many options out there. Not all of them were right for me, and not all of them really worked very well. I use a CRM called Ontraport, so I needed one that would integrate with Ontraport. A few of them did that, but EasyWebinar was really the best solution for me. That’s the webinar service that I use. I sort of …
I kind of snuck the automation piece in. I didn’t really tell anybody at the beginning that these were going to be automated webinars, because I felt embarrassed about it. But honestly, now I think it’s the coolest thing ever, that this webinar just runs all the time. The EasyWebinar platform was really easy for me to set up, it was really easy for me to automate, and it was also really easy for me to see all that data, because that’s of course really important as an online marketer, seeing what times work, what are people responding to, what times are they actually watching versus not watching, how many people do we have on the replay. So having a really high-powered webinar service is important for that.
JB: At what point did you decide to add in the Deadline Funnel?
AK: Interestingly, I think these things started to happen at the same time and I didn’t realize I could integrate the two right away. Because creating that start-to-finish funnel with Deadline Funnel, with the webinar, with all of the email integration, it’s a big process. On the other hand, I’ve got this big online teacher training, but I also have started doing my own courses. And part of that was, I realized that in a launch you can make money. I got in this launch-cycle where it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I have to make some cash. I guess I’ll just launch another course.”
That, of course, becomes exhausting because all of my courses, they’re not small. They over-deliver on all cases, so I was just burning myself out with constantly launching, but I didn’t know how to create the evergreen urgency. I got an email from some online marketer. I don’t even remember who it was, obviously, that had a countdown timer in it, and I was like, “Wait a second. That is brilliant.” Somehow I did just the right research and I found out who the countdown timer came from and of course it was Deadline Funnel.
I started integrating that into my email sequences right away and figuring out how to do that and creating … all the funnels that I had had for my personal courses, more evergreen with more urgency, because before Deadline Funnel, I was literally just saying, “You have until midnight tonight.” But it wasn’t true. They could’ve purchased any time. There wasn’t actually any urgency at all. The Deadline Funnel allowed me to create the urgency in my own email funnels, and then once I started doing the webinars, I realized I could do it with that too. It is such a powerful tool to be able to create that timed offer for every individual and to just give them the push and the impetus that they need to actually opt in.
JB: Awesome. I have a question about going from … when you’re transitioning from doing the live webinars and you decided, “Okay, the next time I do a webinar where I have the energy and I’m on and I’m feeling good” … How did you language it, how did you set it up, because you can’t say, “Hey, Sunday, May 31st, is the deadline.” So did you just leave out the dates, you said tonight’s the deadline, or how did you say that specifically?
AK: For the Deadline Funnel piece? I just say, “You have 24 hours.” Right? “You have 24 hours,” and that way, with Deadline Funnel, you set it up so that it’s 24 hours after a person enters the funnel, is when their offer expires. No matter what time zone they are on, no matter when it is they enter the funnel, I say in the webinar really clearly, “Okay, starting now, you’ve got 24 hours to take me up on this offer,” and then all of their correspondence with me reflects that.
JB: Very, very cool.
JB: Are there some other things that you’ve learned having done so many live webinars and also automated webinars that might be a useful tip for someone who wants to create their own automated webinar?
AK: Yeah, actually, this is one of the things that I’ve been considering. At this point I’ve been through so much online marketing training and I’ve heard what the experts have to say, but I’ll tell you what, there’s something really salient that actually has not worked for me. I think that’s because I’m coming from an industry that is not yet online. When online marketers talk to online marketers that talk to online marketers, there are some things in that industry that absolutely work, but because I’m generally talking to people who have never done online courses, who are skeptical of online learning, who don’t know how online marketing works, I really have to take a different tack.
The general webinar sequence that people do is you start off with almost like a really heavy sales pitch, introduce yourself, give some testimonials, you do like 20 minutes of content and then you end with again, a really heavy sales pitch. I was trying that with my webinars and it just turned everybody off.
The thing that’s working for me is actually basically holding people’s hands through the process. Really starting with something very friendly. “Hey, this is going to be an online learning experience. Let me show you the insight of the course.” Basically make the webinar about telling people exactly … not selling, but “Here is what I am doing. Here is the course that you’re going to participate in. Here is how you’re going to benefit from it. Here’s how it works. Here’s why online learning is awesome.” Because they don’t have any background in it. They have not yet opted into this experience and this is likely the first time that they’re going to be taking something online.
Just jumping in and being like, sales pitch, sales pitch, tiny content, sales pitch, sales pitch, it wasn’t a format that worked for me. My ads call out really clearly “This webinar is going to tell you about the course.” There’s no “Learn this” … there’s no sneaky like, “Learn this little bit of content,” but then you show up and you’re actually being pitched something. That was a real big piece to crack and shift.
Luckily that was something that I did right away with my teacher training webinar, and that was born out of people’s questions. “What is this? How does it work? What is it about?” And then I think, honestly, people are really impressed and they think it’s very cool that they have this timed offer, that there is this sense of urgency. They feel like I’m speaking right to them. Which, in many cases, basically I am. I know my audience, I know who I’m talking to.
It just creates a really personalized experience for the individual and that’s something that I want to continue all the way through in all of my courses anyway. It’s nice to start off on the right foot.
JB: Here’s a question that I’m dying to ask you. Your audience are not marketers and they’re yoga instructors, and I have this picture in my head of people who are, just like you said, they’re a little bit allergic to high-pressure sales, right?
JB: And yet you’re getting lots of great results with Deadline Funnel. So I’m leading up to my question. Sometimes people are concerned or worried, “Oh, but I don’t know if this is going to work for my audience.” Can you speak to that?
AK: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is to leave out the high-pressure sales. Really … I do love some of the marketing jargon around solving people’s pain points. How is this going to make their lives easier? How is this going to make it better? Some of the highlights for me with online learning in regards to my industry that I imagine probably extend to others, is that I can bring the crisis down.
If I were to teach a live in-studio teacher training, people would have to take four weeks off of their job, which, who can do that? They’d have to fly out to where I am, which is an added expense. They’d have to put themselves up in an Airbnb, yet another added expense. And in order for me to smash everything into that timeframe, I would have to charge quite a lot, hire other people. It would be a much bigger investment. And the reality is, I can actually give them a better quality with more content and higher level education training online.
Those are the differences that I really highlight. I’ve found that people in my industry, they also really want to know that I am here for them. That I am not just on the other side of the screen, that this isn’t just a digital process. I will often get people asking me questions during the webinar, just to see if I’m here. Customer service is so super key and you have to be ready to answer all the people’s questions personally and that’s probably what I actually spend most of my time doing now. Now that everything’s automated essentially.
JB: Let me rephrase a question. I love your answer, but I want to know, and I’ll ask again, specific to the deadline. Obviously you found a way to communicate without being sales-y and pitchy, but some people tell us, “Oh, I don’t know if this will work … if the deadline … if the urgency is going to be too much for my market.” It’s going to turn them off. But you’ve … obviously you don’t feel that way. Can you talk to that?
AK: Yeah. Specifically with that, I think that it alleviates procrastination. Everybody is going to put off even things that are good for them. Some of the things that I focus on are like, “Look, the time is never going to feel right. So now is the right time. You’re never going to be ready, so get ready, because the offer is here.” I do stress that this is not something that they’re going to … the offer’s not going to repeat. And I don’t repeat it. They have now to jump in on this really special thing, I’m here for them. I just keep bringing it back to the personalized experience and that now is the time. There’s no reason to put it off. I don’t want you to put it off, so let’s jump in to this together. I haven’t … honestly, I think it’s a great idea to put timed offers, because otherwise they don’t have any reason to buy from you, necessarily. Especially if it’s something that’s evergreen. Especially if it’s something that’s always available.
They can get it any time, so why would they buy now? I also couple my timed-offers with special bonuses, whether that is a discount on my product or something added. There’s that pressure that if they don’t purchase in the time, then they won’t also get the bonus. I do spend some time telling them, “Here’s why the bonus is awesome for you. Here’s how you will also benefit from that.” But yeah, I’ve honestly … it’s never even crossed my mind as to why a timed offer would be a bad idea because I know it’s such a good one. People do … they will procrastinate if you give them reason to.
JB: There you go. I agree 100%. A lot of times it helps to hear from someone, especially, like you. You teach yoga teachers. If anyone’s going to be allergic to deadlines, it’s going to be, I would imagine your audience.
AK: Jack, I don’t think that the deadline itself is the high-pressure sales pitch. I think that that’s sort of the container in which the pitch is happening.
AK: It starts here, it ends here, that’s just the container. What you say and what you do in the middle of that, that’s either high-pressure or not. I don’t think giving them a timer is high … I mean, look, your grocery store runs timed sales. This is just a thing that everybody anywhere who sells anything does in order to try to get people to buy at a certain time. I don’t think anybody’s surprised or put off by that. Giving them a substantial offer within that timeframe and speaking to them in a really personalized way, I think that’s what helps them realize that this is a supportive thing for them. “We’re here for your best interest because we know you’re going to benefit from this experience, so join me now.” I think that’s a major shift.
JB: Yeah. That’s great. I want to ask you … you talked a little bit about how you package up your special offer. But what I don’t know is if they miss the deadline, is the offer gone or is it just that the price goes up and the bonuses go away?
AK: Yeah, the price goes up, the bonuses go away.
AK: It is … I mean, people can opt in. They can opt in at any time. They’ll opt in for full-price and without the extras that I give them.
JB: Right. I was just wondering, because I talked to someone earlier today who does a rolling ‘if you miss the deadline’, you just can’t get it until maybe six months later. Which, I was just curious how you did it. There’s no right or wrong.
AK: I don’t … look. I would never want to turn away a sale. If someone wants to come through my door at full-price, they are more than welcome to do so. We have had people who have not taken advantage of the 24-hour offer and a few weeks later they’re still thinking about it and it sat in their minds enough that they’re willing to go ahead and pay full-price to join us, because they know that this is what they want to do. Awesome. I want them to start their yoga journey with me. I want to be there and available for them. I want to make it easy for them to say yes with the offer, but hey, I’m not going to say no if they want to join me a few weeks later at full-price. That’s fine.
JB: The way that you do it is what we typically recommend. Again, there’s so many different ways that people use our platform, but my favorite go-to method is just like you described. After the deadline, you can still get it, but it’s not at that discounted price. You don’t get all the bonuses. So that’s the special offer.
AK: Yeah. On some level too … I find this with my own private courses, my continuing education courses, is that you kind of, for lack of a better term, you train your audience, right? This is how you operate. You’re going to be super generous, you’re going to give them extra special things, but they need to act on them. You’re always going to be there for them. You’re always there for them. You’re always available for whenever they want to start. However, if the opportunity arises, they better jump on because they know that that opportunity is not going to be there forever.
JB: That’s great advice. Speaking of that, why don’t we close with this. You’ve been extremely generous with your time. It’s been wonderful talking to you. For someone who is just starting out, and they’re watching this interview, inspired, and they’re like, “I want to do that.” They want to start their own online training. What advice would you give them that you wish you had had back when you were first getting started?
AK: Realize that launching a course and creating the marketing around it is just as hard as creating the course itself. Be ready to place as much attention on the front-end as you do the back-end, because they are both equally as important. I was really focused on just building the content and creating great courses, and I had no idea how much relationship building is required, how much of the front-end email writing is required, how much … you have to pay attention to really awesome … the things that you use to make your machine work like Deadline Funnel. Do not skimp on the things that are going to make your process awesome because ultimately it’s going to make you a better online course creator or online marketer or online salesperson, whatever it is that is your niche.
JB: Before we go, I wanted to bring this up earlier, but go ahead and tell people where they can learn more information about you, if there are some people who want to become yoga teachers, where would they go?
AK: Or sign up for my webinar and sneak in and check the process out? My main website is Alannak.com. And that’s A-L-A-N-N-A-K dot com. You can find everything there, that’s my big umbrella. If you’re interested in the teacher training specifically, the URL for that is onlineteachertraining.yoga. And that has everything that you could learn that you would ever want to to learn about it there.
JB: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Alanna.
AK: It’s my pleasure, Jack.
Alanna Kivayla.com https://alannak.com/
Online Yoga Instructor Certification, http://onlineteachertraining.yoga/
Find Alanna on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/alannakaivalya/
Follow Alanna on Twitter, https://twitter.com/alannakaivalya