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Retreat Series: How To Sell Out Your Retreat

Updated: Jan 20



Whether you're thinking of hosting a retreat or have one on the calendar that you're trying to fill now, this is going to be super helpful. Retreats are a great way to work with your students in a longer format so that you can help them progress with something specific. I share a marketing timeline, what marketing channels work best and how to come up with your marketing messaging that will fill your retreat with ease.



Timeline For Marketing Your Retreat

The first thing to consider when it comes to a timeline for filling your retreat is your students. You know them more than I do and ideally you've had conversations with them about this retreat so you have a better idea of how long it will take you to fill this retreat.


For example, if you've being sharing this idea for a few months, you might fill your retreat by sending a few emails to your current students. But on the other hand if you know that your students typically need to budget for things and find child care, then it's best to give them a longer runway for this retreat.


In an ideal world, I would suggest having 12 months of marketing time so that there isn't a rush and you are catering to all types of travelers:


  • Lots of prep time traveler (18 to 12 months in advance) - someone who likes to have something booked well in advance so they have plenty of time to prep and be excited.

  • Last minute traveler (3 months or less in advance) - someone who is more spontaneous (also with the budget to allow for this) and will book at the last minute.

  • Everyone else (11 to 4 months in advance) - this is where most people will fall. They have enough time to plan and budget for the trip and feel comfortable with the timeframe.


Timeline Breakdown:

  • 1 year out: share a "save the date" type message and let people know they book now to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount on your retreat

  • Between 12 and 9 months out: share about the retreat (and Early Bird Discount) every time you're teaching and include it in at least 1 email per month. If you use social media, share something retreat related no less than every other week. Share about your planning progress, how many spots are left, and what they can expect at the retreat.

  • Between 9 and 6 months out: remove Early Bird Discount and raise the the price. Continue sharing about the retreat but increase the frequency. This will be easier as you're working more on the retreat details and can simply share about this process and how many spots are left.

  • Between 6 and 3 months out: Continue sharing about the retreat but increase the frequency. This is prime-time to get sign ups so it's time to kick things into high-gear for marketing. Share about how many spots are left and focus on the benefit for the retreat goer in your messaging on a weekly basis until the spots are filled.

  • 3 months out: close registration for your retreat so you can focus on your students and prep for the retreat


**This was also a podcast episode (episode #166. Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.



What Marketing Channels Will Help You Fill Your Retreat

As I shared in the timeline breakdown, there are several marketing channels that will help you fill your retreat. Below is a breakdown of each and how they can help you specifically.


Word of Mouth / Your Existing Students:

You will most likely fill your retreat with your current students, especially if this is your first (or first few) retreats. For someone to travel and pay a higher price for an experience like this, they need to trust the retreat leader and your students already trust you. This is why it's critical that you have tested the idea of hosting a retreat with your current students before you move forward with this idea. If you haven't talked to your students about the idea of a yoga retreat, now is the time to start talking to them. The goal is to get an idea of if they want to travel with you and would be willing to spend a few thousand dollars on this type of an experience.


Email, Email, Email:

You will mention "hey, I'm planning to host a retreat" or "Great news! My retreat is ready for you to sign up" as you talk to your students before and after class but it's actually an email that will get them to sign up. No matter what email system you're using, use emails to get your sign ups. This channel is more important than any other channel as it allows you to (1) share details that people need and (2) link to the sign up page easily. Please don't skip using this marketing channel.


Q&A Session (Zoom or In Person):

Since this is a type of offering that people may have lots of questions about, hosting a Q&A session is a great idea. I've known of yoga teachers who used Zoom and others that hosted them in person with their students. Either way works and it just depends on what your students (specifically, the ones who are most likely going to sign up for the retreat) would respond to most. This can be a casual and fun event with no pressure to sign up.


Website:

Your website is the hub of information so you definitely want to have a specific page on your website for your retreat. This is where you will include all information for the retreat so people can learn more as well as sign up for the waitlist or the actual retreat. This is what you will link to in your emails and any other marketing you have.


Flyers:

It goes without saying that flyers will work if you are trying to attract students that are local to you. You can post your flyer up in your local area at coffee shops, boutiques, libraries, whatever local businesses that attracts your dream student (for your retreat) and allows you to post a flyer. Keep the flyer simple by sharing the main benefit of your retreat as well as the details (dates, location, price).


Social Media:

You can use social media or not, it's completely up to you but it is a channel that can help you reach people who aren't on your email list or in class with you. Personally, I look at social media as reminders for those who are on my email list and are connected to me. Instead of putting the pressure on a social media post to "do the selling" of the retreat, you can look at it is as a reminder of "just reminding you I've got this retreat coming up" or "look at this! I'm prepping for my upcoming retreat and just finished...".





Marketing Messaging That Will Fill Your Retreat

When it comes to what message will help you fill your retreat, there are 2 things to identify.


Identify your dream student:

This is key! In order to create a great experience for your retreat students it's best to truly hone in on who is perfect for your retreat.


Start with the topic/focus of the retreat and then identify who it's perfect for. For example, if you are dreaming of hosting a restorative yoga retreat that has meditation and lots of restorative activities, then you wouldn't want someone who's looking for lots of adventure. And visa versa. Sometimes it's easier to think "who do I not want to sign up" and then work backwards.


Here are some questions to help you identify who your dream student is:

  • What is the specific focus of your retreat?

  • How do you hope your students feel after the retreat? What do you hope they say to others when they get home?

  • List 10 people in your life right now who would love to have that specific benefit.

  • Based on that list, describe your dream student in a few sentences without listing their age or gender.


Identify the benefit statement:

Now that you know who your dream student is and the focus of your retreat, it's time to come up with your main marketing message. Your benefit statement. This is one or two sentences that helps you describe the benefit of the retreat to anyone you're talking to. While you absolutely don't have to use this formula, here's one to get you started:


Walk away feeling (insert feeling) after (#) days in (location). Experience daily yoga and (insert your specific activities focus) at (resort name or descriptor). Sign up so you can (insert the main benefit).


Examples:

Walk away feeling relaxed after 7 days in Costa Rica. Experience daily yoga and plenty of rejuvenating time while at a luxurious resort with all your needs and desires cared for. Simply show up so you can fill your cup before returning home to your family.


Imagine feeling energized after 7 days in Costa Rica. It's possible and I've put together the perfect mix of yoga and activities for you. Join me and 8 other action-seeking yogis at Vista Celestial, a luxurious and activity-packed resort in January to kick off your year right!


Additional messaging ideas:

I'd encourage you to think about what information you'd want to know and how long you'd need to think about signing up for a retreat like this. For example, let's say I was hosting a business planning retreat that cost $5,000 for a week at a luxurious location. What questions would you have before deciding to sign up for my retreat?


Here are some prompt ideas:

  • What will I walk away with? / What is the benefit for me? / What will I learn?

  • Who else is going on this retreat? (not sharing names but types of people)

  • What will each day look like?

  • What should I pack for the retreat?

  • What will the weather be like?

  • What will the sleeping arrangements be like?

  • Will I be sharing a bathroom?

  • Is there a way to upgrade so I get my own room?

  • Do I have to participate in everything on the schedule?

  • What is the transportation like from the airport?

  • What is the food situation? (especially if they have dietary needs)


Pro Tip For Filling Your Next Retreat

I know you're focused on filling this retreat right now but I promise that after this one fills up and you experience how awesome it is to host your retreat, you will want to host more. So here are the pro tips for how you can set yourself up for an even easier experience next time:


Market your next retreat while you're hosting this retreat:

The absolute BEST way to fill your next retreat is to promote it when you're onsite at your current retreat. By capturing the momentum you have with your current retreat students and those who didn't sign up but are following you, you will fill your next retreat with ease.


My suggestion for this is to set up a waitlist for your next retreat (or any future retreats) before you travel to your current retreat. Have the form ready to go on your website so you can use that link to share with those who ask about your next retreat.


For your current retreat students: tell them towards the end of the retreat when your next one is and you could even offer them a special price if they sign up within a short timeframe. Make sure you note who has interest even if they don't sign up right away so you can follow up with them later.


For those back home: share snippets of your day on social media (Instagram Stories are great for this!) while you're on retreat. You don't have to be on social media all day to share a short glimpse of what's happening. If you don't use social media, be sure to capture photos on your phone so you can do a recap email of the entire time and share a few photos. As you share about the experience, you will have people ask "when's your next retreat" and you can send them to your waitlist page.


By using this method, you now have a list of people who have raised their hand to let you know they are interested.



Your next step

It's time to fill your retreat! If you've got one on the calendar, talk about it now to your current students and audience. Go through the messaging questions in this episode and share about your excitement and the benefit of your retreat.


If you don't have a retreat booked, it's time to ask your students if they would want this from you. The next time you teach, ask them if they would ever be interested in attending a retreat and if so, what would they want from it. Do they want something local so they can still sleep in their own bed each night? Or are they looking to get away from home? The goal is to understand what they would be most likely to pay for to ensure that it aligns with what you would want to offer.


No matter where you are in the retreat journey, embrace this time and enjoy it all! And until next time give yourself permission to dream about and act on hosting a retreat and grace along the way. I'll talk to you soon!




Get More Done with Less Screen Time with Shailla Vaidya

“Retreats are a great way to work with your students in a longer format so that you can help them progress with something specific. It's not every day someone can spend an entire week with their yoga teacher. It's a special experience."

- Amanda McKinney









 

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