2 Lessons on Growing Your Offerings from 889 Yoga’s Christine Russell

 In Business

Earlier this year I had the privilege of having a mentorship chat with one of the co-founders of 889 Yoga, Christine Russell. Aside from getting me hooked on a cold pressed juice from Fresh (#07 which I’ll rave about in due course), I was fortunate to have a very candid and inspiring conversation with her about business and life. I’d love to pass on what I learned to you from this entrepreneurial stunner.

 

889 Yoga is an awesome studio in Toronto with locations near Rosedale and Yorkville (in the Four Seasons). I came to find it during a transition phase in my life when I became a regular in one of their meditation circles (you can read about a mantra I picked up in Just Is or my experience in Meditation Club). One of the things that I really liked about the studio, aside from its sweet and sophisticated aesthetic style, was the variety of class offerings they had.

 

When I spoke with Christine about her journey as an entrepreneur, one of the things that I was surprised to learn was that this array of offerings was some time in the making. The studio’s foundation is yoga, and as such, they expected that yoga would be the most popular of their classes. But as they started to play around with their schedule and add in some Pilates classes, the crew at 889 was taken aback by the uptake in this new discipline. Opening up your offerings (whether product or service) can be scary and challenging to balance, but what Christine taught me was a twofold importance:

 

  • Listen to the customer. If customer behaviour is steering you in a new direction, be open to listening to what is being asked for. Instead of being resistant to Pilates or meditation, 889 took the feedback from customers and started to experiment. Customer input can be qualitative (feedback) and quantitative ($$$). But in order to gather this data, you have to have the foresight and willingness to test the market. Consider doing beta tests of your new product/service offering to a small group of loyal customers to gather input. But more importantly, don’t let ego get in the way – how you think things should be may not be what will work for the customer!
  • Don’t sell out. That being said, if you want to run a coffee shop but your customers want an ice cream parlour; you have to decide whether to stick to your product and positioning and find ways to market yourself to that audience (or install some freezers!). If adding services like spa treatments or unique classes is cannibalizing your other profits, then consider whether you need to re-imagine your business, or trim the excess. Causing confusion for the customer is about the worst thing you can do.

 

I went through this balancing act earlier this year when I had to trim out service offerings and re-position myself. As much as I love making flower arrangements and helping people with tight budgets plan kick ass events, the reality is that I have an overwhelming amount of requests for marketing services. It’s too confusing to explain yourself as a marketer/writer/self-publisher/flower provider/event planner/everything under the sun.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I totally tried to be everything under the sun.

 

But it just doesn’t make sense, and that is what my customers (and Christine) effectively said to me. So that is what I had to position myself around – a full stack marketer with strengths in content and social media.

 

Be the yoga studio with great offerings, don’t be the one that can’t adapt and go with the flow.

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