Promoting a retreat is exciting. After all, you’re providing your students the opportunity to travel somewhere incredible. Yet promoting a retreat is not without challenges, especially if you don’t come from a background of marketing or sales. To help you with promoting, we’ve teased out everything we’ve learned from over three years of retreats, and packed the results into 10 key tips for fostering success.
There’s no perfect way to market a retreat, but there are best practices we’ve seen work for hundreds of them!
1. Promote now, relax later
We highly recommend promoting your retreat immediately. Though waiting until 3-5 months before your trip may sound reasonable, we’ve heard way too many unfortunate stories of instructors who had to cancel retreats or ended up leading tiny groups due to misjudging demand.
Do not buy into the myth that your “type of guests” only plan a few months in advance. We’ve seen it disproven time and time again. You’re not asking guests to make the full payment, but rather a reservation deposit to hold their spot.
To facilitate early bookings, provide guests an early bird discount that expires after a certain date. Having a short expiration date is important, as long deadlines (over a month) will cause procrastination and render the discount ineffective.
2. Build an email list
The most important tool for promoting your retreat will be your email list. If you already have an email list, you’re ahead of the game. If not, now is the perfect time to begin building one.
An email list will allow you to invite guests, follow up, and stay connected, even when you’re not in front of them.
Take a paper and a pen to your classes and ask students to provide their names and email addresses. But don’t just ask for it, offer a reason. Tell them they’ll be the first to find out about workshops, retreats and free events. This list will help you with a lot more than just retreats.
Expert Tip: Sign-up for MailChimp to manage your email list, it’s free!
3. Make your invitees feel special
Let everyone on your email list know you’ll be making a public announcement soon, but you want to invite them first so they can secure a guaranteed spot. Below is an example email for an initial invite.
I’m about to launch an incredible bucket list retreat to this awesome spot in [enter your trip location]… and I wanted to give you an exclusive invite! The dates are [enter the dates of your trip].
Every guest package includes comfy accommodations, [insert number] wholesome daily meals, and [enter how many workout/yoga sessions a day with you]. [Enter a one sentence description of why the venue is amazing].
For more details, check out my retreat page: [insert retreat link]
The venue has very limited space, so if you’re interested, consider making a reservation. It’s only a [insert deposit amount] deposit to hold your spot!
Do you think you can make it?
4. Use social media to your advantage
Posting on social media is easy, and it’s something you should do consistently while promoting your retreat.
- Make a Facebook group and invite your friends
- Create promotional graphics and post them on instagram
- Post status updates with destination photos, along with a sign-up link
Be sure to make your email announcement first so you don’t jeopardize the exclusivity of the initial invite. Wait at least 24 hours before proceeding with social media.
Expert Tip: Canva.com is a free drag-and-drop photo editing tool perfect for quickly creating graphics.
5. Make an announcement/reminder after every class
In-person classes and training sessions are a great opportunity to talk about your retreat. Make an announcement after every class and invite those with questions to come up afterwards to chat further. Consider making flyers and handing them out to those who express interest!
Expert Tip: Canva.com is great for designing flyers and we love MOO.com for print delivery.
6. Build a hotlist
Once you’ve announced your retreat to the world, go through everyone you invited and label their interest on a scale of hot, warm and cold. Anyone who has asked you a question, label as hot. Label anyone who opened your email but didn’t reply as warm. And anyone who you really want to go but who hasn’t expressed interest as cold.
The same goes for social media and in-person. Label those who asked questions as hot. For Facebook, label those who liked your post but didn’t leave a comment as cold.
You will use your hotlist to manage your energy and know who to focus on.
7. Answer questions like a marketing pro
It’s tempting to answer every question by describing EVERYTHING about your retreat. Not so fast — over-sharing about your retreat can have the same off-putting effect of over-sharing in life (and no one wants to be that person).
For a surefire way to move your guests closer to booking, use these three steps to answer every single question you get:
- Keep it comfortable. Always communicate in the manner that’s best for the guest. Are they asking you questions over text? Phone? Email? Facebook? Great! Tailor your communication to fit them.
- Always answer a question with a question. The most common question you’ll ever hear is about the price of the trip, due to the fact that your students aren’t sure of what to ask. If someone asks you the price of the retreat, try not to regurgitate the laundry list of everything that’s included. Simply respond by asking, “Are you looking for a single or a double?”
A client who’s worried about the price will ask you which one is cheaper. Respond with the price and ask them, “Have you ever been on a retreat before?” This will open up a conversation about what objections they have to coming on your trip.
- No more than three sentences. Ever. If you find yourself needing more than three sentences to answer a question, you’re telling them too much and you’ll lose them in the information. Keep your responses short and direct. This may seem curt, but it actually has the opposite effect — you’re more likely to uncover a student’s objections with a direct and casual tone.
8. Address common objections
The idea of going on a retreat is tantalizing. But for some, the thought of leaving the country can also be intimidating and stressful, especially for first-time travelers. Common objections/fears include:
- I’m not fit enough
- The location is too far away
- I’m nervous about sharing a room
- I’m scared I’ll end up alone the whole time
- I’m nervous about traveling out of the country
Students might not know how to tell you their objections (which is why it’s important to answer questions with questions), but you can address these concerns by bringing them up in conversation. If you do a good job, you’ll guide them to a place where they’re not only comfortable, but excited about booking your retreat.
Not sure what this looks like? Here’s a good response that addresses multiple objections in a relaxed way:
“You haven’t been on a retreat before? That’s so exciting! I remember when I first traveled out of the country on a group trip. I was so nervous, I thought I would get lost at the airport, I wasn’t in good enough shape for the group and I’d end up eating dinner by myself. But, from the minute I got there, every experience I had squashed every fear I had. And now some of those people from the trip are still my best friends.”
9. Don’t be afraid to follow up
The most important key to putting together a great group is following up. We’ve seen that it on average, it takes 7-10 mentions before a guest reserves their spot, so be sure to remind your students at the end of every class that you’re running a retreat. More importantly, personally follow up with everyone on your hotlist. The goal should be to get a definitive “yes” or friendly “not at this time.”
So what’s the best way to follow up?
- Keep it short, a sentence or two is better than a speech
- Mention that space is limited and that the venue will sell out
- Excitement is infectious, be upbeat about how incredible the trip will be
- Remind them that only a deposit is due and that the rest can be paid later
- Ask if they’re ready to put down a deposit, and if not, what their hesitancy might be
Don’t be afraid to follow up multiple times. It appreciated by anyone who’s really interested, and it works!
10. Stay engaged through email
Send out regular emails every other week to your email list with new content and information that would interest them. It can be retreat related i.e. “Ten Reasons You’ll Love [Insert Country]” or related to your own practice, events, etc.