Small business marketing case study – don’t shy away from the bad in your biz with Stafford Street Hot Yoga

by on July 18, 2011

Bikram yoga studio, Winnipeg, ManitobaSweat dripping from every pore. Clothes drenched. Waves of dizziness. Welcome to the wonderful world of Bikram yoga.

If you’ve done Bikram before, you know what I’m talking about. And you also know about that wonderful feeling of lightness and purity when you step back out into the world. Yeah, it was tough, but damn does it ever feel good to get those toxins out. Your body is singing.

If you’ve never done it, you will probably spend your first class wondering why on earth you paid good money for this and agonizing over the seconds ticking by in the longest hour and a half of your life.

So how on earth would you market such an experience?

This is exactly the question I was faced with when it was time to revamp the online communications for Stafford Street Hot Yoga (SSHY), a fabulous Bikram studio in Winnipeg.

The competition talks about the benefits. The 26 poses. How good you feel afterwards.

And of course we did that too for SSHY.

But did we avoid the whole issue of how hot and uncomfortable you’re gonna be? Heck no!

I did a post talking about how brutal my first time was. The owner mocks the classes in her bio, calling it the Bikram torture chamber. We did up a first timers page, warning newbies just how tough things will get.

Isn’t that a little crazy?

Are you thinking we’re nuts? That this would only discourage potential customers from wanting to join? That people would take one look at this info and vow never to go to a Bikram yoga class?

Perhaps… but think about it.

Imagine showing up at your first class, and not having a clue what you’re in for. Having diligently visited the website beforehand, and not seen even a smidge of info that alluded to what the experience would be like.

Wouldn’t you feel kind of duped? Caught totally unprepared? A little bit choked at the business for not being up front with you? (you might show up in pants like I did for my first class – very bad call :))

With our communications strategy, we make sure that new students know exactly what they are in for. But we also let them know that they are cared for, that they will be supported every step of the way, and that the end definitely justifies the means.

Trust me, this is good marketing…

It’s all about empowering people to make the right decision for themselves, not letting them decide once they’ve already paid for a class and made the effort to go that it’s not for them.

So the marketing lesson here folks is to not shy away from what might be “bad” about your business because you are scared of losing sales or customers. If there is something that your customers need to know about your small business, tell them before they buy. Don’t let them find out after the fact.

It’s all about transparency and openness, giving them all the goods. Trust me, they will appreciate your frankness. And you will only get the people that really want your stuff, and weed out those that don’t.

How to approach the “bad”

The trick here is to communicate a “bad,” but explain the why behind it. If you can take a seemingly negative aspect, and turn it around, hitting the what’s in it for me angle, you’ve found communications gold.

Here are a few more examples:

• I’ll work with you, but there is a wait list several months long. I’m worth the wait. I do such good work that people are lining up for my services.
• My food product will spoil very quickly. It’s made with absolutely no preservatives or chemicals to extend shelf life.
• We charge 10 cents per plastic bag. We are fully committed to keeping plastic out of the landfill and contributing to environmental initiatives.

It’s true that there will be customers who aren’t going to go for your explanation. They might rage. Get frustrated. Decide not to buy from you. And that’s perfectly fine. All small businesses have a niche, and not everyone will be your ideal customer.

If you can’t find a positive spin, you can at least explain why this is the way things are. Most people are perfectly logical, and will understand where you’re coming from.

What if you have a bad that has no positive spin? A bad that you can’t explain, or whose justification only makes your business seem worse? (ie. I’m too busy, lazy, cheap to do x for you, my dear customer). Then it’s a bad that you have to remedy.

OK, on to you. Are there any “bad” aspects to your business? How do you communicate them? If you’ve never tackled the bad and want some feedback/direction, let me know in the comments.

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tanya Di Valentino July 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Great post Martina! I love your positive spins and they would make it very difficult for someone to reasonably argue the antics :))) Your emails are very inspiring and full of juicy business goodness. Thank-you, much appreciated!!


Martina July 20, 2011 at 7:54 am

I find that many businesses miss the opportunity of taking the time to explain the whys. Uninformed customers can often lead to unhappy or confused customers. Thanks so much for your kind words Tanya!


Lyndi July 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Be easy for businesses to inform their customers, with a little effort. Being open and honest makes the brand seem more approachable and relatable.
Lyndi recently posted..Got Promotion Pains? Tips to dealing with the deal.


Martina July 21, 2011 at 8:14 am

You’re so right Lyndi that how you communicate is so important to your brand’s image. It does take some time and effort, but well worth it in the long run. Thanks for stopping by!


Hailey Wilson August 18, 2011 at 3:06 am

I really appreciate your help Martina you are teaching us the positive way to attract more costumers by the use of proper communication. we all know that communication is the best brand ever. this can be considered as one good habit of any employees.
Hailey Wilson recently posted..Home Security Monitoring


Martina August 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for the comment Hailey! You’re so right that good communications is a part of your branding.


Brandon May 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Great advice! When you address the “bad” upfront – you have control over the conversation. You can position things in the best possible light.

If you intentionally (or unintentionally) deceive your customers, they will feel slighted and probably choose not to support you anymore!
Brandon recently posted..14 Popular Yoga Teachers Reveal Their Secrets for Online Marketing


Martina Iring May 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

Couldn’t agree with you more Brandon! Transparency is so important to building trust with your customers. Thanks so much for checking out the post!


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