The BOLD Show | Episode 09 | Creating and Sustaining Growth
Growing a business can be tough, but Infinity Yoga in Atlanta, Georgia, has excelled in growing from one location to four. In this episode of the MINDBODY BOLD Show, Infinity Yoga co-founder Matt Shechtman shares with host Mike Arce how he grew his business while maintaining a 5-star review rating throughout it all.
(Mike) Today, I’m here with Matt Shechtman, owner of Infinity Yoga. He’s an ivy league graduate and an attorney from Atlanta that got into the yoga business. And today, we are going to learn how Matt turned one yoga studio into four in just the last few years. How they’ve earned hundreds of online reviews with an incredible five-star average, achieved great success, and even won the 2016 BOLD Conference Multi-Location Business of the Year Award.
Growing a small business isn’t easy, and to be successful we know three things for sure: You have to work hard. You have to be bold. And you must constantly learn. We’re gathering some of the best minds in the business world to share their ideas and strategies with you so you can grow your business easier, be more profitable, and have a lot more fun being a business owner. We are on a mission to connect the world of wellness and this is The MINDBODY BOLD Show.
What’s up everybody. I’m Mike Arce and welcome to another episode of The BOLD Show. Matt, are you ready to be bold?
(Matt) Let’s do it.
(Mike) First, I want to get this out of the way. Most small business owners, they have a hard time being able to have an attorney help them with a lot of the little stuff. You actually are an attorney, so does that make things a little easier for you?
(Matt) Yeah, when you are just starting a fitness business, there is not a whole lot of stuff that you need. Entity structuring is really important. Putting together your trademarks is going to be an important thing. And then just having general contracts with respect to your instructors and your staff are important. But that stuff isn’t incredibly difficult. I think that the biggest thing that being an attorney helps with is general organization and work ethic. And that really went a long way.
(Mike) Yeah, you can’t be an unorganized attorney and plan to be successful. So, you have actually grown from one yoga studio, without really a ton of experience at all in the yoga industry—you were an attorney. But you started one yoga studio and you brought that to four in just a matter of a few years. You don’t do that unless you have a really great marketing plan or something that’s executing the right way to get more people into the door, more new members in through the door. Would you mind sharing your top one or two strategies you used to get people in your doors.
(Matt) Sure. One of the first things we did was we worked with an SEO—search engine optimization—expert who actually happened to be a client of our studio and we got to develop a strong relationship with this particular individual. And he emphasized and really sold us on how important organic search results were. And so, that was one of the main things that we focused on. And then the second thing is word of mouth referrals. In pretty much any entrepreneurial business, any small business, word of mouth is going to be your cheapest and most effective marketing tool. So, us focusing on that really went a long way to generating a great vibe in the community and building our clientele.
(Mike) You know with most small, service-based businesses, what we tend to notice is that it’s very easy for them to have this personal relationship. Usually, if they are not big yet, they haven’t detached yet from the customer relationship yet. They are still very much involved. So, they do get the referrals. But, for you to get to as many members as you did, and one of them being from referrals. I’m sure you didn’t wait for the referrals to come in. Did you have a system in place to go get the referrals to make sure they came in consistently?
(Matt) Oh yeah. A lot of this was the organization that came from my attorney background. But it also came back to the search engine optimization that I referred to. So, one of the main things with your organic search results is tying into the other sites. And Yelp and Facebook have very strong online presences. So, when you tie those back and you have stronger reviews, stronger Google reviews, stronger Yelp reviews, it boosts your organic search results. So, that was one of the first things we focused on. Day and night, we would ask students that we built strong relationships with for reviews, and we’d give them account credits. We’d give them free classes. We’d give them discounts. Because at the end of the day, as opposed to paying for marketing or advertising, we essentially wrote it off as paying for reviews.
(Mike) Yeah, and you know the thing, too, when you pay for advertising, it’s more expensive in two ways. It’s expensive because you have to go and get that business, but they don’t close as easy as referrals do. A lead from the internet may close at two or three out of 10. Whereas a referral, you may close 8 to 10 out of 10, depending on exactly what type of relationship you have with that referral.
(Matt) Oh, yeah. Just think about it the same way you look for a local handyman or a plumber. I don’t just click on an ad all the time. I ask my neighbor. And that’s the same way people in the fitness industry come to try out yoga for the first time. Maybe they had no interest in yoga, but their best friend won’t stop bugging them to go, and then they eventually go. And then we have that established engagement with a new client.
(Mike) Now, with as many members as you have, do you make sure that you tell your team, and you go out there as well, and ask for referrals? Ask if they have any friends, bring them in. Do you do that at all?
(Matt) Yes. So when we were smaller and it was a little bit more manageable to do all of that manually, we would be in there day in and day out. Some of our trusted managers or very solid instructors that were working with us full time, it was sort of part of our culture, to make sure they were engaging with clients. Our clients would be invested in the community, so they wanted to help. But as we grew, there is only so much you can do to continue to reach out when you have 400 or 500 people coming in your doors a day. You just can’t be in four different places at once. So, we engaged with a company called Listen360, which is a customer feedback and referral system. After a customer comes in for the first time, or every three or six months—you can automate it however you want to set it—they will give a review link that gives them the opportunity to rate their experience with us. One, it gives us the ability to anticipate customer feedback issues, so that we can address any problems. But two, if they are really, really happy with the business and they rate us 10 out of 10—those are our most loyal customers and it automates a link for them to provide a Google review or a Yelp review.
(Mike) That’s pretty cool. So the sales process for most small businesses is a challenge. A lot of people hate to ask for the sale. They have a hard time getting to the close. They have a very easy time opening. It’s the closing because they feel it’s almost pushy. And a lot of people stay away from becoming the salesperson. So, you’ve got four locations. You’ve got tons of member in there. Obviously, you are not afraid to ask for the sale, and obviously, you have a sales system in place. Take me through the journey. Let’s say I found you on Google. What’s it like if I reach out to you to see if you guys have an open spot in class tonight? Take me through that call. What do you get from me on that call to learn more about me? And then what expectations are set for me as a person? Should I come to class on time with water, a mat? And then all the way to the close.
(Matt) Sure. So, if you are calling or emailing and interested in coming in for class, the first thing we want to know about you is what is it that you are looking for? Everybody has a different path. Maybe they’ve been practicing yoga forever and they are moving into town. I wouldn’t necessarily send them to a beginner’s class because they’ve moved past that point. Or, maybe you’ve never done yoga before, in which case we have a progression set up for somebody, going from beginners as they learn, to when they develop they go into a more foundational, intermediate class, moving on to more advanced classes. So, finding out what that particular person is looking for is great in terms of pushing them in the right direction so that they have a good experience.
(Mike) So, that is part of the close.
(Matt) Yeah, and within that, we are not always going to be perfect on where we point somebody. And that’s because we may not know how to interpret some of the information coming in. We’re just not perfect every time. And they might not even know how to ask.
(Mike) They don’t know what advanced is, or what beginner is.
(Matt) Correct. And so, because of that, as with many fitness industry businesses, we have an intro period. So, ours is two weeks. We essentially have two weeks where we encourage people to come as much as possible for a low intro rate. And in that time, they can experience a wide breadth of classes. So, if we miss on the first one, then we can point them in a new direction. And that’s where that feedback, that automated feedback system comes into place. So they will write: “That basics class was too easy.” I get that comment. When that comes in, I reach out to them and say, “You know what, these are some other great options.” Whereas if we didn’t have that, that person may have not thought to write or reach out to us. They might have just thought that class just wasn’t that great.
(Mike) So you will actually make the effort to find out how they enjoyed the class. It felt like a good fit. Now based on their feedback, now you can have a more aligned conversation as to what is beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
(Matt) And that’s immediate. And that points them in the direction over the next couple of weeks of their intro. And then about half way through their intro period, our managers—we have a couple of retention-focused managers—they take all of the new students that have come into the studio and we have all that put into a spreadsheet. And it’s divided into location and classes they have taken. And they will actually make a reach-out phone call. This is our retention system for moving them past the intro program, into a membership or class package option. And we have always advocated for the soft sell. “How is your experience going? What can we do to improve? How have you liked the instructors that you’ve taken?”
Because we use MINDBODY, we can look at all the classes they have taken. We can look at all the locations that they’ve been going to. And we have this information in front of us in order to have that information handy so that it feels like a more personal interaction with that person. Even if the person making that phone call hasn’t necessarily met that person. If that person is interested or have been engaged with the studio, they just give them a reminder that they can get a discount on their next package if they sign up before the end of their intro period. And then they ask for more, typically.
(Mike) What’s your intro period, like a week?
(Matt) It’s the two weeks.
(Mike) Oh, two weeks free. OK, great. So, you have a great sales tool with having hundreds of reviews online, which is insane by the way. I’ve seen it on Facebook, and I’ve seen it on Yelp. It’s not so much insane that you have that many reviews. It’s insane that you have that many reviews with a five-star average, out of 4.9. Which is nuts. You got to agree that’s nuts.
(Mike) Yeah, OK, that’s my business. I’m nuts! So, with your awesome track record, that doesn’t just happen. Because you know there are people out there that when they are upset when they are mad, that’s when they are going to leave a review. If they are happy, they don’t go leave a review unless they are asked or coached, at least most people.
So, how did you get to that point? What were the steps you had to take to make sure you got to where you did?
(Matt) Customer service. I was reading an article a couple of years ago when we first started this. And it was the CEO of Starbucks. He was saying that Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business. They are in the people business, and they just happen to be serving coffee. And that struck me as so profound at so many levels, and that it applied to every service business.
I would say the exact same thing about what we do. We’re not necessarily in the yoga business. We are in the people business, and we happen to be serving yoga. And we are really passionate about what we do. We are really passionate about the yoga. And we strive to provide an absolutely excellent product. But at the end of the day, the boutique fitness industry is a community-oriented industry. It’s all about client engagement, at this personal relationship they are developing with instructors, with front desk staff, and also the owners of the business. So, we harp on and continually remind our staff and our management that every single interaction you have with a client leads to, what you referred to before, as the referrals—the word of mouth, and how we get more people in the door. And remind them that whenever you have a negative client experience that leads to potentially much more negative connotations than a positive experience leads to positive results.
So, anytime you have a potentially negative situation, you do anything you possibly can to make sure that that customer is happy. Some people there is nothing you can possibly do that will make them happy with what you are providing. Because we just can’t be everything for everyone. But we can leave every single customer interaction with that person knowing that we empathize with them and that we treated them fairly. And if we can do that 100% of the time across the board, then we can continually generate positive reviews and avoid the one-star, angry, ranting reviews. Because we can reach out to those people.
(Mike) Here’s the thing—I actually get along great with all of the things that I do, whether it’s an Orangetheory, whether it’s a printing vendor. I have great relationships to all the vendors I give money to in exchange for service. I don’t review anyone. It’s not because I’m a jerk. It’s just because it’s not top of mind. If you were to say to me, “Mike, do you mind leaving us a review? It would really help our business.” I totally would. I’d even do it before I got to my car. Do you guys have systems in place to make sure, just keeping it top of mind, and not relying on people to actively do it themselves?
(Matt) Yeah, absolutely. Coming back to Listen360, that certainly helps with people. Because when they click 10 out of 10, it gives them that reminder. Oh, well why is it 10 out of 10? And then it has a link right there to Google reviews.
(Mike) OK, so you have an automated system.
(Matt) Yeah. And then the other thing is, as a small business owner, being there and being part of the community that you are building goes so far. I know so many of our clients by name. And even though we’ve grown to four studios, they appreciate the fact that I’m there all the time. They know me. They know that if there is a problem, they can reach out to me directly, and it’s not just some vertically integrated funnel that they never actually get to talk to the owner. So, if I were in a passive ownership role, and I really had nothing to do with the business, our clients probably wouldn’t feel the engagement and wish for us to succeed the way that they do. Because they generally really care about the business. So having your clients care about the business as much as you do, goes a really long way.
(Mike) And your employees too. So, like you were saying earlier, I picked up on it. You said, we really talked to our employees about taking care of every customer no matter what. When you have that in place, you don’t have to worry about every client calling you. Because they feel comfortable going to the team knowing that they want to help them too. And so your calls would be dramatically higher if you weren’t building such a great team. Right. But because you’ve got that in place, you are able to make those announcements—hey, call me if you need me, and you know it’s not going to be overwhelming. Pretty cool.
Last year, 2016, you won BOLD Conferences Multi-Location Businesses of the Year. And you and I got the chance to talk about this backstage before. You said you weren’t aiming for it. You just got an email. But what was the criteria? What was it that made them go, we have to give this guy the award? He deserves it.
(Matt) You know, I don’t know who was making a lot of the decisions. But for us, we grew really fast. So, from a financial metric standpoint, there was phenomenal growth. Not just in revenue, but in new clients, and that came a lot from the additional locations, so our team grew.
(Mike) How many clients did you get up to?
(Matt) On what level?
(Mike) In all locations.
(Matt) We have about 1,200 members that are on auto-renew, or annual membership.
And then we have class packages. So, we have about 8,000 active members.
(Mike) Good job. Most yoga studios just can’t accomplish that. I’ve seen it. Most small businesses have a hard time with that. Getting to a certain point, it seems feasible. But then once you have to start building a team, because you can’t do everything all the time. You can’t be at four studios. You can’t answer all the sales calls, and still be doing customer service calls, classes, looking at the books, doing all that. So, this is really great because you’ve been able to find a way to be a business owner that provides yoga services. And I think that’s what a lot of people need to understand more. It’s not so much about being a yoga instructor, or a salon owner. It’s about being a business owner, and now, OK, what do we provide? What do people hire us for? How do we make that amazing experience? You’ve killed it with that.
Before we wrap this up, growing your business the way you did, and like we talked about, you know how to be a business owner. What are things that you read, or listen to, or watch in order to keep your mind sharp and always ahead of the curve in the business world? And make sure you are constantly putting that into your head so you can apply new things?
(Matt) Yeah, well I’m always keeping up with the trade journals, and my wife is a very deep reader when it comes to Elephant Journal and Yoga International and some of the more industry-specific stuff.
(Mike) So, she reads the industry-specific stuff and you read the business stuff.
(Matt) Oh, yeah, absolutely. And then I have always read, and I like to keep up with the business stuff. I read the Wall Street Journal all the time. But then I also—at the end of the day, there are a lot of principles that bring entrepreneurs together, regardless of what industry you are in. So, I’ve always liked the INC.com stuff, Entrepreneur, and those articles that really talk about how to sustainably grow your business.
(Mike) In today’s market, too.
Awesome. You’ve done a great job. And that’s why we wanted to have you on the show. There are a lot of people that would love to be in your shoes. Be able to achieve the success that you’ve achieved. You should be very proud of all of the stuff you’ve done.
And for all of you guys that have watched and listened in, hope you have all learned a lot. Definitely follow Matt and understand a little bit more about what he is doing, so you can start being inspired and do that stuff, too. Other than that, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate it.
(Matt) Thanks very much.
(Mike) And to everyone else, thank you, and we will see you next week.
Thank you so much for joining us today. If you like this episode, then subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher and to our YouTube channel to never miss an episode. You can get all the links by going to BOLDShow.com. Thanks, and see you next time.
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