Do you wonder:
- How can I build loyalty to my classes?
- How can I build a following who refer to me and build word of mouth referrals?
- Why do some teachers attracting and keeping their customers so well?
If these questions haunt you, then read on.
I’m really excited to share one of the 3 VITAL elements to maintaining a loyal customer base.
I’ve already shared the first ‘THE LANGUAGE WE USE’ my article on communication with clients, should have got you thinking about the effective language techniques for developing passion for your chosen ‘form’ of Pilates, Yoga or another discipline (catch the article here). Language matters.
But there are 2 more KEY skills that create a loyal client base. One of them is explored here.. the other I’ll be sharing with you in May. Exciting stuff eh? I hope you’re on the edge of your seat!
But first let me just check….Why do you teach?
I presume that you teach because you love helping others. You’ll be reading this because you want to learn more, explore ideas and become even more effective. I believe there is a distinction between seeing yourself as an instructor (who tells people where to place themselves to execute a move), or as an educator (who facilitates the best from someone). If you love to educate people, then the tips I’m about to give you will be a natural way for you to develop a loyal client base. If you feel you are there to instruct…. the danger is you only impart facts about a series of moves. This may be precise but doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in your clients and will leave them feeling unfulfilled.
Building a loyal and ever growing customer base requires us to educate and not simply instruct.
I’d love to share with you simple framework you can follow straight away, that I know will help you teach in a way that meets your students’ needs and gets them coming back for more and more for years! It’s built on human curiosity and our desire to understand fully. This simple framework, if you were to adopt it, will appeal to 100% of your audience.
I was shown this model many years ago when I studied NLP (neuro linguistic programming). At the time I was training the corporate world in communication skills and facilitation. I loved it, because I was learning a tool, using a tool, to teach the tool. Just like in Pilates when we learn a new approach, use it, then teach it. It’s THE best way to consolidate our appreciation of something.
It wasn’t until years later I realized that I unconsciously had incorporated this simple tool into my Pilates classes. Often people would say ‘I love this class because I know WHY I’m doing a move’ or they would say… ‘you’re really good at telling us WHAT to do so we feel it in our bodies’ and then there were those who said ‘I’m so pleased that you focus on HOW to do the move properly.. that really matters to me’ and the few who would comment ‘And I can use this in my dance/ work / office / golf game.’
So I’d love to share it with you guys. Are you ready?!
The first step is to get the theory.
4 Mat is not just about “mat”. The theory
The 4MAT System comes from a study of learning styles by Bernice McCarthy. She noticed that people with different learning styles learnt by asking particular questions. Of course we all need all four styles of learning to be met… but we do tend to have a preference too.
Interestingly, we tend to communicate / teach in a way that meets our own preferred learning style, and maybe misses out some different learning styles of our clients.
So ask yourself… which is your key question, that you have to know the answer to if you are to move on and learn something?
- Some people asked “Why?” Why are we doing this, why should I participate?
- Some people want facts – they want information – and ask the “What” question. What are we going to do? What’s happening? What’s this for?
- Others are interested in asking “How?” How does this happen? How does this work?
- Then finally a group of us asks about the future consequences and ask “What If?” What would happen if I did this? What would happen if I did it that way? What would this be like in a different context?
So how can we as teachers use these learning styles to enhance the enjoyment of our clients, be more effective teachers and have clients keen to come back for more each time?
It’s quite simple as a concept. But it does take a bit of practice. Not least because we tend to fall into a habit of teaching in our own preferred learning style unconsciously.
So here’s what to do. Build the answers to the 4MAT questions (why, what, how and what it) into our presentations to ensure we meet the needs of all of our audience and therefore all the learning styles. Here’s one way of doing this when you teach:
- Start by answering the question ‘Why?’, because until you give reasons answering the question “Why should I bother learning this move?” those who really need to know the why won’t engage in the learning. Until this question is fully answered, reflectors won’t be ready to participate further. This needs to be given before a move is taught, or certainly early on in the set up.
- Then give the ‘What?’ information. Let the What folk know there’ll be plenty of action. This group will also be satisfied by activity – they’re Activist so let them start moving in class and talk as they go along.
- Answer the ‘How?’ question and let the How folk experiment with the content of the session. Pragmatists want to know not just how they will do the moves, but how they will progress the moves, simplify the moves etc
- Answer the ‘What if?’ question by putting the skill in context. You can also engage the What ifs by inviting questions – “What did you discover? What questions do you have? Did you notice a difference between one side and the other?”
So how does this work in practice? Well we can practice addressing these 4 learning styles in every major section of a class like warming up, mobility moves, strength moves, stretches or maybe relaxations…
- Introduce the key section of the lesson and then say “This is why you would want to know this”, and give some reasons.
- Give the knowledge and information – “This is what you do, this is what it looks/ feels like, and these are the key points.”
- Invite your students to go consider / think about how to do it in different ways and in different contexts.
- Ask / tell what will happen if they use it in real situations and invite questions and feedback. How might this help your golf, tennis, desk work, travel?
I’m transparent about this in some classes. I even say to the group:
“.. those of you who really need to know why we are doing this, in order to hear it and learn.. well here’s why (blah blah). Then I say.. and what we’re going to do it…x .. just so you know where we are heading with this move. And of course some of you will want to know how to do it really well… so I’ll be covering the exact techniques and what it feels like when done. And the main reason for doing Pilates in my view is to make you stronger, more mobile and happier in day to day life.. so you may be asking what this move does to help you function in day to day life. Let me tell you….”
So what if you were to use this in teaching now?
Take 4 MAT to your Mat (or Apparatus)!
- (The WHY) So, let’s get on the floor and really start by focussing on your breathing today… the reason we’re doing this to begin with is so you can… x and y and avoid a and b. The breath movement and awareness is such a vital part of this discipline…. and as you become better at it you will find it really adds value to your exercise. Breathing in a certain way can help create a pressure, or sustained and consistent contraction at a low level in your abdomen… and provides support when you execute your Pilates / yoga moves. As you get stronger and better …this ability… to contract your core muscles with good breathing pattern will really help your function / movement AND your progression.
- (The WHAT) So let’s just remember what this is all about.. what do we do with our breathing to help us develop the best techniques in Pilates? (wait for some answers) The idea is to breathe laterally, width ways…. into the sides and back of your torso and rib cage, … not just relaxing your belly and breathing abdominally. Your lugs are large.. like a huge barrel.. and you have oodles of lung capacity. We are learning to direct the breath to certain areas of our lungs for good reason.
- (The HOW) And as you feel the breath movement into the side and the back of your torso, notice how you can keep your diaphragm and abdominal area quiet or more still. Maybe put your hands on the sides of your ribcage if it helps you to connect with this movement. Or sense the movement between the back of your rib cage and the mat beneath you…. etc
- (The WHAT IF) What that gives you is the ability to direct your breathing and be more aware of it in the moves we will be doing. It also allows the pressure to be sustained in the abdominal cavity.. and just imagine the support that will give your spine.. for example if you are lifting, carrying, playing golf or at the gym. There are so many ties in life when having a bit of residual squeeze on your abdominals and still being able to breathe can be helpful.
Of course there’s a bit to digest here and then practice.. and you might like to ask me questions or even have a chat with me to consider how best you can use this 4Mat approach to your lessons.
My guarantee (ooo that’s bold isn’t it?!) to you is that it will:
- Make you very clear about how to enhance your teaching style for your clients
- Really develop appreciation from your customers for what you know and your desire to help
- Connect them to the bigger picture of why your classes are adding value to their lives in a rounded way…. the application is way beyond the studio.
My goal is to share the passion of Pilates and Yoga. A happy mind and body, free to move, strong, lithe and vibrant are key to our ability to contribute to this world. My goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it. I hope that I can add value to your teaching by sharing my own journey of learning and hope we can all explore new skills and approaches to enhance our businesses.
Your thoughts? Feel free to give feedback on this article in the comments below or on my Facebook page here
Lindsey has been teaching fitness for 28 years, Pilates for 18 and is qualified in yoga and sports massage. She is the producer of 4 Pilates DVD’s. ‘Pilates in Pregnancy’ was the world’s first Pilates DVD for pregnant women and is physio approved. Subsequently she produced ‘Pilates for Mums’, ‘Pilates Essentials’ and ‘Pilates for Men’. She is a Master Practitioner in NLP and a business coach in her growing health and wellness company, where she supports other like minded individuals to create a residual income alongside their current jobs. She is married, has 2 boys and a cute labradoodle. Connect with Lindsey through her Facebook Page or her Business Page