About Amber Karnes
Amber Karnes is the founder of Body Positive Yoga. She’s a ruckus maker, yoga teacher, social justice advocate, and a lifelong student of her body. Amber trains yoga teachers and studio owners how to create accessible and equitable spaces for wellness and liberation. She also coaches with human beings who want to build unshakable confidence and learn to live without shame or apology in the bodies they have today. She’s the co-creator of Yoga for All Training, an Accessible Yoga trainer, and a sought-after expert on the topics of accessibility, authentic marketing, culture-shifting, and community-building.
About This Podcast
Amber and Kathryn talk about different aspects of marketing and how marketing is just another form of teaching. Amber shares her favourite marketing platforms and talks about the differences between website, email, and social media. They discuss why lead magnets are essential and how to cultivate relationships with people who want and need your services through free resources. Marketing doesn’t have to be fancy or sleazy, in fact, it’s just another way to help people and get your message across.
Kathryn: Hey everyone, welcome back. Today on the podcast, I’m speaking with Amber Karnes, Amber has been on the podcast before. The last time she was on, we talked about her work with accessible yoga. Today, we are talking about marketing for yoga and movement professionals. Whether you’re doing stuff online or in person, marketing is super important and kind of always changing.
You know, the world has changed quite a bit over the last five, ten years. Amber and I talk about that a little bit. We talk about what was working then, what’s working now, and the platforms that people can use to really up-level their marketing, regardless of what they’re teaching, whether it’s classes or work for teachers or one-on-ones. I think all of this information is going to be super helpful. Amber and I really got into the topic.
We’re both very passionate about marketing and helping people figure this stuff out because it’s really transformed both of our businesses and lives in teaching. I’m really happy to be sharing more of this information.
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All right everyone. Here is my conversation with Amber Karnes.
Kathryn: All right, Amber, welcome back to the podcast.
Amber Karnes: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Kathryn: I’m really looking forward to this. Recently when we were doing our call, when you were doing our call in my teachers’ immersion course, you mentioned that you used to work in marketing. I was like, “oh, my goodness, I feel like everyone knows Amber for your work and like yoga and accessible yoga and body positivity”.
I had no idea. But also that makes sense because, like, you’re so organized online. I thought it would be great to have a conversation about marketing.
Amber Karnes: I love talking about marketing with yoga folks.
Kathryn: Amazing. It’s just so great to hear from a fellow yoga teacher.
Amber Karnes: Yeah.
Kathryn: So for those listeners out there who didn’t know that you have this background, do you want to tell people a little bit about your background and why you got into it? We can just start there.
Amber Karnes: Yeah, sure. I went to school for graphic design when in college. I guess I first started marketing when I was a teenager and I started booking punk and hardcore bands. I kind of grew up in the punk and hardcore music scene and was a show promoter for a long time and did a lot of community building for local bands and stuff like that.
A lot of the marketing stuff that I recommend today is kind of influenced by that, which is different than digital marketing, which I also have experience with. I went to school for graphic design and started working as an intern at Norfolk Southern, which is one of the major US railroads.
I started out as a graphic design intern with them, went on to become an art director with them, and then manage their website for several years as well. Then in 2010, I quit that job and started basically freelancing for myself full time, doing what I was calling at the time was like I was a project midwife.
I knew a lot of entrepreneurs and bloggers and folks who own small businesses and I would basically do freelance web development and marketing and graphic design projects for them. Kind of in the format of “let’s listen to your community online, let’s talk to your students, let’s talk to your clients, your patients, like whoever I’m working with and figure out like what questions do they have.
What keeps coming up over and over again? What do they need? Then out of that, we’d create a course or an email series or a webinar or whatever, an ebook. I did that for about five years and then ended up working at a place called Relay Foods, which was an online grocery store and mail delivery service that worked with local organic farmers, producers, and folks that are working toward sustainability in the food system.
I directed content marketing for Relay Foods for a couple of years before the company closed. What that looked like was: I managed a team of folks that were our photographer, our meal planner, our content writer, our blogger, our social media person. I directed the marketing and content strategy and then oversaw the execution of that.
In 2017, Relay Foods went through a merger and the culture ended up changing a lot. I ended up quitting that job as well. That’s when I went into full-time yoga teaching.
I had been teaching since 2010 or 2011, something like that, and had been teaching online and running retreats and workshops and things like that since 2015. Then in 2017, I made the leap to doing this full time. There’s a little timeline in the background of my marketing experience.
It’s really fun to talk about this stuff with yoga teachers because I think a lot of us feel like it’s sort of opaque or that it’s sort of a dirty word. We don’t want to be a sleazy salesman. I really like flipping a perspective on that and having these conversations.
Kathryn: Yeah. When you started doing more of your own marketing and moving towards full-time teaching, did you find it was easy or uncomplicated to apply these skills to your own stuff? For example, to put your own message out there and get really clear about what you were doing as a teacher?
Amber Karnes: Yeah, I mean, you know, I don’t always do exactly what should be done as far as having a content calendar and doing everything exactly to plan. But I definitely think that there are many applicable lessons and techniques that we use in the marketing world that can be applied, that you don’t have to like go to school and get an MBA to know how to do it. You don’t have to be some kind of tech.
That there are things and hopefully we’ll talk about some of that today that I think, whether or not you have a big audience or a platform, you can start doing to really help your students understand: how you can be of service; what you can offer; how they can participate; and why they should care, which like that’s what marketing is.
Marketing is education. And it’s building rapport with your customers or your students. I’ll use that word probably interchangeably here.
I think that yoga teachers have a unique opportunity when it comes to marketing. Oftentimes some of the things that are maybe more problematic about marketing is like we often use techniques to change people’s behavior so that they’ll spend money with us. Right? That’s why I think marketing can kind of feel not great to some people, but I think if we change a perspective that marketing is not about the bottom line or profit or whatever, it’s about being of service for those of us that are running heart-centered businesses or maybe social entrepreneurship.
Businesses that we hope will provide a livelihood for us, but will also affect social change or work toward doing good in some way. Those are the people that we really need to be marketers, you know what I mean? We have ways that we can be of service and help our students to make their lives better.
Marketing is really just about making that offer really clear so that the right folks can say yes to it if they choose to do so. It’s not about being sleazy or trying to trick people or doing a bait and switch or any of that kind of stuff, or even like shameless self-promotion or being narcissistic. I think marketing can kind of get a bad name. And yeah, plenty of people do that and use those techniques.
I think the more conscientious, thoughtful, and heart-centered folks that do this from a perspective of how can I be of service and how can I make that offer really clear, then we all benefit from that.
Kathryn: What do you think has changed in this marketing world over the last five years and then within the last year?
Amber Karnes: I was thinking about this question…
Kathryn: Or have things changed?
Amber Karnes: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, maybe I’ll just say, some things I’ve noticed that has changed in marketing, I don’t know the exact timeline, but I’ll just say I’ve noticed a shift from like blogs to social media. Right?
That’s something that maybe a lot of people have noticed. I was a blogger for many years. It used to be community was sort of in the comments section. And now, people don’t comment on blogs, they comment on social media or they want to share it. Some things like that have shifted a little.
I think there’s definitely a heavier emphasis on content marketing versus traditional marketing. Content marketing is basically when we’re teaching online when you see a post from one of the people you follow and it teaches a little something and it makes an offer, you know what I mean? Versus traditional marketing, which is like advertising you pay for to show to a lot of eyeballs, you know what I mean? Which I think that’s really great.
It is kind of democratized the way that we can reach our students, that we don’t have a bunch of money to throw behind a billboard or Google ads or whatever. We can actually use the free tools that are out there to be able to teach and to get our message across it, to make our offers really clear without having to spend a ton of money on that.
I think some other things are tech software as a service. All these software programs that we can subscribe to on a monthly basis, like project management software and learning management systems like teachable or where we can have online courses and email marketing systems. Things like that have really become ubiquitous and very user-focused and user-driven.
You used to have to hire a graphic designer to design a flyer and now you can go on canva.com, have no experience, find a lot of really great templates, throw in your colors and your photos and you have a beautiful, professionally designed flyer. I think tech has democratized marketing a little bit where it’s not so opaque and accessible.
I think to the accessibility piece within the past year and within yoga specifically, a lot of us or maybe the majority of us moving online or shifting at least some of our teaching, if not all to online, has increased accessibility for a lot of the students that didn’t feel like yoga studio model was serving them.
That can be anyone from folks who might need child care; or folks who might not be able to afford to practice in a traditional studio space; marginalized folks who feel like there are visible and invisible barriers to those spaces; whether their access to physical space from maybe disabled folks; to focus on larger bodies who don’t feel comfortable in traditional fitness environments because we face hostility there.
There are ways that the practice moving online and maybe like the majority of yoga teachers for now moving online, has made it more accessible to some folks who previously didn’t feel like they could participate. I think that the shift has been really interesting to think about the expanded possibilities of online teaching and how it’s changed the game for so many students and for teachers, too.
Kathryn: Yeah, I totally agree. You know, for me as a student, I mean, I live out in the country. There are no yoga studios where I live. I can take classes online. Basically, anyone who I follow online seems like they are teaching online. I really feel that from the student perspective, being able to take classes online is incredible for me at least because I’m so isolated.
But from the teacher’s perspective, I think you’re totally right. When you said that all of these platforms now are super accessible, I think that they’re more accessible than ever. Our sponsor is one of these platforms and they have one of the best pricing and features lists around. The piece that you said about content marketing, like being able to take a little video or teach a little something or write up a nice little post about something; that will actually give people a little taste of what you do, maybe teach them something.
This is such a key piece because I really have felt as a teacher that’s what can help us use the limited stuff we have. We don’t have millions of dollars to make billboards or make buses or whatever, but we can use the skills that we have to actually start to get the message out there. You don’t need a lot of money to spend on Facebook ads. You just need a few good ideas clearly articulated. And you need to start sharing that.
From the teachers’ perspective, being able to record a class in your living room, then put it on your website, and then sell it to people who want to take your incredible class. It feels like a win-win to me for sure.
Amber Karnes: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, we have a huge opportunity to listen to our audience. Right? Talk to our students, like a dialogue with them, ask questions. Do some social listening maybe on social media or having one on one conversations. Make space within your classes to get feedback, like what questions do they have? What problems are they struggling with? What do they think that their problems are? And how can you best solve this?
I think that using content is a wonderful way to really do two things. We’re providing massive value for our students, right where we create this content. Content is basically teaching, right? Creating content is teaching. That’s what I want you to think about.
Marketing is an education that helps to build trust and relationships with our students. We’re already teachers. We’re already hopefully teaching and teaching our students things that are relevant to their lives and that they can take on and off the mat. But also part of teaching is building trust that, you know, as a teacher, we have to be conscious of the power that we hold.
It’s important that we build enough trust for our students to be able to be OK with us holding that power. When you think about creating content online, a.k.a. teaching, folks have a problem, you have a solution, and marketing is simply education on how they can let you help them solve that problem.
A lot of content marketing is about creating free offerings and content. When it’s time for folks to do a deeper dive with you as a mentor, as a teacher, trainer, as a workshop leader, you’ve built that trust and rapport with your students so that they are not only willing to exchange that money for that knowledge but that they’re really excited to support you. They are excited to support the work that you do because you’ve provided value and you’ve built trust with that person.
Kathryn: The teaching as the content, I think, is a really important piece. I think when we say the words “produce content to give value”, I think people may not know exactly what that means. For example, you and I are creating content right now, which is free and which is going to help promote my work, your work, everybody’s work involved.
Teaching and creating content doesn’t just have to look like one thing. It doesn’t have to be an Instagram video. It could be a blog or a product. Invite someone on your Facebook live and just talk to them about something that is interesting and helpful.
Amber Karnes: Yeah, for sure. And what I encourage folks to think about when you think about marketing is it’s a cycle of experimenting, learning something, and then iterating like a tweaking. Right?
I’ve done a ton of marketing campaigns over the years. Some of them didn’t get any attention, didn’t do what I wanted them to do, and some of them were massively successful. I think it’s really important, especially if you’re just getting started with marketing or you’re just starting to experiment with this idea of creating content, do not get discouraged if something doesn’t work.
Look at every single marketing effort that you put forward. Whether that’s writing a little mini-essay and a caption on Instagram, or creating an IGTV tutorial, or doing a podcast episode with someone. Experiment. You’re doing an experiment. Treat it as an experiment that you want to learn something and then learn something that you can then the next time you do a venture into content or marketing or whatever, that you can take those lessons forward.
I think I really want to encourage folks not to get bogged down into perfectionism here because if you wait until something is totally perfect to launch it or to put it out there in the world, I feel like you maybe waited too long. It’s good to try to learn something when you do each of these little experiments. Not just how did you like the class, but like, what do you want to try to learn here in this iteration and this little experiment?
Ask your students for feedback about what’s working and what’s not. We can keep going.
Kathryn: Yeah, totally.
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All right, everyone, now back to the show.
Kathryn: I think oftentimes, especially right now, because everyone is online, I think there is this feeling of “well, everyone’s online, so mine has to be like perfect”. As you said, we kind of like wait and wait and wait.
Sometimes we never feel like we can actually get started. I think sometimes we have these ideas about we need to invest so much money and make it really perfect. And I don’t know.
They’re going to attract like all these people. You know, the way my business started out, I imagine you were similar. I started out with one little online course that I recorded on my computer and I sold it to like 30 people. It wasn’t perfect. But also there were only 30 people on the other end of it.
Then they gave me feedback. Over the course of five years, it definitely grows into a huge thing. But I always really encourage people to, like, make a little thing on your phone, sell it for a really affordable price, give people a little preview so they know the audio is not going to be perfect. It’s OK.
As long as their expectations are clear, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it’s likely going to take years, at least from my experience, to really get to that point where I think people imagine they’re going to be starting up.
Amber Karnes: Yeah, and I think it’s very easy to observe people that have been teaching longer online, like someone like you or like me. If you’re just getting started, I’d be like, “oh, well, I can never make my stuff look that good. Or they have such nice camera equipment or, you know, they’re really good with the software or whatever it is”. They get really bogged down in sort of this idea of competition or that you necessarily need to look like one of these other ways that online teaching or marketing can look.
I think that’s a wrong mindset for us to have, especially as yoga teachers. Dominant culture, capitalism, white supremacy definitely train us in this way of thinking. The marketing that’s come out of capitalism and white supremacy sounds like everything’s urgent, everything’s scarce. There are winners and losers. You better hurry, hurry, hurry.
That sleazy marketing we don’t like where it tries to trick people. We’re yoga teacher, so duality is hopefully something we’re familiar with, right? It’s never black or white. It’s always both. I think that if we think about this in terms of competition or it has to look a certain way, we really miss the opportunity to be reflective as each individual teacher.
What are the gifts that I have? What are my strengths as a teacher? How can I be of service to my students in a way that Amber Karnes and Kathryn, and all these other teachers that may be been teaching online longer that are unique, that they can’t do? What’s in my background that’s prepared me to be able to step into this moment with creativity and maybe skills that you don’t learn in business school?
I learned a ton from being involved in the music scene and booking shows that I didn’t learn graphic design school, do you know what I mean?
And so, really take a moment to think about: what are the unique ways that you can be of service? That’s what to focus on. Not like is my lighting perfect, like yoga with Adrianne or whoever is like the popular person on YouTube these days. Does that make sense?
Kathryn: Yeah. One hundred percent. Hundred percent. OK, do you think it’s all about digital right now?
Amber Karnes: Well, certainly while covid is a thing that’s going on, many of us are online who maybe would prefer to be in person. By necessity, I think that digital marketing is important as we move online.
But I don’t think that it’s the only way for sure, for sure. Especially if the teaching that you’re doing is more locally based or maybe is based on a specific population. I think that there are still a lot of other types of marketing and ways to get the word out about your offerings that are helpful. Where are the people that you’re trying to serve? Where do they hang out, quote-unquote?
Now, this is a little bit different. The pandemic. You might not be putting up so many fliers at coffee shops. Right? Which is like a thing I definitely recommend people to do is like, where are your students? Do they hang out here?
Go get in front of their eyeballs, which might mean when it is settled, whatever that looks like, advertising in community centers or coffee shops or bookstores, or maybe you can go and have a free class or host a meditation for a support group that serves the specific population you’re after.
Maybe networking is something that you need to do. How can you plug into and engage with the work that’s already being done by folks who maybe are teaching in sectors that you’d like to be involved with? For instance, if you’re really interested in accessibility and yoga, join the Accessible Yoga Association. It’s a nonprofit that’s dedicated to accessibility and yoga, and we have an ambassador program where you can get education and network and build community with folks that are doing this type of teaching.
I think that there’s a lot of opportunities that maybe don’t look like traditional digital marketing, that is a way to continue to build a strong network, have the connections that you need to find the students that you really want to serve, and get input from folks who you do want to serve. Talk to your students and find out where do they hang out. And that could be a Facebook group or that could be a physical location. Right?
That will give you some ideas of how to start mixing it up and not just post on Facebook and hope people will see it.
Kathryn: I think the other thing that’s so helpful is like getting referrals. I think sometimes we forget about that. We forget about the 10 people who actually show up for our thing, who are very happy with it, who would probably gladly refer their friends.
Amber Karnes: That’s right.
Kathryn: That is such a meaningful way to get new people into the mix. We just did for my membership in December…we just did a buy one and gift one sale. We sold the membership at full price. We didn’t discount it, but we told people that if they bought one, then we would send one to a friend of theirs, anyone for free.
Amber Karnes: Very cool.
Kathryn: And everyone was like, “oh my god, you’re giving away six-month memberships”. I was like “yeah, but these are people who probably would never have heard about my thing to begin with”. Giving them a free membership doesn’t cost me anything more. It’s just more people coming in and then hopefully they love it.
Amber Karnes: Yeah. And then they stick around.
Kathryn: Then stick around and then is great. We’re just all practicing together.
Amber Karnes: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought up that referrer friend sort of thing. One thing I wanted to say is, and this is something we really capitalized on when I worked at Relay Foods, was: there has been a lot of studies that marketers have done where it’s like “if someone’s on the fence, what was the one thing that caused them to make the decision to purchase the product or join the class or whatever it was?” Always it is the trust, the recommendation of a friend or like a public figure that they trust.
I think that’s really something that we can think creatively about. And, you know, as you said, what was it? Buy one. Get one. Gift one. Yeah. Like what if you have a referral program where like after you bring a certain number of friends, maybe you get a free class, maybe you get a free coaching session with me like there maybe there’s a monetary reward. We used to do give twenty, get twenty.
There is software online where you can create affiliate programs or and many of the core software that exists has that functionality built-in. You can have folks who have their own referral code that help you to spread the word and really rely on your networks in that way, especially your students that are happy with you and the work that you do and you’ve helped improve their lives.
That’s some of the best marketing you can get is word of mouth and reputation. Really soliciting feedback from students I think is important so that you have those testimonials, those students really saying like “this helped me”. And that is one of the best types of advertising that exists in the world. Continue to solicit feedback from your students, I think, but maybe even in a more structured way.
I have an online membership, too. And one of the things I did when I first set that up was as part of the onboarding emails that go out to help folks engage with the site, I also added feedback emails. Two weeks in, two months in, and six months in, I polled people and I asked: if the site met their expectations, what they’d like to see that’s not there. What works? What doesn’t? And that gives me a ton of information and also ideas about new content to create and really keep taking the temperature of the folks in my audience. I thank you for bringing up that point.
Kathryn: This is going to be maybe an impossible question, but if you could use only one of the following for your marketing, which would it be? Podcast, website, Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, or something else?
Amber Karnes: If I could only pick one, I would pick newsletter and I’ll get more into that, maybe specifically about newsletters. But I would just say there are two things that I consider in this question. I think the bigger question you’re asking is where do you put your energy.
There are many platforms for marketing, like where is it important to put your energy? Social media is very popular, it’s very popular. It’s very easy to get your ideas spread if people share them and stuff like that. I just want to point out that when you post on social media, you don’t really own that content or that distribution of the content in the same way that you do with something like your own website, a podcast, or a newsletter.
What I mean by that is Facebook and Instagram, both have an algorithm. You’ve all had a friend that said “why didn’t you comment on my post?” “I didn’t see it”. Facebook doesn’t show you. Let’s say you have a thousand people that have liked your page. Well, you got to a thousand. That’s like a great job. Facebook only shows about six percent of those people your content organically. That’s called organic reach. If you hear that term out there.
The last time I read the stats, it was about six percent for Facebook. Let’s say you worked really hard. You got a thousand likes. Only about 60 people are going to actually be shown that content because Facebook wants you to pay for ads, wants you to pay to boost your post, and all that. That’s how it makes its money.
It’s great we have these free tools out there but we have to keep in mind that if we want the greatest amount of reach and the most control over our content, then it’s important that we have our own platform in place to do that.
I think an email list is imperative for every single person. We can even look at the thing that’s happened this past week in the United States with the violence that happened at the Captial. Now Twitter is purging a lot of accounts. Facebook is shutting down a lot of accounts. Good for them for doing that. But it does point to the fact that those folks have lost their microphone. I have friends who have had Facebook groups shut down because of a community report or whatever it was.
Now they have one hundred thousand people in that Facebook group. This is like someone real that I know that this happened to, not because of dangerous views or anything like that, but because of a technicality. Someone reported a post and then the group got taken down and now she has no way to reach those one hundred thousand people that she worked really hard to get in touch with.
I always think that it’s important to have your own email list and really to be developing that and curating that so that you always have a place where you can talk directly to your students and to the folks that you worked so hard to build that rapport with. Having social media is great. I encourage anyone to, if that makes sense for you and for your students, utilize those tools.
But I think always have the backup plan, which is like, well, if Facebook all of a sudden starts wanting to charge for groups, then what’s your plan? You need another place that you can gather your people or at least reach out to them if things change. Does that make sense?
Kathryn: One hundred percent. I think the next question people are going to be wondering is like, well, how do I get the people off Facebook on to my email list?
Amber Karnes: Sure. Well, I think, first of all, set one up. MailChimp.com is a great free resource.
I think up to two thousand people, it’s free and then you start paying for it. I personally use convert kit because of the marketing automation, but most folks don’t need all the bells and whistles. MailChimp or Tiny Letter or two that are great to just set up. Very simple. They have tutorials on how to create forms so people can subscribe and then start letting folks know that that’s out there.
Start posting in your group and say like, “Hey, I’m creating a monthly newsletter about your home practice and I’d love for you to sign up. If you want to be the first to know when I launch my next course, make sure you put your email address here, because this is the place I’ll announce it”.
Really just say out loud and have a practice of maybe put a reminder on your calendar for once a week or once every couple of weeks to remind folks to sign up for the email list. Make sure that when they sign up that you engage with them in some way.
I like to think about onboarding here. When you bring a new student in, let’s say, to a class or to a series or to your studio, there’s a bit of onboarding that takes place. You want to show them where the props are, you want to show them where the bathrooms are. You want to talk to them about the sign-in process. Right?
When we’re talking about online and helping folks to orient themselves toward us as a teacher or when we’re building trust, we want to do a little bit of that onboarding. When someone signs up for an email list, maybe you have an email, goes out with a little bit of teaching or an intro video about you or a link to your website and the most popular content that’s on there.
I think, the experience of your students when they encounter you online and how do you want to bring them through that learning experience. I know that kind of went in a different direction, but I like to think about that when I’m talking about email. Oftentimes if someone signs up for your email list and then it’s like two months before you send them anything, and that’s the first communication, they’re probably not going to be looking for it. They’re probably not going to be…you’re going to appear, you know, maybe in their promotions tab.
They forgot they even signed up. I think consistently communicating and engaging with folks is just another piece of that.
Kathryn: One thing that I started when I first started five years ago, like really getting serious about my website and producing a couple of online courses was: the person I was working with, He was like, “OK, I think you need a free course”. I was like, “OK, I can do that”. I made this really little thing, put it on my website, promoted it every now and again. But mainly it just sat there on my website.
Over the course of the first year, two thousand people signed up for that free course and kind of shifted my perspective a little bit about marketing because it’s like I like to teach. I can make this free. It was a pretty crappy little whatever bad audio, bad video. But the ideas were good. I wasn’t fancy at all. Then people start signing up and the people who sign up end up on my mailing list.
But those people are like highly, highly qualified leads. The person who actually goes through and puts in their email and signs up for your free little thing. That person is so much more interested in what you offer than all the other people on Facebook or wherever. I think people don’t always remember that. They’re like,” oh, well, 30 people signed up for my free thing”. I’m like, “yeah, but those are 30 people who are like just one step away”. They’re super interested in what you’re doing.
Amber Karnes: They already said yes to what you’re offering. You’ve already got them used to doing that. Right?
They’ve said yes to you because whatever you’re presenting is really relevant to them. And I love that you said qualified leads. I love that is like such a marketing term. I want you all to think about that in terms of it can be really intimidating to look at online teachers or yoga personalities or whoever who have these huge platforms with like thousands and thousands of followers and think like, well, I’m never going to be able to get there.
But I will tell you from a 15 plus year career in marketing, I would rather have somebody with 30 qualified leads who are dedicated students or true fans than three thousand people or thirty thousand people following them on a social media platform. I don’t know, I think I have a lot of followers, I have a medium amount of followers, like thirty thousand followers or something on Instagram.
I can tell you that those don’t translate into dollars unless I’m very intentional about making sure that the folks who want to self-select into my programs or offerings or whatever, I have a way of doing that. That usually means engaging with them off Instagram as well.
I really encourage folks to think about it in those terms of like this isn’t about getting the biggest audience. It’s about allowing the right people who resonate with your work, who can be served by the thing that you’re offering, and who are ready to say yes…giving them that chance to…Seth Godin, who is a longtime writer on marketing, says, “To date you before they marry you”, which I think is the freebie. That’s the free course.
That’s the content marketing that you’re doing. That’s the little post that you make on Instagram. That’s your monthly newsletter is like you’re letting folks to date you before they marry you and throw a couple of hundred dollars your way for a course or coaching or whatever it is. I think that’s why it’s important just to get started to and not get too caught up in that perfectionist stuff. Like you said, your first course was kind of wasn’t beautiful. It maybe wasn’t something you’d even be super proud to, like, share right now.
But it’s important to start and to start building that like that muscle of getting used to showing up in this way if that makes sense.
Kathryn: Yeah. Yeah. And you know what? I never ever received negative comments about those courses that I used to shoot on my own phone or wherever. No one ever messaged me and was like “I hated your course and I hated the quality and blah, blah, blah”.
As long as the expectations are super clear, from my experience, I never get complaints.
Amber Karnes: I’ll just say, too…like I’ve surveyed my members specifically about this, as I decide like, “oh, should I fill multiple angles? And then when I edit, like put those together”. People don’t care, my people don’t care. They’re like “as long as we can hear the audio and it’s captioned and we can sort of see what you’re doing, then it’s fine”.
I would just say be thoughtful about accessibility. Make sure people can see you clearly. Make sure people can hear you. Make sure that your captioning video content or offering transcripts if you’re doing audio content. But other than that, I think folks, you know, they’re here to learn from you, not watch some Hollywood production, you know what I mean?
Kathryn: OK, last question. I feel like this could go on and on. We have so much to say. You post a lot, not a lot, but you definitely post on your platforms about your activism and current issues.
I’m wondering if you ever get people who are like, I care about what’s happening in the world and I care about these issues, but this just isn’t my brand or this is like out of my scope. I’m not going to talk about these things on my platform. I’m wondering what you think about that?
Amber Karnes: Oh, that’s very interesting. Yeah, I definitely get a lot of people who push back on the idea that social justice or politics belongs in yoga.
I’m going to challenge you listening to dig back into yoga teaching and the yoga philosophy that is behind this practice that we all love so much and really get in touch with your mission as to why you are teaching yoga. I think for a lot of us, it’s because we have a desire to help people or to serve people or to bring these practices which have made our lives so much better into their lives so they can make their lives better.
I think that if as yoga practitioners or teachers, we only use the practice of yoga to turn our attention inward and take care of ourselves and vibrate away all the bad feelings about everything that’s happening in the world…which we can use the practice to do those things. It is wonderful that we have these technologies from the practice to deal with our nervous system and deal with our chaotic minds and to be more present in our bodies and all of those things.
But I think if we stop at that part, at the self part, then we miss a huge opportunity. And I would just say that I think if you’re a yoga teacher and the practice that you’re offering your student stops at the like, focus on self, then we’re missing a huge opportunity. I think my understanding of yoga ultimately is that it is a practice of liberation and that, you know, our practice can certainly, I think, be a refuge in times like this. Right.
And especially marginalized folks and people who have experienced trauma have to take good care of themselves, especially when life is so chaotic and dangerous. I think that we also can’t just use this practice to hide if that makes sense. It is this like a peaceful sanctuary but it’s also a call to social justice. And, you know, like many things in yoga, this is a place of duality, right? It’s both-and.
It is both important to take care of ourselves and to use the parts of the practice that help us to feel calm and feel centered and maybe even block out some of the stuff that’s going on in the world. And it is a call to, I think, meet with courage like this responsibility that we each have as human beings. Yoga is this practice of turning our attention inward to remember the truth of who we are. Right?
Remember that we are not our bank account or our perfect body or our relationships or whatever it is. Right? To remember that we are in essence like this humanity, this spirit, the spark of divinity, atman, whatever you want to talk about it like. Once we recognize that humanity and we remember the truth of who we are, then we turn outward. First, we turn inward, then we turn outward.
We need to get to know ourselves, I think, intimately, so we can recognize the biases that we have and all the things we’ve internalized from this culture so that we can really show up in our relationships, in our teaching practice, and in the world in a compassionate way. We can work toward liberation for all folks.
I think that it’s very easy and tempting to sort of say like, well, I care about all that, but it’s not really part of my yoga. I would push back on that and say “our yoga practice, yes, it is like a refuge from that. It is a call to attend to the ways that we are complicit in these systems, to attend to the ways that we can shift and redistribute power, especially as teachers of this practice”.
I think that not every yoga has to be a political activist, but I think that there is an opportunity for us to see how we can use this practice, especially if you’re a teacher and give our students the tools to really work with this stuff both on and off the map. I think that we have as teachers, as the yoga teachers. We are the culture-makers of this yoga industry, yoga land, yoga culture, right in the West.
I’ll just speak to that because that’s my experience within our classrooms, whether those are online or in person, within our relationships with our students. We get to set the expectations of what this practice is all about and what we are supposed to use this practice for. Right?
If this yoga is a practice of liberation, if we really reflect on these concepts like Ahimsa and Satya and non-attachment and all in our interconnectedness and the things that yoga philosophy speaks to…if you really dig into that stuff, it is hard to not become involved in some way of wanting to have that liberation be available to all beings. Not just to those of us who hold the most privilege and power.
I think that for me, it’s really clear that this is not part of my brand. This is just part of who I am and how I do the world. And yes, my brand is me because I’m a teacher. But I urge folks not to think of it in those terms of like, “oh, well, my brand is either I’m a social justice warrior or I don’t talk about politics”. It’s not as black and white as that.
I think that we can each find ways to share authentically about where we’re at in the journey. Not every teacher is ready to speak up about social justice issues or prepared to talk about race equity. Right? If you know that you’re not ready for that, if you know you’re not educated enough or grounded enough in those concepts, like get some education, listen to folks who do know what to say. Amplify the voices of people who are already doing this work and learn from them. Pay them, support them, and then decide, like, how can you begin to engage in this practice of liberation and social justice, which I believe is like the lived practice of yoga off the mat.
Maybe right now that’s more listening more than you talk. Maybe that’s calling your representatives and expressing your opinions about what’s going on where you live. Maybe that is showing up on the street with a sign and protesting. Maybe that is writing letters. Maybe that’s having deep and powerful conversations with your family or friends that look like you and love like you and have the same background as you because they can hear you in a way that they can’t hear someone who is protesting on the street.
We each have a lane in this, I think, a path toward liberation. Do a little bit of that svadhyaya, spend some time in self-study through the lens of the yoga teachings and decide like, where can you be of service and what is your lane? Then just start making some progress from there.
Kathryn: Thank you so much for sharing all of that and really everything today.
If people are wanting to work with you or check out your website or social media, where should they go to do all of that?
Amber Karnes: Yes. So my personal site is bodypositiveyoga.com. But most of my work is happening right now over at the Accessible Yoga Training School, which I co-founded Jivana Heyman last year. Last summer, as part of my pivot after during covid. accessibleyogatraining.com is where you can find out all that we’ve got going on.
We’ve got an online school now that’s dedicated to accessibility and equity and yoga. In January, we’re going to be having the next cohort of accessible yoga teacher training. In February, Kelly Palmer will be doing a course about race equity. We’ve got some really great courses coming up. And so I encourage folks to check that out or search me on social media, Amber Karnes. And yes, you’ll find me and I’d love to connect with you.
Thanks for this discussion. It’s really it’s fun for me. So it was helpful.
Kathryn: We will include all of those links also in the show notes and there’s a full transcription of this podcast so that and all of Amber’s links are going to be on the website. Thank you, Amber.