Forbes: Four Steps to Cultivate Insane Customer Loyalty | and Why Yoga is a different sort of business…

Forbes – 4 Steps to Cultivate Insane Customer Loyalty: “How can you get customers clamoring to pay more for your products or services? Dino Dogan, founder of the social network Triberr, outlines four strategies that will keep customers from defecting to your competitors.”

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As yoga practitioner first, then yoga instructors, the nexus of yoga and business warrants mindfulness. See below for a video of my teacher, Swami Dayananda Saraswati on Vedanta and competition.

My day job for over 20 years has been in marketing, both print and then user experience strategy for digital communications. So I have thought a lot, and consulted extensively on what grows business, customer attraction, customer loyalty and so on.
That many of us draw some income from teaching yoga is a fact grown from the integration of Yoga into modern American society. To debate whether that is a good thing or a bad thing serves little purpose in my mind. It is a fact. Of interest is how do each one of make our personal choices about participation, which is always where yoga begins: my choices, my actions, my intentions, values and so on.

I teach in many teacher training programs, and know the nexus of business and yoga is something we all navigate differently, as it touches us all so personally.

So here is one view of how I, a person who has made a decision to strive to live a conscious life influenced by the yogic teachings on what is to be done, dharma. So if along the way I, on path of a yogi come to value pursuit, other values shift in their value to me. TThen, the criteria for my participation, intention, actions in the business role, which is transitory, are first the criteria for my path as mumuksu, one seeking liberation, self-knowledge, jijñasu, one seeking to know, seeking jivah muktaḥ, one seekin/achieving knowledge, liberation in this life. Now.

I propose that yoga, the teachings, the śastra, the texts, do have guidelines, and if we accept the path in the śastra as relevant to my own personal growth, the road to mokśa, the I have a value for these guidelines; this is dharma. In my years of consulting, I could often see good business strategy, intention or practices and be able to recommend them and see the wisdom for success; nonetheless at the core, or foundational principles may be adharma, at odds with dharma, at odds with my own personal emotional maturation path, and often the internal conflicts are unconscious, and can’t be seen or or seen  beyond on our own; so the śastra, the teachings, are needed to shine a light on what is not available for us to see on out own means.

And perhaps I value dharma more than material success in the world, while remaining pragmatic about economic and professional needs. Understanding dharma and mokśa, liberation from chasing our sorrows away, comes from seeing that the world, and time constrained objects or experiences are not resolving the sense of fullness I know I lack. So many of find we do not want  to compromise, or confuse our personal growth by cultivating internal inconsistencies and internal conflict. This is the “sthairyam” discussed in the 13th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the famous verse on values which we study extensively in Citta Chats.

So here is an example of how we as yogis can read with caution and discernment all these tips for business, entrepreneurs buzz and so on.


First-  “Insane Loyalty..”
The comparison with cults, non-thinking followers, and pathologically narcissistic founders is significant. In business, it is success to herd the lemmings, to pull on the lowest common denominator of however wide or narrow you see customer niche is, to know the forces that make a tipping point in one’s own favor. Marketing is intended to stimulate conscious or unconscious desires, and even foster desire for something not currently wanted or needed, often regardless of values outside the immediate desire fulfillment.

When teaching mindfulness, conscious values driven, inquisitive living do we want to attract “insane loyalty?” and cult-like non-thinking? Perhaps. Could be fun.

Or do we want thinking, discerning customers making wise informed choices on their path, and helping them with their choices with wisdom and discernment, not manipulating their baser, impulsive, reactive raga and dvesas, likes and dislikes. coming from so many confusing sources bombarding our senses, to make sales?

Celebrity fame and name all in the name of my passion must be ok right? Is not seeking to “bring in more students” and reach more people with such a nourishing offering is a beautiful thing, no?

Karma Yoga (BG 2.47) is not about the action, any action, but rather my intention, my attitude. Any pursuit is only fraught, or binding us the heart knots coming from ignorance of our own nature, if our sense of  being, or fulness, or belonging is projected onto the seeking, or what is sought. How is identity tied to the pursuit?

- Using Personas:
So the base premise of customer attraction and niche definition may start at a different place for the yogi first, entrepreneur second, an in either case using personas in marketing is highly valuable to codify intentions and desired outcome of your yoga brand, your offering. Hopefully personas are from real customer data, but also form ones own subject matter expertise, or a few questions to some regular and/or new students.

Having a photo, a name, and bullet point descriptions about the different types of customers you currently have will in turn reveal niches you want to reach but are not, perhaps. Likewise you can  become more clear in your speaking to his or her motivations and aspiration. I always do a list of motivations and aspiration for my personas, wants and needs.

Then I find 2 out of 4 of these points in this Forbes article can apply wisely to a “yoga business” if we are going o accept there is such a thing:

1. Polarity:
“People love to pick sides in a conflict.” Wow. Yes, true… appealing to the need for the human ego for status, to stand out, be special (we are unique – special is something different), to belong is wise for business, for building preferred, or status brands. What works for Apple versus PC is a different feeling when it is “my yoga brand” versus “your yoga brand.” Each teacher then driven to fabricate, name and sell “my-own-special-sauce-yoga” when the whole tradition is held together by the sampradaya, the lineage of oral teacher student interaction. How then is that knowledge mine? Clearly we all hve our own style, that is a different conversation, yes?
Do we want to cultivate tribal divisions around paths to self-knowledge? The very proposition impedes one’ own emotional development and maturity necessary for self-knowledge. See my writings on “Beyond Tribal.”

Yoga and Vedanta understand the drive to belong as a projection stemming from a misunderstanding of sense of self. This has to be explored, and the mind will nto be able to what is to be explored as clearly if at the same time validating conflicting pursuits, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously.

Or do we want to cultivate a relationship with a public, students and other teachers from other brands, that builds empathy, mutual support, collaboration and understanding of interdependence, not competition and conflict.

2. Customer Avatars: Yes. These are personas. What I said above.

3. Offer status. “Build the appearance of status into your product.. Humans are programmed to check for social cues about status…”
True, we are programmed. We have impulses (see article in Action & Reaction in the Bhagavad Gita). Sadhana, practice is practicing choice and discernment around impulses. Humans are able to bring conscious intention and free will to impulses, this is dharma.

Any value of status on a product, group, person, event or time and space constrained experience is a result of the mind’s false projection of sense of self onto that thing; what we call the mutual superimposition in the teachings. Yoga is a path of seeing what is projection, and seeing where do I, my sense of “me, really get my fullness, ananda, from? What is the Satyam? the “svarupa” the essential of me, of “atma.”
Do we want to, consciously or unconsciously feed, nourish, or cultivate this unconscious projection on the part of the public seeking yoga? This is where the healing is, in healing the projections; it is at the heart of it all. Valuing Status, like the need to belong, stems from the erroneous projections, the false understanding that is at the source of th knots of the heart, the śastra tells us.

The healing of the knots in the heart is in neutralizing the false projections, trying to discern systems that may unknowingly bolster the unseen, not understood projections. This process is svadyaya, self-study.

4. Catalyze connections. Sure. Humans naturally develop empathy and connection, and this can be intentional when in a role of teacher,  social connector.
However we have also seen what can happen when fostering a sense of belonging in a group where imbalances and contradictions are not held in the sampradaya, the tradition, but in the sway of one or several driving a group. The implosion and fragmentation of the projection is the source for much pain and disorientation, and can certainly be a growing time. But the pain can be a avoided.

So this is just one example of how we can filter what may well be valuable business savvy, well schooled business insight and so on through how we value dharma.

What it looks like to follow dharma will be know when I know how value mokśa, relative to other pursuits or perceived security, happiness sought, pleasure sought and so forth,

Swami Dayananda Saraswati presents a powerful proposition at the outset of his talks/book on the Value of Values in the 13th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the part that goes into values for daily behavior and self-reflection and adjustment.

1. With these appropriate values present, self-knowledge and liberation ,mokśa may be present.

2. With these appropriate values present, self-knowledge and liberation may be attained.

3. With these appropriate values absent, self-knowledge and liberation cannot be gained.

So I said to myself at the time, all I need is this book for the rest of my life, and basically it has been true. All the teachings dovetail into this integration in a way, nd these verse continue to be illuminated by increased understanding of the teachings through the years. It is one of the starting books in the Citta Chats curriculum, and we continued to discuss it at length, as the principle of assimilation is ongoing.

The beautiful and profound thing here is that we learn to see these values as steps to uncovering our essential nature our svarupa, not as some sort of external imposition, or even internal pressure with guilt and conflict.

It is all about our own, my own we each say in our hearts, personal maturation, and the peace of mind, the presence of mind, the antah karana śudhi necessary to be able to receive the teachings and heal the knots of the heart.

The path of self-knowledge, moksa, is different from other learnings, other skills acquired, roles assumed through knowledge of the world, but not necessarily knowledge of my self.

To be good at User Experience, car mechanics, CEO, school teacher, teaching yoga, chemist, Phd… I need to acquire skill and knowledge and succeed in these roles.

I do not need to know the means nor value antah karana suddhi, a mind in hand, able to be calmed and focused. I need not necessarily acquire and knowledge in how the mind perpetuates its projections.

I can succeed in business and power without learning to resolve my own unconscious content, without analyzing my own experience of Being of see the error ;the source of the heart knots,the source of the pressure to seek outside my self for fulfillment. In fact recent research on sociopathic mind shows the imbalance and lack of empathy allows for perhaps even mor success in business, politics, power; places there the projection of self onto objects in the world is rewarded.

I cannot succeed as  mumuksu, one seeking mokśa, a jivaḥ moktaḥ – one seeking self knowledge and freedom from a life of cycles of sorrow and becoming if I do not analyze my own experience of conscious presence to resolve the projections and neutralize the likes and dislikes.

Feel free to prod, discuss, ask questions, share experiences. Use comments here.

The texts do have something to teach, within the sampradaya, the teaching tradition. And that amazing objective insight and methodology of the sampradaya and the texts is a beacon in this murky terrain of economics, egos, personal and universal values. This is the sadhana, the practice, conscious lifestyle, understanding mokśa as the end that is inclusive of all ends; then all values, all purusarthas, human pursuits, including dharma, what is to be done, first serve the value one has for mokśa.

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