The Czech writer Milan Kundera once wrote that “business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” In BASI Pilates, innovation is exceptionally well-served by Rael; there are few contemporary Pilates practitioners who have done as much as he has to solidify and expand the foundation left to us by Joseph Pilates.
The other function, marketing, is up to lesser mortals, such as the indefatigable Jen and myself. Coming, as I do, from an entirely different background, I have found marketing BASI to be a fascinating experience. But it’s more than that, as well. In many senses it’s a calling. BASI helps people be healthier and happier. Spreading that message is as much a humanitarian mission as it is a commercial undertaking.
Fortuitously, my time with BASI has coincided with the blossoming of social media and online commerce in general. For me that has been a blessing; after quite a few decades in the game, I’d grown somewhat weary of old-style marketing. But I’m by no means the only beneficiary. Online marketing, in all its aspects, has enabled BASI to get closer to its faculty, hosts, graduates and students – the people who are, in a very real sense, the nerve-endings of the organization and the true beneficiaries of enhanced communications.
It has enabled us to listen to them, to them as they develop their careers, to understand the things that motivate them, as well as the things that are a drag on their progress. The penetration of social media may not be all that it’s cracked up to be (some of you may be interested in this article I came across the other day,) but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the combination of web sites, blogs, email, social media etc. has revolutionized the way we communicate.
Never before in history has the act of establishing contact been as easy, quick and pervasive as it is today. Amassing millions of Facebook “likes” may be a pretty meaningless activity to many people, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the hype, is the ability to create tangible virtual communities; people with shared interests who can – and do – influence each other in ways that were never before possible.
For a marketer, it is both an incredible opportunity and a significant challenge. The challenge is not only because people sometimes say things about us online that we would prefer remain unsaid or demand attention when we’d prefer to be watching TV (or working out) but because of the sheer scale of the task. Online marketing is a huge undertaking, if it is to be done well. It requires skills, technologies, resources and, above all, time. The advantages are great, but it requires commitment.
We at BASI have made that commitment. We have built a new web site and within the next week or two we will be rolling out a next generation of site functionality. We have an active Facebook community, a monthly newsletter and regular email updates. During the course of this year, we will be radically overhauling our blog and consolidating our presence on Google, Twitter, YouTube and other online destinations. We held our first live mat class a few weeks ago (with around 1,500 enthusiastic participants) and will be following it up with more.
To assist our hosts with their own marketing campaigns, I will soon be announcing a series of online webinars, during which I’ll be discussing how online tools can be used to promote both the BASI courses that you host and your own studio businesses.
Our objective, clearly, is to promote BASI; to spread the awareness of BASI and its activities further and wider. But there’s more to it than that. In addition to being a commercial company, BASI is a community. There are thousands of people around the world for whom BASI is a home of sorts. People who have gotten to know and love other likeminded people in the BASI network; people for whom BASI stands for something that is very close to their hearts. People whose lives are enriched by their association with BASI and with other BASI people.
All our marketing efforts this year are focused on consolidating that community; helping the community and facilitating mutual helpfulness between its members. If people need answers to professional questions, BASI wants to be there to assist; and if not BASI itself, then other members of the BASI community. If people want to delve deeper into the myriad facets of the Pilates method, we want BASI to be the place that they turn to. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, we want the thousands of shoulders in the community to be available (suitably aligned, of course).
In short, we want BASI to be a positive presence in your lives not only when you’re taking a course or workshop, but every day. And if that means having a go at us on Facebook because we did something wrong, so be it.
The one thing I have realized during my relatively short time with BASI is that people trust Rael, both as a Pilates authority and as a caring human being. That trust extends, to a great extent, to most of the other people who teach for BASI. Our goal now is to entrench that trust in the BASI community as a whole and to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, experiences and friendship.
But communities – this is my final thought – cannot be imposed. They arise when people want or need to be together – and when the opportunity exists. Online tools give us the opportunity; the rest is up to us. If being part of a BASI-inspired community is something that you want and possibly even need, please join us in the journey. We’re anticipating a very exciting 2012.
Roy Isacowitz is Marketing Director at BASI Pilates