Archive | Client Engagement

Articles related to engaging your clients after the lesson such as how to use email and social media to generate return and lesson requests.

Natalie Terry and the Magic of Sugarloaf

When new skiers take their first lesson, will they return to the sport, or say “never again?” The ride to the resort, the ambiance, the gear guys and the ski instructor contribute to the decision-making process. Natalie Terry at Sugarloaf was not my first instructor, but she was the one who made me fall in love with the skiing. In fact, it was Natalie, combined with the “Sugarloaf Mystique,” that made me forget my first horrific skiing experience.

The Killington Ski Trip From Hades

My first attempt at alpine skiing was an absolute disaster. Many factors contributed to this epic failure:
1. I was working at a New York City gym that sponsored a bus trip to Killington. The bus arrived two hours late, because the drivers stopped to pick up some workers from a Long Island recycling plant, who were also going on the trip.
2. Said workers were already drunk and rowdy. Almost all of them were smoking legal and illegal substances. Beer bottles rolled down the aisles. They showed the movie Rocky Horror Show.
3. I was the only staff member who came along for the trip. The club members were a conservative group, who had brought their kids. I got blamed for the entire debacle.
4. I was a 35-year-old aerobics instructor who had never skied. My students were expert skiers. My pride and dignity were at stake.
5. We arrived at 1:00 AM. The condo managers told us we needed to report any pre-existing damage to our rooms. Failure to do so would mean that we would have to pay for things that weren’t our fault.
6. Waking up the next morning, I looked out the window and cried “What the hell did they do to Vermont?” At the risk of offending Killington fans, this section of Vermont does not appeal to me. Visuals are important. More on this later.
7. The ski class had about 40 people, most of them in their late teens and early 20’s. There were a few instructors – of the same age range – working with the group. None of them wanted to work with “the old lady.” The guys wanted to flirt with the younger chicks. The female instructors showed an impatience that I often see in young women sport instructors. They benefited from Title IX. As such, they had athletic training since elementary school. Women of baby boomer age did not have that advantage. We took home economic classes and learned to make tuna-noodle casseroles.
8. Adding insult to injury, despite my unusually high level of fitness, I was not a natural skier. Years later, more than one boot-fitter would say to me “Nobody would look at your feet and say that you should be a skier.” Ouch!
It took 10 years for me to return to a ski resort.

Round Two: Mount Snow

When my step-kids came to visit us from Florida, they wanted to go on a ski trip. Rather than sit in the lodge at Mount Snow, I gave it one more try. This time, things were different:
1. I loved the Mount Snow ambiance.
2. I had added balance training to my workouts. Thus, I did not fall once the whole time.
3. The instructor was in his 50’s.
4. The class was smaller.
5. The gear guys took their time making sure that the boots fit right.
Success! I liked it. We continued to ski at different New England resorts. However, I was one of those conservative, fearful skiers, who stayed on the groomed greens. In fact, fear, challenge and thrill did not motivate me. I didn’t ski for the adrenaline rush. I skied for the “flow state” and for the stunning visuals found on certain trails. Thus, one year later, I was stuck in the perpetual intermediate zone.

The Sugarloaf Mystique

The Sugarloaf logo is one of the most recognizable symbols of North American skiing. Designed in 1959, it evolved into a cult phenomenon. The mountain’s devotees bring Sugarloaf stickers to remote places in all corners of the globe, and place them on high-profile spots.
John Christie, author of The Story of Sugarloaf, says:
“To me, the logo speaks to the unique configuration of the Mountain and the only lift-accessed snowfield skiing in the East. The fact that it’s been virtually unchanged for over 40 years says something about Sugar loaf’s devotion to tradition and its origins.”
“Ski Guru,” who writes the Boston.com ski blog, writes:
“The Loaf is the closest thing to a ski cult I have ever encountered. There are some rabid Mad River Glen lovers, and some absolute Alta enthusiasts, but their bonds seem more of an old school, anti-snowboard society. Loafers are extremely devoted, even defensive, about their downhill ski resort.
Natalie Terry

The Natalie Terry Mystique

Sugarloaf’s ski instructors are as devoted as its loyal fans. Many have worked there since the 1960’s. Natalie Terry is an example. With over 40 years of teaching at Sugarloaf, Natalie Terry has taught over 23,000 skiers. Now in her late 80’s she has taught at The Loaf since 1969, and she still rips past kids young enough to be her great-grandchildren. Her dedication to each student has made her the most requested private lesson instructor at Sugarloaf. Skiing Magazine recognizes her as one of the top 100 instructors in the United States.
I first heard about Natalie from a group of Boston University college students. Their admiration surprised me. This particular group wouldn’t take an aerobic class from any instructor over 30, but their ski guru was a 75-year-old woman.

The Lesson

With everything I heard about Sugarloaf and Natalie, I wanted to go. My husband nixed the idea, because the drive was too long. I opted for a bus trip with Boston Ski and Sports Club, and rode to Maine with a lively, but well-mannered group of Sugarloafers.

The next morning, I practiced my turns on the trails close to the base area. After lunch, I had my private lesson with Natalie Terry. She asked me what trails I had skied. When I told her that I had been skiing the easy green called Broadway, she said, “You came all the way from Boston to ski that boring trail? There’s great beauty on this mountain, but you’ll never see it if you stay near the base area! Besides, you’re spending more time riding the lifts than you are skiing!”

She had me, there. Short beginner trails mean frequent lift lines and lift rides. That gets old. However, she had already motivated me with the promise of gorgeous views. Somehow she knew that skiing down the gorgeous, 3.5 mile Tote Road inspire me. That’s the secret of an excellent instructor.

In an interview with New Center 6, Natalie Terry says “A good student has to be motivated. You can motivate them, but if they come with more motivation it’s easier on me.”

I would add, if the instructor can sense what motivates the student, it’s easier on both the instructor and the skier.

Catch this video on Natalie Terry.

The 90-9-1 Rule: Reaching Out to the 90

You’ve built your ski instructor Facebook page. But is anyone out there? Perhaps you were expecting long threads, filled with in-depth discussion about powder skiing and mogul techniques, along with lively debates about the merits of New England vs. Western skiing. Instead, you only see a handful of replies to your posts. Unless you make a mistake then a bunch of people jump right in. What’s up with that?
You have just experienced the phenomenon known as the 90-9-1 rule.
90_9_1-rule

Exploring the 90-9-1 Rule

Simply put, the 90-9-1 rule states:
In any group of 100 people:
– One percent of its members are active communicators. They set the tone, and become the thought leaders of the group. If you started the group, you, along with a few of your friends or fellow ski instructors form the one percent.
– Nine percent are somewhat active, engaging with the other members on occasion. These are usually. Some of these folks either support your philosophy of teaching, and add to the discussion, or disagree with you, and engage in debate. Others are what ski instructors sometimes refer to as professional students. They have many questions, and embrace any opportunity to get them answered.
– 90 percent are lurkers, content to simply listen or follow the other 10 percent. Some are not sure of which questions to ask. Another segment of the 90 percent is simply brand new to social media, and is not yet comfortable with the posting process.

How do these ratios affect your ability to build a brand? Read on to find out.

Lurker or Audience

The lurker status of the 90 percent sparks many a lively discussion. Some social media specialists view lurkers as an audience, who will either applaud or walk out. Case in point: Your post “likes” on Facebook. You probably notice a number of people who like your different posts, but hardly ever engage in the conversation. Liking, however, is a form of active listening. When users like your posts, they are telling Facebook that they want your content to appear in their news feed. Even if they are not participating in the thread, this implies that they see value in what you are saying.
On the other hand, and adverse signal to noise ratio can discourage group members from active participation.

The Noisy Nine Percent

As your Facebook ski page community grows, you will need to identify which of your nine percenters are driving students to your services, and which are creating noise. This is an issue that is common among people who follow a specific technique. You see it in PMTS, CrossFit and bikram yoga communities, where zealots make it impossible to ask a question, or challenge any of the system’s basic methods. Sam Fiorella of Sensei Marketing describes this beautifully:

Volume and reach of one’s social presence becomes less important; the relationships among community members and the context of their dialogue grow in importance. At a minimum, there are greater complexities in managing online communities, identifying influencers, and deriving meaning from those engagements. This is the great paradox of social media marketing: As our communities become larger, the more important one-to-one relationships become. If not the one-to-one relationships between your brand and your customer, certainly we should be paying attention to the one between the customers themselves.

Students in ski class often form friendships that keep them coming back to the same group — and the same instructor — over and over again. The same thing can happen online. Create an environment on your Facebook page where there is no such thing as a stupid question, and where polite debate encouraged.

Don’t be discouraged if your early forays into Facebook land does not get the response you hoped for. Remember there are most likely 10 more people for everyone that likes or shares an article and 90 more people behind everyone that comments on an article.

Some of your 90 percent might keep their silent audience status, but if they like what they see they will continue to follow you work and be a resource for for future social feedback.

Building Your Own Website: Is It Worth It?

I have heard from several instructors that maintaining a website hasn’t been a worthwhile investment of their time. I can understand this, especially if it’s an off-the-shelf listing template, but for me it has been an extremely effective part of my strategy.

I don’t expect my website (www.skiwithkev.com) to reel in clients off the web. Its role is an as quality piece of marketing collateral that has provides me street cred. I view it as an organic online brochure, that like my custom business cards, reinforces my “brand” and differentiates me as a professional with prospective & past clients, referrers, and other contacts that send me business.

I use it in maintaining relationships too. I use private pages that I share with clients for them to view and download pictures. I write the occasional blog article that generate as much as 1,000 visits per post. I refer to my articles in custom emails that I send to some of the leading concierges, travel planners, and retailers in the valley.

And while I don’t expect my website to be my cornerstone of customer acquisition, because of the content and it’s links from other publications and directories, it does get me showing up on google and gets my phone ringing.

I put about an hour a week into my site. The big effort was in the one time set-up, but to be fair, it is something I already knew how to do and enjoy spending time on.

Here is an article I just posted, five accessories that have greatly improved my skiing zen… it’s mean to be relevant to anyone planning a ski vacation. I will try to get it reposted on Travelocity and other planning sites.

Beyond the Humor: Breaking Ski Instructor Stereotypes

At a party, how do you tell who the ski instructor is?
Don’t worry. He will tell you.
On a date, what does a ski instructor say after the first hour?
“That’s enough talk about me; now let’s talk about skiing.”
How many ski instructors does it take to change a light bulb?
A dozen. One to unscrew the bulb and the rest to analyze the turns.
What do you call a successful ski instructor?
A guy whose girlfriend has two jobs.
What is the difference between God and a ski instructor?
God does not think he is a ski instructor!
What’s the difference between a ski instructor and a bucket of chicken?
The bucket of chicken can feed a family of four.

If you teach skiing, you’ve heard these jokes. You probably laughed; at least the first time. Then, after awhile, the joke, along with the stereotype, got old. The classic image of the ski instructor as full of himself, skiing obsessed and broke prevails throughout all types of media. Let’s look at these stereotypes, and separate truth from fiction.

The One-Dimensional Ski Instructor

In the second joke, the instructor turns to his date and says, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about skiing.” Many ski instructors are fascinating, multifaceted individuals. In addition to their sport, they are often we-read, well-traveled and artistically inclined.

Consider the history of Aspen. Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke dreamed of a cultural center in a mountain environment. Austrian Ski instructor Friedl Pfeifer, after serving with the 10th Mountain Division, wanted to stay in the US and open his own resort. Aspen became both a world-class resort and a thriving center for culture and literature.

Although most mountain environments attract a blend of artists, intellectuals and athletes, ski instructors often limit their conversation to one topic: skiing. While this is expected in the teaching environment, instructors can attract more students by presenting themselves as diverse individuals, with a multitude of interests.

The Classic Ski Bum


image by Adventure Jay: Creative Commons

In 2000, Peter Shelton wrote an article for Ski Magazine titled Ski Schools on Trial.
Shelton notes that the “culture of lesson taking has changed,” and that the authoritarian days of the Austrian “bend ze knees please” are a thing of the past. In its place, however, is the instructor as ski bum image. And Shelton believes that the resorts are partially to blame.
On the one hand, the PSIA does its best to educate, and instill a sense of professionalism in their ski and ride school instructors. On the other, the resorts pay rock bottom salaries, making it difficult for instructors to support themselves and maintain any sense of professionalism. Thus, the jokes about ski instructor incomes have become “a thing.”

Caveat: Not all ski instructors are broke. Some have a regular base of private students. Others develop special on-mountain programs. In the off-season, they fly to the Southern Hemisphere, and teach in the mountains of Australia, New Zealand and South America. These instructors view their teaching as a business, and treat it as such.

The Turn Analyst

It’s funny how even non-skiers recognize the South Park“bad time” ski instructor meme. Here’s a recap, in case you never saw the episode. The kids are introduced to their instructor at Aspen, who in turn drones on and on about things that will make them “have a bad time.”
Example: “If you french fry when you should pizza, you’re gonna’ have a bad time.”
Meanwhile, they’re still in the base area, talking about skiing.
Finally, one of the kids asks, ” So when are we gonna’ have a good time?”

There’s truth in the humor. You probably know an instructor who spends half the lesson along the side of the hill, talking to his or her students.
Don’t be that instructor.

Stereotypes were made to be broken. Professionalism, flavored with a touch of humility, will encourage respect for ski instructors.

Greeting Clients on Facebook: Banners and Colors for Ski Instructors

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Inspiring Clients with Font & Colors

Your banner and profile picture sits at the top of your Facebook page. This image combo is your most important important marketing tool. In fact, the results of webcam eye-tracking study indicate that participants spend less time looking at wall posts and more time looking at the cover photo on your brands’ timelines. Your Facebook banner introduces you to potential students. Are you making a good impression? Read on to find out.

Study Results

EyeTrackShop recorded eye movements of 30 participants as they looked at a variety of brand profiles. They recorded:
– What participants looked at on each webpage
– For how long
– In what order
Here’s what they discovered:
– Viewers looked at the cover photo first
– They spent more time looking at it than reading the rest of the content
– Cover photos that featured faces attracted the most attention
– Information that was once less visible now claims prime real estate. The number of Likes, events and apps now have top-and-center territory.

Designing Your Ski Instructor Banner

Two features comprise your Facebook banner:
1. A long, rectangular image
2. A small, profile image
Your profile image sits to the left of the banner. Since these images overlap, choose pictures that complement each other. Here’s a cheat sheet for choosing the proper image dimensions:

Image Guidelines
– Display on page at 851 x 315 pixels.
– Minimum size of 399 x 150 pixels.
– For best results, upload an RGB JPG file less than 100 KB.
– Images with logos or text work best as PNG-24 files.

DIY Banner Creation Sites

Some websites, such as http://www.timelinecoverbanner.com/, help you create interesting banner and profile blends. No Photoshop experience required!
Here’s a mock-up example:
ski-with-bree-facebook
Note: This is not Chamonix, and the woman in the profile picture is not a ski instructor named Bree.
It’s a 1940’s image of Olympic skier Erica Mahringers. But the use of a vintage photo says a lot about the “instructor’s” personality and interests, which can help her find her ideal client. Of course, an instructor interested in a younger crowd might choose a different type of image.

Next, we were able to do some interesting things with Timeline Cover Banner. First: The Erica Mahringers photo was in black and white. By adjusting the hue, we created a blue tint, which blended with instructor’s jacket. The red text matches the red in her jacket. Which brings us to a discussion about color.

What Color is Your Facebook Palette?

Hubspot Marketing lists a variety of factors that contribute to visual brand strategy.

Your Color Palette

Check out the colors of any well known brand. You’ll notice the same colors over and over again. It appears in their logo, their text, and even in their choice of images. Think about the dark blue and red of Breckenridge, and the sky blue and gray of Aspen. These color blends help students recognize your brand. In color psychology, red implies excitement and passion, while blue denotes trust and technology. These are perfect color choices for ski instructors, but you might want to consider other options. Our post on branding explains color psychology in detail.

Your Font Personality

Your choice of font should harmonize with your color choice. Font also expresses your brand personality. Choose three fonts, and use them consistently. Although you can’t vary your font on your Facebook posts, you can create special fonts for your banners and quote photos.

Quote Photos

Quote photos are images paired with inspiring quotes. Hubspot suggests using them as a “Tip of the Day” theme. This is an excellent idea for ski instructors! A number of websites, such as Ribbet.com and Pixlr.com, help you create them. Use your own ski teaching photos, or find Creative Commons and Public Domain photos. Google image search lets you search by size, usage rights, and – most important – color. This means that you can find license-free photos that fit your ski instructor branding scheme. To add text, use the same text you included in your ski instructor Facebook banner, then add two other signature fonts.

Now, look at your own Facebook Page banner, and think about what you can do to make it stand out!

Facebook Insights and Graph Search: Useful Tools for Ski Instructors

Congratulations. You’ve built your Facebook ski instructor page. You’ve built it, but will they come? Check out your “likes.” How many do you have? More important: How many of these likes will become paying students? No offense to mom, dad and Grandma Tillie, but they don’t count. Neither do your non-skiing friends.

Fortunately, Facebook has two tools to help you find potential clients: Insights and Graph Search. Many page owners do not know how to use these tools. Mastering them gives you a leg up on your competition.

Who Likes You, Baby? Finding Your Ideal Student on Facebook

We all have had that great client. One that has brought out our best teaching, compelling us to create a WOW guest experience resulting in substantial rewards for all involved. How do we find more clients like that? A previous post on the Snocoach blog describes visualization techniques to attract your ideal student. Facebook Graph Search offers another method.

Facebook Graph Search

facebook-graph-search

Facebook Graph Search is similar to Google search, with a significant difference: It bases your search results on your previous Facebook activity. Here are some ways to use it to find your ideal student:
Search for other pages your followers like. For example, look at the results of a graph search titled “Pages liked by likers of Snocoach.”

Of course, most of these revolve around skiing, but topics such as yoga, Le Tour de France, and a few local restaurants come up in the search results. Using this information, I can post articles on these topics, or join Facebook groups of people who enjoy talking about this subject matter. Try the same Facebook Graph search using the name of your resort, as well as your local ski town.

  • Discover their other hobbies and interests. Queries such as “countries visited by, books read by, movies loved by, hobbies enjoyed by” can help you narrow your results and target your posts. For example, take someone who loves vintage art. Post some vintage ski posters. Hemingway fan? Post stories about the Papa’s ski experiences in France. Traveler? Post about ski resorts around their favorite destinations.

Facebook Insights

You’ve performed the graph search . Was it successful? Once your instructor page has 30 likes, you can use Facebook Insights. This handy tool lets business page owners see important demographics about their followers. Facebook explains how it works:

To see demographic data about the people who like your Page:

Click Insights at the top of your Page
Click People
In the Your Fans section, you can see:

  • The percentage of people who like your Page for each age and gender bracket, based on the data people enter on their personal profiles
  • The countries and cities of the people who like your Page, based on their IP address when they use Facebook
  • The language of the people who like your Page, based on their default language setting
    -You can compare the age and gender data of the people who like your Page with the same data for everyone on Facebook by hovering over an age bracket.

Here’s a game plan for using this information.
– Define your ideal students. Where do they live? How old are they? What is their highest level of education? Do you have a preference for either gender?
– Use Facebook Insights to determine who many of your followers fit this demographic.
– Research what they like to read, and design content that targets this demographic
– Determine what time of day they use Facebook, and use content scheduling services like Hootsuite to time your posts.

Create Raving Fans

I took the opportunity to attend Michael Hyatt’s Platform 2014 Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in November. This was a great couple of days for me, where I learned more about building a platform of followers and customers from which to deliver your message in a busy world. There are several lessons from the conference I hope to share with you that I believe can help us improve our business as ski and snowboard instructors. My trip report provides a quick survey of the event and further references.

For today’s posts, I’m going to explore on Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com talk on “1000 Raving Fans”

Create Raving Fans

At first this seems like an audacious goal. Creating not only fans, but raving fans from your ski school clients. We are not talking about the scale of Justin Beaver crazed fans. But people that are genuinely excited and enthusiastic. Clients that love to ski with you and can’t wait to ski and ride with you on their next visit. That is “Niche Famous”. To be raving, they are even willing to share with anyone that listens how great an experience they had with you.

Raving fans aren’t created the moment people discover you, they are created by moments you create for them overtime. — Pat Flynn

Moving Up the Affinity Pyramid

Moving a person from just met you to active client, to returning client to raving fan takes time. We can use Pat’s affinity pyramid to visualize the progression. The first thing to note is that the bottom of the pyramid is wider from this base of people you encounter every day, only a portion will become regular clients and then potentially move up to fan status.
AffinityDiagram

Casual Audience

Your student’s first impression of you will most likely be even before they are assigned to your class. It may be a chance encounter approaching the ski school, observing you teach others, from your Facebook page, or a comment from others in the resort.

The key take away from Pat’s talk was to make sure your first impression has the effect you want. These first interactions should attract your ideal guests. Be consistent in delivering that impression, you never know when you will hit the mark.

Active Audience

If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume that you have the solution — Jay Abraham

The Guest Centered Teaching Model (GCT) naturally fits at this level. It gives you the best opportunity to move a student from a casual observer to actively joining you in a learning partnership invested in their own success. It is important to listen to and observer your clients so you can clearly understand their needs from the three areas in the GCT model: Cognitively, Affectively, Physically. Delivering a good goal statement for your lesson, will have the effect as the above quote.

Putting some of “you” in your brand will make it easier for the clients to actively engage with you. Once the goal is set, make sure deliver quick wins, then celebrate your student’s accomplishments.

Connected Community

To bring your clients to the next step with you will need to build a relationship beyond the first lesson. It is important to get them comfortable enough with you to share their contact information. You must make sure not to abuse this confidence, but deliver content to your clients that they find valuable, always with the option to opt out of future messages.

The first interaction should be an email or another message that summarizes your experience together. Particularly if you can make it personal, celebrating some of their accomplishments and clearly articulate a larger goal. As with most of your interactions a simple invitation back letting, the client knows you enjoyed skiing with them is so effective but often neglected.

After the lesson, use phone calls, Facebook, email and/or other social media to build a connected community with your clients. Use this community to deliver additional value, photos, videos and links to other resources. Many clients enjoy “factory tours”, let them in on the insiders view of a mountain life style, how you prepare for the lesson, what you do when your not skiing.

Magical Moments

If Pat offered any “secrets”, it was to provide your guests with memorable moments. You do this by delivering a bit more then what is expected. It can be actual magic, humor, music … just about anything that personalizes the experience for your guest. Something that works for me is to share a favorite powder stash with my guests. Something that they wouldn’t necessarily find on their own. I give it a bit of a build up, and create a bit of mystery. I have source great spots for various ability levels, and it is always the hightlight of the day. No powder that day, I have a collection of other trails, that with the right buildup can be a bit magical as well.

Another example: capture on video, key moments of the day and present an edited video of the experience enhanced with a music track. Or if your brand is more of a technical coach, deliver an analysis video with recorded tips. The key is to find ways to add a bit of magic, that little bit extra that will move people from a satisfied customer to raving fan.

Summary

  • Work to create a consistent first impression
  • Articulate an insightful goal statement
  • Deliver quick wins and celebrate your client’s success
  • Together with your client build a plan for a larger goal
  • Create connected community and deliver value after the lesson
  • Deliver magical moments

Your Professional Network: Quality vs Quantity

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How do you know there is a ski instructor is at the party?
Don’t worry. He will tell you.

That’s a joke, son, but there’s a touch of truth in the humor. You’ve met this person. He’s the one who tells everyone, including your great grandma, that he’s a ski instructor. Blissfully unaware of people’s reactions, he wastes precious energy trying to impress people who will never be interested in his services! He’s not building a network, he’s stroking his ego!

You need to create a network of resort professionals, interested support staff and satisfied students who will refer you. Unlike the mountain, size doesn’t count. You need a quality network. How big should it be? Read on to figure it out.

Network Size

Let us look at the numbers. If you resort has a 5 month season, you work 6 days a week and your average guest skis with you for 3 days. You need to have 40 clients to “fill your book”. If you have a 50% return rate you need to get 20 new guests a season. If your network colleague on average refers 2 people a season that you convert into a guest. You only need 10 people in your professional network. You will need to work out these numbers for your own business. Improving the quality of your network members and their familiarity with you will reduce the number. Improving your return rate is also a way to reduce the required size of your network.

Take a moment and “ball park” your required network size. I’m guessing is not a huge number. To get started we are talking less then 20 people

Creating a Niche Network

Many people confuse network building with telling everyone that will listen what you do (like in our joke) or spending time on ski forums, linkedIn and Facebook. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out online, debating the merits of the wedge vs direct to parallel, stance width, ski length, etc. In the process, you might find some kindred spirits, but that’s not really building a niche network.

Who Should Be in Your Niche Network?

Your online and offline professional network should consist of:

  • Industry professionals who share your teaching philosophy
  • Your former students, that like and understand your brand and are willing to share it with others.
  • People you like. Pamela Ryckman, author of The Stiletto Network, told Inc.com that she refuses to let jerks into her network.
  • People who are comfortable with the process of give and take. If you endorse someone on LinkedIn, will they reciprocate? If you recommend an instructor, will they do the same for you?

Networking at the Resort

Creating a network at your local resort requires you to think outside the box. Your fellow instructors are an obvious choice, but, in some cases, they are competing for the same private clients. A co-opetition strategy can work in your favor.

What Is Co-Opetition?

Co-opetition is a term coined to describe cooperative competition. Here’s a scenario:
Jim and Michelle are the same age. They both have their Level 3 certification, and they share a similar teaching style and philosophy. Both are known for their patience, their sense of humor and their ability to create a fun experience on the mountain. Despite their similarities, they might have different ideas about their ideal client.

  • They both love working with women, but Michelle likes to work with women who prefer female instructors
  • Jim enjoys working with kids. Michelle tolerates them.
  • Michelle’s knee is bothering her, and she’s not in the mood to teach moguls
  • Michelle likes working with seniors. Jim tolerates them.
  • Jim speaks fluent Spanish. Michelle speaks French and Italian
    Based on these difference, Jim and Michelle can create a co-opetition network. For example, a student from Spain wants a private lesson. Michelle suggests Jim. An Italian student wants a lesson, Jim recommends Michelle.

Speaking of language, have you considered networking with the support staff?

Support from the Support Staff

Most resorts hire housekeepers and cafeteria staff from all parts of the world. If you work at a major resort, your clients probably come from the same parts of the world. Do you speak a foreign language? If so, do you communicate with resort support staff. Here are some reasons why you should.

  • Many instructors treat support staff as if they were invisible. Your kindness makes you stand out as a teacher and as a person.
  • Rosalita, the Mexican housekeeper, overhears a family from Spain. They’re considering a family lesson, but they worry whether they will understand the teacher. Rosalita tells them about that nice instructor Senor Jim.
  • Most resorts allow support staff to take lessons for free. Encourage them, and build your reputation.

Other Potential Network Members

Surveyors:
You know those people who walk around the resort taking customer satisfaction surveys? They hear the dirt about every excellent and terrible ski lesson. Get to know them. Encourage them to take your class.

Ski School Desk Staff:
Let them get to know you, communicate your brand to them. They have the power to recommend the best instructor for a particular client.

The Gear Guys:
Your understanding of how boot fit affects skiing can help you create a powerful alliance. Recommend boot fitters, and they will return the favor.

Your Network

Evaluate your ski instructor network. Set a goal for the size and quality. Write down the folks that have referred guests to you in the past. Are they benefiting you? Is it a give and take, or a one-sided relationship. Think about what you can do to add quality to your network.

When you approach people to join your network, be clear in what you want to accomplish. Make sure you establish a win-win relationship. Communicate your brand and your ideal client. Leave them with business cards or other collateral to make the referral process easy.

Remember Their Names: Increase Your Returns

are-your-students-anonymous

“I’m sorry. I’m terrible with names. Can you tell me again?” Does this sound familiar? “There are plenty of excuses for not remembering names: bad memory, poor listening, not paying attention, self-absorption, too busy, and most of all, an ‘I-Can’t-Remember-Names’ self-limiting attitude which turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.
In an article featured in Forbes, Price notes that improving the name memory skill requires a conscious effort, and that you will only improve this skill if you consider it important. “Importance” is the operative word. Here’s why it’s important to remember the names of your students.

Why You Should Remember Their Names

  • The results of a 2006 study indicate that hearing our own name increases brain activity — even in noisy environments. Increased brain activity means that your students are processing what you are telling them to do.
  • Forgetting their tells them that you don’t think they’re important. If you want to convert group lesson participants into private clients, you need to make them feel important.

Why Is It So Difficult?

The Next In LIne Effect occurs when you’re waiting for your turn to speak to your class. Researchers tested this phenomenon by placing people in small groups, and asking them take turns giving out information, then testing how much they remembered of the other group member’s details.

Each participant’s memory was fine, until they got to the details of the person who spoke right before them. Suddenly, their minds went blank. They were listening, but not paying attention. Instead, their minds were focused on what they were about to say. If you have a standard “talk” that you give your students, it’s possible that you are not listening to them as they tell you their names, and other important details.

Name Memory Methods

  • When introducing yourself to a student, make eye contact and give them your undivided attention
  • Repeat their name out loud. “Welcome to the resort, Susan?”
  • Use their name to ask a question. “Have you skied before, Susan?”
  • Ask them a question about their name. “Do you prefer Joe or Joey?”
  • If it’s an unusual name, ask them to spell it. “Kalinda is so a pretty name. How do you spell it?”
  • Mentally draw a vivid connection between the name and something familiar to you. “Kalinda is investigating ways to ski. Kalinda on _The Good Wife is an investigator.
  • Use rhyme and alliteration. “This is Joe, he likes the snow. This is Jerry from Jersey. This is Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.

Most important: Make a commitment to remembering your student’s names. They’ll show their appreciation by coming back to your class.

Online Communication Styles for Ski Instructors

Your students choose your classes for two types of reasons: tangible and intangible. The tangible reasons pertain to your level of expertise, the location of your resort, the lift ticket prices and the annual snowfall. The intangible reasons have to do with your style of communication. Doctor’s have a bedside manner. Ski instructors have a slopeside manner. To be successful, ski instructors must sense their student’s preferred style, and adapt their own accordingly.

This is relatively easy in a face to face setting. Online is a different story. Without the ability to see your facial expressions, potential new students can misinterpret your communication style. Conversations between direct and indirect communicators can cause major “disconnects” in online communication

Direct Communicators

Direct communicators shoot from the hip, and say exactly what they mean. For example, if a student asks “Should I go to Snowbird on my ski vacation”, they might say, “You’re skills are not strong enough for Snowbird You have to master mogul skiing. Direct communicators make their points with conviction. The words “should” and “have to” flourish within their sentences. They respect their clients enough to tell it like it is, without adding a sugar-coated topping. Although the direct communicator is usually not trying to be rude, an indirect communicator might view it as such.

Indirect Communicators

Indirect communicators often try to soften the blow. When asked about Snowbird, they might say “Wouldn’t Parkcity or Solitude be a better choice?” Words like “maybe” and “possibly” are common in the indirect communicator’s sentence structure. Direct communicators often don’t get it. They believe the indirect communicator is being wishy-washy, or worse, passive aggressive.

Direct and indirect communication issues are only two problems associated with online communication. Add things like Internet slang (believe it or not, some people don’t know the meaning of ROFLMAO) and other language barriers, and you have a regular Tower of Babel. Here are three hypothetical case studies about communication in a ski forum. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real life ski instructors is purely coincidental. However, if participate online, the conversations will sound familiar.

Three Ski Instructors on an Internet Forum

Three instructors log in to a ski forum. A novice skier has posted a question. She writes:
Hi! My name is Susan. I’m brand new to skiing, and I was wondering if I need to learn the snowplow before I can ski parallel.
Here are the responses:
Student and Coach
Instructor 1: Self-Proclaimed Ski Guru: That’s a bunch of BS!!! Any instructor who still teaches the wedge is a LAZY LUDDITE!!!!! The only way to learn is to come to one of our special, wedge-free ski weeks. Give me your email and I will send you information about signing up.

Instructor 2: Old School European Ski Instructor: Everyone needs to learn the snowplow before they try parallel. Das is how we taught it in Austria.

Instructor 3: Modern, Progressive Ski Instructor:
Welcome to the forum, Susan. The answer to your question depends on a number of factors. Do you practice any other type of sport? Roller-blading? Ice skating? Are you athletic? Do you have any fear of heights? Your answers to these questions will help your instructor decide whether you should start with the wedge, or go directly to parallel. If they decide you need to start with the wedge, you will probably learn a gliding wedge, as opposed to the old-fashioned breaking wedge. But the breaking wedge can be good to know. At some ski resorts, the lift line is on a slight downhill. You might need a wedge to keep you from ramming into the skier or rider in front of you. Feel free to ask more questions, Susan. We’re here to help!

Logic would dictate that Susan would choose instructor number three for a lesson, but logic does not always dictate human behavior. Intrigued? Read on for more about online communication styles for ski instructors.

The Courtesy Rules of Internet Speak

As the above conversation continues, Instructor 1 responds to Instructor 2. “EVERYONE needs to learn the wedge? What are you, some kind of SKI NAZI?”

Instructor 3 interjects: Since you mentioned Nazi’s, I’m invoking Godwin’s Law. Dating back to the days of Usenet groups, Godwin’s Law states that “There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

Nazi comparisons are just one of the the things you should not do on social media.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

  1. Make glib comparisons to Nazis: Tacky
  2. Post in all upper case: All-caps posts indicate shouting
  3. Ending sentences with multiple exclamation points: Overkill and juvenile
  4. Shamelessly promote yourself in a thread designed to garner information: This type of activity can get you banned in some groups
  5. Insulting others to make yourself look good
  6. Info-dump long posts without dividing them into paragraphs
  7. Post short, terse comments implying that people should trust you based on years of experience
    All three instructors are guilty of these “sins,” but they still might have a significantly-sized following. However the size of your following is less important thanattracting your ideal client.

Analyzing the Three Examples

Each of these instructor communication styles attracts a different type of student.

Instructor1

Instructor 1 is guilty of the first five offenses, but he still manages to survive — and in some cases, thrive — within the ski industry. A certain type of student responds to this approach.

They like to feel like they are part of an elite group , who is somehow superior to the other “Luddites” in the industry. The all-caps “yelling” posts do not affect them. Some might be used to this communication style in their homes, or in their work environment. Even the hard-sell method doesn’t offend them. This type of online communication style works if you want to create a cult. If you want a following of interested learners, you’ll need a different approach.

Instructor 2

Instructor 2 relies on his age, accumulated wisdom and the status and authenticity that some people associate with European ski instructors. Although he might occasionally argue with other instructors about the merits of different teaching styles, he does not understand the value of communicating this information to students.

In some cases. he might be new to social media. In other’s he’s more confident of his ski instruction skills than he is of his written command of the English language. The older, European ski instructor has a certain mystique, which might attract a certain type of client.

Instructor 3

Instructor 3 is almost perfect. She addresses Susan by name — twice, in fact. Her questions indicate that she is more interested in what Susan has to say about herself, than she is about selling Susan a lesson. Her only offense: A bit too much of an info dump. Paragraph, along with the Cliff Notes version of her post, will help.

Call to Action: Visualize the preferred communication style of your ideal student, and adjust your own style accordingly.