In 2012, Dean Pohlman was a collegiate lacrosse player who had taken up yoga. It so improved his on-field performance he began teaching the workouts to teammates. That led to DVD recordings, which led to a YouTube channel. He called it “Man Flow Yoga.”
Fast forward to 2021, and Pohlman is a global authority on yoga instruction for men. He’s written best-selling books on the topic and conducted hundreds of in-person classes. Man Flow Yoga is now a website with a thriving, on-demand instructional program driven by paid subscriptions.
He and I recently discussed it all — selling books, acquiring subscriptions, and more.
Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Take us back to the early days of your business.
Dean Pohlman: The first thing I sold was yoga t-shirts. I had a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. From there, I started selling one-off exercise programs — four workouts for $20.
Then I wrote ebooks and sold them on Amazon and my own website. I partnered with a DVD company called Body By Yoga. That was a great decision because the producer had experience working with DVDs. He understood how to make a product successful on Amazon.
Those DVDs still sell well. They’re in the top 50 of exercise and fitness on Amazon — two are consistently in the top 10. I planned to publish as much content as possible, so people would ask, “Who’s Dean Pohlman, and what’s Man Flow Yoga?”
Then in 2016, we launched a member’s area on our site with streaming videos — an on-demand Netflix-type deal for yoga workouts. After receiving the first subscription, I realized, “This is a business. It’s going to work.”
But I was also doing a lot of other things. I did yoga classes at Zilker Park here in Austin. I taught private lessons and classes at gyms. I was spread out. Eventually, to simplify, I told folks, “It’s all online in my members’ area.”
Bandholz: Walk me through that decision.
Pohlman: I realized that online training was performing well. Plus, it wasn’t fulfilling doing an in-person class and having just one or two people show up. I had to market in-person classes just as much as the online versions. It wasn’t a good use of my time.
The other part of that is I love creating something with longevity, such as an on-demand class.
Bandholz: Being in the fitness-from-home niche, Covid must be a boon for business.
Pohlman: Yes, it is.
Bandholz: How do you acquire customers?
Pohlman: We created a landing page called Free Yoga Workout — free workouts for men. We directed a lot of Facebook and Instagram traffic to that page via advertisements.
The message on the page was heartfelt, “None of us can exercise in person. Here are a bunch of free workouts. Use these instead of your normal yoga classes. If you like them, sign up and get access to all my material.”
We were already on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Despite the ads, over 60% of signups to the free workouts found us through organic search on those channels.
We finally started a funnel where we sold a six-week challenge for $9. We then sold those folks into the full members’ area. That converted at roughly 20% — one of five of the $9-challenge customers ended up as a full member.
We also offered download access, which was $50 instead of $9. About one in six people purchased that option. It helped cover our acquisition cost, which was about $20 to get somebody to sign up for the $9 challenge. It was the first time we had a lead magnet that consistently converted people profitably. We recouped the acquisition costs in about seven weeks.
Many people signed up early in the pandemic, not knowing where their next in-person yoga workout would come from. Our conversion rates doubled during that time.
Bandholz: You told me recently that men practice yoga differently than women.
Pohlman: Right. Men use the upper body more. Women tend to use hips and core. Women are more flexible. Instruction is different for men and women.
Bandholz: Which leads us to your beautiful book in front of me. Is this a printed version of an earlier ebook?
Pohlman: No. It’s unique content, much different from my previous efforts. My first book was an ebook called “Yoga Basics for Men.” The second was a printed book, “Yoga Fitness for Men,” published by DK, the U.K.-based media company.
Those were introductory books focused on how yoga made sense for men.
The new book is “Yoga for Athletes.” It teaches how to improve athletic performance with yoga.
Bandholz: How did you partner with DK?
Pohlman: I love books. Writing a book and having it published was a thrill. DK reached out to me in 2016 through my YouTube channel. I jumped at the opportunity.
DK wanted a non-spiritual yoga-fitness approach for men. That’s what I do. I control the content creation process, suggesting topics and approaches — questions to answer. I used a Ryan Holiday book, the “Perennial Seller,” as inspiration. He’s also the author of “The Daily Stoic.”
“Perennial Seller” addresses how to create evergreen content that lasts for years. A part of that is realizing new books compete with decades-old releases.
With “Yoga for Athletes,” I reached back to DK, asking if they wanted to publish another book. They said, “Yes.”
Bandholz: What does a book deal look like?
Pohlman: DK designs the book and creates the layout, artwork, and overall flow — all based on my content.
DK also distributes the book — retailers, bookstores, Amazon — and promotes it. I had interviews in newspapers and magazines. It was featured in Men’s Health, for example.
As far as money, there’s an advanced royalties payment, which I pay back by hitting sales milestones. I keep whatever royalties remain after the payback.
Bandholz: How can listeners follow you and reach out?