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Massage Therapists: Marketing and Building Your Practice

Posted Nov 05 2010 6:00am
When you graduate from massage school and pass your certification exams, you are finally ready to join other massage therapists out in the world of spas, chiropractors' offices, cruise ships, or in your very own practice. But as a novice, you need to make a name for yourself with effective marketing practices. As a beginner, it can be confusing to understand best practices about marketing and massage, but if you follow some tried and true methods, you will be able to maintain integrity while most effectively promoting your practice.

Traditional Marketing for Massage

So, first things first - have a set of professional business cards printed. From your local copy shop to a variety of online printing companies, you have dozens of options for low-cost, attractive cards for marketing. Massage therapists typically include their name, contact information, modalities, and licensures so potential clients know how to reach them, can check their certification if necessary, and understand their specialties. It is important to check marketing requirements for your state.

  • Starting off by giving a set of cards to family and friends is one of the best things you can do for marketing. Massage therapists should use their personal network, since these are people you trust, and likely they will know to only pass cards to people they trust. Always keep at least five cards with you at all times. Even if an individual does not make an appointment, they may have a friend who does. Think about how you found out about your hairstylist, mechanic, or plumber - likely, a friend passed along their card to you and now you use their services.
  • Not all marketing is good marketing. Massage therapists need to be professional, and think before passing their information out. Would you give your address to a stranger at a bar? No? Then why would you give your card to a stranger at a bar? Think about the circumstances and environments while marketing. Ensure that massage clients understand the professional, therapeutic nature of your massage so that there are not any unwelcome misunderstandings.
  • Internet marketing is a quick, cost-effective, and easy way to promote your business. Start a website of your own (even if you work for a business, it can be a good way to attract customers) about your background, modalities, hours, and professional affiliations. Include a link to your site in the signature of your email, and on your business cards.
Networking and Professional Affiliations

You should be a member of a professional organization such as AMTA, or ABMP. Do you know that they offer unique job boards and resources for marketing in massage? Often, when people are looking for certified or licensed massage therapists, they will visit these sites to find someone professional and accredited. For example, imagine that someone in your town is looking for a massage therapist who specializes in deep tissue massage, and they do a local search for massage therapists in their area. By updating your complete profile with all necessary information, it is likely that they will call you for an appointment, because of your professional affiliation.

When starting off, one mistake in marketing that massage therapists tend to make is forgetting that they are at the bottom of the totem pole. As a beginner, you are competing with therapists who have been in the business for years, or even decades. It takes years to become a bonafide "expert" at something, so continue to expand your knowledge base. There are thousands of other massage therapists in your state - find what sets you apart, and develop it to become a true professional.

Promotions and Incentives

For many people, massage therapy is sometimes seen as a luxury, and they might be more enticed to make an appointment if they receive a discount. This kind of marketing by massage therapists is an excellent way to bring in not only clients who are new, but who may be new to massage therapy altogether. Here are some tips for managing a promotional campaign:

  • For first time clients, provide a discount of 10-20% off of their first service.
  • After the massage, let them know that for every new client they refer, they will receive 15% off of their next massage.
  • If you would like, perhaps begin a program where for every five new clients they refer, they receive one free massage.
  • To manage referrals and track marketing, massage therapists often write "Referred by [the client's name] - 15% off" in their appointment books so they can keep track of how many new clients come in based on the recommendation of existing clients.
In this way, you are promoting ongoing rewards for the development of your business, rather than consistently giving discounts and undervaluing your service while remaining stagnant. Your clients will appreciate the fact that they are saving money and being recognized, and your clients will continue to spread the word about your practice.

Focusing on Individual Service

Less obvious than traditional marketing, massage therapists need to always focus on providing top-notch service to their clients in order to generate word of mouth marketing through recommendations. Your clients are not only just paying customers, they are people - people who know when you are only in it for the money, who know when you are distracted, and who also know how to book an appointment elsewhere when they are not receiving the high level of service they expect. Remember - a good recommendation might bring in one or two new clients, but a bad recommendation is guaranteed to drive away potential clients. This is an example of negative marketing for a massage practice.

That said, good massage therapists (beginners and experts) not only focus on short-term objectives, like making clients feel better on that specific day, but they also think of the big picture and work with clients on long-term goals. Think about stretches or exercises you can recommend to help patrons feel more comfortable between appointments. For example, if a client has arthritis, perhaps mention that low-impact exercise such as swimming or yoga can be helpful for joint maintenance and reduction of discomfort. By showing that you truly care and have their long-term health in mind, your clients are more likely to feel comfortable with you and will not only come back time and time again, but also perform the best type of marketing for massage therapists - recommendation by word of mouth.

About the Author

Laurie Craig is a respected health science educator, and was honored with the prestigious Jerome Perlinski American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year award in 2007. In 2009, she founded Georgia Massage School, bringing more than 25 years of varied experience in massage techniques to her students. In addition to the school, she currently serves as a subject matter expert and test item writer for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and has written test items for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Laurie combines her unique teaching skills with a comedic edge that students remember and embrace years after experiencing her classes. For additional information, please visit www.georgiamassageschool.com.

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