I'll be the first to admit that it was extremely difficult to get new clients when first trying to start my massage therapy business. I tried "boosting posts" on Facebook or Instagram, paying Yelp and Thumbtack, paying a company to boost my SEO on Google. It seemed like nothing I did was working! I wasted so much money and time on trying to figure out the best ways to market my business and get more people in the door. It took me about two years to really figure out what works for me, and absolutely none of it was boosting posts. As Taylor from Socially Taylored once said to me, "It's literally the equivalent to lighting your money on fire." (She was right).
I first figured out what worked to get clients to engage in the business while being outside of the business when I put myself in their shoes. They don't want to feel pressured to purchase more upgrades. They don't want to be pressured into buying memberships. The average client just wants to get their massage and be on their way. So how do you as a therapist get them to be a part of your "sales team"?
I found that the best way to get my clients to increase my sales is to offer rewards for referring friends and family to new and reoccurring clients. We offer a referral discount at our spa that gives first-time clients an opportunity to save money on any of the services we offer. We give our clientele 50% off their next appointment if they refer a friend or family member within the first 30 days of their first time booking with us. After the first 30 days, if they refer any new client, they will receive 20% off any service. This has been a huge success since we changed over to our new referral program.
Before the current referral program, we previously offered 20% off for any referral, and 3 referrals gets you a 90 Minute Massage. It's still a great deal, but it just wasn't enticing enough to get people engaged for that first time referral!
I found that with the 50% discount, we received an overwhelming more amount of referrals as opposed to the original discount. With more referrals, and more discounts, we were able to reach a lot more clients. What's the difference? The increased discount and the "limited time offer" is what helps increase the likelihood of your clients going out and spreading the word. The lesson I learned here? Don't skimp on referrals! These people really are your sales team and actually want you to be successful!
Another way to encourage referrals is to offer discounts on Gift Certificates around the holidays when gift-giving is at its peak. I found the best times of the year to offer these promotions are Black Friday, the week before Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day. You could offer a BOGO discount to encourage your clients to buy more. I have found that offering a "buy 1 for your loved one, and 1 for you" promotional discount is a great way to score that new client, while also making sure it benefits your reoccurring clients.
About once or twice a year, we will have a big referral promotion where we offer a free massage if our clients refer someone in a given timeframe. For example, I would send out an email saying if you refer a friend and they book during the month of March, you will receive a complimentary 60 Minute Massage for your efforts to help our business grow. This increases the value of a referral, and your clients will then realize how valuable referrals are to the business, which in turn should increase more referrals in the future.
When trying to get your clients to get out there and market for you, you have to remember that you need to make the reward worth it. From my experience, free upgrades and discounts aren't the only thing that help grow your business. Your clients really do hold more value when they feel that they are valued. Yes, incentivizing referrals is a great way to reach new clients. Gratitude makes it even better. When your clients see how happy you get for sharing your name, that emotional connection will make them feel good! So make sure you also say thank you to everyone who shares your name!
This blog is for the massage therapist who is dedicated to his or her clients, and who has the time to actually manage a business. This is for the massage therapist who is not only dedicated to their clients by treating them, but also plays a very important role in their client's lives. This is for the massage therapist who is confident in the knowledge they (quite literally) bring to the table.
Your willingness to soothe and treat your client's tension or stress is going to be the sole reason why these people come back to you. When they say hard work pays off, believe me. They're right. But don't expect to get there working only 25 hours a week, with two days off. Running a real and successful business takes time. It isn't a job, it's a lifestyle. You need to expect to be managing or thinking about expanding your business 24/7 for the first few years of running your brand new business.
When you are a sole proprietor, you are the number one reason why you can be in the red, or in the black. You are the product. You are the reason why people come back, or the reason they don't. You are literally the face of the company. Being the primary salesperson and service provider, you need to have a positive impact on every single person that walks through your door. How can you achieve this?
First impressions are everything! When a client comes to see you for the first time, they are actually interviewing your company. Your clients are trying to see what your brand is, and they want to make sure that you are someone that they can get along with in the workplace. First impressions aren't just about your character, but the office setting too. You are going to want to make sure you target the 5 senses. The office should look clean and relaxing. You can make it smell great by diffusing relaxing essential oils, or burning candles. Obviously, your massage and the music you choose covers the sense of hearing and touch. But what about taste? Typically, I will put a Lindor truffle on their table before the massage starts, and before the COVID-19 outbreak, we would offer complimentary craft tea.
When I was fresh out of massage school, I made it a point for the first year to get a massage from different places every time at least twice a month. Why did I do this? It gave me more experience in my field, and I was practicing what I preached! I went from having the knowledge that I gained from going to Irene's Myomassology Institute, to learning a ton of new techniques and ways to administer massage in just a few short months. It also showed me a new whole world of "little things" that I can add to my standard massage to make it feel more luxurious and specific to my clients. The hot towels, CBD balms, a little bit of their favorite essential oil in the face cradle, their favorite playlist... you get the picture.
These types of extras don't have a huge overhead cost. You will have more people coming back and referring people just because of these add ons that made the massage go from standard to a whole new level! The massage and what you bring to the table will pretty much market your business for you.
Speaking of marketing, are you spending as much time on your online presence as you should be? Personally, I think that it is an every day commitment! It gives your audience something to look forward to. It also helps with building relationships with your clients while they are between appointments. My favorite ways to reach out to my clientele are Facebook, Instagram, and email marketing!
Facebook and Instagram are amazing ways to show off what your business is made of. Not only that, but it also helps you reach new potential clients way better than any other marketing strategies! You don't want to spend money on Facebook ads in the beginning. Focus on building a Facebook and Instagram page that helps you represent your brand. Post videos, photos, reels, show of products, etc. After a year or so, then you can consider hiring a professional to help you generate ads to get more exposure. My biggest mistake with social media was wasting hundreds of dollars creating Facebook ads. One of the first Facebook ads that I did myself reached maybe 50 people. Once I was a seasoned and busy massage therapist, I hired Taylor from Socially Taylored to help with all of my social media. Now that I have Socially Taylored managing all of my social media, my reach in the first 24 hours of our first Facebook ad was over 24,000 people. Save. Your. Money. Do not do Facebook ads yourself! Most of the time, ads are just for increased exposure anyway, and you will want to focus on retargeting existing clientele first. Taylor is a great mentor when it comes to social media and I highly recommend scheduling a consultation with her!
Email marketing has also been huge for me when it comes to getting my existing clients to book again. It allows me to give my existing clients first grabs at appointment slots, discounted massage, and promotions. I always like to send out a weekly email that shows my availability, and encourages them to book online, or they can contact me directly to get on my books. I always offer text-to-book because not everyone is tech savvy and knows how to book online. They are important and just as deserving of massage too! My recommendation is send out at least one email a week with your open availability. More if you have holiday promotions or discounts going on.
Once I started generating more income, I started looking into other ways to expand my clientele in the South Lyon Area. I highly recommend investing some money every month into WelcomeMat Services. Their philosophy is to target new residents who recently moved to your area. And let me just say, this WORKS!! I pay anywhere from $150-$250 a month to send a complimentary massage to all of the new residents in my area. This gives my business the chance to get their business first before they even have a chance to look anywhere else. When they receive a free massage from me, it already establishes a positive relationship with that client. When they come in, I always ask about where they moved from, and how they like the area. I always invite them back in after their massage. Most of the time, they will say yes. Even if they don't book another massage right away, you will still get referrals from that client when they tell their friends about how amazing their experience was!
"$150-$200 a month??!! AND giving out free massage? I don't want to sell myself short!"
Don't worry, I said the same thing. But let me give you a real life example of something called Client Lifetime Value. I sent out a complimentary massage certificate to, we'll call him Steve. The Complimentary 60 Minute Massage Certificate was sent out and redeemed in September 2019. Since then, this client's lifetime value has increased to $2,230 in a little over a year! Not only that, but this particular client has sent over many referrals, which increases his value even more! That's enough to pay for the service for almost a year.
Another, and more realistic example, is another client we will call Patty. Patty is a little more busy than Steve, but she still comes in every now and then for her massages. Her certificate was redeemed in August 2019 and since then, her Client Lifetime Value has grown to $900. Remember, you are paying to get access to potentially reoccurring clients who haven't found a massage therapist in your area.
To sign up for WelcomeMat Services, it is a 6 month agreement to start, and then you can cancel at any time. But let me tell you, this has helped me get access to people in my area faster than any service I've ever used.
Referrals are always a great way to go when it comes to building more clientele, too. One thing that I have found works for new clients is to offer them 50% off their next massage if they bring someone new in within 30 days. Then I offer that same offer to their referral. After 30 days, it is 20% off. It's been extremely successful, but I don't rely solely on referrals to reach new clients. I feel that there are other ways to see more exponential growth.
These are just the tips and tricks that have worked for me. Not everyone has the best results with these strategies. But what I have listed above has been extremely successful for my business! Good luck!!
Mia Shaughnessy is a licensed massage therapist, professional microbalding artist and CEO of Balance and Composure Massage. She started her first business at the age of 20 and has expanded exponentially since the start of her business. This blog is for those who are interested in starting their own business, those interested in beauty and wellness, or those who are looking to keep up with the latest news at Balance and Composure Massage.