Most new massage therapists don’t have a full schedule and want more clients. Starting a massage business is exciting, but it can also be a frustrating experience when your client list is growing slower than expected, especially if you depend on this income to pay your bills.
When it comes to marketing and trying to find clients, many massage therapists aren’t sure where to begin. In fact, one of the most common questions that therapists have when starting their massage business is:
How do I get massage clients? Massage therapists can get clients and build their business by first creating a marketing strategy and plan. Then it’s a matter of putting that plan into action, measuring your results, improving and refining your plan as needed, and continuing this process until you reach your goals.
I’ve created this comprehensive marketing guide for massage therapists who want to attract and keep the best clients for their business. This information is for you if:
- You are just getting started right out of massage school
- You’re a massage employee but want to start getting your own clients
- You’ve started your massage business but are having trouble getting enough clients
- You haven’t finished massage school yet but want to hit the ground running when you graduate, pass the MBLEx and get your massage license
Every massage therapist will find something useful in this marketing guide. I wrote it mainly for new therapists though, with the following assumptions in mind:
- You want clients so you can create a massage business that makes money to provide all of your financial needs. You’re not doing this as a hobby
- You have a tight budget, and may not have an office yet
What you’ll learn in this massage marketing guide:
- What marketing is and why you need to market your massage business
- How to develop an effective marketing strategy and plan
- How to brand your massage business
- How to clearly identify your target market and niche
- How to promote your massage business
- Why and how to create an amazing client experience
- How to keep clients with a client retention strategy
- How to get more massage referrals
- Common reasons massage therapists have trouble getting clients
- Related questions about massage business, marketing, and getting clients
What is marketing?
Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your product or service. It’s also communicating with people who are already interested about why your massage therapy business offers the best value and is able to solve their problem.
Marketing is what gets your phone to ring. It is what gets the appointment times in your schedule book to fill up.
Marketing is the bridge that connects your services to your future clients.
Many small business owners, including massage therapists, start their business thinking that clients will start lining up as soon as they hang a sign that says “Open For Business”. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.
The reality is that it takes hard, consistent work, for an extended period of time to build a thriving business.
There are many types of marketing that can attract clients for a massage business. Here are just a few:
- Word of mouth marketing
- Relationship marketing
- Print marketing
- Internet marketing
- Email marketing
- Direct marketing
- Social media marketing
There is a difference between marketing and selling. Marketing is a broad concept that includes planning, researching, implementing a marketing strategy, and promoting. Selling is just one component of marketing. It is delivering your services and products to your customers.
Marketing asks the question, “Who is interested in massage therapy?” Selling asks the question, “Would you like a massage?”
Almost every explanation of marketing includes a description of the Four Ps of Marketing. So I’ll outline them here using a massage business as the example.
This is the produce or service that your business provides to the market. For a massage business, this primarily refers to the therapeutic massage service, but it can also include any products that you sell.
When marketing your massage business, it is important to communicate how your product or service stands out from your competitors, and whatever substitute products and services are on the market. These substitutes are your competition.
Competition for massage therapy is not just other massage therapists. Other massage therapists are direct competition and other substitutes are indirect competition. For example, if you are offering massage as pain solution, your customer could instead choose to go to a chiropractor, physical therapist, MD/pharmacist, acupuncturist, or buy an OTC product like a cold pack or Tylenol. These are your indirect competitors.
If you offer relaxation massage, your indirect competition is any alternative that the customer could use to solve their stress problem. This could include: exercise, taking a hot bath, meditation, music, socializing with friends, alcohol or other drugs, vacation, or a hundred other options.
Some of these alternatives are healthier than others, but they are still a viable option to massage that your client may consider. You must show how and why massage is better than these alternatives.
The massage product or service that you offer the entire client experience that you provide, including:
- How easy it is to schedule an appointment
- How the client is greeted
- Any client assessment that you do
- The setting, ambiance, and equipment you use
- The massage itself, and how you address their needs
- How the clients feel when they leave
The second “P” of marketing is how you price your massage therapy services. There are a lot of things to consider when setting your prices. One consideration is how much it costs you to give the massage.
You will have some fixed costs, referred to as overhead. This includes things like office rental, phone, insurance, utilities and equipment. And you will have some variable costs for each massage such as: laundry, oil and supplies.
Competing services will also affect your prices. If everyone in your community is charging $50 per 1 hour massage, it will be hard for you to attract customers if you charge $75 per hour. You can do it, but you will have to communicate to your potential customers why your massage service is more valuable.
Place refers how your service or product is distributed. For a massage business, this could be at your office, your home, or the client’s home if you offer mobile massage. Or it could be at onsite events if you offer corporate chair massage.
Convenience is a big consideration for most massage clients. The customer’s demand for convenience will increase as they have more options. A customer is not likely to drive 30 minutes to see a massage therapist if there are five other massage therapy businesses located less than 10 minutes away.
It is important to consider this when you are marketing your services to prospective clients. For example, if you participate in promotional events or campaigns, stick to those events that are very close to where you offer your services, ideally within 5 miles.
The fourth “P” of marketing is Promotion. This is how you communicate your offer to your prospective customers. Massage business promotion can include activities such as local in-person promoting, or print marketing.
These marketing tactics include participating in promotional events like onsite chair massage. Local direct mail campaigns can also attract clients. If you have an office, you will want an attractive storefront, doorway and sign, even if you are appointment only. These are the first things a new client sees (after your website), and can help or hurt their first impression of your business.
Internet marketing and social media marketing are an important marketing strategy for promoting a massage business. Having a strong online presence will increase the likelihood that your target market finds out about you and contacts you.
Market research is an important component of marketing. This is how businesses find out who wants their products and services, and what products and services they really want. Market research is an ongoing process that should begin before you even start your massage business.
For example, before starting a business at a certain location, an entrepreneur would typically do market research to determine the need (or demand) for their products or services at that location. They would also research the local competition and determine if this location would be ideal based on their target market. This is all to decide if this is the best location to enable success of the business.
Market research continues throughout the life of the business. It can answer questions like, “Are my massage services meeting my target market’s needs?” Or, “Is my pricing fair and competitive?”
Massage businesses can gather market research through:
- Client interviews
- Surveys and comment cards
Why marketing is important for a massage business
Marketing is an essential component of massage business success. Failing to create and implement an effective marketing plan is a common reason why many small businesses fail, including massage therapy practices.
The reality is that people won’t automatically line up to be your client, no matter how awesome of a massage therapist you are.
Marketing is a skill. And like any skill, it’s learnable. This is one of those skills where you will learn by doing. Start with learning a few marketing skills and then go put them into action. See what results you get. Then make some improvements and try to do better the next time. The only way to fail is to give up!
Do the hard work up front. Eventually your business will get traction and reach a tipping point. When you get to this point, you will only need to spend a little time each week marketing because word of mouth and referrals will bring in new clients.
There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened.
To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.Jim Lovell
Massage marketing strategy and plan
Before you go out and promote your massage business, you need to first determine your outcome.
It is important to have a long-term vision of what you want your massage practice to look like in 5 years. Develop clear goals for yourself and your business.
What do you really want?
What are your massage business goals?
You must first establish your massage business goals before you can develop your marketing strategy and plan. Take some time to answer the following questions. It’s best to write this down so you can refer back to it later and see your progress.
- What’s my vision for my massage business?
- What are my priorities?
- How many clients do I want to see per week?
- How much income do I need to make every month?
- How much time per week am I willing to commit to building my massage business? (not client treatment time, but marketing and promoting the business)
- What obstacles or challenges might I face in the next 12 months?
- What trends can I use to grow my business faster?
A marketing strategy is a set of high-level rules you create for yourself, that guide your marketing decisions in order to achieve your business goals with available resources. It includes your decision about your marketing message, timing and method of communication. A comprehensive marketing strategy will help you:
- Identify your target market
- Determine who your ideal customers are
- Clearly define your brand
- Identify your value proposition and make the most of your strengths
- Identify and assess your competition with market research
- Develop your major long-term marketing goals
- Design an effective marketing plan to achieve these marketing goals
Your marketing strategy can change over time. As your massage business grows and you start to build your clientele, you will discover which marketing tactics work best for you, and which you can stop.
A marketing strategy can help you identify your value proposition. This is the promise of value that you will give your clients. It is primary reason that a client should choose your massage business. Your value proposition explains to your target market in an easy-to-understand way, how you can solve their problem and are distinctly better than the alternatives. They are sometimes shortened and used as tagline or slogans.
A value proposition should include the following elements:
- Target market
- Primary benefit
- What makes it unique?
An example of a value proposition for a massage business that focuses on offering sports massage to runners:
Train harder. Recover faster. Then hit the road.
Ok, so that may not be the best written value proposition, but you get the idea. This is the kind of thing that you want to dwell on for a while and write a lot of them until you find one that really nails it. You can learn more about creating a great value proposition here.
Be sure to track and measure what marketing strategies you use. You need to know which strategies worked best for you so that you only repeat the ones that were the most effective.
Your competitive advantage is something that helps you stand out among the competition in a way that interests your target market. It could be that you are the only massage therapist in your community that is also a personal trainer or specialist in lymphedema massage. Or maybe you can offer a more personalized client experience than the local massage chain can.
A marketing plan is how you will achieve your marketing goals. It is the implementation of your marketing strategy.
Build your massage business brand
Another thing to consider is your massage business brand. Your brand is what differentiates you from your competition. A brand is not just your business name or logo. It is the core values that you exhibit through your business. As a massage entrepreneur, you are your brand. Not only who you are now, but who you strive to be.
Your brand is your promise to you clients. All of your client interactions should reflect your brand. Strive for consistency, genuineness and transparency in your brand. This consistency builds trust, which is a key component of building a thriving business.
When building your massage business brand, consider the following:
- What is the personality of your practice?
- How would you describe your style?
- What’s the tone in your communications with your clients?
Why should clients choose you?
Of course your family and friends think you’re special. But why should a client? What is it about what your business that makes you stand out? What makes you different and better than your competition?
Think about it. Most massage chains offer convenient scheduling, low cost, clean and aesthetically appealing treatment rooms, and a consistently good customer experience. Their customers would only switch to your practice if they see that you can offer something better.
You may not like massage chains because they don’t pay the therapists well, or for some other reason. But that isn’t a big enough concern for most customers to affect their decision on where to go.
Write a list of what makes your massage business different and better. Be sure to think about this from the client’s perspective. Then figure out how to communicate these to your prospective clients.
Identify your target market
Before you start marketing your massage practice and trying to get clients, it is important to clearly identify who your clients are. Not everybody is a good client for your business. Narrowing your focus will help you to come up with the most effective marketing tactics to attract your people.
It may seem counterintuitive at first to reduce the number of potential clients that you promote your business to. But it makes perfect sense if you think about it. You can only hit your target after you clearly identify it.
Your target market is the group of potential customers that you focus your marketing efforts towards. This is the people that you want your business to serve. A target market is usually based on a demographic (age, location, occupation, etc.) or psychographic (lifestyles, hobbies, values, etc.).
It could be runners, geriatrics, office workers, factory workers, people in your neighborhood, etc. The more focused it is, the easier it will be to create a brand and marketing tactics that appeal to them. But don’t make your target market so specific that it is too small to support your business.
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.Peter F. Drucker
You should also choose a target market that makes sense. The thing that differentiates them from other groups should be significant and meaningful when it comes to massage.
For example, you may love photography and like being around other photographers and people in the arts. But are their needs really that different from other people when it comes to massage therapy? Probably not. This doesn’t mean you can’t make this work though. But it might be confusing to potential customers as to why you only want to work with this group.
Contrast this to the specific needs that golfers have, or runners, or mothers-to-be. They share specific and common physical demands, stresses and injuries. These groups of clients would benefit from going to a massage therapist who understands their needs and specializes in treating them.
Find out these things about your target market:
- Where do they live? (general area)
- How do they search for a massage therapist?
- What similar activities are they involved in?
- What influences them to choose one massage therapist over another?
Where are your members of your target market already going? I don’t mean what other massage establishment are they going to. But what other business are they going to? What activities are they involved with?
If you are interested in marketing your services to athletes, then they probably go to health food stores or sporting good stores, gyms, etc. They probably compete at local sporting competitions. Volunteering at a race would be a great way to meet some of these potential clients.
What if your target market is new moms? Or how about other small business owners? Think about where these people assemble and how you could promote yourself to them.
It helps if you’re part of your target market. People like people like themselves. It will be easier for you to appeal to a target market of people who are into yoga if you also practice yoga. Plus you will encounter them in your daily activities anyway, as you go to yoga classes or shop for new Lulu Lemon clothes.
You will speak with the same language and share common interests. They will feel understood if you are one of them. They will think “this is my kind of therapist”. If your target market is runners, your clients will know that you understand their pain if you are a runner too.
There is another concept that I want to briefly mention, and that is niche. Sometimes target market and niche are used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Your target market is the group of people you serve. Your niche is the service that you specialize in offering to your target market.
For example, two massage therapists may focus on the target market of geriatrics. One therapist may have the niche of providing a relaxing, stress-relieving massage. Another therapist might specialize in corrective techniques that address age-related problems such as postural changes or recovery after hip or knee replacement. Specializing or “niching down” is a way do differentiate yourself from your competition.
*The target market and niche you decide on will effect your marketing strategy and plan. It could also effect your business name, website domain (URL), and what marketing channels you use.
Do yourself a favor and don’t try to appeal to the client who just wants the cheapest massage out there. These tend to be the clients that always want more and complain the most. They will also leave you when someone else cheaper shows up.
They may refer their friends to you, but those people will also want the cheapest massage in town. When you decide that it is time to raise your rates, these clients will bolt.
Plus, you will be spending many hours every day with your clients. You will be much happier working with clients that you really like. The more you enjoy serving your target market, the better your work will be and the better your testimonials will be too.
So if you love working with athletes, or moms, or weekend warriors, or desk jockeys, or whoever, then include these people in your target market (you can have more than 1 target market).
Having a target market doesn’t mean you should turn away potential clients from outside this group. Just focus your effort on attracting the clients you want most.
Define your ideal client
An ideal client profile is a personification of the qualities of a client in your target market who would most likely value your massage business. These clients would feel like your brand, value proposition, and marketing messages are designed for them. Ideal clients become raving fans and bring repeat business and referrals to your massage business.
What are the characteristics of your ideal client? These could be things like:
- They show up at their appointments on time and never cancel
- They really seem to appreciate the service you provide
- They can afford your service
- They tell their friends, family and coworkers about your business
Once you have an idea about some characteristics of an ideal client for your business, it’s time to create a client persona.
A client persona is a written description of a fictitious ideal client. It is sometimes called an ideal customer avatar. Check out this article to learn more about creating an ideal massage client persona for your massage therapy business.
Pro tip: leave your business name and website URL a little broad so that you don’t box yourself in if you want to expand your target market in the future. For example, If you live in a big city with lots of runners and want to specialize in offering massage therapy for runners, you may want to choose a name and URL for sports or athletes. You may want to add cyclists to your TM later. It is a bad idea to change the name of your practice or website name once it is established. It is easy to change a logo though. You could have a logo of a runner now, then add a cyclist later if you want. Changing your logo won’t confuse your customers or cause you to lose business.
Before you start promoting your practice
Before you rush off to start promoting your massage business, make sure you have the right mindset that ensures success. Your mindset is your attitude or outlook, and it will affect how you interpret and respond to situations.
Mindset is a huge factor of success. There will inevitably be setbacks and challenges. So preparing yourself will help you get through them without having them derail your dream.
A full discussion of the “success mindset” is beyond the scope of this article, but I did want to mention the concept and encourage anyone starting their own business to do some research on the topic.
I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put in the time.Robert Clemens
Questions to ask yourself before starting a massage business:
- Do I believe in myself and my business?
- Am I committed to creating a thriving massage therapy business?
- Am I willing to keep learning and growing as a therapist and as a small business owner?
- Can I learn to be more resourceful, creative and resilient?
- Am I willing to take some risks?
- Can I get over rejection and keep moving forward?
- Can I learn from my mistakes?
- Can I learn from the successes and mistakes of others?
- Can I learn to see setbacks not as failure, but a learning experience?
- Do I have a few supportive friends that will support and encourage me?
- Can I be flexible and adapt to challenges?
- Can I plan ahead?
- Do I have any negatives beliefs that hold me back?
How to promote your massage business
When people ask about how to promote themselves and get clients for their massage practice, what they are really asking about is marketing tactics.
Marketing tactics are the specific actions aimed at promoting a business’ goods or services. These are the practical actions that you take to get new clients, retain clients and encourage referrals. Examples of marketing tactics for a massage therapy business include:
- Send out monthly promotional emails with a new offer that members of your target market would be interested in
- Do onsite chair massage at local businesses that are relevant to your target market
- Give fliers out in your neighborhood to increase awareness, and also have a call-to-action such as offer for an introductory massage
- Speak at a local chamber of commerce meeting, focusing on how other business owners can can benefit from your corporate massage program
- Teach a massage class in the community. Promote this class to members of your target market
- Host a meet and greet event with related local businesses
- Get listed in local directories, both print and online
- Write a weekly or monthly wellness article for your local newspaper or website
- Join local meetup groups where your target market is active
- Use social media marketing and join local networks
- Advertise locally in print, radio, or using local Google paid ads (PPC)
- Build up your profile on LinkedIn or review sites like Yelp!
- Ask for testimonials from your biggest fans, then display these on your website
- Sponsor a local event that people in your target market participate in
- Use Google My Business to attract potential customers searching online
- Optimize your website to show up in local search results, and voice search
- Content marketing using a blog that ranks in local searches and appeals to your target market
- Promote a free service like a consultation or ergonomics assessment
- Partner with another business
- Direct mail marketing
As you can see from this list, all of your marketing tactics should appeal to your target market and align with your marketing plan and strategy.
Promoting your massage business and selling your services takes some practice. When you are just starting your massage business and building your client base from scratch, feel free to try as many marketing tactics as you want. Use a variety of tactics on a small scale to see which ones work best for your business and your target market.
Once you figure out what works, you don’t need to continue using all these different tactics. Pick the 2-5 most effective ones and put all of your marketing energy into those. Focusing on these will make you even better at them.
Need to be able to track and measure how effective each tactic is so that you can improve your approach, or stop doing things that don’t work for your business. One way to do this is to ask each client what brought them in to see you.
Tips for promoting your massage business
Sell to people who already value massage therapy
You can try to convince people who don’t receive massages of the benefits of massage. Or you can market to people who already understand the value of massage. It’s much easier and faster to grow a business when the customer already believes in the value of what you offer.
Understand that clients care about how you make them feel
Generally, clients don’t care what fancy techniques you are using, the theory behind your treatment, or even why a particular treatment might be helping. They just want their problem solved, whether it is to relax, decrease pain, or whatever it may be.
Master you elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a brief and compelling description of what you do or what your business offers. The name comes from the idea that you could give your elevator pitch to someone in the length of time it takes to ride an elevator, and finish before you get to your floor. It’s not a sales pitch. It is just how you would answer the question, “What do you do?”
Learn how to build rapport quickly
Customers don’t necessarily choose the best service provider. They choose the one that they connect with and who they think can solve their problem. Learning how to build rapport quickly will make people more likely to try your massage business.
Focus on making a customer, not a one-time sale
This idea goes back to a concept I mentioned earlier that not everyone is the right customer for your business. It is much easier to focus on attracting clients that you want to keep than it is to work at getting just any client. Without repeat business, the hard work of marketing will never slow down.
Create an amazing client experience
The marketing process doesn’t end once the new client walks in the door. In fact it never ends. But by creating an amazing client experience that earns you repeat business and referrals, your marketing will be much easier.
Listen to the client
Give the client what they want, not what you think they need.
Treat each client like an individual
Even if you only do a quick intake and client assessment, at least ask them about trouble spots and preferred pressure levels. Pay attention to the client’s level of desired conversation. Let them lead any conversation. If they want to just quiet then don’t be a chatterbox.
Keep the conversation on them and not you. Not only do people love talking about themselves and their life, but you will learn more about the client (needs, preferences, problems) i.e. things that you can help you taylor your services to the individual.
Don’t be a diva
Make it easy for clients to work with you. This includes being flexible with scheduling times. Make it easy for clients to find you, make an appointment with you and pay you.
Make each client experience remarkable
That is, make the experience worthy of them remarking about it to their friends.
Optimize the client’s experience for all of their senses
- Touch: comfortable table, soft sheets, warm room, etc.
- Sight: clean and calming room, safe, warm colors
- Smell: clean, candle or essential oil of client’s choice
- Taste: tea or refreshment after the treatment
- Sound: relaxing music of the client’s choice, dampen outside noises
How to get repeat business and earn referrals
When you do start building up your clientele, you need to know how to keep clients and earn referrals. I’ve grouped keeping clients and getting referrals together in this section because you achieve both of these goals the same way.
It’s been said that it is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Also, your probability of selling to an existing customer is much greater than selling to a new customer. So it makes sense that a business owner should work as hard to keep a customer as they do to find a new one.
Pro tip: Market to your best clients first.
Your ability to market and promote yourself can get clients in the door. But to get repeat business and referrals from your massage clients, you’ve got to be the best massage therapist around. This is where your ability to deliver an outstanding massage and client experience really matter.
Your marketing strategy should include your client retention strategy. It is MUCH easier to grow a massage business by encouraging repeat business than it is to continuously have to keep getting new clients.
Getting repeat clients and referrals basically comes down to creating not only a happy customer, but a raving fan. A raving fan is a loyal client who has no interest in taking their business elsewhere, even if the competition offered it for a lower price or has fancy equipment that you don’t have.
One way to create a raving fan is to solve their problem. When I was in massage school I naively asked my instructor, “Once we fix the client’s problem, won’t they leave us because they don’t need us any more?” His response was:
“If you solve someone’s problem, they will not only come back when they need you, but they will tell all their friends about you.”
What a great answer! It seems obvious now, but at the time I had no idea.
Something else my massage instructor said that stuck with me over the years:
I think it’s interesting when people tell me, “I have the best chiropractor, I’ve been going to him for my back pain every month for10 years.” To that I say, “Have you ever thought about getting better?”
This brings me to another point. While massage can be a great component of a health maintenance program, if someone keeps coming to you for the same problem and your treatments are only providing a short-term relief, then you should consider referring the client to someone else.
I may be getting off-topic here a little, but I think referring out when needed shows that you put the client’s interests above your own. It doesn’t mean that you will lose the client, but a different healthcare provider may be able to solve that particular problem. This is also a good way to build relationships with other providers in your community.
4 marketing strategies to get repeat clients
- Create a loyalty program
- Create a treatment series
- Stay “top of mind” with a newsletter
- Remind clients of their progress
If you are working with a client on a specific problem and they are making progress, point it out. Look back over your treatment notes to see where they are now compared to where they started. Maybe their pain level is much lower, they report sleeping better, or their ROM has increased. When improvement happens slowly it can be hard to notice.
Also, you are more likely to get repeat business from clients that are in your target market. Let’s say that your TM is athletes and you design your practice around this. Everything from your brand, the ambiance of your office, your treatment style, etc. If you get a new client that comes in expecting a relaxing spa experience that is usually offered at a luxury day spa and is welcomed by a treatment room with posters of Olympic athletes on the wall, can hear weight plates clanging in the gym, and a faint smell of gym socks, they are not likely to return. Your practice just doesn’t appeal to that person. On the other hand, a weekend warrior who works out at that gym and wants a sports massage may feel right at home getting a massage there.
3 marketing tips to earn more massage referrals
One of the benefits of specializing in a niche and focusing your marketing on a target market is that you are more likely to receive better referrals. Since people tend to associate with people that are similar to them (you know, “birds of a feather flock together”), they are more likely to refer people who are also in your target market.
1. Offer a client experience worthy of a referral
Referrals are something that must be earned. You can do this by creating a remarkable massage experience. That is, one that a client feels compelled to remark about to their friends. People don’t give referrals for an average experience. You’ll never hear someone say, “You should go to Joe the massage therapist, he’s completely average.” Go the extra mile to solve the client’s problem. Be present and attentive.
2. Create a referral campaign
Have an ongoing referral campaign that you display at your front desk or treatment room so that your referral program stays “top of mind”. Think of a risk-free offer that motivates your clients to tell their friends about you. For example, you could offer your current clients a free massage, or 30-minute extension for every new client that they refer to you. Also, make it easy for customers to refer to you.
3. Ask your favorite clients for referrals
Chances are you have already built great rapport with your favorite clients. They are most likely your biggest fans and would be happy to refer people to you. Since people tend to associate with others like themselves, it makes sense to ask these clients for referrals. Plan out who and when you will ask for a referral, and how you can incentivize them and their friends.
Feedback and testimonials
Positive client reviews and testimonials will help your massage business grow faster. They give potential clients confidence that you provide a good service. Massage testimonials also reduce a potential customer’s perceived risk.
Try to collect testimonials whenever you can. If you know that a client is happy with the service you provided, then ask for a review. Make it easy for them by having a system in place. This could be just filling out a comment card, completing a form on your website, or asking them to fill out a review on Yelp. People love to be asked about their opinion.
Sometimes it is hard to see things from and outside perspective. We may think that we are presenting ourselves in a certain way, but the client may have a different opinion about us. Find clients willing to give objective feedback of your practice and the customer experience that you provide.
Get client feedback from clients in your target market whenever possible. Feedback from people outside your target market won’t be as useful because the customer experience (room, approach, communication style) that you have created wasn’t designed to appeal to them.
Feedback from a friend or family member may be helpful, but it won’t be objective. These people sometimes won’t tell us the truth if they think it may hurt our feelings.
Give your clients a way to provide feedback anonymously, so that they won’t feel like they have to be kind to save your feelings. It can be eye-opening to see that the experience we have created isn’t as amazing as we thought. But this is how we make it better!
You may get some new ideas on how to improve your business that never occurred to you.
Collect feedback from your target market about their experiences at other massage businesses too. Ask what stood out to them. What did they like or not like about a particular place. This can inspire ideas about how you can improve your client experience.
Some of these ideas you could implement easily, while others may be more of a challenge. For example, if a client liked the window at another spa that overlooked the ocean, and you live in Colorado, you can’t replicate that.
Wait until you get a lot of feedback before you start making any big changes. Focus on implementing improvements that appeal to the majority of your target market rather than just one client. Also focus on improvements that are the easiest to make, and will bring the highest return on investment (ROI).
You may get ideas like:
- “I loved the big windows at one massage office that let in a lot of natural light.”
- “One spa I went had acoustic panels on the wall which made the room quiet and got rid of the echo. I felt more relaxed in there.”
- “I went to a day spa that offered me some fresh orange slices and let me select what kind of tea after the massage.”
- “I like when they have a shower so I can wash off the oil if I get a mid-day massage and need to go back to work.”
- “One place I used to go would give me a cold eye mask after I flipped over, which felt great after having my face in the face cradle.”
- “My last massage therapist would give me the remote to the stereo, and I could change the music and volume whenever I wanted.”
- I love heated table covers because I get cold during a massage, and I don’t want to ask the therapist to turn up the temperature because I know they get hot. And I like the wool table covers. They are very soft and warm.”
Why massage therapists have difficulty getting new clients
There are many reasons why a massage therapist may have difficulty getting new clients. If you aren’t getting as many new clients as you need, don’t panic. You can improve your success rate by identifying your weaknesses, and stepping up your marketing game.
Client retention is as important, if not more important than bringing in new clients. However, even repeat clients may eventually leave. So you do still need some new massage clients every month. Plus, it can get boring working on all the same clients month after month and year after year.
Here are a few common reasons new massage therapists have difficulty getting new clients, and marketing tips to solve these problems.
1. Not thinking like an entrepreneur
Think like an entrepreneur and treat your massage practice like a business, not a hobby. According to research reports, small business owners work on average 52 hours per week. That number is probably even higher in the early stages of building a business.
It’s no secret that building a thriving business requires hard work for an sustained period of time. But it can be a labor of love if you enjoy it. There’s no reason to expect a massage therapy business to grow with less work than it takes other businesses. You can find links to multiple research reports about small business on the SCORE website.
Massage therapy is a career where you can potentially earn $50,000 – $75,000 per year, with relatively little invested time and money in training. So there must be a catch right? Well there is…
To earn this level of income you must have your own business, have great clinical skills, and great business & marketing skills. This is the income for therapists who treat themselves as a professional. These people continuously work at improving themselves. Clients are attracted to therapists who love their work and are professional.
So commit to learning new marketing and business skills. Work on mastering the most important skills that you need for your business.
Since building a massage business can be challenging and stressful, it is important to also keep a positive mindset and take steps to avoid burnout. Find ways to celebrate each client and each little success.
2. Just waiting for the phone to ring
Some massage therapists wonder why they aren’t getting any clients when they haven’t gone out and promoted their business.
Learn the marketing and selling skills you need to promote your business. You can learn all that you need in a relatively short time. Then go out and put these skills to use. Keep working on improving and refining your marketing skills as you go.
3. Afraid to promote themselves
Massage therapists sometimes have a hard time promoting themselves to potential clients because they are afraid to. Some small business owners think marketing is just a way to manipulate and coerce people into buying things they don’t need. They are afraid of feeling like they are being pushy, or being like the annoying salesperson that they can’t stand.
There are many reasons why someone might be afraid to promote themself. One common reason is a phenomenon called imposter syndrome. This is when people feel like they are a fraud and not good enough. For other people, the fear could come from a traumatic experience in the past, or a fear of rejection. If you have a fear of promoting your massage business, try meditating on this to see what’s holding you back so you can overcome it.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.Susan Jeffers
When you promote your massage services, you’re not trying to convince anyone of anything. You’re not trying to sell snow to an eskimo. Remember: market your service to people who already value massage and are interested in it.
Marketing is just a way of letting your target market know you exist and that you may be able to help them when they need it. Just remember that you are promoting something that you believe in (massage therapy), someone you believe in (yourself), to a person you care about (your future client). The more you promote your business, the better you will get at it, and the easier it will be for you.
4. Not spending enough time face to face with potential clients
As mentioned previously, small business owners spend on average 52 hours per week working on their business. So in the beginning, when you’re not working with a client, you need to be out promoting your business and meeting potential customers.
5. Difficulty building an online presence
While you DO need a website and Internet presence, this is not the best use of your time in the very beginning. Many small business owners spend a lot of time and money building their website, and in the long run it will pay off. But the problem is that it takes time for a new website to move up the ranking in the search engine results.
Build your website in the evenings or off hours. During normal business hours you need to be either working with clients or out promoting your business.
When you’re just starting out, focus on local marketing strategies. The only people who see your website at first are people that you send to it, and your friends.
My suggestion is that once you decide on the name of your massage practice, buy the domain name (URL), get hosting and spend no more than 2 days setting this up. Use a template and keep it simple. You can make it fancy and add all the bells and whistles later.
So, while having a website that ranks on the first page of Google for local searches is a great marketing strategy for long-term success, you need to spend most of your time in the beginning in front of potential clients.
Along with this is spending too much time on social media. Don’t try to use every channel. If you think social media marketing is a good idea for your massage business, then pick one platform to focus on. Avoid spreading yourself too thin.
Choose which social media platform you use based on what your target market uses, not based on which one you like best. For example, if your target market is mainly 20-30 year old females, Pinterest may be a good place to interact with them. However, if you focus on geriatrics, they are more likely to find you on Facebook (or the Yellow pages).
Related questions about massage marketing, business, and getting clients
How do I start working with my own massage clients if I don’t have an office?
Many massage therapists begin their business before they get an office space by providing massage therapy at their home or the client’s home. You also have the option of sharing an office space with other therapists. You could focus your business at first on providing onsite seated massage.
If you’re on a tight budget, start with what you have available. Then build up to something more long-term. Once you have the clientele and the income to justify it, you can get your own space. Waiting to get your own office space makes financial sense, and it will give you more time to find an ideal space that is convenient for your target market, at lease terms that suit you.
Can I just build a website for my massage business on AMTA or ABMP?
I strongly recommend that you have your own website. You can certainly create a profile page on AMTA and ABMP, Facebook, or one of the online booking websites. But those are someone else’s platforms which you have little control over. They can change the rules whenever they want. Plus the web pages on AMTA and ABMP are kind of dated and ugly.
Instead, I would recommend building a website using WordPress.org, get hosting and a theme you like. Keep it simple! There are thousands of free themes to choose from, and shared hosting is very inexpensive. There are plenty of resources online about building a WP website.
A new website will take time to rank on Google, even if you post new content frequently. So even though having a website is important, the fastest way to grow a new massage business and get clients is through in-person, local marketing.
How can I market my massage business when I have to work another job?
I had the same struggles and question starting out. This is especially tough if you have to work long hours at your job. If you have other commitments that require your time such as a job, be prepared for it to take a little longer to build up your massage business. Make sure you have sufficient and consistent income from your massage business before you quit your day job!
Try to arrange your work schedule so that you have at least 1 full weekday to focus exclusively on your massage business. This day will be when you schedule your clients and do any marketing and onsite promotional gigs. Building a business takes commitment and perseverance. Be realistic with your expectations and time frame. Definitely do not take out a loan to start a massage business.
How much should I charge for massage?
There are several different pricing strategies. When figuring out how much you should charge, consider things like:
- Your costs to provide the service
- The value that you give to the customer
- Your competitors’ price prices
- Your local economy and cost of living
- What profit margin you need to make per massage
It may seem kind of ironic, but sometimes people prefer things with a higher price. People tend to associate price and value. If the price is higher, they perceive the value to be greater. For example, would you rather have eye surgery done by a doctor who charges $199 per eye, or by a doctor who charges $1,000 per eye?
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.Warren Buffett
Should I get a separate phone number for my massage business?
You don’t need to, as long as your outgoing message is professional and represents your brand. Be sure to answer every call from unknown numbers as if it were a potential client. If you do want a separate phone number for your business, you can look into a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service provider like Grasshopper, Spoke Phone, RingCentral, 8×8, or Google Voice.
Do I need business cards?
Yes. Some people say that business cards are dead, but they are not. Business cards are cheap. They are fast and simple to use when promoting your business. And they don’t rely on phone compatibility or getting cell phone reception. You can get 500 at Vistaprint starting at around $10. You can get help on Fiverr designing it, or check out Canva to design it yourself for free.
People often forget the name of the person they are talking to, or their business name, before the conversation even ends. And people don’t want to seem rude by asking again what your name is. Forgetting something like someone’s name as soon as you walk through the doorway is a common phenomenon called the doorway effect. A business card will at least let them remember you until they can get home. They may keep your card for months before calling you.
Many people still ask for a business card. It is better to have one to give them than to say, “No but you can go to my website…” and expect them to remember it. A business card adds to the level of credibility and legitimacy of your practice.
Your need for a business card may depend on your target market too. If you market your service to retired golfers, then you definitely should have business cards. These customers are used to using business cards. If you target young techies, they may not care if you have a business card. Then again, if you give this prospective client a physical business card, it may be the only card he has received in the past month. Today more than ever, having a physical business card to give to a prospective client will stand out in this digital world.
How many massage clients do I need?
This depends on several factors, but the number is probably fewer than you think. It depends on these variables:
How much income do you need to make?
If you live a modest lifestyle and are good about living within your means, then you can be successful with fewer clients. If you want to earn more to set aside money or invest for your future, or have other family to support, you will need more clients.
How much do you charge?
How much you can charge depends on how much value your clients receive. What do similar practices in your area charge?
How often do you expect each client to come back?
Can you realistically expect your clientele to be back once per month? Once every 2 months? Twice per year?
How long do you expect to keep each client?
Are you working with clients with neck pain after car accidents and expect that they will quit coming after their pain is gone or insurance stops paying? Or are you working with clients who value massage enough to be willing to pay for it themselves, and include it as part of their long-term health maintenance plan?
(100 clients) x (6 times per year) x ($60) = $36,000/year
(60 clients) x (1 time per month) x ($65) = $46,800/year
(25 clients per week) x ($60 per visit) x (52 weeks per year) = $78,000/year
What are some low cost marketing ideas to build my massage practice?
This marketing guide has focused on low cost low cost marketing strategies. When people are in the early stages of starting a business, then usually have more time and less money. These resources will reverse as your business grows. So when you are just starting to build your massage practice, you need to get out there. Be face to face with potential clients. The more you can meet new potential clients in your target market and get your hands on them (onsite seated massage) the faster your business will grow.
Should I give out free massages to get clients?
Many therapists use this strategy. There is a psychology principle called reciprocity that refers to the human desire to return the favor if a gift was given. This is why some groups will give out flowers at the airport then ask for donations. Or give out a street performance and ask for donations.
The problem with using this strategy for a real business is that it can attract clients who are only looking for free stuff. Also, it can be a big waste of time to offer a free 1-hour massage. This could be a good strategy if used correctly though.
You can use demo massages to build reciprocity and know, like and trust (KLT). And they will decrease the prospective client’s perceived risk. I recommend that you limit these demo massages to 5-10 minutes (per person) seated massages, for a maximum of 1 hour when trying to win a corporate massage gig for example. This will only take about 1 hour of your time and let you connect with 6 or more potential clients.
Does it matter what I name my massage business?
Yes, it does matter, at least from a marketing perspective. Your business name is part of your brand. A good massage business name should have the following characteristics:
- Appeals to your target market, aligns with your brand, and is positive
- Short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember
- Unique. Stands out among other local massage businesses
- Reflects your values
- Won’t get mistaken for another business name
- It isn’t so specific that it limits your growth
- The URL (website domain name) is available
- No dashes or underscore in your business or domain name
- Doesn’t infringe on someone else’s copyright or trademark
- Not offensive or bad words in other languages
Plan on promoting your business by using the full name, not its initials. So if your business name is Boise Massage, don’t promote your business as “BM”. People won’t recognize this and they will likely never refer to your business by the initials. That only works for huge companies like UPS, IMB, and AT&T.
That brings me to another word of caution. Make sure your business initials don’t misrepresent your business. Using the previous example, you wouldn’t want people to associate your business with BM (commonly refers to bowel movement)!
Make sure your massage business name still works if the words are compressed together without spaces, as they will be in your website URL (domain name / address).
For example, there was a pen store named Pen Island. Their business name was inappropriate as a website address. Some other funny business names that failed as a domain name include: Therapist Finder, IT Scrap, Who Represents, Experts Exchange, & Speed of Art.
One more thought on massage business names. There are already too many (IMHO) that use puns like Back _______, or Kneaded _______.
Is offering discounts a good way to get massage clients?
Offering discounts for your massage therapy services can attract more new clients and speed up business growth initially. This is a pricing strategy called penetration pricing. But there are some problems with using this marketing strategy long-term. Here are a few problems that I can think of:
- Discounting your prices attracts clients who just want the cheapest massage in town. These clients may leave you when a cheaper option comes along or if you ever raise your rates.
- It can lead to a price war with your competition. This essentially becomes a race to the bottom, which makes it hard for any therapist in your community to make a living.
- You will have to do more massages and get even more clients to make the same income.
- Working for less than what you think your services are worth could leave you feeling underappreciated.
Instead of discounting your prices to get clients, a better way is to increase the perceived value of your services. Help clients to understand why you offer more value to your massage clients than your competition.