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Building Lasting Client Relationships

A thriving practice consists of a strong base of clients who receive your massages regularly, as well as a steady stream of new clients. Unfortunately, many massage therapists become so focused on efforts to attract new clients that they overlook simple ways to enhance client retention. It is easy to understand how this can happen-new clients are vital to growing a business. However, this is only one half of the success formula; retaining existing clients is the other half.

On the average, it costs six times as much money and takes three times the effort getting a new client as keeping one. The good news is that you can easily master the art of retaining valued clients with a minimal investment of time and effort. The trick is that the effort must be consistent to succeed.

Lifetime Value of a Client

Before we look at specific tips for building lasting client relationships, I want to show you how to determine the actual financial worth of your clients. I've found that if you know how much income each person generates, it helps to justify the time and possibly money you invest in building those lasting client relationships-it does take work-and I hope this inspires you to make that effort.

I've always been an advocate of "doing the math." Do you know what your retention rate is? What is the average number of sessions a client books each month? Each year? How long do they stay with you? How much do they spend in products and gift certificates on an annual basis? How often do they refer people to you?

The lifetime value of a client is the total dollar amount your typical client brings into your business. If you're just starting out, these numbers are guesstimates rather than actual figures. The following formula helps you calculate this amount:

  1. Determine how much money your average client will spend during the entire client/practitioner relationship in session fees and product sales.
  2. Calculate the value of client referrals.
  3. Add numbers 1 and 2.

Example

  1. Let's take a very conservative approach and say that your typical client sees you 10 times a year at $60 per session. This client works with you for 4 years and purchases $80 in products each year.
    • Sessions: $60 x 10 x 4 = $2,400
    • Next add the product sales: $80 x 4 = $320
    • The total value: = $2,720
  2. Let's say your average client refers only one new "regular" client every year.
    • 3 x $2,720 = $7,160
  3. Thus, each client has an overall lifetime value of $10,880.

Keep in mind that this isn't the amount of money the one client actually spends, but rather the money that you ultimately receive because of this client-directly and indirectly. You still have to provide the sessions for and sell products to the "referral clients" and receive the income directly from those referrals.

Understanding the lifetime value of a client puts your marketing time and expenditures into perspective. The cost of actions such as the extra time you occasionally give a client, placing confirmation calls, sending greeting cards and newsletters, and offering special promotions, pales next to the potential return on investment.

Imagine how much you can increase the lifetime value if each client were to schedule one more session per year or purchase $20 more on products. You can exponentially increase the lifetime value of a client by creating a referral plan that encourages clients to refer people to you. For instance, if your average client referred two people each year (who become regular clients) then the lifetime value of each client is close to $17,000!

Customer Service Plan

The core of client retention is a solid customer service plan. And at the heart of all topnotch customer service plans is one thing-a consistent, careful and creative effort to build strong relationships with clients. In marketing lingo this is referred to as relationship-based marketing, and it involves truly caring about how you can best serve your client's needs. In essence you become your client's partner in wellness. It isn't about convincing or selling; it's about listening, planning, educating and being proactive. It means going the extra mile to attune to your clients' needs and taking the time to express your appreciation for their business.

Specific Strategies to Improve Retention

In general, the main things needed to improve retention are to maintain a client-centered approach, show that you truly care about your clients, keep your space clean and comfortable, and make your clients feel special.

You must be anticipate what your clients want-and make those services and products available. When you provide what they need before they know it, your clients appreciate your extra attention and think the world of you.

Maintain a Client-Centered Approach

Establishing trust and credibility encourages people to commit to working with you on a regular basis and following through on their wellness goals. The key to developing long-term professional relationships is that you must truly care about how you can best serve your client's needs. In essence you become your client's partner in wellness. It isn't about convincing or selling; it's about listening, planning, educating and anticipating their needs. It means going the extra mile to attune to your clients' needs and taking the time to express your appreciation for their business.

Creating treatment plans is the cornerstone to client retention and compliance. Do thorough intake interviews in which your clients identify their long-term and short-term wellness goals, and then develop a treatment plan together. By doing this you identify their needs, clarify your role, and determine what other services they might need. Your role here is to educate clients on their options, and they chose how to proceed. It's very crucial to list the long-term goals as well as the immediate ones: when they've achieved the desired results of the immediate goals, you are still there to work with them on the next phase of their wellness.

Demonstrate Your Care

The two keys to demonstrating your care are being professional and gracious. This includes your communications, your attire, and the steps you take to go beyond basic customer service.

Greet clients with a smile and a handshake.

Design a Comfortable and Inviting Space

Make your office environment soothing and comfortable. Give clients something to do while waiting for their sessions, such as articles for to read, DVDs to watch, and a retail area to touch, smell and sample the products you have for sale.

Pamper Your Clients

Almost everyone likes to be pampered, regardless of whether your clients see you for rehabilitative work, stress reduction or general health maintenance. Often times it's those other "things" you provide and not necessarily the hands-on work that elevates the experience for clients.

Summary

Building lasting client relationships takes consideration, time, and some money. You must be aware of what clients want and integrate as many of those wants as you can. Keep in mind that customer service techniques are only powerful if your clients are aware of them. You could implement major changes, but if your clients aren't directly informed, they might never notice.

There is one caveat to customer service actions: Never implement a customer service activity that you aren't willing to consistently continue. Once your clients become accustomed to a certain level of treatment, they expect it and are offended if you are remiss. Ultimately the key to building strong relationships is to inspire your clients to move from a space of client satisfaction to one of client enthusiasm. In addition to inspiring clients to work with you on a regular basis, this usually results in "glowing reviews" that naturally translate into word-of-mouth referrals.

Please join me at the FSMTA 2011 Convention where we will further explore ways to elevate you to the next level in running a successful, client-centered practice: delineate the top 10 things that clients really want; explore specific, practical, time-tested strategies to improve client retention; and identify key online methods to keep in contact with clients.

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