Articles and Publications
Marketing your business takes time and creativity. Everything you do makes a statement about how you feel about yourself, your clients and your practice. Thus, you're always marketing yourself—for better or worse. Marketing isn't just about the outward activities you do, such as advertising and promotions; it also involves the way you relate to your clients, your ethics and your professional demeanor. To attract the right clients and grow your business, your outward image must be consistent with your vision of a successful massage therapist.
Marketing is all about taking the right actions to attract potential clients and retain current ones. Basically, marketing involves identifying your target markets, developing a marketing plan, and putting those goals into action.
Successful practitioners include a good mix of promotion, advertising, publicity and community relations in their marketing plans. The more creative and natural your marketing techniques, the more successful they are, mainly because you enjoy doing them. No rule says that you can't have fun while promoting your business!
Marketing a massage practice is based on education and relationships. In general, people prefer to receive massage from someone they know. The second best option is working with a practitioner who has been highly recommended from a friend or family member.
Most clients have a natural inclination to share their experiences with family, friends and colleagues, yet they can be reluctant to be forthcoming about their wellness care. Unfortunately, satisfied clients don't necessarily talk about you—at least not usually enough to fill your appointment book with new clients. It's interesting how most people eagerly share with everyone about a great movie they just saw or a cool product they just bought (even better if it was on sale), yet they aren't as effusive about their healthcare services such as massage. Actually, people are more likely to talk about your business when they're unhappy. However, there are many things you can do to encourage positive word-of-mouth referrals and market your practice.
Make emotional connections with people. Do whatever you can to increase your visibility in your community. Attend networking meetings, take classes, write articles, hold open houses, deliver talks and give demonstrations. Wear logo clothing with your profession or slogan emblazoned on it. Always carry your business cards with you. Volunteer in your community and get interviewed by the media. Post your business cards and brochures wherever your target markets are likely to see them.
Establishing credibility is essential to the long-term success of your practice and is the foundation of any successful marketing venture. People need to feel that they can trust you and your expertise to assist them in reaching their wellness goals.
Your level of professionalism plays a major role in the status of your credibility. Your actions must echo your words. Don't make promises, either verbally or in printed materials, that you cannot fulfill. Don't make claims that you cannot substantiate. It is better to be conservative in your offerings and exceed them, than to make grandiose proclamations and fall short (think politicians). This credibility helps build trust, which in turn encourages clients to continue working with you and taking an active role in their wellness.
Nothing enhances your overall credibility like good publicity! Publicity lends an air of credibility to a business that advertising cannot. People are more likely to utilize your services if they read an article about you, listen to an interview with you on the radio or watch you on television than if they see an advertisement about your business. When a respected journalist or reporter makes a positive statement about you, it has much greater impact than if you said the same thing about yourself.
Branding Your Image
A brand is a "unique sum of impressions" that can be your business' greatest asset. It is derived from what your clients and the public think and believe about your business. In a marketplace crowded with talented massage therapists and discerning consumers, practitioners that develop a strong brand image have a competitive advantage. Such a brand image is rooted in clarity of purpose—as defined in your mission statement—and is reflected in consistent and concise messages that convey who you are and what you promise to deliver to clients. These messages continually broadcast to your clients what's important to you and what you value. These messages take many shapes, such as marketing programs, promotional materials, logos, business cards, everyday interactions with clients and your office environment.
For example, Wheaties is known as The Breakfast of Champions.™ They back up their position statement (and reinforce their image) by putting pictures of Olympic athletes (even Olympians) on the front of their cereal boxes.
What does a strong brand mean in practical terms? For massage therapists it most often translates into loyal clients and a steady stream of new clients. Whether clients find you through word-of-mouth, newspaper interviews, promotions, or the Internet, your brand is like a trusted friend that creates an emotional connection with clients. In short, a strong brand attracts those who will bond with you and appreciate what you have to offer.
Many claim that massage is a word-of-mouth industry; ironically few know how to foster referrals. They think that offering an excellent service at a fair price is enough. Most practitioners rely on the natural word-of-mouth that results from doing good work, genuinely caring about clients and having a solid reputation. You can increase referrals by incorporating excellent customer service activities. Still, unless you have a strong network of supporters, this approach could take a long time. While you cannot control how and when you get referrals, there are many ways to generate a positive buzz about your practice.
You can incorporate creative approaches to building your clientele. You don't have to be a genius to develop a sound marketing plan, you don't have to go the traditional route, and it isn't necessary to spend a lot of money (although it's so easy to do). Marketing plans are internal planning documents: they keep you focused and assist you in choosing the most effective ways to build and maintain a thriving practice. Marketing plans answer the following questions: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How can you meet prospective clients? How can you determine their needs and wants? How can you convey or demonstrate your ability to assist clients in reaching their wellness goals?
An old saying which states, "If you don't know where you're going, what matters the path?" applies to any type of planning—and particularly to marketing.
The Four Steps to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan
- Determine your differential advantage (brand, position).
- Identify specific target markets.
- Assess your competition.
- Create a strategic plan of action.
Keep in mind that the most effective means of marketing massage is through a personal approach. Given that the majority of people become your clients out of an experience with you or someone who knows you, it's vital that your marketing plan include informal ways for people to get to know you and your work.
The crucial factor for selecting a marketing venue is: Does it appeal to your target market? Many years ago I heard a speaker talk about the need to learn how to broadcast on station WIIFM (What's In It For Me?). This is particularly true in marketing. Your marketing endeavors need to convey to the recipients exactly how your company is going to help them.
The Shift to Innovation
The key to innovation is to look at what you've done (or are considering doing) and then ask yourself:
- Is this the most effective method? (If so, you might want to let it be.)
- How could you produce better results?
- Is there another approach that could be used? If so, and you haven't seen it used, then research it. Perhaps it's not cost-effective and then again, perhaps nobody thought of it?
- Are there marketing ideas from other industries that could be used for massage? For instance, in addition to selling regular gift certificates, sell Massage Gift Cards that are charged.
- Are you utilizing appropriate technology? Update your website, be active in online groups where your target markets are members, utilize social media, offer online scheduling, do email marketing and follow-up.
There's a great quote from William Pollard, "Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."
Develop a marketing plan that is a natural extension of who you are. Evaluate your plan regularly and include innovative approaches. Don't always rely on previously used methods (even if they seemed to work), especially if you're approaching the same target group. People like and respond to variety. They tire of seeing or hearing the same thing over and over again.
The other reason for altering your marketing modes is to reach potential clients who may have been uninspired by your earlier endeavors. Use an assortment of approaches in an ongoing, consistent manner. Marketing never ends; it's an integral component of your business. Plan on investing at least 15 percent of your time in marketing to maintain your practice and more to expand it. If you're just starting out, you may need to increase it to more than 50 percent.