Developing an innovative marketing plan is crucial to long-term success. Marketing is simply sharing yourself in such a way that people learn who you are and what you do, so they can make an informed choice about using your services and buying your products.
Marketing is an extension of who you are. Everything you do makes a statement about how you feel about yourself, your clients, and your practice. 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.
Ultimately, marketing is all about taking the right actions to attract potential clients and retain current ones. It involves identifying your target markets, developing a marketing plan, and putting those goals into action.
Marketing has greatly evolved in the last several years. What worked in the past might not be as effective now. Consumers are much more savvy and want to be reached through creative and personal marketing methods. A lot of competition exists for where people spend their money on health and wellness, so your marketing methods need to identify what makes you unique to other practitioners in your specific field, as well as what sets your work apart from other wellness choices.
The whole concept of target marketing may seem very scary at first. On the surface, specialization appears to limit the pool of potential clients. Many practitioners fear that by defining a market they will lose business, or choose the wrong one. An additional concern is that other practitioners will absorb the potential business outside of the target market.
However, in most instances, narrowing your field increases your overall number of clients. Target marketing is analogous to archery: The goal is to get your arrow as close to the center as possible. The outer rings are bigger and easier to hit, but the high score comes from hitting the center. The same goes for attracting clients: you can appeal to the general masses - the outer rings; but, it takes more money and time - multiple arrows - to get the same return on your marketing investment than it would be focusing on a target market, or hitting the bull’s-eye with one arrow.
The number of target markets you have depends mainly upon the size of your practice and the scope of your knowledge. Some target markets are more productive than others. Most successful practitioners have one or two major markets and a couple of minor target markets. Working with several markets helps to avoid the potential disaster of selecting an unsuitable one.
There are many benefits of not being restricted to only one type of clientele; in particular, your skills become well-rounded by experiencing a variety of people with their own unique issues. Plus, not being restricted to just one type of clientele allows you to balance altruistic goals and financial needs. For instance, one of your passions might be working with a specific market that doesn’t normally have the funds to pay for your services. If you have another target market that covers your bills, you could work with the former population for free or on a sliding scale.
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. Unfortunately, no one-size-fits-all marketing formula works. The marketing venues you choose are best determined by your target markets. The trick to marketing success is to determine what’s most important to your potential clients and communicate how you can meet their needs and goals.
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. Keep in mind that 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 than that to expand it. If you’re just starting out, you may need to increase marketing to more than 50 percent of your time.
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 benefit them.
Promotion involves the activities and materials you produce to gain visibility. The money invested is indirect; for instance, while it does cost money to print business cards; it costs nothing to distribute them. Oftentimes, promotional activities are free of cost. Some of these include networking; generating word-of-mouth referrals; holding open houses; public speaking, which can be anything ranging from a 15-minute talk for a local business group to presenting workshops and giving demonstrations; writing articles for local newspapers, magazines, and newsletters; sending newsletters and email blasts; and being active in social media.
Talk with everyone- family, friends, neighbors, and people in line at the grocery store, movies, and Department of Motor Vehicles - about your profession. Share your enthusiasm for your work and the results it produces. Excitement is contagious!
Publicity involves building media awareness about you or your business, often in connection with a special event or milestone. 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. Some examples of publicity are news releases, announcements, feature stories, interviews, and press conferences.
Advertising differs from publicity and promotions in that you must pay directly for your exposure. Some forms of advertising include: display ads in publications; radio and television commercials; classified ads; billboards; phone books; Internet ads; and bus-stop benches. Mass media advertising has typically been avoided by massage practitioners, mainly due to the impersonal nature and the relatively high cost.
Community relations are goodwill activities that create a positive public image for you and your business. Community relations increase your visibility and enhance your image, but only if it’s clear you’re doing the activities to serve the community and not just to build your business. You can cultivate these relations by: devoting your time and services to a charity or community organization; assembling a disaster relief team; giving presentations in public schools; sponsoring an activity such as for a special cause; developing a newsworthy persona outside of being a wellness provider; hosting your own radio show or public access cable show; giving free demonstrations; sponsoring a public interest program; and becoming a spokesperson for your profession.
The two fundamental items needed to start out are business cards and a telephone. These may be the only tools you need if you want to work part time or reside in a community where you’re the only practitioner of your kind. Most practitioners need more than that.
Building a practice requires consistent marketing, business acumen, perseverance and optimism. Many practitioners give up too soon because they don’t receive enough positive feedback and rewards don’t come as quickly as desired. While exceptions do exist, it takes most people two to three years to build a thriving practice.
Keep in mind that relationship marketing is the focus for massage therapists. 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. Get interviewed by the media. Post your business cards and brochures wherever your target markets are likely to see them. Maintain an active social media presence.
Marketing your practice can oftentimes appear overwhelming and arduous, yet no rule says you can’t have fun while promoting your business. One idea is to join marketing campaigns with other therapists or other people and companies who have the same target markets. This particularly holds true for public speaking. I find it much more enjoyable and less scary to have a co-presenter—plus, you double you odds of the audience members connecting with at least one of you. Another option for having fun with your marketing is to choose activities that match your personal interests and hobbies.
When incorporating creative approaches to building your clientele, 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, it’s vital that your marketing plan include informal ways for people to get to know you and your work.