Every repeat customer we have was once a new client. Booking return clients requires less time, money, and energy than acquiring new ones. Therefore, the more clients we retain, the fewer new clients we need to attract. This increases our income and makes it more stable.

Clear communication before a new client’s massage makes them feel confident about choosing us. Asking the right questions during their massage ensures their experience meets their needs. Once their first massage with us is complete, we have the chance to promote an ongoing relationship. It’s these relationships that forge a sustainable practice.

JUST KEEP ASKING

For years, my fear of turning new clients off with a sales pitch kept me from engaging in conversations designed to get them to rebook. What I’ve learned is that clients don’t know their options unless we tell them. The way we tell them determines how that message is perceived. Instead of preaching, we can ask questions that lead them to their own conclusions. This eliminates the hard sell and invites them to decide what fits their situation best.

Be warned that asking questions won’t save you from rejection. That’s why so many of us avoid having these conversations. Reality check: putting yourself out there means you’ll be rejected sometimes. Growing a thicker skin takes time, and the apprehension may never dissolve completely. Successful business owners do what they have to despite the immediate discomfort to make gains in the long run.

The more I’ve done this, the more rebookings I’ve gotten and the happier I’ve been with my practice. Now it’s a normal part of every new client visit, just like collecting their payment. Rationalizing that clients make choices that serve them rather than intentionally trying to hurt me has helped depersonalize these interactions.

ASK WHAT THEY LOVED OR WOULD HAVE PREFERRED

Most of us ask clients how they feel after their massage. It’s pretty hard to feel bad after a massage, so this feedback tends to build us up. But over time we may wonder why we aren’t busier if our work is so great. Simply asking what they really liked and what they wish had been different opens dialogue we can use to further customize repeat visits. It’s easy to incorporate and yields some surprising insights.

GIVE OPTIONS FOR REBOOKING

There’s so much emphasis on building a practice with customers who visit predictably because it’s a proven strategy for making more money. These clients benefit from receiving regular massage with less daily tension and pain, and we benefit from revenue we can count on. This isn’t to say that those clients who book less frequently aren’t valuable, but let’s face it: they aren’t the ones paying our bills month in and month out.

No one likes being pigeon-holed. That’s what slick, slimy salespeople do. We help people solve problems, sometimes in ways that change their lives dramatically. Asking if they’d like to book another appointment while they’re there or if they need to check their schedule gives them an out. It also prevents late-notice cancellations and no-shows because clients aren’t booking just to appease us. We’re informing those who want our services again without creating undue discomfort for those who don’t (or can’t commit at that time).

MAKE IT EASY TO COME BACK

Having a loyalty discount or other incentive for frequent visits gets more clients to book standing appointments. You’ll earn more overall from charging the clients who visit the most a little less. Plus, it makes those clients feel appreciated.

Packages and memberships are popular, and you can structure them however it serves the needs of your business. Personally, I prefer a pay-as-you-go system so I get paid each session rather than in large chunks all at once. If you’re not sure what suits your practice best, experiment with monthly specials until you hit on one that your clients love and keeps your finances healthy. Then turn it into a permanent alternative.

Having massages scheduled at specific intervals in advance is a convenience for many clients, so offer it to those who’ve been in at least once a month for three visits (if they aren’t already scheduled that way). Doing so will guarantee they won’t have to worry about getting on your schedule. Consistent treatment will give them better results while making your income more predictable.

REMEMBER TO FOLLOW UP

Checking in with new clients a few days after their massage sets you apart. I’ve found that waiting for any post-massage soreness or other reactions to resolve gives me a better idea of how they responded than following up the next day (I put a reminder in my phone while I’m doing their treatment notes). I’ve also discovered that I get more replies to texts than emails or voicemails. I tell new clients that I’ll be following up in a few days, and encourage them to reach out should they have any questions or concerns before then. If you plan on doing continuing email or text message marketing to them, be sure to get their permission.

The follow up message is simple. I identify myself, thank them for coming in, and ask how they’ve been feeling since their massage. The majority of clients reply, allowing me to collect further feedback and add to their treatment notes if necessary. It’s also an opportunity to remind them about my incentive program if they haven’t made a second appointment yet.

Building a successful practice will look different to everyone, but good communication is essential regardless of your business model. The most important piece is finding language that feels good to you so you’ll use it with everybody. Develop an uncomplicated script from the ideas presented in this series of posts and tweak it until you’re satisfied. Making the effort to continually evaluate and improve these skills doesn’t cost anything and will reap incredible rewards.


Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999 and is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System™. Her mission is to heal the world by inspiring independent massage therapists to build thriving practices of their own so they can work authentically for as long as they desire. She currently provides ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage exclusively in her private practice. You can learn more about Cath and her journey at bookedandbusy.com.