You just graduated from massage school, and you’re faced with this inevitable question: How do I grow my new practice? To get your business off the ground, you need to find new clients and get them to remain your clients. You might feel overwhelmed by this new phase of your life, but don’t worry. All massage therapists started somewhere. Stay focused on your goals, promote your business and remember why you wanted to be a massage therapist in the first place. You’ll be where you want to be in no time.
Make sure your word-of-mouth marketing is phenomenal
While you are in school, practice honing your craft and delivering massages that people will rave about—even when it comes time to paying full price. This kind of excellent customer service requires superior listening skills. Active listening helps you deliver the type of massage your client requests, which will show that the client's needs are important to you.
Before your client arrives, glance over recent SOAP notes. Ask him about his previous massage to see what went well and what didn’t. Actively correct what didn’t go well in the client’s previous session, if that pertains to you. Outside of the SOAP note document, make note of previous topics you both discussed, such as recent job changes or that the client's son’s team made it to playoffs. The next time he comes in, ask him about that new job or how his son did in the playoffs. Even though it sounds small, this consideration goes a long way and shows you care about your clients. They will be more likely to tell others about you because you’ve shown that you care.
Know your brand—and promote it
Students usually start stressing when you throw around words like brand and demographics. These words don’t have to be stressful. During your time as a student, you should be getting a better idea of the type of massage you want to provide. Think about the person who would want to receive this massage. Now, come up with some words to describe the services you provide and your personality as a massage therapist. Just with these few questions, you are already forming your brand and demographics!
With these two major aspects in mind, create marketing materials that reflect who you are as a therapist. Now get out there and promote yourself. Wear your branded T-shirt when you are shopping. Pass out business cards and brochures to other businesses in the area. Give clients extra cards to share. Create a referral incentive program.
The best way to make your business visible by the locals is by participating in local events. Passing out cards and brochures, talking to potential clients and attending health fairs and community events increases your word of mouth and brings in new clientele.
Have a professional web presence
You need to have at least a minimal web presence so people can find you. Think about it: If you wanted to find a therapist for your mother’s birthday massage, are you going to drive around and search out spas and therapists? No, you’ll probably look up massage therapists in the area on Yelp or Google. In the early stages of growing your clientele, at least for many of us, dropping a wad of cash on web design and a high-priced booking system is not possible. But at some point you also must consider the time saved and convenience for your clients to book when they think about it—even at 1 a.m.
To start, free social media sites make it possible to have a small voice on the internet and allow your client to connect with you. Social media is pretty much mandatory now days, and it is also free marketing. Just make sure you set up your business social media page separate from your personal social media page, and keep it professional. When you start to grow and have income coming in, consider launching a web site.
An online booking system will be extremely helpful for you and your clients—but why not do it all? For about $25 a month, you can get a booking system, website and link it all to social media. Even the less-expensive software options include a personal website, schedule page, online booking with credit card payment functionality, client intake forms, SOAP notes, reminder text for clients, and statistics pages that monitor growth and keep up with sales numbers. The ease and convenience for you, your clients and potential clients to do business with you will make you glad you invested in this type of product.
Samantha Yancey, L.M.T., has practiced massage therapy since 2003 and has worked in a broad range of environments, from therapist to manager. Most notably, she has instructed at Atlanta School of Massage (atlantaschoolofmassage.com) since 2006, teaching business and marketing, oncology massage, aromatherapy, spa therapies, and anatomy and physiology. Her latest venture is co-hosting the podcast “Ask a Massage Couple” with her husband, Alan Yancey.