It’s a common question I see floated around; something to the effect of “A client…
You can’t build a business on one-off massage clients. It just doesn’t work. I mean, even tourist areas rely on some local and repeat clientele. And if you’re not in a heavily touristy area, you have to get at least a portion of your clients who come back over and over again, who have standing appointments every week or every month; who refuse to give up that appointment spot because they value what you do; who will cut their own hair when times get tough so they can still afford to get their massages. But how do you build that kind of loyalty? How do you convince a client to continue to come in repeatedly?
What works and what doesn’t work to build client loyalty varies so much from business to business and person to person; however, there are some core concepts to integrate into your daily practice that will ensure you’re developing that relationship with your clients.
#1: Make sure you’re speaking to your ideal client
I’ve talked and written about this countless times, but it can’t be overstated. Define your ideal client and make sure that each piece of advertising and each piece of the experience you offer is geared specifically to them. If the majority of your clients fit that ideal for you, then it’s much easier to create an experience that resonates with them and will keep them coming back.
#2: Understand your own skill-set and limitations
We can’t fix everything. But many therapists get into this mindset of massage as the be-all-end-all of healthcare and “fixing” a client’s pain. It is far more honorable to tell a client you don’t know what’s wrong with them or you aren’t qualified to help with their issue, and then send them to another professional who can help them, than to just milk them for all the money they’ll throw at you in a vain attempt to “massage out” an issue that needs much more. People value the integrity of a professional who is willing to admit they don’t have all the answers. I’ve sent plenty of clients to doctors and other healthcare providers when I knew I was in over my head, they need further testing, or possibly had something going on that massage wasn’t going to do a thing for. Some of those people never came back, but many did; and a few have even stated over the years how much they appreciated that I was more concerned with their well-being than I was their money.
#3: Educate them on the real value of what you do
It may seem obvious, but are you really doing this? How body-aware are your clients? When you consistently bring to their attention the benefits they’re experiencing, you’re subtly reminding them of your value; that what you’re doing is helping them. The more you can educate your clients on becoming body-aware, and improve their perception of what’s going on with their own body, the more they will see the signs of what you’re doing, as well as notice when they need to see you again. It’s not just about making statements and bringing to mind how great they feel right after their massage, but being specific with their improvements in their day-to-day lives. Do they have an improvement in range of motion? Can they stand up straighter? Are they able to sit at their desk for longer hours without pain now? Can they reach the upper shelves in their kitchen without pain? Quantify your results in their daily lives and make sure that not only are they aware of it when you ask, but that they regularly acknowledge these things throughout their day.
#4: Make it personal
Despite what some ethics teachers may make it out to be, you don’t want to be a professional robot. We want to get a little personal with our clients; obviously not crossing any ethical lines, but doing this is beneficial to the entire therapeutic relationship. Show interest in their lives and what they enjoy. Keep up with any special occasions they may have coming up like an anniversary or a child’s wedding, or anything of that sort. Send hand written thank you notes and birthday cards. Remember something important that’s coming up in their life and ask them about it the next time they come in. Remember things they’ve told you they enjoy and surprise them.
For instance, one of my clients, early in our therapeutic relationship, told me how much he and his wife loved some chocolate covered grapes that he got from a little shop in Lexington, KY the last time he was there. It was months later, but the next time my husband and I went to Lexington, I brought back a box of those chocolate covered grapes for my client. He was thrilled! Most people perceive a deeper level of caring when they know you’ve paid attention to the little things they say, so listen carefully, take notes about those things, and let them know you care. It goes a long way in building a solid relationship with your clients.
#5: Share new info
Anytime you read a new article about something that would pertain to your clients, send it to them in an email or text them the link. If you do regular newsletters with this sort of thing in it, you may send an extra personal email to one or two clients to whom that article is especially relatable. Or if you have a new client come in with a specific pain or maybe a newly diagnosed condition, take a few minutes to do some research later that evening and send them an article with some tips on self-care or a new study pertaining to it. This shows your clients how important their health and well-being is to you; that you will take the time to do research specifically for them and consider their care even long after their session is over.
#6: Follow up
Always, always, always follow up with clients. Whether it’s an email, phone call, or a handwritten thank you note in the mail, follow up after their session to make sure they’re still feeling great. This does a couple things to contribute to that loyalty: First, it makes them pause and check in with their body (developing that body awareness) and secondly, it shows you care (making it personal).
#7: Make it about them
Everything you do before, during, and after a session needs to be focused on your client and his/her needs. It’s not about you, your life, or whatever stress you’re under. Some clients will of course ask how you’re doing, but for the most part, keep your responses simple and light and try to bring it back to them. All conversation needs to be focused on them, even if that means no conversation at all. You always let your client lead the way.
#8: Empower them to take care of themselves
Remember, massage isn’t a cure-all and there’s a lot of self-care that needs to be done to rehabilitate an injury or to just stay loose and feeling good. When you make your clients more body aware, share new info with them, and give them ways to take care of themselves, it just reiterates to them that your primary focus is their well-being and it ensures they’re taking an active role in their own health.
#9: Show your appreciation
Find a way to show your clients how much you appreciate their business and their loyalty. Christmas gifts, a free birthday massage, legacy pricing, things like that. Whatever is appropriate for your business, find a way to show them just how much they’re appreciated.
#10: When you screw up, own up to it and make it right
One of the hardest things for anyone to do is to own up to a mistake and make it right, but it’s also one of the most admirable. Let’s say you accidentally cut a client short on time; maybe you forgot they had booked a 90 minute and wrapped up at an hour. Admit your mistake and offer a free upgrade to 90 minutes the next time. We’re all human and any good client will understand that mistakes can be made. As long as you’re mature enough to own up to it and do what’s right by your client, all will be forgiven and they’ll only gain more respect for you.
Client loyalty is often made out to be some crazy difficult thing to build, but when you take these simple concepts and apply them into your day-to-day practice, you’ll build that client loyalty without a lot of stress, because it’s just a natural process of the professional relationship.