There’s a struggle that a lot of massage therapists face when we’re focused on clinical work and “fixing” a client’s pain…how do you build a business based on repeat clientele when they don’t need “fixing” anymore?
So, a client comes in with pain, you work your magic and they leave with little to no pain. Whether that happens in one session or over a year of regular visits, with proper care, most clients will find relief from their ailments in one way or another. But are clinical therapists who build a business based on this format doomed to constantly struggle getting new clients?
The first place I worked when I got my massage license, was a wellness center that had, I came to find out, some questionable business practices. I remember on one occasion at a chair massage event, a client stood up and declared the pain they had sat down with was now gone. I was ecstatic, especially as a new therapist, that I had helped ease someone’s pain. She took a card and promised to make an appointment. When I turned around to clean the chair, my boss scolded me, stating that these events were meant to just be a tease, not to actually help anybody. I remember, sometime later, being scolded again when a paying client declared they were pain free and may not come back again unless their issue flared up. I was floored! I couldn’t believe I was being told to give just a bare minimum massage in order to build a regular clientele. It got me thinking…was my boss right? Should I be more focused on helping every person I could get my hands on, as much as possible, even if that meant they didn’t return OR should I focus solely on getting those paid clients back again and again because this is a job, not just a passion, and I have bills to pay. What I came to realize early in my career is that I could do both. I can help people as much as possible and as efficiently as possible, while still building a solid clientele.
Ethically speaking, we need to help our clients as much as possible (within our scope of practice, of course). That means, yes, “fixing” their issue if possible. But how do you keep them coming back even after their pain is gone so you maintain a steady clientele?
#1: TEACH SELF-AWARENESS
Just because one issue is resolved, doesn’t mean the entire body is now in perfect harmony. There will often be other underlying problems such as poor body mechanics and movement habits that need some re-education. And speaking of educating your client, a big part of that is teaching them self-awareness. What I mean by this, is that many people are simply unaware of how they move their body, what irritates an injury and what makes it better, and they can’t sense when things are, generally speaking, out of whack in their own body.
If you will take the time to teach your clients ways to become focused on their own body, how it moves, and how those movements affect how they feel, they will become more aware when things are even slightly off. This shows them you truly care about their entire well-being and want them to feel better in every way. And if they can feel when their body is starting to show signs of a problem, they will not only be able to help themselves, but are much more likely to seek you out before it becomes a bigger problem. So yes, you will likely lose some clients this way – if they came to you to “fix” a problem, once the problem is “fixed”, they no longer need to see you unless they have another problem come up. BUT, these people are also your best form of marketing, so that leads us to…
#2: HAVE A REFERRAL STRATEGY
When you’ve helped a client solve their pain problem, they’re much more likely to tell people about you. Think about it…if someone has chronic back pain, their family and friends are likely to check in with them about it regularly. When they start to see improvements from your therapy, they’ll tell those friends and family members how much relief they’re getting from their regularly massages. Or if one of their friends starts to complain of a similar pain problem, they’ll probably tell them they should try getting a massage – and they just happen to know a great therapist!
This is just an example of casual conversations that can get you new clients in the door. And while this can be very effective, you need a more clear, strategic plan in order to regularly get referrals. For some therapists this includes offering discounts in exchange for referrals. For others, it simply means giving out cards to every client and asking them to share with their friends, family, physicians, etc. And yet others join a BNI or other business networking group in order to get referrals from local business owners. Whichever way you prefer, come up with a strategy that will help you get those referrals rolling in.
#3: BE CONSISTENT IN YOUR MARKETING
While nothing can replace to importance of word of mouth and referrals, consistent marketing efforts are often still necessary. And when I say consistent, I mean it. This doesn’t mean to just throw out an email here and there when you’re slow. You need to be marketing regularly, whether with weekly or monthly emails and promotions, consistent social media posts, local events, Facebook ads, or whatever marketing works for your business, it needs to be consistent. If you automate these things and make them a part of your regular business practice instead of only when things are slow, you’ll see a regular influx of new clients looking for you to “fix” them. Then each of those is yet another referral source. You may get to the point where you no longer need to consistently market every single day, but during the building phase of your business, it is necessary. In all honesty, after about a year in my practice I completely stopped marketing because I was booked so far in advance. Even though much of my work is clinical in nature, and I had some clients come and go, teaching self-awareness and having a referral strategy kept my schedule full.
So even if you love to solve your clients’ problems and make them feel better, that doesn’t mean you’ll work yourself out of business. It’s all about having a strategy in place to accommodate fluctuations in clientele.
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