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When you’re just starting your business, or you’re just starting to take it seriously, the money isn’t exactly rolling in yet. You have to find creative and cheap ways to market your business so you can keep the bills paid.

So here’s 12 ways to market your massage practice on a budget…

1)  Hold a grand opening / ribbon cutting

If you’re a new business, a grand opening is a great way to attract clients and get some relatively inexpensive publicity. Even if you’ve been in business for years, if you rebrand, remodel your facility, add some new features and services, or in any way make some big changes to your business, you can hold a ribbon cutting or open house to celebrate. Many local newspapers will even come out to take a picture and will write up a little bit about you and your business. Be prepared to give them the exact info you want your potential clients to see!

2)  Offer to contribute to a local publication or tv channel.

Your local magazines, newspapers, or even television stations are often looking for content. Why not offer to write a piece or appear in a segment detailing something about the industry and your business? For instance, you could offer some self-care tips, a bit on why massage isn’t a luxury, or any other subject you may want to educate the public on. Or let’s say that a local “parlor” has been shut down for prostitution, how about reaching out to the local television station to see if you could share the top things to look for in a legitimate massage practice. Your name and business will be mentioned, and you’ll get the opportunity to stand up for the massage profession.

3)  Free chair massage events

I know some of you are rolling your eyes. A lot of therapists hate doing free chair gigs, and I get it. You’ve got to be particular about where you spend your time – it’s not free after all. However, that doesn’t mean you should swear them all off completely. Instead of just looking at what events you could attend, how about looking at what places you could make into your own event. Maybe you set up at a local school to work on the teachers, or a doctor’s office to work on the nurses. Maybe you call up a local factory and see if you can go in to work on the staff…maybe even offering a certain deal for their employees. Don’t just settle for existing events, find a way to make your own to reach your ideal clients.

4)  Email marketing

Collecting emails doesn’t cost a thing, and email marketing services can be completely free or at least very inexpensive depending on the size of your list. You should have a space for people to leave their email address on every intake form, chair massage signup sheet, any contest entries, etc. While a lot of emphasis is often put on social media, your email list will always be yours. If Facebook shuts down your page or your reach is just pathetically low, you can still have direct contact with your ideal clients by shooting an email out once a week or once a month. It gives you a direct line to keep in touch about upcoming promotions, appointment reminders, newsletters, and anything else you may want to share.

5) Social media

Social media is obviously not going anywhere. Most people spend quite a large amount of their time on social media and it’s important for businesses to be there. However, recent algorithm changes have greatly altered the ability of businesses to reach their desired audiences without paying for ads. I’m a firm believer that regardless of these changes, you can still build a strong following on social media (we stay at a 15%-40% reach instead of the typical 1%-2%) and their ads are one of the best uses of marketing money; but there’s a bit of a learning curve to these, so before you start investing those precious dollars and that oh-so-important time of yours, do some research and learn the best ways to approach it.

6)  Let your clients do the marketing for you

Word of mouth marketing can make or break a business. Those loyal clients of yours want to see you succeed, so don’t be afraid to hand them some cards and ask them to share with their friends. You may even develop a referral program to entice clients to send their loved ones your way. Whatever means you come up with, letting your clients do some of that marketing for you will be one of the most cost-efficient moves you can make in your business.

7)  Learn from the competition

Check out where the other therapists in your town are marketing. What publications do you see them in? What sort of social media posts and ads are they running? What events are they going to? Obviously you shouldn’t be copying them, but doing some research to see what avenues they’re pursuing and what seems to be paying off can cut out some of the trial and error. You may specifically reach out to the most successful therapists in your area (those who don’t need to market much anymore) and ask what they did that worked and what was a waste of time. I freely gave advice to numerous therapists in my area about which events to avoid and who to contact for the great ones.

8)  Collect reviews and testimonials

Word of mouth isn’t just about your clients directly referring someone to you, but also about giving a great review or testimonial that may entice a total stranger to come to you. Ask all of your clients to write reviews on your social media pages, on Google, Yelp, or any other online avenue you might feature your business on. You can take screenshots or make the quotes into graphics to feature on your website and in marketing emails as well.

9)  Team up with other businesses

Take some time to learn all you can about some of your local businesses, specifically those that cater to the same audience you are trying to target. How are they reaching them, and can you partner up with them in some way so both of your businesses benefit? Let’s say that you team up with a local gym because your ideal clients are athletes, or at least those who regularly workout. What if you agreed to give their members a slight discount or come in once a month to work on their members for free, in exchange for some promotional space inside their gym or in all their marketing? They get the benefit of offering something special for members and you get a very specific audience who sees and hears of your brand regularly.

10)  Scatter your marketing materials around

Along with partnering up with other businesses, you may be able to simply leave your marketing materials (brochures, business cards, etc.) around at a variety of places. You may ask to leave your information for guests at the local hotel or bed & breakfast, coffee shop, doctors’ offices, herb/supplement shops, etc. The cost of designing and printing materials may be a significant upfront cost, but if designed well and placed strategically, they can offer a great return on your investment.

11)  Find support groups

Support groups come in all shapes and sizes and for all kinds of conditions; grief and loss, fibromyalgia, cancer, and any number of other reasons people may seek out companionship regarding a specific problem. These groups are often looking for speakers and presenters to offer some insights that may help their participants. This gives you a great platform to educate them on the benefits of massage, specific to the problem they’re struggling with, and answer any questions or objections they may have.

12)  Get an independent website

I cannot overstate the importance of an independent, professional website. What do I mean by independent…something like “yourdomain.com” and NOT “yourdomain.massagetherapy.com” or “yourdomain.wix.com”. I know these places offer free websites and that’s great, but they also have a lot of problems; including a lack of customization, pre-written content that’s on thousands of other sites (which hurts your SEO), and generally isn’t as professional, nor easy to remember. A good, independent website is not as expensive as many people think; maybe $150/year depending on hosting and security plans. Plus, you can design one yourself pretty easily. A little bit of time learning how, and you’ll be set to make a great website! Then register it with the big search engines and you’re good to go. While there’s a lot that goes into a fantastic website, just getting an independent one with at least your basic information, and registering it with search engines will give you an avenue of constant marketing without the constant effort.

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