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The 4 Keys to Long-Game Marketing

While I fully understand the need to get clients in the door quickly, get money flowing into your business so you can, you know, pay the bills, there is a long-game in marketing that is so often frowned upon, but it’s also something I think is really important. The quick fixes get the most attention; the get so many clients in so many days sort of approach that isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but if that’s all you’re doing for your marketing, there’s a big problem. Because your marketing needs to be made up of a good balance of those short-term fixes and the long game of real strategy. It can’t be just one or the other, jumping from one marketing trend to another, or trying those Groupon type quick client boosts over and over and over again. The long-game of marketing far outweighs the short-game. And here’s my 4 tips on how this works.

We’re inundated with claims of this program or that program getting you some huge boost in clientele really quickly and I totally get the need to get an influx of clients. You got bills to pay, you have to keep your doors open, and sometimes you’re just desperate. I get that. But in the big picture of your business, when it comes to marketing, it is a long-game. Those quick fixes give you a boost but those boosts do not last, and without a long-game strategy, it’s really unlikely you’re going to turn those quick boosts into a solid and steady client stream. So here’s my 4 tips on the importance of the long-game….

#1 A Client vs a Clientele

Know the difference. A client is anyone who will come and get a massage from you. A client comes once, maybe even a few times, but their loyalty is questionable, they’ll likely drop off when something comes up, they don’t fit your ideal profile, they may or may not mesh with your personality, massage style, techniques, whatever. A clientele on the other hand is a strategically curated group of people who make up the foundational sales of your business. These are the people who will cut their own hair, change their own oil in the car, skip dinners out, in order to be able to afford to come to you. They will follow you if you change businesses or move across town. They love and appreciate your work, they are loyal, and they will gladly spend money with you.

Your focus in marketing needs to not be on just getting any client in the door, which is so often what those quick fixes do. It needs to be focused on building a solid clientele. That curated group of people who you enjoy working with AND will provide you a steady income.

#2 Yes, exposure does pay the bills

This is something we all hear a lot, I’m sure, most notably when people are referencing working an event. And I completely understand the sentiment; the idea that someone is asking you to work for free in exchange for exposure. And then “exposure doesn’t pay the bills” is the response. And while I understand it in those short-term situations, if you can utilize those free events to build that clientele, then yeah, exposure does in fact pay the bills. The problem is that many do not create nor implement any strategy around those things. How you take some chair massage event and turn it into a week or two of bookings with clients who you then work to turn into regulars. That’s critical. If you’re not doing that, then yeah, the exposure doesn’t pay your bills. But that’s because you didn’t use the exposure like you should have. Brand awareness matters. People knowing you and your work matters. And yeah, sometimes that means working for free, or putting money into an event that many might say is worthless, because with the right strategy implemented, it will in fact give you a positive return on that investment. Because everything you do as a business is an investment. Whether it’s your time or money, as long as you can estimate a good positive ROI on that time or money spent, then yeah, that exposure will pay your bills. There’s no difference in that versus taking money right out of your pocket on an ad somewhere. The strategy still needs to be there. The ideal clientele still needs to be there. The relationship and trust still needs to be built. Exposure most definitely pays your bills in the long run, if you’re strategic about it and know how to utilize that exposure.

#3 A network isn’t built overnight

When it comes to building a network with clients and with other businesses and professionals in your community, it takes time. You can’t expect to go to one networking meeting or hand a stack of cards to clients and suddenly have a stream of referrals from all these other people. You can’t leave cards in a few places and expect clients to just start coming to you in droves. Those networking relationships have to build, and that takes time and effort. Not just communicating a bit about what you do, but seriously building a relationship with these people and with these other businesses that show you’re not just in it to get referrals but to sincerely build a network of relationships. And that brings me to my last tip…

#4 Relationships over money

When you’re marketing, building the relationship with potential clients, becoming the authority they look to on these particular topics of massage, health, wellness, muscle aches, pains, whatever….when your focus is on the relationship, the money follows. But the relationship needs to come first. Becoming the authority negates the need to sell. Once you establish that you know what you’re talking about in a very authoritative, confident, and caring way, that’s how you build a relationship. Honest and open communication, sharing that you want to help, doing everything you can, within reason of course, to freely give all that you can to help. Let me give you a quick example…

The first place I worked for right out of massage school, we did chair massage at a local gym for a member appreciation day once a month. And we were explicitly told not to “fix” anyone. Not to actually do anything for their pain or whatever they complained of, but rather to tell them how bad they were and how much they needed to come in for a massage. I had a very big problem with this. Integrity in my life and in my work is an extremely valuable thing to me. I have, on many occasions, like that one, walked away from businesses with such unethical practices. But while I was there, I ignored that directive. I did in fact “fix” people, address their issues, and I was regularly reprimanded for it. But guess what, I also got more clients, and more loyal clients, than anyone else in the business from that. Because if I could fix someone’s pain issue in a 5 minute chair massage, guess what, the next time they got hurt, and they’re always going to get hurt again, because you know…life, guess who they’re going to come to for a full massage. This chick. Build and nurture relationships. The money will come.

And again, I fully understand the need for quick fixes sometimes. You got bills to pay and you just need somebody on the table to hand over some cash so you can keep the electric on. So do that when needed, but it cannot make up the majority of your marketing efforts. The long game matters way more, and it pays off way better in the long run.

Hey there! I'm a massage therapist, educator, writer, and business pro helping massage therapists around the world build successful businesses. My goal is to give you everything you need to start, run, and grow a profitable massage practice that supports a life you love, all without the headaches I went through learning how to do it myself.

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