A while back I read an article in a trade magazine (name withheld to protect the innocent) relating to managing your own business. I noticed a lot of the points mentioned were your standard marketing content that I received back in my massage business classes. As I kept reading I noticed some of the points were nowhere near the type of marketing techniques or strategies that I currently use in the real world for my private practice nor did it follow a philosophy that would lead to a successful practice. What I was reading seemed to be a collection of old thoughts handed down from the past with no basis in real world applications. These ideas were not Alive.
I then asked myself: If I could give an aspiring bodyworker some real world knowledge, what would be the most important things I would want them to know? I know that I would want to dispel the common myths that a bodyworker would believe might hold them back from success. I searched my mental database for myths that I believed when I first started and also the common issues that massage therapists come to me for guidance on.
Before I proceed with the list of the most common myths in running your own business, a little bit of background. I entered the world of bodywork and bodywork instruction after unplugging myself from the matrix of the finance world. I have an undergraduate and MBA in finance and I started my practice thinking I knew it all with regards to running a small business. I quickly gained clarity as I realized I wasn’t looking at my practice through the right set of lenses when my practice started to take a turn for the worse. Thankfully I was guided by mentors and massage therapists more experienced than me. They taught me it was very important to change my perspective and start thinking differently about how I see this particular business.
So, without further delay, here are the five common myths of running your own massage therapy business:
Myth #1: We need to lower our rates or charge low rates in order to attract more clients
Reality: Lowering your rates to attract more clients may actually decrease your revenues in the long-term
I have seen many beginning massage therapists fall into the trap of not valuing their work enough and charging way too little in order to acquire a client. When their confidence increases and they feel they can raise their rates, they feel they might lose their client by charging a higher rate. Generally, that is what happens when they acquire a client that was initially attracted to the massage therapist’s low rate in the first place. The massage therapist is now left having to market themselves all over again having lost a pool of clients to another massage therapist that is charging lower rates. This ‘re-marketing’ can be costly in terms of time and potential revenue lost. The same scenario plays itself out when using discount programs directed to large numbers of people. Tip: If you are starting out and feel you need to charge a lower rate, charge an ‘introductory rate’ but always let clients know what your regular rate is. Clients need to be aware of your regular rate so they can be mentally prepared to pay it when the time comes.
Myth #2: We need to be always available for clients (holidays, time of day, etc.)
Reality: Creating a set schedule creates a structured framework that keeps proper boundaries
I used to think that if I didn’t always make myself available to my clients, they would move on and find another bodyworker. I would leave my schedule fully open and see clients early in the morning and late in the evening on that same day. It wasn’t until I was told to try an experiment that I realized I didn’t have to leave myself so open. I set up a fixed schedule for a few weeks and compared the number of clients in that month to my previous month. I blocked off time in order to have a six hour day and also to have a day off (that’s a whole other topic filed under the article, ‘workaholic sees the light’). At the end of the experiment I noticed that I had just as many clients booking under the new schedule than I had my previous month. I also had the predictability of a set schedule that allowed me to work on other projects or see friends/family. Tip: If a client pushes to see you on a time that you blocked off then let them know you acknowledge that a certain time works for them and then simply repeat your available times, saying something like, “This is the available schedule, I look forward to working with you during these times” and say it with a smile!
Myth #3: The Customer is always right (i.e. pressure, series work, dictating treatment plan)
Reality: The customer is always right, sometimes
When I was a kid I worked at a fast food restaurant and the manager gave me an important saying that I still use with my students: “The customer is always right, sometimes”. What is meant by this is that although your client may have the final say with what happens to their body, they may not necessarily know the best course of action when it comes to asking for too much pressure, where they actually could benefit best from in terms of work, and how many sessions they may actually need. This is not to say that we as practitioners know more than they do. Instead, it means that in order to run a successful practice the bodyworker needs to see their business not as a healthcare business or a wellness business but as a business of relationships. This idea is emphasized by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book, “Guerrilla Marketing”. This means that we need to open a dialogue with our clients and ask questions that may provoke thought and thus give our clients new insight. Our clients may still be of the thinking for example that ‘no pain, no gain’ is a great idea when it comes to certain types of massage. Tip: If a client tells you to give them more pressure and you don’t think they might benefit from it, you could say something like, “Let’s see how this pressure works and we can assess in a couple of minutes”. After a couple of minutes, ask your client how they are feeling. They might be surprised that they feel better without having to receive a ‘no pain, no gain’ ‘beat up’ type of massage!
Myth #4: We need to give something extra (time, goodies, etc.) to keep clients happy and/or to have them refer their friends/acquaintances to us
Reality: The best reference is the one that happens organically
Remember what I wrote beforehand, that we are in the relationship business. What kind of relationships are we establishing if we have to pay our clients to refer their contacts to us? What we will end up getting are clients that are pushed upon us by clients that are looking for the extra goodies. Instead, what we want is to have our clients refer folks whom they believe will truly benefit from our work. This happens when we establish a good relationship and we relay to them the type of client we want. I use a simple statement if the topic of referrals comes up, “My business runs on referrals and I hardly do any outside advertising. If you know of anyone that you believe would be a good fit and would benefit from this type of work, feel free to forward my newsletter to them or introduce us via email”. As I write this I realize there are so many other things I can say about how I speak with my clients but suffice it to say that I treat every client as an important part of my practice and a potential agent of my work. Tip: If a client wants to take a few of your business cards, graciously appreciate that they are referring someone to you. In addition, let them know you are open to being introduced to this person via email. This gives you the opportunity to start a dialogue with your new potential client. If you gain a new client from a referral, send your client a thank you email or better yet, a hand written thank you note!
Myth #5: Other practitioners are your competition. There is competition everywhere and we need to always be on the lookout for what they are up to
Reality: Competition exists if you believe it does
I once heard an instructor tell a student to “watch out for the competition” and I thought to myself, what competition? I learned from my mentors and I’ve experienced for myself that not seeing others as competitors will save you from wasting time and energy. We are so unique in our personalities and in our approach to our work. Even two practitioners that took the same exact training may work with a client completely differently. If we incorporate just a bit of ourselves and our personalities into our work, and if we come to the table with a genuine desire to benefit our client, then we will experience success. Any practitioner that acquires a client does so because at some level there was a connection between client and practitioner and the client feels comfortable with that practitioner, not because they won that client from someone else. Tip: If you didn’t get something you wanted or ‘lost’ a client to another practitioner, maybe they were never yours to begin with. Be happy for your client that found a practitioner they connect better with. This means there’s another client out there just waiting to connect with your own unique self!
The wrap up: After a change in philosophy and looking at your business/practice from a different point of view comes a call to action. I have had the pleasure of teaming up with Denise DeShetler to create a program that will help the practitioner increase their revenue. Get started here.