Massage marketing can sometimes be maddening in its lack of diversity; you’ve undoubtedly seen marketing materials using stock images of young, beautiful, thin white women with serene smiles, often with a flower blossom tucked behind an ear, enjoying their massage.
The fact is, there’s only a certain portion of the population who can see themselves reflected in such images—and the rest may feel, at best, disappointed, or at worst, offended and alienated, which may translate into not choosing your practice to give their business.
So, how can you make sure your marketing materials reflect the true diversity of your clientele, and appeal to all types of people? MASSAGE Magazine spoke with some marketing experts about how to make your practice’s promotional materials more inclusive and broadly appealing, so you can attract and serve clients from all walks of life.
1. Begin with You and Your Team
If you are truly committed to making your marketing inclusive, begin by making your practice inclusive.
“It all starts within. If you have a team, having a diverse team and offering opportunities for minorities is a great way to start,” said Alice d’Olive, founder of Studio Teia, a mindful marketing agency in Lisbon, Portugal. Many massage websites include photos of and short bios about their on-staff therapists, which can be a natural way to communicate that you care about diversity.
In your hiring, “clearly state that your practice is one of diversity and welcomes all workers and clientele,” said Brené Ashley, president of KAUSE Marketing & PR in Washington, D.C. “It cuts through every question and wonder that anyone—client, stakeholder, partner or employee—may have. The clear communication of that builds advocacy for your company from the inside out.”
If your practice is just you, d’Olive said, it’s still possible to expose yourself to diverse perspectives. “How do you incorporate diversity and inclusion in your life?” she asked. “Do you attend different networking circles than the ones that are familiar to you? Do you have friends or colleagues that represent those communities? These are some questions to get you started with the mindset, and not just trending values, of diversity and inclusion.”
2. Communicate Diversity…
To reflect diversity, show it; that means including in your marketing materials pictures of people of different races, gender identifications, ages and looks. You might, for example, present a variety of images in your brochures, or rotate images on your website often so different types of people are displayed.
“The most effective way to appeal to potential clientele is to show your target audience images of themselves in the space in which you hope for them to be,” said Ashley. Also, “show pictures and images of different trending cultural items, being careful not to stereotype.”
If it feels appropriate to your branding, Ashley suggests that coming right out and saying you are inclusive can be an effective tactic. “Stating directly that all are welcome is a great way to let everyone know they’re truly welcome,” she said. “It shows that the brand is aware of the environment, and this is where you stand.” You can also add carefully selected logos or campaign slogans that appeal to certain groups to your brochures or website.
3. …but Don’t Try Too Hard
Stereotyping can be even more off-putting than a lack of diversity; if you try too hard to be diverse, said d’Olive, your efforts may backfire.
“The most obvious choice to appeal to a more diverse clientele, such as the LGBTQ+ community or POC [people of color], would be by having pictures of them on your website or other materials,” she said. “However, what a lot of people fail to realize is that by doing so—especially if you’ve never done it before—you may come across as opportunistic or promoting ‘diversity washing’; which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.”
You can also be offensive if you don’t carefully consider the context of photos; it’s not enough just to show people of diverse backgrounds, said Ashley. Make sure, for example, to show photos of people of color and other groups in various roles, as massage therapists and massage clients, not always one or the other.
“When you consider an image, the placement of another racial group is not the start and end goal; [the] question is ‘what is the image communicating?’” she said. “The absence of a group can be ignoring their existence, but the placement could be subjugating the group in a sub-par category. We must be mindful of perpetuating harmful stereotypes in that manner.”
4. Decide on Your Brand Voice…
Keep your ideal audience in mind whenever you set out to promote your services, says d’Olive. In the marketing field, this is referred to as your brand voice.
As you develop a brand voice—which should be unique to your practice and reflect what makes you stand out from your competitors—keep diversity in mind. D’Olive suggests performing research on brand copywriting that successfully appeals to a diverse group of consumers. What ads and promotions do you see that have broad appeal?
Another tactic is to join diverse communities on social media and get a feel for the way these communities talk, the expressions they use and their tone of voice, she says.
In addition, ask for honest feedback from relatives, colleagues and friends, especially those who are people of color or who identify as part of a community such as LGBTQ+. Does your material truly speak to them, or is it off-putting? What might make it better?
You can also hire a marketing consultant or agency to help you with messaging.
5. …or Evolve Your Brand Voice
The key to having broad appeal is sincerity in your approach, d’Olive explained, so if you find that your brand imagery and messaging are in need of a complete overhaul, be honest about it; this will prevent you from coming off like you are just opportunistically following a diversity trend in the changes you make.
“Being honest about the fact that you weren’t aware of the problem in your marketing, or perhaps you didn’t know how to show up in a more inclusive manner but are now committed to taking a stand for that cause, can be a great starting point and also an opportunity to assert your brand values to your public,” she said. “If done sensibly, this will foster a deeper connection with your audience as you show honesty and humanness.
It will “turn them into loyal fans of your brand, rather than customers only.”
About the Author
Allison M. Payne is an independent writer and editor based in northeast Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “MDs Explain Exactly How to Get Massage Referrals” and “5 MTs Share How They Earn an Above-Average Income” (both, massagemag.com).