When you offer massage services to a niche market, you have an opportunity to be quite creative.
When it comes to prenatal massage therapy, as well as postpartum massage therapy, there are numerous options and opportunities to grow your business.
Here, I share success advice from my almost 40 years specializing in prenatal massage therapy. (Learn more about prenatal massage by reading the related feature article, “Prenatal Massage: Far-Reaching Benefits for Mother & Child,” by Elaine Stillerman, L.M.T., in the November print issue of MASSAGE Magazine.)
1. Become a Prenatal Massage Expert
The first step is to establish your credentials as a certified professional in this specialty. That means you have taken a live class with a qualified instructor, learned about the dynamic changes in anatomy and physiology during pregnancy and postpartum, practiced the appropriate modalities to support these changes, understand when not to treat, and have passed all the course requirements.
I can’t stress enough the importance of specialized, appropriate training when it comes to working with expectant women and new mothers. Serious harm to mother and baby could result when a well-intentioned but misguided treatment is given by an untrained massage practitioner.
2. Make a List
When I got my license in 1978, the conventional wisdom was for women to stop receiving massage as soon as they became pregnant and start again after the baby was born. In 1980, before we were granted status as health professionals, I began to work with this population and wanted to reach as many women as I could, so I wrote a flyer called Massage For Women, wherein I detailed the services I offered.
Then I asked my prenatal massage clients who their ob/gyns were and if they would mind if I contacted them. One doctor, a well-known medical practitioner, was particularly open to my services and invited me to come to his office for a meeting.
I sat in his office and explained what I was doing. He was extremely receptive and let me leave my flyers in his office. One of his patients saw the flyer and picked it up. She had a cousin who wrote for the New York Daily News and was looking for a licensed massage therapist to feature in an article she was writing about legitimate massage.
She showed the flyer to her cousin, and two years after getting my license, I got a two-page centerfold article in the Sunday Daily News all about the benefits of a professional massage. The public response was enormous, and I shared the wealth of clients with many of my massage friends. My practice continued to grow from that article and the numerous ways I capitalized on it.
After working with pregnant women for a few years, I developed a resource list of related and ancillary services that I gave out to every pregnant client and new mother I massaged. This became a rich way to expand my business, because each person and entity I named on this list also received a copy of it, and they would refer their customers and clients to me.
When I heard of a wonderful new service, I added it to the list and made sure that person knew of it. I also removed names of anyone who failed to meet certain standards of care. This list became the source of a large network of providers and services for my clientele with MotherMassage®, my practice, as the core.
The list provided a one-stop shopping network for my clients and a referral mother lode for those listed on it. Once a year, just before the holidays, I would have an open house and invite my clients and those on the list. It was a lovely way to bring like-minded people together and work with each other to build our businesses.
3. Business Cards & Brochures
Let’s start with the basics: Always carry your business cards. In your day-to-day life you come in contact with people wherever you go, and many people know someone who is pregnant or who just had a baby, and who might benefit from prenatal massage.
Meeting people face-to-face gives you an opportunity to explain the benefits of prenatal massage and answer any questions or concerns they may have.
Create an eye-catching logo for your business cards and brochures, and leave them where pregnant women go, such as the offices of midwives, obstetricians and doulas; maternity clothing stores; baby furniture stores and prenatal exercise classes.
The wider area in which you distribute your brochures, the better chances you have of getting new clients. I remember one client who said she saw my brochures “everywhere” and finally called to make an appointment. With so many practitioners now providing this service, you have to stand out.
4. Create Professional Connections
Take tours of birthing centers and hospital maternity floors. You’ll be able to leave brochures and business cards for other groups who take the tour, and you will get to meet some pregnant women while expanding your knowledge of local birthing sites. It’s an added bonus for your clients, and a boon for you, to be able to discuss these locations with your clients.
Align yourself with professionals who already have vibrant pre- and postpartum practices. This could be midwives, birthing centers, doctors, doulas, and breast pump rental businesses.
It only takes the support of one successful practice to help you grow and maintain a thriving prenatal massage practice—but you should cast your net as far and as wide as possible.
5. Get Technical
Social media is a sure way to grow your practice. Keep a blog about subjects of interest to expectant and new parents, and send out e-newsletters, and e-cards for birthdays and holidays, to keep your practice in the forefront of clients’ minds.
Create an interesting website that touts the beneficial effects of massage during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. If you also offer infant massage classes, add that to your menu of services.
Develop a professional Facebook page and let people know when you are going to speak somewhere, have learned a new massage modality that might interest them, or have a helpful pregnancy-related tip.
6. Expand Your Touch
When clients called me for the first time, I explained the full scope of my practice, which also included a labor support class for couples. This one-on-one or group class provided hands-on techniques, as well as how to use proper body mechanics, for the partner to use during labor.
Partners want to help; they want to be useful. So, I developed techniques that were easy to use while being quite effective at reducing labor discomfort and providing stress release. I often booked a first appointment along with the labor support class even before I met my new client. Partners often bought gift certificates for postpartum massages as a surprise gift for the new mother.
A qualified prenatal massage practitioner can also give lectures and demonstrations at childbirth education classes. Even if only one participant signs up, she will go back to the class with a report about her wonderful massage, which may encourage others to call.
7. Work Together
I have one final word of advice I’d like to offer about approaching other professionals about referrals: Don’t go to someone hungry for business or in a needy, apologetic frame of mind, no matter where you are in your practice or what they do and how successful they are.
Remember, we are all part of a client’s team, and there is no hierarchy of professions. We are all on equal footing because we all offer unique services to our clients. We work together to provide the best possible outcome for mother and her baby. And your good work reflects well for you and on the person who referred you, so it’s a win-win-win situation.
Elaine Stillerman, a licensed New York State massage therapist since 1978, began her prenatal/postpartum work in 1980. In 1990, she created her professional certification course, MotherMassage®: Massage During Pregnancy, taught at massage schools all over the U.S. She is the author of four books, including Prenatal Massage: A Textbook of Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum Bodywork (Mosby, 2008). In 2013 she was named Educator of the Year by the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education and was inducted into the World Massage Festival’s Massage Therapy Hall of Fame.