When was the last time you heard another massage therapist complain that he or she can’t get enough business? I honestly hear it a lot, yet there are many things a therapist can do to build massage practice clientele.
Some massage therapists say getting new massage clients is the most difficult part of running a business, but I would say getting a new customer to become a regular one is more difficult.
Many therapists run specials and discounts, and that helps get people into their massage practices—but the hard part is convincing a first-time client to get regular massages from you.
Getting New Clients
Running specials with Groupon or advertising discounts for first-time massage clients is an excellent way to have people try your services, but you have to realize some of them are always looking for a discount.
Those people come to expect discounts, so don’t get discouraged if some of them don’t come back to your massage practice. I used to take it personally when clients would not come back to see me, and I eventually came to terms that not everyone will like my massages.
I’ve even had customers whom I haven’t seen for a few years come back. Massage clients can sometimes be hard to read.
What I see some massage therapists doing is appearing desperate and discounting their services too much. Here is a saying many people live by: “You get what you pay for.” That means some clients might think they are just getting a basic massage with a lower price.
But at the same time, don’t set your fees too high because then people will expect too much. When I see someone charging an outrageous price for a massage, I always think to myself, “Does that include a free TV?”
With real estate, a popular saying is “Location, Location, Location.” With massage it should be “Listen, Listen, Listen.”
You have to ask yourself on a regular basis, “How well do I listen to my clients’ needs and wants?” I’ve had many massages over the last 20 years in my career, and I can say that of the primary skills needed to provide a personal service, listening skills are what some massage therapists lack.
I tell massage therapists what areas I want more focus on and most of the time they forget, or they are so stuck in a routine they can’t break out of it.
You might be great at treating a particular kind of injury, but everyone is different—and you must adjust your techniques to your clients’ needs, rather than adjusting your clients to your techniques.
My favorite population to massage is geriatric clients, and I love to hear their stories. You never know what they’ve dealt with in the past until you get to know them.
One of my past massage students said her mom always went to a certain massage therapist because she loved how she listened.
She said, “I’ve had better massages from other massage therapists, but this therapist listens to me and she is has a great personality.”
Most waiters and waitresses are masters at connecting with their customers. If they don’t, they usually have to move on to another profession.
Likewise, I’m more likely to give a bigger tip if I had a good massage and the massage therapist had a great personality than if I received a great massage and he or she had an OK character.
Over time, you will tend to notice most of your regular clients have a similar personality to yours, and you connected with them.
There is another reason you should develop your listening skills: The more information you get from the client in the beginning, the less work you have to do.
Like many of you have heard before, it’s a good idea to repeat the questions clients ask you. Help them understand that you care and want to meet their needs.
Here is a scenario: The client tells you, “I have extreme pain in my right shoulder when I move it.” Then you can respond with the same statement and try to get more information from him: “So, you have extreme pain in your right shoulder. What activities do you perform to make it worse and are there certain movements that diminish the pain?”
You can also ask him if he has received a professional massage before, and if he had relief from that massage.
If the client received relief for the massage, ask him what the therapist performed to make it better.
That is an important question to ask, because you don’t want to reinvent the wheel; you want to see what worked and didn’t work in the past.
Most clients won’t speak up if the massage was too painful or too light, so I always told them in the beginning that I’ve been married for many years and I’m constantly being told what to do (I would always get a laugh, and they feel more comfortable with me after that).
I work in a hospital as a massage therapist, and I usually spend at least 10 to 15 minutes going over a patient chart even before I see the patient, then I spend more time talking to the patient about his or her issues and needs before I start.
Most massage therapists won’t have that much time to spend with a client before beginning a session, but it is critical to ask questions before, during, and after a client’s first massage with you.
I usually let the client know before I start his or her massage that I might be asking questions throughout the session, and the majority of them are OK with that.
You are probably thinking right now that you don’t have time to delve into a client’s medical history before you start a massage.
But, think of yourself as a detective. A detective wouldn’t just ask a couple of questions and then solve the crime.
When I had my own business, I scheduled a half-hour break between clients so I could meet their needs and wants. As you can probably guess, I didn’t get rich because I had more unpaid time in-between clients, but I was able to make a connection and spend more time learning about their medical histories and answering any questions they had.
One of the last things a massage client wants is to be rushed. The client pays for that time with hard-earned money, and expects to get a high return on it.
If you have a little more time to spend with a client, you can charge a bit more to make up for the difference.
Some massage therapists will even have the client pay a little more the first time he or she sees you so that you can provide full hour, and spend 10 to 20 minutes connecting with the client.
Now that you’ve given clients the greatest massage you possibly could, what do you do now? I struggled with this when I first started massaging, and my business suffered from it.
As I got more confident, I would ask clients if they wanted to schedule another massage. Don’t get discouraged if they say “No,” because they can always change their minds before they leave your business.
I feel more comfortable using humor, and when they first walked out of my massage room, I would say “Good morning.” I know humor won’t work for some of you, but find your strengths and capitalize on them.
I would also ask my clients if the pressure was right for them, and if they had any tender areas, I wasn’t aware of. The trick is to find out how their massage was and how their body reacted to it and to make a treatment plan for next time.
Another question I ask clients is, “Is there anything you would like different with your next massage by me?” That is more a passive way of reminding them to schedule another massage with you.
I’m all about passive ways of getting clients to come back, and I would never make a good car salesperson. When you love what you do, you don’t even have to try and sell your services, because your words and actions speak for themselves.
The next time you feel down about not having enough business, remember to listen, connect and be yourself.
About the Author
Ryan Hoyme has been a massage therapist since 1997. He has won many awards in the massage profession and is the owner of massagenerd.com, and massage photographer of real massage therapists at ryanhoyme.com.
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