Everyone has a brand, whether he is in business or not.
The furnishings in a person’s home, the car he drives and the clothes he wears, the words he speaks and the activities he enjoys all contribute to an individual’s brand that he shares with the rest of the world on a daily basis. As a professional in an industry that requires you to communicate with people face-to-face while also physically touching them throughout most of that in-person interaction, it is imperative that the business branding you create and promote to the world be purposeful, professional and positive.
The three steps that will lead you to your own authentic brand are: Develop 20/20 vision; create a map; and emulate those you admire.
Step 1: Develop 20/20 Vision
Building your personal brand starts with acquiring a crystal-clear vision. This vision of you, your product and your services is how you desire your clients and the community to perceive you. To help you clarify your vision, you must determine and prioritize your values; and identify, embrace and actualize your passions.
To determine your values, you must first acknowledge what is important to you. What you truly value must always shine through to your customers, staff, colleagues and community. If you value integrity, professionalism and quality, your business practice will reflect those things. When it does, your clients and staff will feel respected, comfortable and confident in their decision to secure your services or work at your practice.
Other qualities you might value could include steadfastly providing world-class, exceptional service; the overall well-being of yourself and your clientele; a desire to grow personally and professionally; or creating a welcoming, calming and pristine massage therapy environment.
Once you have identified your values, you’ll need to prioritize them. For example, figure out if providing individualized customer service is something you value more than your personal time or the after-work commitment you’ve made to your family or friends. If your last client for the day arrives a half-hour late, what will you do when you have loved ones waiting for you? Will you still take care of that client? Or will you reschedule that client for another day?
While there is ultimately no right or wrong answer here, what you choose to do reflects something about you. If you allow the client to keep the now-late appointment, you send a message to that customer that it’s OK to arrive whenever he wants to. You also send a message to your family and friends that your work is more important than your commitment to them.
While it’s a common and difficult decision to choose between the two, if you establish both time and your brand as one you respect and value, others will, too. In addition, once you’ve identified your values, you’ll want to be sure the team you hire to work also reflects your brand.
Key factors in creating a successful brand are identifying and actualizing your passions. What you are ultimately thrilled about in life is the driving force behind all your choices. If you are passionate about creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself and the people on your life’s path, you’ll want to show that through how you design and furnish your practice. You won’t serve soda or other caffeinated drinks; you won’t have a bowl of sugar-filled candies at your counter; you won’t permit smokers to gather outside your front door for a quick cigarette break; and you won’t use massage products that contain harmful chemicals.
Instead, you’ll choose natural lighting over fluorescent; live plants over fabric fauna; water and herbal tea over chemical-filled beverages; soothing, minimalist music over loud, disturbing beats; and the aroma of lavender essential oil over the odor of leftovers from the local fast food joint around the corner.
Consider the type of experience you want your clients to have each time they visit your practice. That experience should reflect what you are passionate about and what is important to you for yourself, your staff and your clients.
Step 2: Create a Map
Another component of successful business branding is knowing where you want to be and then purposefully creating a map to get there. If you don’t know where you want to be, your directionless route will eventually lead you somewhere—just not, perhaps, to the place you had once envisioned. Time will pass, no matter what, but without a plan your journey will be like scuba diving in murky waters without a map. To get yourself and your practice out of the water and back on land with a map of your own creation, you will first identify the things in life that bring you joy.
While there certainly can be many things in your life that you value and enjoy, I believe there is just a handful of questions you should ask yourself in order to create your map:
- Do I look forward to sharing quality time with my children, family and friends?
- Do I enjoy spending weeks at a time on a tropical beach, in Europe, or in the mountains skiing?
- Do I want to enhance the lives of people who need help?
- Do I love being surrounded by quality things?
- Do I enjoy meeting new people and making them feel comfortable?
- Do I like to empower others?
- Do I strive to educate and inspire people?
From your answers, identify the top three things you value. Is it your time, financial freedom and industry accolades? Again, while you certainly can value many things in life, to be an effective and successful massage therapist and run a profitable and customer-friendly practice, it will be helpful to narrow down your top values so that you best formulate a plan to ensure you are able to experience, actualize and reflect those values throughout both your personal life and professional career.
Your answers will help you create your map, and your brand. If you want to spend a lot of your life vacationing or traveling, for example, or surrounding yourself with the best quality products, furnishings and experiences, that could lead you to focus on creating a multi-location practice with a high income.
If you prefer to return home right after work and spend your time reading a new novel while sipping a cup of tea on your deck, or getting out of work by 2:00 p.m. every afternoon to pick your kids up from school and spend the rest of the day and evening with them, then running a multi-location practice is probably not for you. If you want to educate and inspire people, then perhaps your map involves writing books, creating educational videos or teaching classes. If enhancing the lives of people is paramount to you, then starting a nonprofit or volunteering massage could be an important goal of yours.
Next, line up your values with your goals. If you value learning, your goals will incorporate classes, workshops and education. If you value time with your family, you’ll operate your business during regular business hours. You can’t set goals for one lifestyle, then make choices contradictory to that, and expect the desired outcomes.
Step 3: Emulate Those You Admire
Your decisions and aspirations are naturally inspired, enhanced and influenced by those people who have gone before you and those in the world with you now. Whether from meeting, reading about, hearing stories involving, or witnessing with your own eyes, those people you look up to will always be those on your life’s path you want to emulate.
You learn what they’ve accomplished, you’d like to accomplish, too. You discover how they operate their massage therapy business is just what you had imagined for your own.
While imitation of others is the highest form of flattery, and while following in someone else’s steps to success can often lead you to success as well, true joy in the business world comes from embracing what inspires you personally and then creating something fabulous from it—your own personal style, voice and uniqueness.
Just like business plans and dream boards, making a list of people who inspire you will help you be more like them. On your list, include other massage therapists and owners of massage therapy businesses. Think of relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues, peers and celebrities you admire. Add all of them to your list.
Next, beside each name, write down what those people do for a living or, if they’re retired, what field they were in before retirement. Last, detail the reasons you admire each person on your list. Here are some ideas to get you started: Perhaps they make sound business decisions; are idea people; are millionaires; are dependable, trustworthy or philanthropic; are selfless or kind; are spiritual; are creative; are generous, funny or forgiving; are flexible and easy to be around.
The point being, identify what it is—specifically—about each of the people on your list that makes you admire them, so you can begin to identify and share those qualities within yourself.
Business Branding Development
To develop your brand strategically and thoughtfully, you must have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like, reflect and be; map out your road ahead so you don’t get distracted or lost along the way as you work toward achieving your goals; and embrace your inspirations and uniqueness to design and create your own personalized place in the massage therapy industry.
About the Author
Mark Volkmann is a 30-year massage veteran, the founder of Massage Warehouse and the current CEO of massagebook.com, a scheduling and automated marketing solution for professional massage therapists.