Now is an exciting time to be marketing massage! Widespread and popular demand for massage is rapidly on the rise, and opportunities for marketing exist as never before. While there are many ways to build a practice, one of the safest, fastest, and least expensive ways to reach your ideal client or target market is through what I call Mutual Marketing. In short, Mutual Marketing is partnering with your local small business owners to grow both of your businesses through joint marketing, advertising and promotional campaigns.

Small business owners, including you, have several universal needs: They need to bring people in the door, get them to buy a product or service, get them to come back and buy again, hopefully at a higher level, and refer others to the business. You can help your Mutual Marketing Partner meet those needs, and in exchange, be given access and direct and often personal referrals to all their customers: customers whom you have identified in advance as being perfect for your dream practice.

So, how do you build your dream practice? You do it by asking yourself The Three Questions of Mutual Marketing.

Question One: Who is my ideal client?

The most important step to identifying your ideal client is to know yourself. This includes understanding and accepting your personal and professional dreams, goals, preferences, values, and lifestyle desires. These factors are the foundation for marketing your practice because what makes you happy and is important to you will help identify the kind of people with whom you will want to work. Ask yourself questions such as: What kind of people do I enjoy being around? How do I want to spend a typical work day? What kind of massage do I enjoy giving? What kind of environment do I want to work in? What time of day do I want to work? Your ideal clients, from birdwatchers to triathletes to elderly shut-ins, can be found in any of these questions, so ask them carefully and listen to your answers with an open heart and mind. Remember, your clients will shape and affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally over the years, so choose them well.

For example, in my own practice, with work I describe as ”Strategic Swedish,” my ideal client is a woman age 25 to 75, who owns her own business and is active in a competitive or recreational sport. Deep within that sentence are the seeds of my enjoyment of my work and my longevity and success in my practice. For my hands, women are easier to work on; for my head, entrepreneurs are more engaging and fun to talk to; and for my heart, working women are a joy to help. For my finances, this niche market makes better money and can afford higher rates; and for my time preferences, they are available during the day since they control their schedules. Finally, since my clients are usually overworked and stressed, and either recovering from a sports injury, trying to prevent one, or trying to improve sports performance, they can easily and rationally justify spending their time and money on massage. By first clearly defining whom I want to work with, I can now move to the second question of Mutual Marketing.

Question Two: What small business already serves my ideal client?

Small businesses you can partner with are everywhere! Look at the businesses where you live or look in the phone book and ask yourself if each business already has customers you would enjoy working with. For example, an ideal Mutual Marketing Partner for me would be a golf pro who specializes in teaching women golfers. One or two promotional projects with a golf pro could give me enough direct referrals to start or grow a practice full of my ideal clients. So, once I??ve identified a potential marketing partner, I then move to the third question of Mutual Marketing.

Question Three: What can I offer this small business to get access to its customers?

Mutual Marketing can operate on numerous levels of interdependency and joint participation. Mutual Marketing can run the gamut from simply acquiring your partner??s mailing list and doing your own marketing to doing large-scale joint ventures together. Depending on your needs, you can work together on many levels, five of which I??ll cover here.

[i]Level One: This is the most basic level wherein you just acquire your partner??s customer list and do your own marketing. You can simply ask for the list as a favor, trade a set amount of massage for it, or pay a fee for each name. From there, you print the flyers, write the letters, knock on doors, make calls, send emails, and otherwise distribute your own material. This level offers no endorsements and no screening, but it will give fast access to your target market.

Level Two: In this second level, you do the same as above, only this time use the business as an endorser of you. This requires an additional level of mutual trust, but the endorsement is invaluable because it tells your potential client that you have someone they are familiar with vouching for you. Massage is a service that most people want a personal recommendation or referral for, and even a small endorsement can make a difference. The endorsement can be a quoted sentence or paragraph from your partner, a letter written on your partner’s business letterhead, etc., but you are still in charge of disseminating your message.

Level Three: Here you create your own marketing materials: brochures, flyers, cards, etc., all with endorsements, but at this level the small business distributes them for you directly to its customers or displays your material at its place of business. Again, you can make this arrangement as a favor, trade it for massage for the business owner and possibly his or her employees, or pay an agreed upon fee.

Level Four: At this level, joint projects become more involved, and your work moves from mass marketing to hands-on massages. Your projects should be aimed at one or more of the universal business needs, which again are: to bring in new customers, get those customers to buy, get them to come back, and refer others. If your partner needs new customers, they can offer a promotion of say, a free foot reflexology or chair massage for first-time buyers at the business. In exchange, they can pay you, give you their mailing list, or just give you access to their clients along with their assumed endorsement. If they want referrals, they can offer a gift certificate if the customer brings in a friend who makes a purchase. If they want customer loyalty, they can put out an ad that says for every additional purchase, the customer builds credit toward a massage, whether it is free, discounted, 2-for-1, etc. In the case of my golf pro, I could run a promotion that was mailed to all his students saying that if they bought five lessons, they would get a free massage from me. Even if they don??t buy the lessons, they still see my name associated to a trusted person, and they can contact me on their own.

In Level Four, you now have the very proactive endorsement and support of your partner because he or she can take more advantage of the widespread popularity and universal appeal of massage to increase sales and customer loyalty. If you want to build your practice quickly and cheaply, free gift certificates get people under your hands almost immediately, with the barriers of mistrust removed and the decision to buy eliminated. Most people won’t truly value a massage until they’ve had one, and since doing a free massage costs you little more than your time, you can prove your value once and then rebook for hopefully many years to come.

Level Five: Here you and your Mutual Marketing Partner team up again, but this time, instead of giving massage as the bonus, the reward is your partner’s product or service when the customer buys a set number of massages. For example, I could send a letter to my golf pro??s mailing list saying that if they bought five massages from me by a certain date, they would get a free golf lesson. By giving a free lesson, the golf pro gets to bring his missing customers back, and once they see how bad their golf swing has gotten, the odds are good he can sell them a series of lessons. By using massage as a way to get his customers?? attention, he gets an edge over other golf pros?? advertising, and with a deadline on the incentive, makes them take rapid action. Your promotional piece to your partner??s list will remind customers of your partner’s business and simultaneously introduce and endorse you right to your ideal client.

Many more ways of Mutual Marketing with individuals and small businesses abound, so look around you for the opportunities of helping others while building your dream practice! [/i]

Monica Roseberry is a speaker, author and self-described ”touch activist” who has trained thousands of massage professionals in the art, science, and business of massage. Her book, Marketing Massage ?X How to Build Your Dream Practice, was written to help massage therapists and bodyworkers succeed in this rapidly changing profession. Her other book, Massage ?X Simple Solutions for Everyday Stresses, written for The Body Shop chain of stores, has become an international bestseller and is helping achieve Ms. Roseberry??s goal of promoting lifelong loving touch. A resident of Walnut Creek, CA, she can be contacted at 925-906-8806 or online at