Did you know there are only three ways to grow a business? I didn’t either, until a few years ago when I was assisting another instructor in a class on the topic. Prior to that moment, I thought there were countless ways to grow a business.
For example, passing out my business cards wherever I go; doing free demonstrations or talks for community groups; running local advertisements; attending networking meetings.
The list goes on and on—or so I thought.
However, regardless of how many different activities you’re using to grow your business or sales, as my fellow educator said, there are only three primary methods to grow any business.
The various activities I mentioned above are simply ways to accomplish one, two or all three of those results.
Do you want to know what the three ways are? Drumroll, please …
- Attract more new clients
- Get each client to come back again or more often
- Sell more to each client with each visit or purchase.
The first strategy—attracting more new clients—is the most obvious, and what most people focus the bulk of their marketing efforts on. It can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including the suggestions I mentioned above, as well as asking for referrals, providing giveaways, using social media or creating fun promotions.
On their own, paid advertising and grassroots marketing can help you reach and become known to new clients.
However, there are quite a few people who will hesitate to try someone new, especially in the touchy area of personal services, because they are afraid of not getting what they want or need—and then feeling they wasted their time or money.
To bridge the gap between their fear and your services, often an appealing—and sometimes costly—incentive is needed.
A big example of this is the various deal-offer companies that are out there right now.
I don’t want to name any names or cause any problems, but you know the ones I’m talking about. These mainly Web-based companies promote personal services like massages and facials for a very low price to a very big audience.
The reason these companies and promotions can be so successful is because they have the potential to bring in a large volume of fresh faces to a business with no out-of-pocket cost to the company and low risk to the consumers coming into the business.
For example, if a massage usually costs $80 and a potential customer only has to pay $39 for the service, it’s almost too good for her to pass up. Of course, that’s costing the practitioner or business owner a lot of his regular earnings, both due to the discount as well as the share paid to the promotional company.
In many cases, he’s often giving up more than 50 percent of what he would normally make on each new client who comes from the promotion. This type of promotion has a high reduced-income cost.
The point is all three of these marketing strategies for attracting new clients require a large investment. Getting a new client to spend money with a business she has never tried can take quite a lot of time, money and effort.
One of the goals of retaining clients and turning them into lifetime clients is to take some of the costs out of growing your business and put more money back in your pocket, where it belongs.
What may be more important than getting new clients is actually keeping them.
As a business owner or massage professional, the second business-building strategy you need to use is retaining each client after her initial visit and encouraging her to do business with you more often.
Ideally, you want each new client to return for your products and services again and again—and hopefully, more frequently than once or twice a year.
Interestingly, a lot of professionals talk about their skills in client retention because they do see the same clients or customers over and over during the course of their long-term relationship.
However, these same professionals fail to focus on ways to get their loyal, retained clients to see them or make purchases more often. Both are important in creating an ever-growing bottom line.
Finally, the third strategy for growing a business: selling more to each client at each visit.
In an appointment-based setting such as a spa, salon or massage clinic, this can be done fairly easily with service upgrades and upsells such as adding extra time onto a session, providing an additional service or selling retail products.
Regardless of how you do it, if you get your customers to spend a few more dollars whenever they are in your business, you are growing the revenue of your business without having to bring in more clients.
While all of these strategies are vital to growing a thriving business, this article will focus on the first and second topics: attracting new clients and turning those new clients into lifetime clients who come back again and again, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Clients who regularly rebook and repeat—whom I fondly call bread-and-butter clients—are the ones we really want to focus our efforts on finding and keeping.
Retaining clients helps you save your investment of time, money, energy and effort.
Studies show it takes five to 10 times the amount of investment to reach a new client and get him to try your business the first time than it does to get him to come back.
In other words, once you’ve met and done a good job for someone, you’ve established the foundation of a know, like and trust factor which makes future business and sales much easier for clients.
Client retention and long-term client relationships also create stability with the clients who return. This is really important, not just from a relationship or rapport standpoint; it’s also important from an income-forecasting perspective.
When you can look at your schedule and know how many definite appointments you’ll have each week, you can start to put together a financial picture of the revenue you’ll bring in and better determine how to target future marketing efforts
When you retain clients, you have a much better chance of giving your clients better results.
By developing the trust and rapport that comes in long-term relationships, clients will have more faith and trust in all you do. They’ll be more likely to follow your suggestions for at-home care, additional treatments or visits, or outside referrals that will help them reach their goals.
Thus, they are more likely to get better faster or feel better more often—and that’s going to make them happier clients.
Who is Best for You?
It’s important to understand that not all clients are going to be lifetime clients, nor would you want them to be.
Before you begin seeking out ways to create long-term or lifetime relationships with your massage patrons, start by getting a clearer picture of your ideal clients. Here are three key things to consider:
- Who is going to be best served by the services you offer
- Which conditions and problems you excel in helping
- What characteristics or qualities the people you enjoy working with possess
Begin by making a list under each of these areas to get an overview of exactly who you are looking for as a lifetime client.
From there, you may want to write out something more descriptive, like I did when I was seeking my own lifetime clients:
- My ideal clients are intelligent, genuinely nice, positive-minded people who enjoy life, learning new things and getting a great massage. They value getting weekly or monthly massages for stress reduction, pain relief and pure enjoyment. They are compassionate, understanding and loyal to those who meet their needs, win their trust and gain their friendship.
- Although my ideal clients are generally healthy, they want to learn more about preventive care and improving their general wellness. They are moderately physically active to athletic (examples: running, golfing, tennis, Pilates and yoga) and appreciate how our work together plays a part in their overall fitness and well-being. They are also committed to taking an active role in their health and believe that getting regular massage is a vital part of that.
- My ideal clients live within a five-mile radius of my office and are between 40 and 80 in age. They’re well-established in their careers as executives, professionals or entrepreneurs; comfortably retired; or homemakers, and have flexible schedules, preferring appointments between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or the occasional Saturday.
- My ideal clients enjoy some conversation, are open-minded, and think of me as a professional and equal. They also appreciate the good life—travel, good food, wine, spas, etc., but are down-to-earth, kind, friendly and generous. They refer freely, tip well, arrive on time and are a joy to work with in every session. Most of all, they appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.
Once you determine your lifetime clients, you’ll not only have a better idea of who you want to market to, but in turn should begin to see opportunities to reach out to them.
Obviously, finding these folks is only half the job—you’ll also have to meet their needs and get them to keep coming back.
Strive to provide the results your ideal clients want and a high value along with a positive experience they can’t get anywhere else. Doing so will help pave the way to a healthy long-term relationship.
In short, keeping clients for a lifetime isn’t just about the money.
It’s also about giving clients what they need and want, so they feel happy with the relationship and themselves. Likewise, it’s about creating career satisfaction, stability and joy for you, which, at least in my experience, translates into success for a lifetime.
Felicia Brown, L.M.B.T., is the owner of Spalutions!, which provides business and marketing coaching and consulting for massage, spa and wellness professionals. She is a sought-after public speaker with appearances at many national and international conferences, the author of Free & Easy Ways to Promote Your Massage, Spa & Wellness Business, and has been featured in numerous trade publications. This article was excerpted by permission from her new book, Creating Lifetime Clients: How to WOW Your Customers for Life.