How Massage Therapists Can Differentiate Themselves During a Market Crunch

by Mia Kyricos

Extend Simple Pleasures to Expand Your Revenue, MASSAGE MagazineToday, almost every industry has felt the effects of the economic downturn in one way or another. The massage and spa industries are no exception. During the past few months, these markets have seen a dramatic shift in consumer behavior. Some massage professionals have seen a decrease in new clients as well as less frequent visits from regular customers.

While today’s economic outlook may be bleak, there are things an individual or company can do to rise above the recession. While most massage and spa professionals’ first inclination is to offer discounts, this can actually hurt one’s bottom line. I believe there are other, better strategies that can help massage professionals succeed in this time of uncertainty. The number-one rule of thumb is to differentiate yourself and/or your business from the competition. The following suggestions are meant to set your enterprise apart and come out on top:

Comprehensive value. Every industry is hurting. Hardworking professionals are therefore stressed and in need of therapeutic treatments, but they scrutinize the value. Spas should promote any services or facilities that are offered “for free” by the spa or salon. For example, most spas have a sauna, steam rooms and/or relaxation rooms that can be utilized pre-or post-massage. Spas can also offer complimentary herbal teas and snack items. If you work in a spa, make sure your clients are aware of the spa’s offerings, so they can feel they are getting the most for their money.

Creative packaging. Reviewing and understanding your clientele will help you understand how to “seal the deal.” For example, if you know a majority of your customers come in during their lunch break and your practice or spa offers food, create a massage-and-lunch package. Customers will still pay for the massage and meal, but will enjoy the luxury of having it packaged for them.

Share services. For those massage professionals who are self-employed, it is helpful to partner with local spa and hospitality professionals. By doing so, you can share customers and potentially gain new clients. Search your local community and create deals with hair salons, nail salons and health clubs. By selecting businesses with similar clientele, both companies will tap into a new audience that may not be reached otherwise.

Something for nothing. For both in-spa and self-employed massage therapists, another great way to make clients feel like they’re getting more without spending extra money is to offer them a handout outlining post-treatment care. Share a short list of tips on what to expect and what to do after a massage. While this may seem like a small effort, clients will appreciate the time you took to make their experience last a little bit longer.

Community involvement. An additional idea is to get involved within your local community. For example, if there is a community athletic event, offer massages to participants. This will get your name out and potentially  attract new clients, for only a few hours of your time.

While nothing can solve the problem of today’s economy, hopefully the tips above can help massage therapists survive the storm.

Mia Kyricos is director of global spa brands and programming Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., where she supports existing and developing hotel spas, as well the creation of proprietary spa concepts for Starwood’s hotel brands. She also overseas the Starwood Spa Collection, an international consortium of more than 50 premier-level spas in 26 countries across Starwood’s brands (

Prior to Starwood, she worked for Canyon Ranch Health Resort & Spa and as spa director for Exhale Mind Body Spa, a 12,000-square-foot, 15-treatment room facility in New York City.

Kyricos also holds a master’s degree in Management in Hospitality Administration (MMH) from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and is a frequent speaker at industry events, including the American Spa Expo, The Cornell Hotel Society Spa Symposium and the Global Spa Summit. She is also an advisory committee member for University of Californa, Irvine Extension’s Spa and Hospitality Management program.