We all know that clients can drift off.

They might cancel, usually because something came up, or they might simply get too busy to rebook—and then we don’t hear from them for weeks, or maybe even months.

Some of us aren’t very good about following up with direct outreach to ask clients to rebook. With a membership program, your clients will stay on schedule, because they have already committed to paying for a certain number of sessions per month.

Many industries use a membership model of service. These include gyms, professional associations, retailers like Costco and Amazon Prime, and massage franchises.

In the membership model, a member, or customer, pays monthly or annual dues in return for a benefit. Membership programs are a popular business model for a reason: They are good for both the business owner and the customer.

Setting up a membership model in an independent massage practice is a way of guaranteeing repeat business while ensuring clients receive frequent massage. A membership model means clients will be on regularly recurring monthly payments for the massage therapist’s services.

Watch this video, where I go over the details of setting up a massage membership model.

Your business will have an income stream you can count on every month, and clients will receive a certain number of massage sessions at a special rate set by the business owner.

With a membership program, clients will get more services. Once they’ve paid for that monthly service, it’s very easy to have them book more services at the same price point.

They will love getting member benefits and special pricing, which will encourage them to do more business with you, like buying gift certificates, additional services and retail products. You can incorporate all of these offerings into member benefits.

Pricing

A membership does not have to entail a big discount, or any discount at all. A membership model is just a different way of structuring prices. Many businesses have pricing structures, which allow them to offer incentives and discounts, as well as reward loyalty.

I encourage therapists to figure out the amount they need to make per service in order to pay themselves. This amount should include such benefits as health insurance and vacations, taxes and expenses.

This session fee is one the massage therapist should feel very happy receiving. Next, set your price per session $10 to $15 above this amount. This will give you room in your pricing structure to incorporate a member price, offer pre-paid packages, and create holiday specials and campaigns to attract new clients.

Your membership program can be completely unique to your business. You can create a branded service for your members, for example. This could look like a massage session plus a stretching session, or massage session plus a sauna session. (Your special offering doesn’t have to discount your 60-minute massage.)

If you create a membership program that costs $79 per month for a monthly service pre-booked with you, and have 50 people in your program who renew on the first of each month, you will have nearly $4,000 deposited to your bank account on the first day of each month.

How would having those regular payments help you? Maybe you could get all your bills for the month paid, plan your marketing, invest in your business and pay yourself a regular salary. Perhaps you would be able to plan better and actually enjoy your slow days as the break they are, instead of stressing out.

For Ezralea Robbins, owner of Mountainside Spa in Holladay, Utah, memberships provide “bread and butter” to counteract seasonal income swings.

“Our members get to commit to themselves that they will make sure to do self-care,” Robbins said.

At Mountainside Spa, a 60-minute massage costs $80 for nonmembers. Members, who commit to a six-month agreement and then are billed month-to-month, pay $65 for their choice of one monthly 60-minute massage or custom facial. Members at Mountainside Spa also get 50 percent off add-on therapies. Unused sessions roll over and do not expire. The spa’s membership pricing reflects the trend in massage therapy membership models: a six-month commitment with the membership fee billed every month for a reduced-rate session, with the membership then converting to month-by-month.

Essential Steps

I encourage you to open your mind and envision how having a membership program would help your business and your clients.

• Decide if you will offer one membership option or several membership options at different price points. Having options available will enable you to have something for everyone, from clients on a tight budget to clients who can afford more.

If you offer a basic self-care option as well as a VIP option, you will make it easy for clients to pay for the experience they want, and spend as much as they want.

When you make it easy for clients to spend more, you will always have a percentage of people who take advantage of that option. If 10 percent of your clients spend $50 to $100 more each month, what would that look like for your income?

• Determine what your membership benefits will be. Common benefits are discounts on products and services, complimentary upgrades, priority booking, first dibs on specials or services with limited availability, access to classes or amenities, home-care products, or discounts at other businesses.

• Choose the right name. You don’t have to call your monthly program a “membership,” for example. You could call it a club, a VIP society or a self-care circle, or another name that corresponds with your brand.

• Decide how you will communicate with your members. You might create a members-only newsletter or a closed Facebook group to stay in touch, build your relationships and increase member retention.

• Set up a way to process payments and keep track of members’ payments and services. There are many types of massage- and spa-specific software that can take care of this. The investment, setup and learning curve will be well worth it once you have a successful membership program running.

If you aren’t ready to invest in a full membership-management and online booking program, there may be options to process subscription payments through your credit card processing company.

• Create contracts. A basic membership agreement with permission to process payments is vital. At times, some people will want to cancel or put their memberships on hold, and having clear policies in place will prevent problems and misunderstandings.

Clear policies on sharing member benefits and rolling services over from one month to the next clearly spelled out will give you good boundaries and rules you can enforce when needed. You will need to do your research in this area, look at examples, and get some advice from a lawyer to make sure you have everything covered.

• Determine how you will promote your membership program and attract new members. A membership drive for your current clients would be a good starting point, then a plan to attract new clients and consistently recommend your membership options. It is imperative that you get comfortable with recommending your program and taking people through the sign-up process. Your members will come and go for many reasons, so it’s important to keep new clients coming in and your brand in front of the people in your community.

Worth the Effort

You will want your program to be something people feel good about being part of. Online research can help you see the most common complaints consumers have about massage-and-spa membership programs.

For example, difficulty in cancelling or not being able to use up sessions after cancellation are common complaints. By gathering such information, you can avoid these pitfalls and design a program you are proud of and your clients love belonging to.

Membership programs can be fun and profitable, and will set you apart from other independent massage therapists in your community. Everyone loves the feeling of belonging to a club, special perks and saving money.

Starting your membership program will take careful planning, learning new skills and time to grow. However, the benefits of having a full schedule and consistent income will be well worth the effort. The best time to start anything new is right now, so start brainstorming your ideas and soon you can be launching your monthly membership option.

About the Author:

Gael Wood has more than 23 years of experience in the massage-and-spa industry. She now concentrates on training massage and spa therapists in business, spa services and greater success. She is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and her articles include “Multiple Income Streams=More Money with Less Stress.” Gael is also a MASSAGE Magazine All-Star.

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