If massage was just about matching people with injuries and conditions to therapists with the skills to address them, we wouldn’t need to talk about getting more massage clients.
Everyone’s business could flourish just by employing the table skills they have to get more massage clients, because we know there are more than enough tight backs, injured knees and stressed-out parents to keep every massage therapist’s business full to the brim.
Our training and our hand skills are vitally important. Equally important is who we are and how we interact with clients as we carry out what we’re trained to do. Take a minute to think about the clients you look forward to seeing. Perhaps they are people you have an easy rapport with and so your body feels relaxed and without tension.
Now think about some of the qualities these clients have, and how these qualities fit with your personality and way of being in the world. You may find you are a natural fit for somebody who is high-energy, or softly spoken, or very frank and open about what is going on in their lives, or who comes in with a clear goal that they carefully track.
If you want to get more massage clients who sing your praises and refer their friends, colleagues and family members to you, you need to know who you are in your inmost core, and how that shines through in your work. Then you can go about finding the clients who work best with you.
Be Exactly Who You Are
There are many ways to deepen your self-awareness. We recommend that you invest time and resources exploring this to help you get more massage clients. We worked with Anne Sagendorph-Moon, who has created a process she calls Soul Vision. One powerful question she asks is, “Why is it you have to do this work you do?” She has seen that when people start to answer this question and they are unedited, their true vulnerability and passion get revealed.
Anne says that vision connects and benefits sell. We are looking to connect with clients, rather than sell them on a service. What often happens is that practitioners think they have to write a list of benefits, when what they really need to know is deeper vision of why they do what they do and what it means to them.
A few lines from a Soul Vision session that one of this article’s authors, Robyn Scherr, did, are front and center on her website: “Our bodies are our closest companions. Consciously inhabiting them is our most efficient path to greater health, ease, and joy. Through truly living in our bodies … we can create a healthier, more peaceful and joyful world.” These lines express her fundamental approach to her work: that we are not after transcendence, but presence.
Kate MacKinnon, the second author of this article, also had a Soul Vision session. It revealed how motherhood and her own personal healing has shaped what she brings to her business. “I believe that touch can heal many of our wounds, especially those created through traumatic and harmful touch,” her session notes read. “This then allows us to reclaim our power and presence so that we can be the agents of change for future generations.”
Consider that your clients are coming for an experience that can lead to a result they find valuable. A big part of that experience comes from who we are in our work.
There are conventional ideas of how a therapeutic practitioner is supposed to look, sound and move through the world. For example, it may be tempting to think a good CranioSacral Therapy practitioner needs to be a soft, flowy kind of person. However, John E. Upledger, DOO, OMM (1932–2012), the founder of Upledger Institute International, was definitely not a soft, flowy kind of person—and yet he got incredible results.
Dr. Upledger would say, “Don’t try and be anybody else other than who you are.” The point is not to mimic the stereotype of a person who does your kind of work. We encourage you to be exactly who you are with your work. That is how you can show up for your clients authentically and how you will find the best fits for your practice.
Exploring your unique way of showing up in the world requires a good deal of vulnerability and a willingness to be seen, but it is worth it because we are able to present ourselves and our work accurately.
What if you’re just starting out? That’s OK! See everybody! Start noting the people who work well with you, and start listing the qualities they have that make them so rewarding to work with.
By now you will be noticing that we have not named any typical niches that many business coaches recommend you target. We believe, and it has been our experience, that it is not necessary to have a niche. When you clearly identify who is a therapeutic fit for you, your business will grow by the most powerful tool there is: word-of-mouth.
This is How to Develop Word-of-Mouth
Word-of-mouth—providing information that allows people to understand your work and express its value to the people they know—is the most powerful and effective tool for getting more massage clients.
Many of us hold tight to the fantasy of just hanging up a shingle (or creating a website) and then somehow having clients magically find us—no talking required. We maintain that you must find ways to talk to people about your work to get more massage clients.
Creating word-of-mouth means talking to your friends, colleagues, and people you meet as you go about your day. It is not about promoting yourself; it is about sharing your passion for your work. People love to hear someone sharing their enthusiasm in a way that connects with their own interests and needs. While the particular person you are talking to in the moment might not be the next client who walks in your door, we know from all of our experiences that the more you share what you are passionate about, the more people will come through your door.
Aim to communicate in a way that allows people to get their questions answered and to get a sense of who you are and what you offer. When someone in their circle has a need for your services, the people you have talked to will remember your passion and your clarity, and send them to you.
Why Would a Client Want to See You?
One good question to ask yourself is, “Which do I value more—being understood or being perceived as gifted and unique?” Over our years in practice we have heard colleagues say, “This work is mysterious,” “It’s beyond words,” “I can’t possibly explain what I do, you’ll just have to experience it,” and “I do not work like anyone else. I have developed my own special blend of techniques.”
We contend that although phrases like these may convey a truth for some practitioners, they provide only limited information for a potential client to decide whether or not they should come in for a session.
We keep our focus on what the person we are talking with might want to know and how we can provide that information in a useful way, rather than what we might want from them. Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes and imagine what phrases could create a desire to come see you and motivation to book an appointment.
Think ahead of time about common client issues and how your therapeutic approach addresses them. This will help you be ready to speak with potential clients. To get your creative juices flowing, you might consider how you would answer the following questions:
• What are the results your clients tell you they get from your work?
• What are the results you have received as a client, or the results you have seen with this work as a practitioner?
• What brought your current clients to see you?
This is how we got more massage clients and built our businesses: We communicated in our own style, focusing on what our potential clients might want and need. Good fits gravitate toward us, and we can refer people who aren’t good fits to our colleagues. Our businesses are sustainable, and marketing is pretty effortless. Communicating in this way helped us become known in our communities, and soon referrals came in seemingly from out of the blue.
Logistics Matter Too When Getting More Massage Clients
We recognize that a good fit is about more than just personality and style. We had to look at some things that may seem obvious, because it helps us bring more consciousness to these aspects. It can be surprising how easily the basics can be overlooked!
Clients who are good fits pay us on time. They show up to their appointments on time and they take responsibility for that. If they’re caught in traffic they will contact us and let us know they’ll be late. They show up ready to work with the time remaining.
A good logistical fit changes over time. For example, Kate has two middle-school-aged children and she works during school hours only. So, working with children who are in school does not currently work so well. She is fortunate to have practitioners close by to whom she can refer clients of this age group; however, working with clients who are at college does work because when they are home during their breaks, they have flexibility that is a fit for Kate’s schedule.
Connect Authentically with Clients
Marketing can be enjoyable when we have a clear sense of ourselves and our strengths, and how we can be of service. Then we can communicate about our work in a way that authentically connects with people, and can build sustainable practices with ease.
About the authors
Robyn Scherr is Diplomate-Certified in CranioSacral Therapy and a California certified massage therapist. Robyn promotes nonintrusive touch because it provides immediate resources to release the effects of stress, injury and trauma. She’s published several articles on skillful touch and is featured in the best-selling book, Younger.
Kate MacKinnon, PT, CST-D, is Diplomate-Certified in CranioSacral Therapy and a licensed physical therapist in California and the UK. She is the author of From My Hands and Heart: Achieving Health and Balance with CranioSacral Therapy and developer of the Healthy Compassionate Touch curriculum. This article, written exclusively for MASSAGE Magazine, is based on material covered in the book Elements of a Successful Therapeutic Business (2019).