If you plan to strike out on your own, one of the most important investments you can make in your business—in addition to your techniques and skills—is marketing to attract new clients.
You can be the most accomplished therapist in the world, but if you don’t have anyone walking through your door to climb onto your table, your skills might not matter.
We got into this industry to help people through their pain and their stress—but first we need to get them on our table.
Grassroots Marketing 101
One form of marketing that has worked very well for our more successful Retreats is something called grassroots marketing. Sometimes called guerilla marketing, the definition of grassroots marketing is unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results with minimal resources, meaning it is designed to be cost-effective and extremely efficient.
As someone just starting off in business, this is something that can really help you to start a steady foundation of clients, and get you on your way to a successful bodywork business venture.
There are various ways to incorporate grassroots marketing into your marketing plan; however, knowing how to put on a wellness event can be a great means of grassroots marketing.
When you hold an event, it accomplishes a few key objectives for first-time business owners:
- It allows you to introduce your business and your therapy to your community in a fun and engaging way;
- You will be able to educate your future clients about why they need massage and bodywork as a regular part of their lifestyle; and
- It increases your opportunity to book appointments and build your business.
Something you may want to think about when deciding to hold a wellness-inspired event is, what goal do you hope to accomplish with this event? Ultimately, the goal is to book appointments and keep your regular schedule busy, so keep this in the back of your mind as you plan and create actionable items that will drive attention to that goal.
The other thing you may want to take into consideration is what you hope people will take with them when the event is over. The thing they take might not even be something physical, but just strong enough of an impression that when their lower back starts hurting they remember that they know of a great and knowledgeable therapist to contact.
After deciding the goal for your event, it’s now time to talk budget. Whether you have a big or small amount allocated to the event, you should always be aware of what dollars you can put toward your marketing efforts.
Business cards, flyers, signage, operational products or giveaways—these will all cost money, and you need to be mindful of any limitations you may have. While these limitations may create certain restrictions, they can also show you how creative you can be!
When making these financial decisions and you aren’t sure about spending on an item, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to purchase going to have a direct effect on my client in making a decision to book an appointment?” and “Is there a more cost-effective way for me to do this, while still presenting something professional?”
If you don’t have a positive answer for these questions, it may not be worth the price, and if you can accomplish the same goal in a more cost-effective way, perhaps you save that dollar for something more worthwhile.
Location, Location, Location
The next step in planning your event will be to decide on the location. If you choose to host the event at your own space, this can make things a bit easier—not just on your wallet, but your future clients have the opportunity to experience the space they will be relaxing in. It’s like having home court advantage.
You can have the final say in activities you plan on having, whom you invite, and the date and time you hold the event.
Another option you might consider is participating in community events in your area. Keep an eye out for health-and-wellness fairs, athletic competitions, marathons, races, farmer’s markets, wedding and bridal expos, and local festivals, as these may be an opportunity for you to involve yourself in.
Be aware that some of these opportunities may have a cost associated with them; however, you may also want to weigh the fact that you will not be the only one marketing to get guests to come. So decide if there is an appropriate amount of return on investment for you.
An additional option would be potentially holding an event in partnership with another like-minded business, in its facility.
Be sure to discuss any specifics with the other business owner, including who will cover the cost of what, and who will do any specific tasks if needed; strive to make it as mutually beneficial as possible. Get these agreements in writing.
You can start to plan what activities you want to incorporate in your event. When determining this, also keep in mind how long you want the event to be. If you are doing this in partnership with another business or in conjunction with another event, this may not be something you can be as flexible on.
Ideally, the event will be no less than an hour long, so your guests have a little leeway if they are late, and they all have the opportunity to try any activities that will be going on during your event.
The actual elements of the event are where you can really get creative. Some things that I’ve seen be successful are offering massage, as you’ll want to show your potential future clients a taste of what you can do.
I’ve seen therapists offer chair massage, clothed table massage, even the option of both. You could also offer samples of any add-on services you may offer.
This not only will show off your skill set, it will introduce your potential clients to a service they may not have otherwise tried.
Another popular option is holding a raffle. When creating the raffle ticket, be sure to include a spot that asks for your guest’s email and phone number. This way, you have his or her information to use for any follow-up and future marketing you might do.
You can even make the raffle prizes work for you by holding a drawing every 30 minutes in order to keep up attendance as the event progresses. (This would necessitate an event longer than just one hour.)
For prizes, mix it up. You could offer anything from a complimentary service, to product, to complimentary 30 minutes of massage, or an add-on service with the purchase of an hour. The possibilities are endless.
If you are a therapist who offers a product line, whether it is a product that contributes to stress relief or helps with at-home self-care, you could offer a product play station.
Here, you’ll allow your guests to try out and sample your retail products. You can also offer demonstrations and education on how these items combined with regular massage can help with their specific concerns.
Remember, this is just a small list of ideas that might work for you. Whatever you choose to do for activities, be sure to focus on what the goal was when this process started: booking appointments. Keeping this goal in mind, along with your budget, will help guide what will be best for your event.
Layer, Layer, Layer
Now that you have the groundwork laid out for your event, you need to start inviting your guests. The biggest piece of advice I can give you here is to layer, layer, layer. Just like any marketing you would do for your business, you get the most benefit if you layer your efforts.
Layering means you can’t just send one invitation and expect people to show up; you have to ask them multiple times and in multiple ways. You must entice them and get them excited to attend.
There are various ways for you to go about this. Email blasts, direct mail, Facebook Event invites and other social media platforms, print ads and fliers are all viable options to use—and you can utilize some of these, such as social media tools, at no cost.
Just be sure to include a mix of email, social media and paper invitations, as well as word of mouth, to generate the highest number of attendees.
Talk up your event with your current clients. On your actual invitation, be sure to include a motivating factor to get your guests to come. Perhaps reward clients with complimentary time added to their next service if they bring a friend to the event and that friend books an appointment with you. What will you be offering that might pique their interest?
It is also beneficial to create a call to action on this invitation. Attempt to get an RSVP this way, so you will have an idea of how many people will be showing up. Further, try to confirm with invitees the day before the event and express how excited you are to meet them.
As you start getting closer to the date of your event, you will want to start creating a list of supplies you will need for that day, and you may want to start slowly purchasing these items if needed.
I’ve found it’s more financially practical to spread that cost over a period of time rather than purchasing everything all at once, but ultimately that decision will be up to you.
Some items you may consider adding to your list are pretty standard: food, drink, utensils for the refreshments, additional operational products for the services you may be offering, business cards, banners and other signage, brochures or service menus, any branded items such as pens or mints, your raffle items like a raffle bowl and entry forms, your massage chair or table, music and retail products.
If you are a one-person show, enlist the help of friends or family members to help staff your event by having them replenish refreshments as they run out, and have someone there who is able to book appointments for you, as you may be busy giving services to your guests.
If you are part of a team of people, it would be useful to discuss who will be doing what the day of the event, to alleviate any potential disorganization. Be sure all members of your team know where they will be and what they will be doing, and make it fun by assigning rotating shifts.
The actions you take after your event can be just as important as the ones you take to prepare for it.
After you’ve successfully completed your event, be sure to thank those who attended. This shows that you truly appreciate their participation, plus it allows you one last touch point.
You can send a thank you in various ways, depending on the information you have. This can be done with an email, a personalized phone call, or even a handwritten thank-you card. Be sure to thank them for their attendance, and tell them if they have any questions to contact you or the appropriate party.
If they were unable to schedule an appointment during the event, you may want to inquire whether or not they would like to schedule their next appointment.
If they have booked already, confirm their appointment. By following up with the guests of your event, you will only elevate the experience they had with you and show them that you care. This level of service goes a long way and can create a long-term client.
Grow and Evolve
As the day of your event approaches, it may be stressful, so be sure that you are taking time to care for yourself, too. When the day arrives, remember to try your best to have fun.
Everything may not go according to plan, but the more you follow the grassroots marketing instructions in this article, the more you will learn what works and what doesn’t.
This is a learning process, and you can only grow and evolve with each event you accomplish, so make the most out of it.
About the Author
Nichole Velez, L.M.T., is training and development manager for Massage Heights. She has written articles for massagemag.com including “3 False Beliefs About Massage Sales Success,” “Master These 3 Steps to Please Even the Most Unhappy Customer,” “The Road to Leadership Success,” “Find the Right Job with a Topnotch Résumé,” “Do You Communicate to Build Long Term Clients?” and “How to Terminate a Client-Therapist Relationship.”