Hotel massage can be a way to pick up some extra money—but it can also be time-consuming, costly and frustrating if you don’t know the ropes.
There are three action steps you’ll need to take in order to be successful with hotel massage: 1) Connect with the general manager, sales director and a motivated front-desk person; 2) Offer free demonstration massages; and 3) Offer discounted massage for package deals. None of these steps will cost you a penny.
In 2005, I jumped into the on-site hotel massage business to earn supplemental income. My massage team consisted of my wife, two part-time employees and me. We could provide massage to about 25 hotels in our area. Out of the 25, we found work in 10 hotels.
I experimented with many forms of advertising, including a commercial that played in local hotels. We also advertised in a few hotel directories; however, at the end of the day, being successful at hotel massage depended on one thing: relationships.
Action Step #1: Connect with the general manager, sales director and a motivated front-desk person.
There are three people in a hotel with whom you need to have a great relationship: the general manager, sales director and a motivated front-desk person.
You need to connect with the general manager because she is the ultimate decision-maker. She calls the shots when it comes to hotel operations—and to have long-standing success in a hotel, you’ll need her on your side.
The sales director runs all the promotions for the hotel. He is in charge of meeting sales goals, also known as getting heads in beds. The sales director is important to know because he is the person who will promote you through package deals (explained in action step #2). Also, sometimes you’ll find that the general manager will punt vendor relationships to the sales director. If that’s the case, the sales director will be your primary management contact.
You’ll also need to connect with a front-desk person who likes massage—and you. This person will spread your name to the guests who walk through the hotel lobby door every day. Finding that person may take a little work, but action step #2 will help you with that.
Start relationship building by setting up a meeting with the general manager. This won’t be difficult, unless she sees massage as a headache for her staff instead of an amenity for her guests. The reality is, most general managers love having amenities they don’t have to manage or pay for.
Here’s how to set up a meeting: Call the hotel and ask to speak to the general manager, or email the general manager and request an appointment to introduce your on-site massage service.
When you get a meeting, you’ll want to bring business cards. If you have promotional material, great. But if you don’t have promotional material, don’t worry. You have something better to provide: free demonstration massages.
Action Step #2: Offer free demonstration massages.
Offering free demonstration massages is an absolute winner with hotel management. Why? Because general managers are in a difficult position: They want to keep their staff happy, but hotel owners, corporations and management companies don’t want general managers to spend a lot of money doing so. For this reason, your free massage demonstration is a gift.
Offer two free demonstration-massage days. The second one should be scheduled four to six weeks after the first one. The reason you’re going to offer two demo days is so hotel workers who missed you the first time have a chance to try out your service later. Also, you’re getting another chance to market your service to all the people who will, ultimately, be selling your service.
When you set up your free chair-massage demonstration for the hotel staff, get your hands on as many people as possible. If the general manager or sales director doesn’t want to get a massage, don’t sweat it as long as you’re taking care of their front desk, housekeeping and maintenance staffs.
When you’re working on the front-desk workers, pay attention to the person who loves your massage. This is the person who will spread your name to each guest walking through the hotel door. Make sure you get that front-desk person’s name.
After the demonstration, call the general manager. Thank her for letting you do the demonstrations. If your business cards are not on or behind the front desk at this point, ask the general manager if you could leave cards for the front-desk staff. Also, ask her if you can give front-desk staff a commission for referring a guest to you. I’ve gotten mixed responses to this request. Whichever the response, abide by the general manager’s request.
If commission is permissible, make sure your front-desk person knows you’re providing a commission with each massage referral. I would suggest $10 per referral. If you’re uncomfortable with providing a commission and have a studio or place to which you can bring clients, offer front-desk workers a special massage rate. For superstar front-desk people, I’ve extended this offer to their family and friends.
Now it’s time to galvanize your relationship with the sales director.
Action Step #3: Offer discounted massage for package deals.
As your relationship with the general manager strengthens, go back to her and offer your massage at a discounted price for a package deal. If she bites, she’ll send you to the sales director.
A hotel package deal is a special that hotels run where they bundle services at a discounted price. For example, a package deal may be a Women’s Weekend package that includes two nights’ stay, in-room massage, manicure and a trip to the local winery—at a really good price.
Because the price point for the package deal needs to be low to attract customers, you’ll have to offer your massage at a discounted price. For a package deal, we would provide a 60-minute on-site massage for $60. (Our normal pricing for this length of massage ranges from $90 to $120, depending on the hotel.)
Package deals are not where you’re going to make the most money doing hotel massage; they’re about relationship building. For the most part, sales directors are forced to offer package deals because of the competitive nature of the hotel industry. Most sales directors with whom I talked would rather not have to offer them because they involve a lot of work.
You’re simply making the life of the sales director a little easier by offering great pricing and a hassle-free service he can count on—and you’re still going to walk away with $60 (plus a tip) just for relationship building.
I’ve had mixed results with paying for space in a hotel directory. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to advertise in a hotel directory, if you build solid relationships with key hotel personnel.
If you are approached to buy ad space in a hotel directory, beware. The hotel may have an interest in you purchasing advertising space. Here’s what I mean: If the directory is outsourced, the general manager or sales director will provide the directory salesperson with all the names of the vendors who do business with the hotel—including your name. This is because the hotel wants to have a full directory of reliable vendors their guests can call when they need something the hotel doesn’t provide. In addition, the hotel gets the hotel directory for free if the outsourced directory company can sell enough ads. Also, if the hotel does the directory in-house, they’ll make money off the directory.
Can you feel the pressure to buy an ad building?
But think about this: You’re doing free demonstrations, discounted package deals and providing an awesome amenity. That’s a lot of value for the hotel.
So, when the question about buying advertising space in the hotel directory comes up, take a deep breath and say, “Thanks for the offer, but it’s just not in my budget this year.” This has worked for me every time.
Lastly, be flexible. The order in which things go down and which relationship happens first can vary. I’ve had cases where a motivated front-desk person did all the work for me, starting with introducing me to the general managers of the two hotels where he was employed.
At another hotel, the sales director was our number-one fan. She promoted our massage services constantly. We had numerous paid chair massage gigs, including employee appreciation events and corporate events, at her hotel. We also shot our commercial there.
Let’s review. No matter which relationship gets your foot in the door, you’ll need solid relationships with three key hotel personnel: the general manager, sales director, and a superstar front-desk person. Get started by setting up a meeting with the general manager. Offer free demonstration massages for her employees. Make the offer available for two dates. As you do the first free demo, identify the front-desk person who loves your massage. Build that relationship by offering a commission for each referral or discounted massage for her and her family and friends at your office. Next, talk to the sales director and offer discounted pricing for a package deal. Make his life easy by suggesting package ideas where massage would fit in, like a Women’s Weekend package.
At this point, you’re in—and on-site massage opportunities should start flowing your way.
Mark Liskey, L.M.T., C.N.M.T., is a massage therapist of 25 years, teacher and business owner. His website, makethemostofmassage.com, is a free online resource for massage therapists who want to make more money, stay out of pain and create the massage lives they want.