To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Easy Steps to Success: Create a Massage Practice that Stands Out,” , in the April 2011 issue. Article summary: Among a sea of competitors, standing out can be the key to success. Small steps can take your practice to the next level To rise above the rest, get creative and consistent with your marketing and outreach efforts, know your way around online and in-person networking, and never forget to provide the best possible client experience.

Provide Results, by John F. Barnes

John Barnes, MASSAGE MagazineThe best way to set your practice apart from your competitors is by offering treatment that provides the best results for your clients. No other form of advertising is more successful than word-of-mouth. Give clients long-lasting results and your business will thrive.

To be successful, it is important to choose a focus for your practice. Is there one modality or technique you are drawn to? Massage therapists need to choose a focus they believe in and are passionate about. There are many techniques that are incomplete. Choose a technique that allows for profound, lasting results.

Once you decide where you want your professional career to head, contact your state chapter or national organization and do a little research on which educational companies meet the requirements of continuing education. Not only will you learn new techniques that will enhance your practice and your clients’ well-being, you will also obtain your much-needed continuing education units, a requirement many states demand.

—John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is president of Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and International Myofascial Release Seminars and developer of The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach.


Guide the Therapeutic Process, by Erik Dalton

Erik Dalton, MASSAGE MagazineMany of today’s massage therapists find helping people who hurt not only intellectually stimulating, but also potentially lucrative. Some economists have remarked that pain management may recession-proof.

This idea seems obvious to those of us who have dedicated our careers to helping people in pain, because of the natural laws of society: People who hurt will search high and low to find that special therapist who might offer help for recurring conditions, such as neck and low-back pain.

Most of our clients battling recurrent pain, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and backache, are trapped in either an intrinsic or extrinsic state of collapse. Too often, we settle for immediate symptom alleviation, i.e., chasing the pain, rather than digging for the root of the problem.

As the great Czech researcher Vladimir Janda, M.D., once said, “The neuromusculoskeletal system must be assessed and treated as a whole, with muscle dysfunction considered in relation to the functional status of the whole motor system, including articular and nerve structures. Any change in the statics or dynamics of the distal trunk and lower extremities will, in some way, be mirrored in the function of the upper complex, and vice-versa.”

Of course, successful management of chronic pain depends on much more than intellectual knowledge. It must be teamed with keen observation skills, patience, compassion and a constant reminder that the healer is, ultimately, within each client.

Manual and movement therapists serve only as helpful facilitators in the ongoing journey toward optimum health and they should gratefully utilize the body’s innate self-regulatory system to help guide the therapeutic process.

Despite the variety of pain-management approaches available in today’s ever-expanding bodywork field, the therapeutic goal should remain the same: restoration of maximal pain-free movement within postural balance.

—Erik Dalton, Ph.D., is executive director of the Freedom from Pain Institute.


Recommend Frequent Massage, by CG Funk

CG Funk, MASSAGE MagazineA successful massage therapist takes ownership of each client’s experience, during his or her visit. Professional appearance and a friendly greeting will immediately put a client at ease. Being attentive and listening to a client’s needs and requests during the pre-interview is as important as facilitating a massage session customized for their needs and requests.

Outside of the wonderful, therapeutic service you offer, the best way to build a busy practice is by recommending massage session frequency to your clients. As massage therapists, we understand how receiving massage on a regular basis can greatly improve overall health by reducing chronic pain and stress, increasing flexibility, assisting in healing muscular injuries, easing insomnia, energizing and increasing overall awareness of one’s physical and emotional bodies.

Massage therapists know all the research, we understand the anatomy of the body and we are fully immersed in how massage benefits many physical and emotional disorders and conditions. But our clients don’t know all of this.

Most clients haven’t graduated from a massage school. They don’t lay their hands on people on a daily basis, and oftentimes, they haven’t allowed themselves to experience the healing that comes from receiving massage and bodywork on a regular basis. They aren’t educated or experienced in the wide range of benefits massage therapy has to offer.

When we decided to become massage therapists, it was because we wanted to make a difference in the health and wellness of our clients. We do this through our touch, but we also do it through educating our clients on massage therapy and its benefits. If we let a client who experiences daily chronic pain leave without telling her about how regular massage therapy sessions can help ease her pain, we have failed to serve her and her therapeutic needs.

Recommending massage frequency is about helping our clients achieve a healthier, happy life. It’s about building a business that ultimately serves human beings through touch.

Massage therapists who aren’t afraid to share their knowledge and passion with clients build the best practices and stay busy in today’s competitive marketplace.

—CG Funk is vice president of Industry Relations and Product Development for Massage Envy Ltd.


Evaluate and Educate, by David Kent

David Kent, MASSAGE MagazineAs a practicing therapist, still in the same clinic I opened in 1992, I am happy to share some time-proven principles that will build your practice by setting it out from the competition. The following tips should be modified and applied to your outcall, chair, spa or clinical practice.

  • Implementing systems that evaluate and educate your clients will make you stand out from your competition and survive the toughest of economic times.
  • Like doctors utilize X-rays or MRIs to educate patients, design treatment plans and document progress. Postural analysis photos document a client’s postural progress over a series of treatments and are a great tool for attracting new clients and selling treatment packages.
  • Use postural analysis photos to raise your level of professionalism and credibility in the community, while providing client education and building your practice. (For more information, see MASSAGE Magazine, July/August 2009, “Postural Analysis: A Professional Tool for Building Your Practice.”)
  • The camera and screen built into most cell phones is a perfect solution for taking and reviewing postural analysis photos with your clients. The photos only take a minute to shoot and one lateral view photo tells a big story, showing all the stresses the musculoskeletal system endures from a forward-head posture, while an anterior view photo will reveal a number of issues from a collapsed arch to a high shoulder.
  • A postural analysis grid chart allows you to easily point out postural misalignments and document change.
  • Another very powerful visual tool that demonstrates your ability to understand the client’s pain and develop an effective treatment plan is the use of trigger point charts.
  • Have each client locate his pain pattern on the charts. This engages them, is reassuring you understand and helps you further customize the treatment plan. Explain to each client the connection between his pain, limited range of motion, posture, trigger points and how your customized treatment plan can help.
  • The area of education offering a most dynamic return on investment is a dissection seminar. All medical students are required to take gross anatomy, where they perform a human dissection to see, touch and understand all the structures that make up the body and how they are interconnected.
  • Dissection study is rarely offered to massage therapists however, if possible take a class. The knowledge is invaluable and applicable to all forms of bodywork. (For more information, read MASSAGE Magazine, May 2010, “Invest in your Career with a Dissection Seminar.”)

—David Kent, L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is president and founder of Kent Health Systems.


Create the Best Client Experience, by Jeffrey Riach

Jeffrey Riach, MASSAGE MagazineClient experience is the most important massage-practice differentiator because it ensures repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising.

I have been receiving massage on a regular basis for more than 30 years. There is nothing like a good massage—and we all remember very well those great massages. So how do you create the best client experience?

Of course, the biggest part is you: your skills, your centeredness and your thoughtful preparation of every part of the experience, from booking to paying.

As the designer of Oakworks massage products for more than 30 years, I can tell you that the table and accessories you use can make a big difference also, and are very important elements of a great experience. For most work, the best table is one that is soft and conforms to your client’s body, so she can relax fully. There are table-topper pads on the market that can help transform your table at reasonable cost if buying a new table is out of your budget.

The latest table designs allow you to adjust the contour of the table for your female clients while they are on it, relieving pressure on the breasts and allowing the back to assume a more relaxed position.

Sinus pressure and being forced to breathe through the mouth is not something your clients want to experience—so don’t ever give up on finding the best face-rest cushion, because the latest designs can make a difference through innovative cushioning systems and areas of contact.

—Jeffrey Riach is the founder of Oakworks.


Serve a Niche, by Jean Shea

Jean Shea, MASSAGE MagazineIn today’s highly competitive market, it’s not enough to be a competent professional. To stand out from the competition, you need to have a unique differentiation that sets you apart and clearly positions you in the minds of your customers and prospects.

Having a specialty or serving a niche in the market can set you apart from the competition. As an example, therapeutic sports massage or on-site workplace therapy are becoming increasingly popular and provide good market opportunities.

Also, new types of massage become in vogue and you may want to learn one or more of them to attract more customers or add some variation to your service offering. Two that are popular today are bamboo massage and cupping.

Consider offering treatments that address certain physical conditions, such as cancer or arthritis. By pursuing training in these areas, you may get even more satisfaction out of your work. Or consider targeting a particular group you would like to work with, such as seniors or children or prenatal moms.

Another way to differentiate your practice and offer more service is to partner with other professionals. Think about who you can partner with to complement your offering and help expand your own marketing efforts. As a massage therapist, you might want to partner with an esthetician or a health-service provider for referrals or joint promotions, including a possible open house.

Partners can be a major source of referrals and also enable you to provide a more comprehensive service offering. Be sure, though, they are your philosophy about customer service and professionalism.

—Jean Shea is founder, CEO and head of product development for BIOTONE Professional Massage & Spa Therapy.


It’s the Little Things that Matter, by Lynda Solien-Wolfe

Lynda Solien-Wolfe, MASSAGE MagazineIt’s the little things that matter most, and they add up to making you stand out from the competition. Doing the extra and really caring about the well-being of your clients will show.

Starting with a kind and friendly attitude goes a long way. Call your client to remind him of his appointment, make follow-up calls and send welcome cards and birthday cards. Make notes in your client’s chart to remember how he likes to start his massage, what lubricants he likes and doesn’t like, and what type of massage and pressure her enjoys most. Take the time to educate clients on things they can do between visits to help them get better and stay better, even if it means needing fewer appointments a month.

Have water available after a session, and give out samples of products you have tried and know will help your clients. Take appointments after hours when needed, to help your clients get out of pain. And, of course, give a great massage, stay focused on your clients during their session and help them get results.

On the practice side, being involved in community service is a great way to help your business stand out. You will help a cause and get great exposure for your practice and the massage profession in your community. I have worked with the March of Dimes, runaway shelters, centers for abused women and a teacher-appreciation program—and they have all served a worthy cause to help me, in term, serve the community I work in. This volunteer work also helps my practice stand out.

—Lynda Solien-Wolfe is director of Education for Performance Health/Hygenic Corp.


Stand Out with Character, by John Matthew Upledger

There are many diverse types of massage practices these days, but they all have one thing in common: competition. Whether competing for a job or clients, in order to give yourself the best opportunity for success, you need to stand out.

Quality education and strong skills are crucial, but equally important is good character. So, in addition to being the best you can be technically, you also need to spend time examining and building your character. When it comes to building character, my experience leads me to these basic fundamentals:

  • Honesty. Be honest with others, and true to yourself. Honestly enjoy and believe in what you are doing. Pick the type of massage practice you love and be proud of what you do. If you are truly comfortable with who you are and what you do, people will sense it and be drawn to you.
  • Integrity. Be the best you can be, but don’t try to oversell yourself. Competence shows, as does a lack of competency. Stay informed, educated and networked to the best of your abilities. Promote yourself for who you are and what you know, not what you think someone wants to hear or what you think will sell better. Your reputation will be much better served if people view you as extremely competent in a smaller arena than less competent in a larger one.
  • Generosity. Be willing to give advice and work cooperatively with those around you. By helping raise those around you, you will rise with them. Rest on your own laurels; never try to build yourself up at the expense of others.
  • A positive attitude. Most importantly, be happy. Attitude and energy are contagious. Most of us want to be around people who are positive and happy. If you want to be the type of person who stands out and people are drawn to, bring joy and enthusiasm to others.

My father told me the shortest distance between two points was an intention. So set your intention and you will be on your way.

—John Matthew Upledger is managing partner for The Upledger Institute.