by Ralph R. Stephens

Are you looking for more and better ways to promote your massage practice? A massage chair may be the best advertising investment you can make. Not only can a massage chair provide you with more opportunities to help people, it can be an effective promotional tool for a table-massage practice.

In the current economy, there is little money to waste on ineffective advertising—and from a consumer’s perspective, there is little money to waste on an ineffective massage. In these circumstances, direct contact with potential clients is very powerful and cost-effective for both parties.

No advertisement or commercial has the selling power of your hands. A few minutes of clients experiencing your touch and meeting you personally is the most powerful advertising method available to you—and it’s the least expensive. The easiest and most efficient way of giving samples of your ability to help someone is by using a massage chair or other seated-massage system. Massage chairs are easy for people to get on and off. They are easier to move, take up less space than a massage table and are unusual-looking enough to attract attention.

Market your massage
There are two things massage therapists should be constantly studying and improving: massage skills and marketing skills.

Massage skills are about becoming the best therapist you can be. With all the other therapists out there and the state of the economy, you cannot afford to be below average or ineffective. Never stop studying health, the human body and advanced techniques to better help people. Seminars and videos by the profession’s nationally recognized educators are the best way to learn new skills. Also, study your anatomy books and keep up to date on new products. The more you know, the better you can help people.

Marketing means selling yourself and your services. Get over any thoughts you have that there is something wrong, bad, negative, unspiritual or unethical about sales—especially when it comes to massage. Do you passionately believe, from the center of your heart, that massage is a valuable service almost everyone can benefit from and thus needs? If so, everyone you see, and especially everyone you meet, along with all their friends and family are your potential clients. If not, you need to do some serious soul-searching as to why you are in this profession. There is nothing wrong or “unspiritual” in educating people about massage and offering to provide (sell) this service they need and will benefit from.

If you think you are in the massage business, you are wrong. You are in the sales and marketing business. You are in the people business. You are in the health-care business. Massage just happens to be your deliverable service. Before a potential client will agree to take delivery of your service, he must be convinced what you offer will give him the experience he desires. He really does not want a massage; he wants an experience that will make him feel better. The better experience you can make him believe you will provide for him, the more likely he is to book a massage with you. Somehow you have to “wow” him. People buy on emotion, not logic. They justify purchases with logic later.

Demonstrate your skills
How can you reach and “wow” potential clients? By getting your hands on them, and quickly and precisely explaining what the benefits of massage are in a way that elicits an emotional response from them.

The vast majority of people are walking around with pain in their bodies—about 90 percent of the population reports incidence of low-back pain, for example—yet few realize the potential massage has to provide them the relief they seek. Most people think massage is just for relaxation.

Once you have your massage chair set up in a public arena—health fairs, festivals, athletic events and shopping malls are all viable locations—draw potential clients in with a smile. As soon as possible, get to a personal level of conversation. You might ask, “Do you have low back pain?” Or, “I’ll bet your arms and hands are tired from carrying those heavy shopping bags.” Or, “Wouldn’t it feel great to get rid of the tension between your shoulder blades?”
Get some information from potential clients about their complaints. Most people are delighted to talk about their pain because they are constantly searching for relief. Convey your concern about them as unique individuals, and then offer solutions to their problems through massage, if massage is appropriate. Show them how massage can help them with their conditions, when you think it can.

Using a massage chair, give potential clients a demonstration of how massage can help their specific conditions or complaints. Explain what you are doing and why as you work on them. Educate them about their conditions and why massage can give them what they want—relief or improvement.

If you ask them, people will usually admit they feel better from the small amount of work you have just done on them. Then explain how and why massage on your table at your office would be so much more effective and a better value.

Ask each client if he or she would like to book an appointment with you for even more relief and deeper relaxation. You can even explain the better experience they will have at your office, such as a quieter and more healing environment, a longer session, more equipment available to use, etc. Then ask what their availability is to book a session. Always have your schedule book with you, and start offering times. To help close the deal, give them a special price for their first table massage.

Your target market
Who do you want to work on? Athletes? Pregnant women? Seniors? Who are your favorite clients? Each group will be found in a different place, so decide what type of clientele you want and find it. Once there, you must reach that audience with a clear, enthusiastic message that elicits the desired response; in this case, making an appointment with you for a table massage.

If you want to help people at a large business or factory, find out who the wellness director is and work to get an appointment with him to do a demonstration. Remember, you are selling yourself and your ability to help that company improve employee moral and reduce health-care costs. Massage is your deliverable service.

Do not go out with the idea you are going to give away free massage and hope people will then pay you to get more—they won’t. If it is not worth anything today, it is never worth anything. You are making sales calls and giving sales presentations. You may not make a sale with every presentation—few salespeople do—but keep the mission clearly in mind. If you want to give away massage, do it in a way you get press coverage or other publicity that promotes you and your business. (Of course, you can volunteer and give away massage without recognition; however, this is an article to help you grow your practice.)

Your presentation
How can you get in front of potential clients? Meet-and-eat group meetings, clubs and organizations are all ideal opportunities.

Some examples of meet-and-eat groups are the Noon Kiwanis, Morning Optimists, Rotary, Toastmasters, church singles groups and business networking groups. These are excellent opportunities for you, as the people there are professionals who can afford your services. Meet-and-eat meeting attendees also tend to have businesses with employees and tend to be more conscious of both fitness and finances than the general public.
Here is a guide for presentations to such groups.

Find the local branch in the phone book or on the Internet. Contact the branch’s program chair. These groups are always looking for someone new to entertain the group. Develop a presentation routine. Write an introduction paragraph for the program chair to read when introducing you. Include your education, experience, where your practice is, its name and some personal information, such as your hobbies, activities and accomplishments. This paragraph should make you sound interesting and establish you as an expert.

Once you get to the meeting, observe the group before and during the meal as best you can. Notice who is having fun, who is a bit loud and who is popular. When you are introduced, hustle onto the stage or to the front of the room as if you can’t wait to present to them. Open with some thank-yous, especially to the program chair. A joke or funny story is a great icebreaker. (If you have trouble speaking to people or to groups, join Toastmasters. You will learn valuable presentation skills, and every member is a potential client.)

Ask how many people in the audience have ever experienced some form of pain in their body. Most will raise their hands. Pick the upper-body complaint you are best at relieving in a massage chair, and ask who has ever experienced that pain. If no one has wrist pain, for example, go to your next best.

Of the people with their hands up, pick the most popular, or loudest, person you observed, or the program chair. Choose someone you think you can get quick results from and have a fun time with.

Get the person in the chair, do a couple opening moves, such as compressions up and down the paraspinals, and then go right for her complaint. Explain what you are doing, what muscle you are working on, how it contributes to pain in this area and why you are doing what you are doing.

After a couple of minutes, have the person sit up or get up and ask how her pain is now. If it is better, you have just impressed the group. If not, you have a couple more minutes to do something else on her or explain why she is not feeling better. Ask for a round of applause for the person.

Now tell the group how you would like to massage each one of them today, but time is running out and you can only do it with their help. Ask if they will help you. Pick another volunteer who looks like a fun person and get him in your chair. Then have half the group stand up and get behind the others who are still sitting. Guide them through some trapezius squeezes (petrissage) and up the back of the neck, followed by shaking or rolling of the arms and some tapotement.

Ask how the receivers feel now. Have them reverse roles and do it again. Spend about two to three minutes on each half of the massage trade.

The place will be raucous. Calm them down a bit and tell them if they feel better from just that little bit of massage from an amateur, imagine how much good a professionally trained therapist can do for a specific problem.
Give some examples of your success stories (maintaining client confidentiality, of course).

Tell them most pain is soft-tissue pain, and massage is a very cost-effective form of treatment for it. Also tell them how massage can be used as a preventive program for wellness, how it can decrease health-care costs for employees and how it can enhance athletic performance.

Move around the room as you speak, and hand out brochures and business cards. Ask for questions. Do a conclusion that is a sales plug for your office practice. Give them your hours and location, and tell them they’ll all receive a special discount on their first massage with you because they are such a nice group.

Thank them again, and tell them you would love to come back and talk about a specific problem, such as carpal tunnel or neck pain. Also tell them you will be there after the meeting to answer personal questions and book appointments.

Be animated, entertaining and friendly, and have fun. Look and dress professionally. This does not mean you need to wear a business suit; dress functionally, but not casually or sloppily.

It is very common to book an appointment or two at a meeting like this, so have your schedule book with you.
Hone your presentation and keep looking for places to give it. Learn from it each time. Often, you will get a call weeks or even months later from someone who saw your presentation. Sales can be tough—but it is a numbers game, and the more people you can approach effectively, the more appointments you will ultimately book.

Also, read Lynda Solien-Wolfe’s4 Ways to Market with Seated Massage.”

Ralph R. Stephens introduced the therapeutic-clinical paradigm into the seated-massage arena in 1995 with a series of three videos, Seated Therapeutic Massage, Vols. I, II and III. These evolved into the first textbook on seated massage, Therapeutic Chair Massage (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2006). Information about his seminars, books and DVDs can be found at www.ralphstephens.com.

To comment on this, or any other, article in MASSAGE Magazine, send a letter to Editor in Chief Karen Menehan at kmenehan@massagemag.com.

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