If you operate a massage business you likely wear many hats, from business owner to marketer and everything in between.

In the massage industry, even in a digital marketing age, client word of mouth is still king. Most clients still find their massage therapists via referrals from other clients. At the same time, 77% of consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services from companies that they follow on social media.

What is a massage therapist to do?

Does Social Media Really Work?

According to the Social Media Examiner 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, if you are like 85% of marketers, you want to know what social media marketing tactics work best. In fact, updating social media is probably on your weekly to-do list for increasing clientele.

Yet, like other massage therapists, you may be devoting hours every week to social media marketing without knowing if that time is well spent. According to a 2016 survey by Simply Measured, a whopping 6 out of 10 small business owners struggle with tracking return on investment from their social media activities.

Moreover, placing all of your eggs in the basket of online marketing can cause you to lose sight of the local support your business needs to thrive. With Facebook likes coming from across the country and Twitter mentions from followers that you may never meet, it can be difficult to stay connected to the local community for leads.

Don’t Hide Behind a Computer

You can’t neglect your online marketing — and it is vital to have an online presence where a client can find out more after hearing about you in the community — but you can’t stop there.

As Gael Wood, L.M.T., owner of Gael Wood Massage and Spa Success, a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CEU provider, and a MASSAGE Magazine All Star said, “Don’t hide behind the computer. You have to get out there in the community and market yourself.”

After successfully running a spa for 20 years and falling in love with marketing, Wood learned that offline publicity is just as important as online marketing for a prosperous massage practice.

She found that balancing digital marketing with offline marketing efforts creates momentum that builds a larger following and grows clientele.

Your Massage Marketing Plan

Local offline marketing is essential for massage therapists who want to build long-lasting client loyalty and improve community credibility.

Here are five local offline marketing opportunities that you can’t afford to miss out on when it comes to investing your offline marketing time in your local area in order to build client loyalty and community credibility:

1. Write for a local newspaper or magazine. Consumers still pick up local newspapers to find out about what is happening in their community, and often think of these print sources as playing for the home team, because they support local causes that they care about.

Do you have expert advice on a health concern that will help the newspaper’s readers? Or perhaps you want to share a stretching routine that’s been particularly helpful to your clients? Submit an article for publishing to spread the word about your massage practice in your hometown.

2. Participate in local professional organizations and chapters. Attending meetings that don’t produce immediate clients — and therefore, profit — might sound like the last thing you have time to do when your resources are already stretched thin. But for a couple hours of your time every month, you could form great relationships with other business owners who may eventually refer clients to you.

In fact, when a client knows that your business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are “49% more likely to think favorably of it and 80% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future,” according to a survey by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm.

When she ran her spa, Wood took her PR to another level by hosting the Chamber of Commerce meeting at the spa, giving members an inside look at her business and allowing them to feel even more comfortable sending future clients her way.

If you are going to participate in your Chamber of Commerce, it’s important to find out the full range of member benefits and take advantage of them. They will often place you on their website directory, do email outreach to community members on your behalf and other perks, so be sure to ask about all these resources when you join.

3. Collaborate with local service providers — including your competition.  At some point in your professional life you may have heard the advice to avoid your competitors like the plague. According to Wood, that advice was all wrong. She said it’s good to have massage therapists that you can refer clients to when you’re too busy, especially if it’as a reciprocal relationship and they send clients your way as well.

Getting friendly with massage therapists in your area has other benefits, as it creates a list of people to collaborate with when you have a creative partnership opportunity.

Make a point of calling or stopping by to chat with a few providers of your exact same services in your city. They may enlighten you about an aspect of your market you were unaware of, and at the very least they’ll be more likely to say positive things about you to their clients based on your friendly outreach.

4. Co-sponsor a run, walk or other community event. Athletes make for great massage clients, at least that’s what Heidi Johnson, LMP, owner of BeHive Massage in Tacoma, Washington, has found. Johnson has been a massage practitioner for more than 17 years. She started sponsoring the Tacoma City Marathon nine years ago.

Johnson found that although sponsoring running races is not a huge money-maker in and of itself, it is a very effective educational tool that builds her reputation as a runner’s massage therapist and brings those athletic clients in after word of mouth spreads.

“One of the best lessons I ever learned was just saying yes to opportunities,” Johnson said. “Instead of just looking at how much money I could make from a particular event, if I think of it as a long-term investment in community relationships, then the money and clients naturally come later.

“Some of the things that I’ve said yes to have turned out to be career-changing,” she added. By building relationships with elite runners who run the marathon regularly, she was eventually able to massage athletes at the Olympic Trials.

When sponsoring a race, Johnson has a booth where she offers massage to runners at the finish line, gives gift certificates for free massages to the two winners, and places business cards with a discount coupon on the back in each runner’s race-day bag.

You can start small with this approach. Try contacting the director of a charity 5K in your city and offer to provide massage after the race. Johnson recommends trying out a “10 minutes of free massage, pay by the minute after that” approach. Offering something for free entices people onto your table or chair, and almost guarantees you’ll be able to get your business card into their hands.

5. Reach out to local providers of complementary services. Partnering with other wellness businesses might seem like a no-brainer, but how many local contacts keep your number on their speed-dial to refer clients your way? It’s important to make yourself indispensable to those who could provide you with a steady flow of client referrals.

To determine who your complementary service providers are, think about where your clients are already spending their time. Complementary service providers may include naturopaths, chiropractors, doctors, osteopaths, health food stores, gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, juice bars, acupuncturists, midwives and many others.

Take some time to brainstorm complementary providers specific to your market and then start forming new connections in your town.

Change Course Now

Local offline marketing is an essential part of a strong massage marketing strategy, helping you expand a loyal client base through word of mouth. Building grassroots support in your area improves your reputation, creates partnership opportunities and grows your business.

“The more you put yourself out there in the community, [although] you might not be able to directly track the return on your effort, your business will grow,” said Wood. “You can’t measure the goodwill that you created in the community by doing an event and how it might pay off in the future.”

If you are letting local offline marketing get overlooked in the midst of managing your social media content and other online marketing efforts, change course now and use the offline massage marketing ideas in this article to get the local population of potential clients as excited about your business as you are.

Margo Carroll, LMP, is a freelance copywriter at Remedy Writing, helping wellness providers reach their ideal customers with words that make them shine. She is also a practicing massage therapist who enjoys spending time with family, yoga, gigantic salads and muddy trail runs.