It’s that time again, when a new year emerges, fresh-faced and rich with possibility.
In a professional capacity, it’s also an opportunity to turn the dedication applied to your work this year into wisdom for the next.
2018 brings with it another chance to shape your massage practice into exactly what you’ve always dreamed it could be.
Whether you consider yourself a pro of promotion or a novice, specialize in a massage marketing role or wear many hats, knowledge of several basic strategies and tools can help you realize the vision you hold for your business.
By focusing on specific facets of your practice throughout the year to set clear intentions, make adjustments and track measurable growth, you will ensure that your massage marketing strategy is the strongest it can be.
To do this, you’ll examine your practice along several important axes. Those are your:
- Audience, the intended recipients of your marketing messages;
- Relationships, the specific ways you are hoping to build trust and rapport with your clientele;
- Messages, the purpose driving the information itself;
- Channels, the methods you’ve carved out for your messages to flow through, like your website or social media;
- Tools and technology for implementation, or platforms to create, plan and manage your calendar and communication.
Altogether, your three-step marketing plan for 2018 will involve setting intentions, a mid-year check-in, and solving marketing mysteries with metrics. Let’s go!
1. Set Intentions for Massage Marketing
Before crafting your plans for 2018 or putting them into action, it’s essential to begin with clear intentions by reflecting on your practice, overall, before envisioning the year to come.
What would you like to see in terms of the relationships you foster with your clients? What is the message you’d hope for them to hear most clearly? What channels might you use to communicate your message most effectively?
Each intention should be grounded in your unique purpose as a practitioner and applied to such aspects of your work as your audience, relationships, messages and channels of communication. Consider what drew you to massage therapy in the first place and what you hope your clients will gain from your services.
Audience: Who is your message for? It’s valuable to consider the demographics of both your current and prospective clientele, as well as your current and prospective services. If expanding your client base is central to your intentions for 2018, consider which type of client your practice currently serves and whether a diversification of your services might benefit them or attract a more diverse clientele.
Considering the networks that these target markets might be a part of can also be an indication of where to place your promotional message to best make initial contact.
Relationships: What is your connection to your audience? The quality of your professional relationships is often a reflection of the clarity of the intentions you’ve set. Envision the connections you’d like to foster with new and existing clients alike, and use this as an opportunity to experiment with treatment offerings and physical ambience.
The nature of these connections is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy and forms a guiding principle to which you can always return.
Message: What do you stand for and what do you want to say? As one of the most thought-provoking and pertinent facets of your business, it is essential to reflect on the deeper purpose and inspiration of your marketing messages. The more authentic your messages, the more effective they will be.
Ask yourself what you stand for, what initially drew you to massage therapy, what makes the work you do meaningful to you, and what unique gifts you offer your clients and the world. The deeper your reflections, the more clear your intentions and messages will be.
Channels: Where will your message make the most impact? There are many communication channels to choose from when networking with your professional community. Selecting the most effective channels can be determined by assessing both functions and limitations of each one for alignment with your unique business needs.
Development of channels—the how, when and where your messages are communicated—should be based on the intentions you’ve set for building relationships with your audience.
For example, channels like newsletters and blogs provide opportunities to design customized content and intentional messaging to be received by an organically growing group of subscribed recipients, often for a fee.
Featuring a newsletter signup sheet at your front desk can be an effective means of expanding your reach, from which you’ll build sorted distribution lists, such as clients most interested in specific promotions or workshops.
Free social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook are ideal for such visual content as images and video that provide a larger network a visual glimpse and feel for the work you do.
Tools and technology: How are you implementing the plans you’ve designed? It’s best to begin by taking inventory of the resources at your disposal to accomplish your professional goals, be they financial or physical assets like studio space or personnel.
Additionally, many automated tools are available to create, plan and manage your channels of communication. These platforms are designed to organize and timetable content, allowing you to calendar the year in advance based on seasonality and specific goals, all easily stored, viewed and reorganized by simply logging in.
With clear intentions for the coming year in mind and knowledge of the tools at your disposal you are ready to lay out your promotions in the affordable, editable, and shareable format that works best for you.
2. Mid-Year Massage Marketing Check-in
Every effective promotional strategy is designed to stretch and bend with the changing needs of your practice. Assessing your progress mid-year creates an opportunity to directly compare initial goals with reality, gauge effectiveness and return on investment of the resources you’ve allotted and the choices you’ve made, and course correct if needed.
To assess your progress, ask yourself questions related to each of your axes:
Audience: Has your client base evolved or remained rather consistent? Are you satisfied with the degree of growth you’ve experienced? If not, are there adjustments to your practice that could be made to better support this? Are you making use of the networks of which your clients are a part?
Relationships: Are you witnessing the connections with your clients you were hoping to foster? Is the experience of working with you demonstrating consistency and care? How have elements like physical ambience and variety of treatments factored in?
Message: Is the caliber of the services you hope to offer your professional community reflected in the voice you’ve assigned your business so far this year? Consider whether your language and media choices are attracting the right clients and building the right relationships.
Channels: Which channels have you chosen to use thus far? Perhaps you’ve relied on social media channels to provide a visual indication of your work to a larger network, or perhaps you provide more personalized messages to a smaller newsletter subscriber base. Consider the scope of client interaction that each channel generates.
Tools and technology: Which tools have you implemented thus far and how have they served you? Where might they have fallen short? Are there adjustments to be made? Has a means of reliable timetabling allowed for efficient content management of your promotions throughout the year?
There is no excuse to not have technological systems in place to track and log inventory and assets; keep track of current and new clientele, including demographics and contact information (this is your customer relationships management system); measure engagement of your channels; and measure leads, followers and subscribers. You must both understand and implement methods of upgrading or expanding your tools and technology based on your needs.
3. Solve Year-End Massage Marketing Mysteries with Metrics
Your efforts during 2017 have laid the groundwork for the degree of marketing success you’ve achieved in 2018. Where the mystery lies is in which factors are responsible for the growth in your business and how best to maximize those that are working while adjusting those that aren’t fully serving you.
While any check-ins or assessments done throughout the year may have been the kind only observable to the naked eye, determining a metric, or system of analysis to gauge your professional progress, is another story entirely—one that requires a detailed investigation that builds proof for your case.
As with any good investigation, you will examine the evidence, define the objective, and examine what worked (and what didn’t work).
The evidence: It is important to identify and track the measurable changes your business has undergone this calendar year before even beginning to determine their causes. (This is where your tools and technology are invaluable.)
It is helpful to review the same list of considerations that begun the marketing planning process to consider any quantifiable changes to your resources, in quantity, quality and type: audience, channels, tools and technology, and your new client base.
What we are looking for are tangible indications of the effect of your marketing efforts.
The investigation (defining the objective): Determining an origin of new leads for your business, or which method of promotion has been most effective, is central to designing a future marketing plan.
You may remember a truth reiterated in both humanities and science classes that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Now that we have gathered the evidence of the way your massage marketing efforts might be quantifiably impacting your business, we can begin to build a case that points to a cause.
It’s best to begin by surveying trends. With your data-driven evidence in front of you, what jumps out at you first? Commonly, you will notice the numbers that have changed the most from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2018, demonstrating not only notable change but the most growth as well.
Examining strengths as the most likely cause: Begin by reviewing the channels that are working well. Let’s take an example:
This past year you committed to sending out two e-newsletters every month to your client base, with a mix of promotional and educational content. Here are the things you noticed:
- Your subscription rate increased by nearly 30 percent over the year;
- You tracked an increase in appointments around the time each newsletter was received;
- Your educational newsletters were met with the largest open rate.
All of these observations provide not only clarity on what’s working, but opportunities for growth. Your subscription rate increased, but do you know at what rate? You should determine any correlations between when and how most people subscribed, such as during particular months when you offered specific promotions.
Determine if clients signed up via your website or during an office visit. Double-check to make sure you are building a relevant readership base for your message.
You noted that more appointments were scheduled around the time newsletters were received, which might indicate that all that your base needed was a friendly reminder to keep your services top of mind.
Determine if this frequency is working well, and experiment with how often you are able to send out e-newsletters.
Consider how much time you should commit to creating content and striking a balance between being top of mind and excessive communication, which could lead to unsubscribing. It is always best to imagine yourself in your clients’ shoes.
Your educational content had the highest open rates, meaning your readers were interested enough in learning from you to open the email.
What opportunities does this create for you? You might use your practice space to teach an occasional workshop, for example, or you might partner with another practitioner to host an educational event.
Filming an instructional video to include in an email is a way of ensuring your massage marketing message is accessible and can reach your subscribers regardless of geography. Becoming a trusted source of information will establish you as an expert and resource, while building client loyalty.
Examining weaknesses as potential inhibitors: Next, review the channels from which you noticed the least amount of change or interactivity.
While your best-performing channels might explain the growth in your business, the weaker channels might best explain the rate of growth. The good news is, you do have opportunities to increase flow through your weaker channels.
Here’s an example: You created a Facebook page but rarely have a chance to post. When you do, you receive little interactivity although your admin page says the reach of the post is high.
Your Facebook page isn’t receiving as much attention as you would like, which could be explained by any variety of factors—from how much time you have to commit to it, to common practices on this social media platform.
Perhaps clients are getting what they need from simply reading the post without responding to it in any way.
If you sense true stagnation, however, consider what you are willing to change. Do you have additional time to commit? If so, consider using valuable content from the channels that are working well. You could repurpose educational content from your newsletter or post a video, for instance.
Here’s another example: Although your website hosts an inquiry form, few people use it. Instead, most new clients call you to make appointments, which creates more work for you.
This might be an opportunity to review the form yourself or ask others how their experience has been. Perhaps the form is too long, or considered cumbersome or confusing by some people. Perhaps new clients are submitting the form and not hearing back from you.
Your Best Resource
Ultimately, solving marketing mysteries and proving causation is almost always accomplished by two dimensions: examining your customer experience and asking your customers questions.
To examine your customer experience, take a moment to step fully into their shoes and look at that experience from start to finish. Looking for snags or breaks in the chain can be very revealing.
This will give you a better idea of both the experience your clients are having and the professional impression your business is creating.
Next, ask your clients how they heard about you, what they like about the communication they receive from you, what they enjoy most (and least) about your treatments, and what improvements they might hope to see.
Your clients are your very best resource, and they can provide the largest pieces of evidence available to solve your case—by determining motive and drawing a clear line between your promotional efforts and your business growth.
Holding a clear vision for your massage practice is a uniquely empowering experience.
Putting measurable growth indicators in place and possessing knowledge of the best channels to communicate your message before diving in to craft your marketing plan for the coming year will set you on the path of success.
Remember, you know your business better than anyone—and only you can make it all it can be.
About the Author
Bonnie Campbell is director of outreach and marketing for KM Herbals Inc., a private label manufacturer of handcrafted botanical and aroma-therapeutic personal care products. After graduating as valedictorian at the University of San Diego, Bonnie earned her degree in communication studies with honors and now works to actively build and extend KM Herbals’ professional networks and services. She wrote “Put Your Brand on Your Bottles” for MASSAGE Magazine’s August 2017 issue.
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