“How do I make more money?” It’s a common cry among massage therapists.
Have you wondered the same thing?
Of course, the first thought therapists have, as the way to increase revenue, is to get more clients. It’s true the more clients you see, the more money you can make. But because of the physical nature of massage, there is a limit to the number of hours you can provide massage. It’s pretty agreed upon that a full practice for a single practitioner is about 20 hours of hands-on appointment time.
So what happens when all your appointment timeslots are filled in your calendar? If you’re like many successfully booked therapists, once you hit your schedule cap, you actually can’t fit in any additional clients. So even though you do generate a nice income from seeing all those clients, you will reach a limit on your income.
Instead of trying to squeeze in more clients, one of the easiest ways to generate additional income and provide more service to your clients is to incorporate a retail aspect into your massage business. Once you find a few items to sell that your clients need and want, you will not only have a new revenue stream, but you will add a new level of service to your clientele.
I so often hear therapists tell me they feel product sales are too aggressive to share with clients—but since when is it wrong or pushy to provide a product your clients can benefit from?
I’d like to tell you about a coaching client I had a few years back who, after 13 years of fighting it, began to incorporate retail into his practice. He was a podiatrist who would treat his patients and then send them with instructions to go to the drug store down the street to buy inserts for their shoes to cushion their feet.
I stressed the value to his patients to provide the orthotic inserts right there in his clinic. If he made his recommended brand of orthotics available, his patients wouldn’t have to make a trip to the store and stand there staring at a sea of options, only to get frustrated about what to buy and possibly leave without buying anything.
He balked at my suggestion to retail orthotics, but once he tried it, he soon realized what an enhanced service it was for his patients to have the shoe inserts right at his office. Now his patients could purchase them from him instead of having to leave and go find them on their own. Now he could hand them the pair that was sure to fit, and make some money on the transaction. He would even ask them if they wanted him to open the package and help put them in their shoes.
Of course, most said yes. They loved the extra service and they loved not having to run to a store. An important thing to note is the patients did not mind paying a few extra dollars to be able to get them in his office because he saved them time and un-needed stress.
The Art of Massage Retail
Now before you say, “Yeah, but he’s not a massage therapist,” let me tell you about another coaching client who is a massage therapist.
She never sold products before we worked together, but I suggested she simply go to Costco and buy a few packs of ThermaCare heating pads. She added $3 to $5 per pack to the price she bought them for. When she had a client who could benefit from applying heat to their back or neck, she would ethically suggest the hot packs to her clients. She would let them know she had them available or they could go to any drug store and find them, probably for even a little less money.
Guess what? Almost every single client she offered the hot packs to bought them even though they knew they were marked up to a higher price.
Why did they buy from her? Because they trusted her and trusted her product suggestion was based on what was needed, not just to make a sale.
They also felt the added convenience of getting the product right then and there was well worth paying more for it to avoid hassle. Because the item was in her office, the client saved time from having to go to the store to find the correct item or make choices from all available products on the shelf and then spend more time at the check-out register and drive home.
When you include retailing as an aspect of your practice, you will do it ethically and with integrity. From the choice of products to your suggested usage, the client’s best interest should always be first and foremost.
Only suggest products you believe will benefit clients, never make false claims and always give clients the choice of whether or not to purchase from you.
If the need for an item comes up during a session, discuss the benefits of it with your client. The conversation should be private while you’re still in the treatment room. However, your retail products are best discussed after the session and not while your hands are on your client. This allows you to keep your session focused on the treatment, plus it keeps your professional boundaries intact. If your clients ask about an item during the session, you can simply say, “That’s a great product and I will explain it more once you are dressed.”
Additionally, clients may see a product they are interested in buying while they are standing and checking out. To adhere to HIPAA rules, if the item is specific to their health, rather than a music CD, for example, be sure your conversation is discrete—and if other people are present, go into a private room to discuss how the product can benefit their health and wellness.
A short list of popular, easy-to-sell items includes self-massage tools, heating pads, cold packs, exercise balls and bands, candles analgesics, lotions or creams and music CDs.
Display retail items in your reception area and if they’re small enough, have them visible at your front desk so they are at hand and at eye level. Post images and descriptions of your products on your website and, if possible, include client reviews. Pick one product at a time to send out educational information via e-mail to clients discussing the benefits of the item and your other clients’ positive experiences from using it.
The Details About Retail
- Sales tax: Depending on the state in which you operate your practice, you may or may not be required to charge your customers a sales tax on the item you sell. In this country, 45 states, the District of Columbia and Guam require you to collect a tax on most goods and some services. Sales tax is collected by the seller at the time of sale.
There are new laws being formed specifically to address the fact that businesses are selling items through the Internet and the government wants a way to collect on the sales tax.
Be sure to check the amount of sales tax to collect for your state.
Sales tax is calculated by multiplying the retail price of the item by the applicable tax rate. Tax rates vary widely by jurisdiction and range from less than 1 percent to more than 10 percent.
If you don’t charge sales tax, you will still be responsible to pay it; therefore if you don’t collect it directly from your client, you will diminish some of your profit.
- Reseller’s license: Before you can sell anything, you must get a resale certificate, often called a resale license. This certificate allows you to purchase goods and services at a wholesale price, without paying the sales tax.
This certificate also gives you a unique, identifying tax-payer number, which is used when you submit the sales tax you collected on the items to your state. Some therapists choose not to charge a sales tax to the customer because it appears even more sale-sy, but even if you don’t collect the tax, you are still responsible to pay it to your state. There is some paperwork involved when you choose to retail because you must file returns when you remit the tax to the state.
Renewal is usually done biannually or annually, but the state in which you work and the volume of your sales will determine how often you file and make a payment.
You get your resale license by applying for it at your state’s Department of Revenue and Taxation Service.
- MSRP: This is a term used in retail and stands for Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. The MSRP is a price set by the company who provides the items to you to sell. This is the price the company suggests you charge for its item and because the company wants to keep the value of its product in the marketplace intact, in some cases you are actually not allowed to sell the item for less than the MSRP.
- Check first with your professional liability insurance company to be sure you are covered to sell the specific products you choose to carry.
- Educate yourself on the details, benefits and facts of the products you choose to sell. Don’t talk unless you really know what you’re talking about. There are many strategies that can make retailing even more successful for your business relating to pricing and product placement, but just start simple.
A New Revenue Stream
Once you find a few products that sell well for you, you can choose to provide a wider range of items. Always choose products based on what your clients would like or need—and remember, you can always ask them directly for suggestions of products to carry that will make their life better.
Good luck with adding this new revenue stream to your practice. Remember, you are not only adding to your bottom line, but also to the satisfaction of your clients.
About the Author
Irene Diamond, R.T., is a rehabilitation therapist and founder of Active Myofascial Therapy—The Diamond Method, and a Massage Therapy Hall of Fame inductee. She is dedicated to taking businesses from good to great, with her strategic insight and knowledge. Request her free Success CD at MassageSuccess.org.
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