Massage therapist Ben Brown, LMT, was in the park with his daughter one day and saw a weird-looking bug.
It was a wheel bug, a large bug with a gawky gait and ferocious bite.
To his surprise, it didn’t rush away from him as most bugs do, but seemed instead to be checking him out. He didn’t brush it away or try to squash it, but, as he so often does, he took a photo of it, not know what, if anything, he’d use the photo for.
Some days later, as he commuted by bus to work in New York City, he hit on an idea. He posted the bug photo online with the words “I have a body. You have a body. Your body is your gift.”
“People loved the fact that I equated all of us to this ugly bug [while] talking about beauty and our bodies without picking [a photo] of a voluptuous woman or a muscle-bound guy,” Brown said. “It was just this bug and talking about how we can appreciate our body for what is—for what we all have as it is.”
This story about Brown and the wheel bug illustrates Brown’s creative nature, which he is now channeling into a nationwide PR campaign for massage therapists.
Man on a Mission
Brown, a licensed massage therapist since 2004, is on a mission to help massage therapists better market themselves and give positive exposure to the entire profession.
To that end, he is launching a free, nationwide, 10-day massage marketing challenge called These Hands Create. It’s a free 10-day Instagram challenge to help you promote and grow your massage practice, and it begins on Jan. 29.
“For me, it was about how do we tell our stories so we can attract the people looking for us but at the same time uplift the profession as a whole?” he said.
Brown has always had an affinity for healing. As a child growing up in New York City’s Staten Island, others turned to him when they were hurting. “My father was a bus driver and he had really bad feet,” he said.
When his father got home from work in the evening, Brown would work on and care for his father’s feet. And when he visited his best friend’s house, he was the one called on to work on his friend’s father’s back.
But going into massage wasn’t what he set out to do. He graduated with a degree in journalism, with plans on becoming a lawyer. All those plans were derailed when he met a woman and fell in love.
Needing to find a job, he segued into the retail industry, which honed his customer service skills and prepared him for finally returning to his affinity for bodywork.
He spent over a decade employed by an international spa chain, working initially as a therapist but eventually focusing on training and quality control.
When he recently decided to go solo full time, he realized that instead of being able to rely on a corporation to do his massage marketing, it was all on him. “It’s been a learning process,” he said.
What he’s learned is that there are beliefs that stop massage therapists from achieving marketing success.
One of those is the privacy of the table.
Massage Marketing Outside the Session Room
The work of massage therapy happens behind closed doors, but that sheltered working style also can breed confusion and misperception from the general public, Brown noted. “We have a situation where people don’t understand massage therapy or misunderstand how we work and what we do.”
Another is that healers don’t promote themselves. “When we talk about healing arts, we as a society [in the U.S.] tend to ascribe that if you’re a healer then you’re humble and you don’t talk about yourself,” he said. “I think that’s a mistake.”
Part of purpose of his These Hands Create campaign is help massage therapists understand that they can promote themselves without boasting.
“You can own your own gifts and still be humble,” Brown said. “It’s important that people understand that. If nobody knows you’re there, then you’re not benefiting them or yourself. You have to step out. I’m learning this myself.”
For Brown, using social media is a natural way to step out. It’s part of most people’s lives, it’s simple to use (really!) and, when combining your messages with hashtags, makes your messages searchable so it’s easier for people to find you.
It is also a perfect tool for sharing yourself, and therapists sharing themselves is key to successful massage marketing.
When thinking about marketing themselves and their businesses, many massage therapists think they have to make their massage marketing messages, but that isn’t necessarily so, he said.
“People don’t let themselves go past the idea ‘Oh, I have to show massage,’” he said. “No, you don’t have to show massage. You have to tell a story. That’s what you have to do.”
The story you tell can be, literally, your own journey through life, or it can be glimpses of things and ideas that mean something to you or touch you. Like a photo of an unattractive bug.
“What I’m trying to say is, honestly, there are people who will resonate with me that won’t resonate with Mary and there are people that will resonate with Mary but not John,” Brown said.
“If you resonate with me, then we’ll probably be a good match, so you actually start to reel in and attract the people who want you,” he said. “And the people who aren’t like yourself—who think my crazy bug story is dumb—they’re not going to book with me. It’s starts to separate people. It works both ways. It’s a good thing.”
Sharing yourself and how you work also helps educate the public.
The wider world gets to see how accessible massage therapists are, the diversity of those doing the work and receiving it, and, for those therapists who share how they work, how a particular therapist works and what happens on the table. (Watch Brown’s video on the home page of his website.)
“You can be you,” he said. “The more therapists [who] tell their stories, the more the world will understand what we do.”
To learn more about These Hand Create or to sign up, go to www.thesehandscreate.net.
About the Author
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine, and her articles include “Software Engineer Turned MT Shares the Secrets of Corporate Massage Success,” “Support Your Clients Following Disastrous Events” and “This Grant Program Makes Sure Cancer Patients Get Massage.”
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