Building a successful massage practice hinges on the ability to find clients who want the results you offer and are willing to pay you for them—but this isn’t always as easy as many therapists believe, especially for those massage therapists who are fresh out of massage school and eager to begin their careers.

Building a successful massage practice hinges on the ability to find clients who want the results you offer and are willing to pay you for them—but this isn’t always as easy as many therapists believe, especially for those massage therapists who are fresh out of massage school and eager to begin their careers.

There is a myriad of methods floating around about how to get clients on your table, yet a large number of therapists continue to struggle to get enough clients to even pay their basic business expenses.

Refine Your Approach

Creating a business card and handing it out to everyone you meet, passing out flyers to local businesses, giving free chair massage at local events, and even creating a basic website won’t land you enough clients to fill your schedule, if any of these lands you a client at all.

Most therapists are encouraged to use a scattershot approach to marketing their business, meaning to take several methods and push them out as far and wide as possible. What does this actually look like in real life?

Running a Facebook ad to everyone within driving distance of your office, using a mailing service to land postcards in the mailboxes of everyone in your community, and hitting up all the local businesses to pitch your referral program. Obviously, these are just a few methods, but you get the picture.

The intention with the scattershot approach is to hit a large number of people at one time, hoping to fill your schedule quickly. The reality is that shotguns are much less accurate than lasers.

So, how are you supposed to find enough clients to get the bills paid and have profit to spare? By becoming laser-focused on the people you want to work with—your target clientele—rather than on the people who you hope want to work with you.

Most importantly, you need to understand who it is you want to work with. This is your target market or target client.

Many therapists have ingrained beliefs that they must target and work with everyone; they truly do not understand how to uncover who they love working with the most. When you begin to uncover the type of client you want to work with, you will want to consider these questions:

• What is your favorite problem to treat? You should choose the problem that you have the most understanding of, get the best results for and enjoy addressing. You should have a lot to say about it: whom it affects, how it affects their body, how it can impact their life, common treatment options, how massage and bodywork can help alleviate or eliminate the problem, your education and experience treating it, and why it is important to you that you offer clients a solution.

If you have personally experienced this problem, it is important to be able to share that with potential clients. Your story can help people connect with and trust you.

• What types of people suffer from this problem? Is it typically office workers or laborers? Maybe it’s moms-to-be or seniors. Or maybe it’s someone who plays a specific sport or prefers a certain method of relaxation.

Knowing who is affected by your chosen problem will help you gain a better understanding of how they are using their body on a daily basis and offer solutions outside the box of massage and bodywork, creating a more comprehensive level of treatment.

Don’t worry if this list is long; you will refine it further.

• What is the age range of the people on this list? Are they 0-18, 25-50 or 65+? Try to narrow it down to no more than a 30-year range so your marketing is more efficient and effective.

• Where do these people live, work and play? Your best success will be to target people who live within driving distance to your office: close enough to be convenient, but not too far to rule you out. The more convenient your location is to where they spend their time, the easier it will be for them to make time to get on your table.

Your goal should be to build a loyal following, so focusing on people with easy access to your office is important to increase rebooking frequency.

• What is the average income, or minimum income level, for your target clientele? You will want to target people who have enough income to afford your services.

This doesn’t mean that you should charge a lesser amount or that you can’t charge premium prices, though. It also doesn’t mean that only clients with a large amount of discretionary income can become your clients.

What it is about is streamlining your marketing and focusing on the people who can say yes more frequently to what you are offering.

When you have a full understanding of who it is you want to work with, finding them and converting them into loyal, paying clients is easier, less time-consuming and less expensive than traditional marketing methods. Now that you’ve narrowed down your target client, it’s time to find them!

Hang Out Where Your Target Clientele Hangs Out

If you are targeting moms, think play groups, daycares, pre-schools, school PTAs, and after-school clubs and activities. Runners might hang out in gyms, participate in marathons and be active in running clubs.

Think not only physical spaces and events, but in the online world, too. There are niche Facebook groups for every hobby, interest, career field and club. Finding them, and your target clients, is as easy as using the search bar. Immersing yourself into these same spaces will allow you to understand your target clientele on a much deeper level and will lead to much more genuine connections.

Pro tip: Getting involved in these target groups will also help you discover in-person events where you can extend your marketing presence. Offering chair massage at events is widely popular with massage therapists but can be challenging to gain clients from.

When you have built a relationship with your target market through common interest groups, they will begin to recognize your name as the authority on massage and the problems you solve. They will be much more likely to visit your booth, sit in your massage chair, and schedule a full session in your office.

Reach Out to Your Target Clientele

Seek out local organizations that offer services and support to your target market and offer to volunteer. Or create a specialized give-back program of your own as a way to give back to the members of your target market.

Giving back to your target clientele can make an immediate impact on the lives of the people you most want to help.

Pro tip: Create a social media campaign around your volunteer activity or your give-back program to inspire others to join you. Ask your followers to share your posts, so that together, you can make a bigger impact and help a greater number of people.

Create Your Own Online Presence

Meeting and connecting with people in niche social media groups will generate curiosity about you and your business. Give them somewhere to go! A Facebook page dedicated to your business is a great way for your target clients to find out what your business is all about, discover more of the services you offer and learn about the wider range of problems you treat, and helps them stay engaged on a more regular basis.

Pro tip: Make sure your online presence is congruent with the type of clients you want to work with. For example, a therapist who wants to specialize in treating problems that affect runners would want their social media presence to have a sporty, treatment-focused image versus a pampering, spa-like feel. If you want to work with retired seniors, you will not want to use images of office workers. Create a page where your target clientele can identify with what you are offering.

Don’t Forget About Your Website

A well-built website can help you convert the people you want to work with into paying clients who will return again and again. A website that targets the clients you want to work with can boost your authority position and give potential clients a reason to take action.

Pro tip: Use images and language that speak directly to your target client, keeping in mind the type of work they do, their hobbies and interests, and the problem you are an expert at solving for them.

Build a Loyal Target Clientele

Finding the clients you want to work with by focusing directly on them will yield a client base who is searching for the results you can provide for them. These clients are most often more loyal, visit your business more frequently, spend more money each visit, actively refer other like-minded clients and honor your boundaries.

When you have clarity on who it is you actually want to work with, and speak directly to them via your social media accounts, public community groups, and your website, you can build a successful business faster, easier and less expensively.

Melinda Hastings

About the Author

Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, has practiced massage therapy since 1996. She holds active licenses in Washington and Texas, and is also a Texas Massage Therapy Instructor. She is a Nationally Approved Continuing Education Provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. Her CE classes are offered through her seminar business, Inspired Therapist Seminars. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include