The number of massage therapists exploring corporate seated massage contracts as a source of income is growing.

From personal experience, I can say that corporate massage can be very profitable—but don’t expect fast, easy money.

The process of marketing seated massage to corporations is not without a great number of obstacles and pitfalls. With the right information, however, you can find success in corporate massage.

Before we look at some basic approaches to successfully selling your services to corporations, it is important to clearly identify your market and find a niche. Most therapists believe that choosing to work with corporations means narrowing their market—but saying that your market is corporations is as vague as saying your market is humans!

Mom-and-Pop vs. The Fortune 500

For corporate-massage therapists, small companies are the simplest to market to and work with. In a company of fewer than 100 employees, it is likely that the owner is still making most of the decisions regarding operations. If not the owner, then the decision-maker will likely be the general manager or office manager.

These are the people who have the power to take action in implementing on-site massage.

Small companies can be much easier to sell to, since their gatekeeper is typically an office manager who is very accessible and friendly.

Decisions to utilize your service can be made relatively quickly at small companies, usually within days or weeks. Because the decision-makers are closer to the employees, they can see more directly the benefits obtained by using massage. As a result, they are much more likely to pay the cost of massage for employees, compared to larger organizations.

Although marketing and selling seated massage to small companies is a relatively simple, straightforward process, it seems that most massage therapists want to target large companies. This is understandable, because there’s an opportunity for a bigger payoff. For example, a large company could contract with you (and your employees) to do 15-minute massages for each of its 500 employees at a staff-appreciation event. That’s a significant amount of income for the average massage-therapy business.

Be sure to consider your goals and your needs before deciding which companies to market to. If you need money to pay your rent next month, you can see that large corporations will not be a source of quick, easy cash. Here is a list of some potential obstacles in working with large organizations:

• Layers of bureaucracy. A large company will likely need to have extensive meetings around the subject, get approval from five levels of management and, if the idea manages to survive, you’ll need to stand in line as the corporation puts out a bid to every massage therapist within a 100-mile radius.

• Inability to reach the decision-makers. It’s very difficult to reach the person that makes the decisions. You usually end up working through an intermediary who will never communicate the benefits of your services as enthusiastically as you would.

• Long sales cycles. A representative at a small company might say, “Why not come in tomorrow?” That’s a short sales cycle. You could wait for a year for the same decision from a large corporation.

• Extended accounts receivable. Large organizations almost always pay their bills; however, they are used to doing it on their own terms—and often those terms are 60 to 90 days. So it may take three months before you see any money from the job you did.

• Logistical considerations. Large companies might have many locations or branch offices. If administrators decide to implement seated massage on a company-wide basis, they might want to have it available at all of their offices. As well, be prepared to do large jobs—perhaps several hundred people within a day or two for a special event.

Don’t Sell “Seated Massage”

One of the biggest mistakes practitioners make in selling is thinking they are selling seated massage. The truth is, your prospects don’t care about seated massage.

What they do care about are their own problems. So if you want to be successful, stop thinking about selling seated massage. Instead, start thinking about selling solutions to their problems. Put yourself in the shoes of a company executive, and you’ll find that these are the kinds of things that are concerns:

• How can I improve the morale of my employees?

• Where am I going to find a unique gift for Secretary’s Day this year?

• How can I help my team get through this project on time?

• Absenteeism is costing a fortune. How can I decrease it?

You must get away from thinking of yourself as a seated-massage provider, and instead think of yourself as a solution provider. Think of problems from the perspective of the corporation, not from the perspective of the employee.

An executive doesn’t care that seated massage will relax the neck-and-shoulder muscles, allowing for improved range of motion and freer movement. That problem is not at all relevant to his management of the organization. However, as a leader he does care about employee morale.

That’s a problem for the organization. And that’s something for which you can provide a solution.

7 Points of Entry into Corporate Massage

1. Employee morale and productivity. This comes up time and again, and is one of the most common reasons large companies cite for using seated-massage services.  Seated massage also improves productivity.

This is always an issue, but you’ll need to avoid being vague and instead target specific productivity issues. With intense competition for skilled workers, a good salary instills as much loyalty as the next job offer. Employees expect a supportive environment and perks that make it hard to leave.

2. During heavy workloads or stressful periods. Most companies have seasonal busy times. Others are very project-focused, and their resources are stretched to the limits as they approach important deadlines.

3. Thank-yous. Finding unique and cost-effective ways to thank the people who contribute to a company’s success is always a challenge for corporate administrators.

4. As a premium, incentive or promotional tool. Businesses are always on the lookout for premiums or incentives they can use as motivational tools to encourage customers to buy and salespeople to sell. As a promotional tool, seated massage is a great way to attract attention to a business in a highly competitive market. This is especially true for trade shows and within the retail industry.

5. During stressful transitional periods. Companies continue to downsize at an alarming rate. For all employees, the uncertainty created by layoffs, the trend toward contract work, and a more demanding work environment contribute in a big way to high stress levels.

6. Meetings and conventions. Intense management meetings, training programs or planning sessions can be exhausting. Participants can’t concentrate and perform well if they are fatigued. Conventions can be equally exhausting, for both participants and exhibitors.

7. Special events. It’s easier to sell a company on short-term contracts than it is to sell them on an ongoing program of massage.

Every company has numerous special events throughout the year, and they need to come up with creative ways to make them special. Some of these events may include: conventions, golf tournaments, health fairs, fundraising events, customer-appreciation days, wellness weeks and holiday parties

Whom to Contact

“Whom should I contact?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by massage therapists.

To answer that question you have to ask yourself, “What am I selling?” In other words, what problem are you addressing for the organization? Once you answer that, the next question is logical: “Who is responsible for coming up with solutions to that problem?”

For example, if you see your seated massage as a tool for drawing people into a company’s trade-show booth, you’ll want to speak with the marketing director. If you see your service as a way to decrease stress and improve the performance of customer-service personnel, then you’ll see the person responsible for that particular department, the manager of customer service.

If you imagine your service as an incentive or reward for the sales staff, you’ll talk to the sales manager. If you think that wellness is an issue in the corporation, then you’ll contact the wellness coordinator or the director of occupational health and safety.

Whenever possible, make your first contact with the person who has the ability to approve a decision. At a small company that is the owner, the office manager or the general manager. At a professional firm you may need to talk to the managing partner. At a manufacturing operation, it may be the plant manager. At a school it will be the principal.

In larger companies you’ll want to speak with the CEO, president, vice president or director.

At very large companies there are various divisions within the human-resources department. You might be speaking to the manager of compensation and benefits, health-and-safety manager, health-services manager, director of occupational health, medical director, wellness coordinator, fitness-center director, employee-assistance director or occupational-health nurse.

Many programs are also implemented at the discretion of staff committees, such as a social-and-recreation committee or a health-and-fitness committee.

You might not sell to the company as a whole, but just to one office. In those instances, you’ll contact the regional or division manager or the branch manager. You could also sell to individual departments. There could be dozens of different departments in a large company, and the titles of the department heads vary from company to company.

You can see why it is vitally important that you do your research. Talk and network with people in the organization. Find out who has what responsibilities so that you speak to the person you want to sell to. Avoid intermediaries whenever possible. If a committee makes decisions, arrange to talk to the whole committee at one of their regular meetings.

Build Success

Doing on-site massage for corporations can be fulfilling and profitable work. It’s important, however, that you carefully target the kind of corporations you want to work in. For massage therapists who are new to selling to businesses, it’s best to start off with smaller companies or departments within larger companies.

See yourself as a solution provider for the organization, and contact the person who has the power to make a decision. When you approach the right people with the right kind of benefit-oriented sales message, you’ll definitely tip the scales of success in your favor.

About the Author:

Eric Brown was one of the first therapists to do seated massage for corporations in Canada. He has trained hundreds of massage professionals in seated massage. He is also the founder of Massage Therapy Radio, one of the original massage podcasts.