An image of a man holding up a membership card is used to illustrate the concept of offering massage memberships to clients.

Franchise spas and clinics sell massage memberships. Should you? One benefit of offering a massage membership plan is recurrent, predictable revenue. One drawback is you might make less money per massage.

Let’s break it all down, including how a massage membership option might impact your existing clientele, to see if adding a membership program is for you.

Traditional Transactions Feels Right

There is something deeply satisfying after receiving payment for a service rendered. You did the massage. The client is happy. She hands you the credit card. It goes through. Dopamine all around!

As rewarding as this is, there could be an unforeseen drawback. If you rebook the client for next month before she leaves, fantastic, you’re on track for getting paid again. But if the client doesn’t rebook, you don’t know when you’re going to get payment from her again.

Now imagine this: Your client has agreed to have the cost of a massage charged to her credit card every month no matter if she rebooks or not. Basically, you are guaranteed payment every month, as long as the contract is not broken.

If you are like many massage therapists I’ve talked to, this is when the “yeah, but(s)” kick in.

Three Concerns with Membership Massage

Here are some common concerns with adding a massage membership program:

• “I’m going to make less money per massage.”

• “I’ll lose clients who want a massage periodically.”

• “Managing memberships will be a nightmare.”

Let’s examine these concerns in more detail.  

1. I’m going to make less per massage.  This concern makes sense because membership pricing is typically lower than regular pricing. Why? The lower price is the incentive for the client committing to pay for a massage every month.

That said, if you don’t want to discount your normal hour rate, a workaround is to make your normal hour rate your membership price. Your non-membership price will be your normal hour rate + more money. The question is: How much “more money”?

Figuring Out Your Non-Member Price

Unfortunately, there is no specific formula to follow. Pam Andrien, co-owner of Healing Hands Massage, determines her non-member price by making it competitive with the other massage businesses around her locations.

Currently, her non-member price for a 60-minute massage is $94, and her membership price is $79. That is a $15 differential between the non-member price and member price. Andrien thinks a $15 savings is enough of a discount to entice a customer, without forfeiting too much profit.

Massage franchise spas often have a large price differential between their non-member and member prices, like $50. (3) In theory, the bigger the price differential, the more you are guiding new customers to purchasing a membership by making the non-member price less attractive.

However, as a solo practitioner or small business, if you raise your non-member price too high, you are likely to price yourself out of the market with prospective clients and lose existing clients.

There is no getting around that when you raise your price some of your clients will be negatively impacted. For example, let’s say you normally charge $80 for a 60-minute massage. You decide $80 is now going to be your membership price, and $100 is going to be your non-member price.

For monthly clients, it’s a no-brainer to buy a membership so that they continue to pay $80 for a 60-minute massage. But, non-monthly clients will have to pay $20 more a massage or become a member, which leads us to the next concern:

2. I’ll lose clients who want a massage periodically.

If you raise your price, you have some options to keep your periodic clients. One option is to make all existing clients exceptions to the rule. In our example that means all clients you had before you started a membership program can continue to get massage at $80 for a 60-minute massage.   

If your business is mature and you are not actively growing it, instituting an “existing client exemption” isn’t going to make you more money because no one has incentive to move to the membership model.

However, if you are building your business and have new clients coming in, you can grow the massage membership program from those new clients.

Another option is to slowly phase in memberships with existing massage clients by giving them time, like six months to a year, to adjust. This will also give you time to tweak and perfect your membership model with new clients while still getting the income from periodic clients.

Finally, you can potentially appease periodic clients by offering package deals in addition to memberships. For example, you could offer a package of five 60-minute massages for $400. That breaks down to $80 per 60-minute massage, the same price a member pays and the price a periodic client paid before memberships started.  

Does offering package deals and memberships make things too complicated? It depends on what you are comfortable with and if you can keep it uncomplicated to the consumer. Also, if you have multiple offerings, it is important they support your business goals.

For instance, if you want massage members, and your package plan is cheaper than your membership plan, then it’s likely you, will sell more packages than memberships. So, in this case, like Andrien, price your package plan higher than your membership plan.

Offer Massage Membership Without Raising Your Price

You can avoid all potential challenges with existing clients by having a membership program without raising your price. When Brad Prince, owner of Professional Massage Therapy and Reflexology, started his membership program, he simply discounted his normal hour rate by $10 to arrive at the membership price.

Bad business move?

At first glance it might look like it was, but let’s do the math. Initially, Prince said, about 20% of his clients converted to the one-year membership. Let’s say 50 clients converted.

50 (clients) x $10 less x 12 months = a $6000 loss.

But wait, would all those 50 clients have come in once a month for a year without the membership? Absolutely not, says, Prince, as he recalls one periodic client, we’ll call Rosa, who became a monthly member after Prince offered her the membership program.

Here’s an added bonus: Rosa has continued with the massage membership for nine years and counting.

In dollars it looks like this: Let’s say Rosa came in six times a year before becoming a member and paid $80 for a 60-minute massage. Now Rosa is a member and pays $70 for a 60-minute massage. Prince loses $60 (6 x $10) for the six times a year Rosa would have come in under his pricing before he offered memberships—but he gains six more massage sessions a year for a total of $420 because Rosa, as a monthly massage member, comes in 12 times a year.

Over the course of a year, Prince makes $360 more ($420 – $60) than when Rosa was not a member. Also, don’t forget that Rosa has been a member for nine-plus years, so the total return on Rosa’s membership is much higher.

Membership massage might be looking more interesting to you at this point, but we still need to address one last concern: 

3. Managing memberships will be a nightmare.

The last thing you need is a system that becomes a barrier to signing clients up for memberships. The good news is that most online schedulers as well as credit card processors, such as Square, provide a decent membership management system.

If you are currently using an online scheduler, check out the membership feature. If you don’t have an online scheduler, but do use a credit card processor, like Square, you can bill memberships through subscriptions (recurrent payments).

With membership and subscription management, you determine when a member’s credit card will be charged and how much that card will be charged (the price of the monthly membership fee). It’s not difficult to do. All the information you need for your business spreadsheet and taxes is maintained in the management system.

However, Andrien points out that any membership system still has to be managed. Members come and go and credit cards expire; so you, or someone you hire, will have to deal with ongoing membership maintenance.

Is a Massage Membership Plan Right for You?

Membership massage does not have to be all or nothing. You can offer memberships, discounts, packages and intro pricing at the same time. The key is not to confuse the customer and to structure your offerings and pricing to support your business goals.

For example, if you need clients coming in during the week when kids are at school, consider offering a massage membership for weekdays only. To bring in new clients, consider offering the membership price as your intro price. To add new members, you can, as Andrien does, offer the membership price as the intro price if the client signs up for a membership the day she comes in for her intro massage.

Last, you are not a franchise clinic with a lot of overhead and salaries to pay. If are driven by both a need for more income and a strong interest in preserving longstanding relationships with clients, your pricing rules for membership massage will probably reflect a meeting in the middle—and that is OK.

At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable with how you sell your massage.

About the Author

Mark Liskey, LMT, CNMT, is a massage therapist, business owner, teacher and blogger. You can access his free, massage-business crash course on his business page.