As a marketing coach for massage therapists, I’ve privately coached more than 300 therapists to stand out from the crowd of other massage therapists in their markets. In studying how massage therapists advertise, I’ve discovered five distinct forms.
They are: retail, benefits, comparative, image—and what I like to call waste-of-money advertising.
It’s sad to say that most massage therapists’ advertising falls into the last category. Let’s get that one out of the way first.
Are You Wasting Money?
Usually, these ads are nothing short of a business card slapped down on a newspaper or magazine page. There’s contact information, and sometimes a website address—if the therapist has recognized the need for 21st-century marketing now that we’re more than 16 years into a new millennium.
Sometimes, the therapist’s modalities are listed. This is a waste of valuable space, because most clients and prospects couldn’t tell myofascial from facial tissue. I hate to say it, but the therapists who run these kinds of ads might just as well flush their money down the toilet for all the good this communication yields.
If you live in a city with a certain franchise, for example, you’ll see many such ads. You might see them on the therapists’ websites and social media pages. Each looks the same; the only difference is that the names are changed.
Now on to useful advertising.
Retail advertising is mostly price-driven, communicating the money-saving value that products or services offer. You’ll see this type of advertising often from supermarkets, department stores, restaurants and so forth. Almost all sales feature ads that are in this grouping. Black Friday is the day on which you’ll see the most retail advertising.
An example of excellent retail massage advertising would be for a half-price offer, or a buy-one-get-one-free promotion for first-time clients. There’s no trumpeting of how massage makes you feel, or why getting massaged is a healthy thing to do, but, rather, how much of a discount you can enjoy.
Benefits-oriented advertising expresses products’ and services’ advantages that typically appeal to one’s sense of reason. For example, car advertisers might articulate smoother handling, safer braking systems or, more recently, cars that somehow park themselves.
In massage, this advertising cites the many benefits to health and well-being that this therapy offers. Scientific research can be used to support such claims. Potential customers learn why getting massaged makes sense.
Such communication appeals to the rational mind, listing, as it does, benefits that enrich one’s health.
Comparative advertising shows why a product or service is better than another; usually just one competitor is singled out. An automotive ad might highlight better fuel efficiency over a competitor’s model, or better evaluations by objective third parties who rate automotive performance.
Because massage therapists often don’t advertise, there’s very little of this kind of communication in the industry. There will be more of it, though, as franchises proliferate, because franchises behave more like businesses than the typical solo-practitioner massage therapist.
These messages typically appeal to the left brain, pointing out why one massage business is superior to another. While this appeal makes sense in a prospective client’s mind, it usually doesn’t reach his right brain, or his feelings, which play such a key role in deciding to purchase massage—which is an hour’s experience that is very right-brain oriented.
With the advent of massage franchises, solo practitioners with specialized training have an opportunity to do comparative advertising that positions the quality of their work as different from that of discount chains. Positive testimonials from clients could show their massages to be of a higher quality. This would be extremely effective advertising.
Image advertising conveys a feeling that the marketer wants his product, service or company to be associated with in consumers’ minds. This is quite popular among luxury products that can’t be successfully marketed on price advantages. Instead, they promote the wonderful feelings one has using the product or service, or the joys of owning it as a status symbol. Corporations use image advertising to promote how the company’s products or services enrich the world.
Image advertising doesn’t mention price. Unlike benefits advertising and its comparative counterpart, it concerns itself with how a prospective client will feel on your table. In other words, its primary appeal is to the right brain.
Image massage advertising could depict an hour on your table as a mini-vacation from the stresses of the world for only $75. In this context, price can be mentioned, but only to suggest the unbelievable bargain that could be gained—a vacation for just $75. A massage therapist could buy a stock photo of a tropical beach and suggest that massage is like a respite from the tensions of our times. Such communications reach people in very deep ways—far more persuasively than a mere business card.
Return on Investment
Whether you use retail, image, benefits or comparative advertising—or a mixture of all four—do advertise in some way. (Just don’t even consider waste-of-money advertising.)
By putting thought and attention on how you want to advertise, your ad budget will provide a return on investment—in the form of clients on your table.
Coach Cary Bayer is an American Massage Therapy Association keynote speaker and marketing coach. He has worked with Quality Inns; Oscar-winning actors Alan Arkin and Pietro Scalia; Emmy-Award winners David Steinberg and Judy Henderson; and 300 massage therapists. He has created 14 National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-accredited workshops. He authored the Grow a Rich Massage Business book trilogy, and wrote “Sublet Your Office Space for Passive Income” for massagemag.com (Dec. 1, 2015).