None of us knows exactly what the future will hold, but we can be sure it won’t look exactly like the past.
The best thing a massage therapist can do right now is to change their focus from fear to relaunching — even if that means prepping for a future relaunch.
Even if you have already re-opened your massage practice, you will need to think about novel ways of reaching new clients, reconnecting with regular clients, and, in general, doing business. The information here will help you gain traction even if you are again seeing clients.
There are three questions a massage therapist has to ask themselves in light of the COVID-19 crisis, during which so many practices have been ordered closed:
1. Is my business closed permanently?
2. Am I going to reopen (or did you reopen) as soon as shelter-in-place orders are lifted?
3. Am I ready to reopen?
Reading those three questions, and considering you are reading this article, we can assume that you are planning to reopen your massage practice. That’s great! But your answer to question 3 is also very important.
The purpose of this article is to discuss getting ready to reopen; coming back to work strong and ready to head into your practice determined to be as successful as you can possibly be.
Right now, the time and opportunity are available for you do some upgrades to your business that perhaps you could not find the time for before.
I believe you can go into reopening your business with great preparation and possibly be more organized and prepared for restarting than you were before.
Start with a Plan
Treat this opportunity with the same time, effort and mental energy you would any new business start-up. I highly suggest filling out a business plan and outlining all the parts and pieces you have been thinking about adding to your business but could not designate the time for.
Imagine the possibilities. Call a friend and massage colleagues whom you are close with and find out what they like about their business operations, marketing and client management systems. Learn what others are doing to make their businesses run more efficiently and support the day-to-day operations that could make your business run more smoothly when you return.
Your new business plan should outline what you would like to do, or have wanted to do for a while. Select what you can do during this time and make goals to reach other needs when you are working again.
Once you have your thoughts organized, it is time to put them onto a six-week, goal-centered timetable.
Get Ready to Relaunch
I want you to get a jump-start on your business and be ready to push send, post or text the minute you can go back to work. I believe this preparation will be an essential part of your business success and income in the coming months.
The relaunch at this moment does not have a specific calendar date; however, you can set up goals to complete and have a plan of action ready to go when you have that specific date.
Here are some ideas based on a weekly timeline to prepare yourself and be ready to run right out of the gate. You can reorganize these tasks to meet your specific needs. Having customer service needs in place and the ability to contact your clients should be the priority.
This outline is just a suggestion of several components you can work on and selecting what fits you, in the order that best suits you.
• Have business-only social media pages set up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with six posts related to your practice, ready to publish. Invite all of your clients to like or join those pages.
• Implement an enhanced sanitization protocol and create professional signage and a brochure about that protocol, ready for clients when you reopen.
Don’t guess at what proper sanitization means; remove all clutter from your session room; never stack sheets on your table; contact your state board of massage to see if a sterilization guideline is in place (and legally required); and research disinfectants that are effective in killing coronavirus and other pathogens.
• Contact all your clients to ask how they are and if they would like to buy a gift certificate/s for future use. This could possibly be discounted or could also offer a package of sessions to use in the future.
I would like to offer a word of advice around this unique circumstance. This is money you are requesting in advance to help manage your finances while you are not working. It will be allocated and spent now, and you will have to provide the massage service promised at a later date.
Upon returning to work, make sure you are spacing out the prepaid-packages and gift-certificate clients with booked, daily-paying clients. Make sure you have a certain level of income being collected currently, while also providing scheduled time and customer service to those clients who prepaid by purchasing gift certificates and packages.
I suggest figuring out how many of these prepaid clients you can realistically see each week along with paying clients to find your balance and maintain a realistic income. This can help determine how many of these prepaid gift certificates and packages you should sell now.
If someone is coming to see you every two weeks prior to shutdown, then you can reasonably believe they will come every two weeks when you return. How many every-two-weeks clients can you schedule while maintaining a required income? Make sure to figure that into your scheduling and work around it as needed.
• Learn how to create an electronic newsletter and send the first newsletter to clients. Use this time to collect any updated client information such as new phone numbers, texting permissions, email addresses and physical addresses.
Have newsletter editions completed in advance and waiting for you to send out to your clients when you open your doors. If you are planning a weekly newsletter, I would put together at least three to six weeks of editions. This way you will keep up with relaunching and your new goal of sending newsletters. Coordinate this with your content calendar (see below).
• Look into rebranding your marketing materials so that you are reminding clients not what technique you practice, but what getting a massage will do for them.
Marketing and selling are all about speaking to and fulfilling a need.
The client’s need for massage typically falls under one or more of these three categories: relaxation, stress relief or pain relief. As professionals, we train for the different techniques that we employ and typically use the name of our bodywork style in advertising.
However, the name of a technique does not necessarily speak to the needs of the client. Think through the specific terms a client uses when asking for massage and try using more of those terms in your marketing materials. Stating, “an hour with me will help relieve the stress of the workweek” could appeal to more people than will, “book an hour of Asian acupressure technique.”
• Update your business cards, brochures and signage to match any rebranding you do, or at least outline a plan to do so within the first couple of months you are back to work.
• Look into upgrading your digital processes, such as online gift certificate sales, online scheduling and appointment reminders, and software options that help you with your client intake forms.
• If you were planning to update your intake process to an online format, start the process and have your clients begin to update their files via email. Many online systems have mass emailing options, and this might be a good place from which to send your newsletter and announcements.
• If you were planning to update your paper copies of health history forms and SOAP charts, this is a great time to get all the details sorted out and set up.
• Organize your files and make sure your clientele list is current and up-to-date.
• Reach out to 12 practitioners of other complementary therapies to begin to build a local referral network so that upon starting up you have more connections.
• Create a social media posting schedule. Twice a week, continue to update your social media pages with posts about massage, health, stretching, products and specials you are offering. Consistently remind current and potential clients of the benefits of massage therapy. If you want to build up more marketing on social media, one of the best tools for success is to plan out what you would like to post.
Build a three-month content calendar to start. A content calendar is where you list out 12 weeks of a theme or topic to focus on for each week, finding the material and images you will use to post within that week. Each week you can focus on preparing for the next week and be ready a week in advance for posting.
Consistency is the key to using social media, from algorithms to human behavior. Be consistent in your posting and what you are offering, and your efforts will create results.
• Complete all required CEs you need to renew your certification or license, if applicable. Many of the states that required live and online credits are allowing all online credits for this year. Get this need cleared from your schedule so that you can focus solely on building up your practice again.
• Streamline your bookkeeping and make tax time easier for next year or to complete this year.
A Time Like No Other
The time we’ve been through since early March 2020 has been like no other. I won’t lie; relaunching your practice will take work. But we’re all in this together, and we’ve all experienced the financial challenges and heartbreak the coronavirus brought with it.
We all can do this. Let’s get started! Let’s use this time wisely and create a dream massage business — again.
About the Author:
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods and the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses and a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider. Her articles for this publication include “The Client’s Body Does the Healing (The MT Provides the Opportunity)” and “3 Ways You Can Contribute to a Healthy Workplace” (both, massagemag.com).