Did you know the ebb and flow of your business success as a massage therapist can be predicted and explained? There are specific reasons why, at times, you work so hard yet see few to no results, while at other times abundance flows and you wonder what you did to cause it.
Just as your business success may ebb and flow, so too does nature. This is why you can use the four seasons as an analogy to help understand your overall business and greater business model.
The Four Seasons
Spring is when an all-in attitude toward your business is so important. This is when you will invest most of your time, energy and money in education, marketing and promoting your business. Like a farmer, you must first learn exactly what you need to do to establish a successful farm—or, massage practice—before jumping in. This is when investing in high-quality equipment and seed is critical. (For example, one small bag of great seed yielding great food is far better than 10 bags of mediocre seed producing mediocre food.)
You will not grow repeat business with mediocrity. The same goes for how well you establish your business and how well you promote your business—the quality of seeds you plant. How you set yourself and your business up in spring will affect the rest of your practice’s seasons.
Summer is when a keep-moving-forward attitude is important. You need to make money and pay the bills, but you may feel frustrated if you don’t yet see any fruits of your labors. During summer, sprouts will begin to break ground—when potential clients will inquire about promotional materials they saw. You need to be patient and make sure you have the proper materials in place when clients do inquire, so you can get them to follow through and book a massage.
Autumn is when a save attitude is important. You’ll want to start spending the money you’ve made in the summer, but don’t—you will have a winter season and you need to prepare for it. There is nothing to fear about winter if you are properly prepared.
Winter is when a rest-evaluate-prepare attitude is important. If your business is down, know that this is part of the cycle, and there are specific things you can do to keep your heart open with confidence and prepare for the coming spring. This is why you do not spend money foolishly when your business is in the autumnal stage.
Understanding in-depth each of these seasons of business will better drive how you make decisions. By properly mapping these seasons, you can know when to save for the future, promote your business and take time to relax and rejuvenate.
Again, spring is when an all-in attitude is important. The springtime of your business is a stage in which you are going to invest most of your time, energy and money. At this stage, you have probably graduated from massage school and passed your licensing exam, and are ready to start working as a professional massage therapist.
If you don’t have a solid business education background that relates directly to your business and industry, focus on that. Know what you need to establish a business and market yourself well. I have seen too many amazing therapists go out of business because they did not want to learn the basics of business. Before you do anything else, learn from someone who understands the nuances of how to build a successful massage business. If not, you will waste time, energy and money.
Spring is also about creating buzz—putting time, energy and money into quality marketing in the right places to let people know about you.
When you’re first starting out, potential client awareness of you is none or very little. In the advertising world there’s an often-repeated term, “effective frequency,” that refers to how many times customers have to be exposed to a promotional message before they take action and make a purchase. Thomas Smith, in his classic guide Successful Advertising, sets this number at 20; that means it may take more than 10 exposures to different promotional materials for potential clients to notice you, and 16 exposures before they even consider taking action. So if you do not get immediate responses to offers or advertising that you put out, do not worry. This is just spring—and your job is to plant seeds.
Feelings of excitement and uncertainty are very normal at this time, and your confidence may be fragile. The key is to keep your heart open and focus on what you love and why you are doing it.
5 Things to Do in Spring:
- Create all the materials you need to start getting the word out about you: business cards, fliers, a mobile-responsive website, special discount offers, brochures, and informational articles to contribute to local magazines and websites, which help build your reputation as a massage expert.
- Identify places such as farmers markets or corporate events at which you can offer a sample of your massage skills. People often try before they buy when it comes to massage.
- Get in give mode. Focus on giving people the awareness that you exist and can help them.
- Be in a positive, love-what-you-do mode. People are drawn to passionate people.
- Have fun. This is the most important time for you to be out there planting seeds and letting as many people as you can know about you.
This season is about clients following up, responding to ads and coupons you’ve put out into the world during the spring season. Make sure you are prepared with answers to potential clients’ questions and have the proper materials in place so when they do follow up they are inspired to follow through by booking a massage appointment with you.
At this point, your feelings may start to shift toward confidence of your eventual business success. You need to keep the momentum going, your heart open and your attitude excited. Your potential clients will pick up on your positivity, and respond positively by re-booking and referring new clients to you.
4 Things to Do in Summer
- Create materials for when people are almost ready to book an appointment with you. They may need some encouragement to follow through, such as a website with videos explaining what and how you do what you do; time-sensitive special discount offers; or special offers available to a limited number of people.
- Develop a referral partner program to stimulate word-of-mouth marketing. Encourage people who love what you have to offer to share your contact information with people they know. Offer a coupon that current clients can give to people and that generates a discount for first-timers. Then reward your clients when their referrals book an appointment.
- Capture video testimonials. Offer an incentive—such as a discount or free session—in exchange for a video testimonial that is high-quality enough to feature on your website. Have a video camera available at your office to capture feedback after client sessions, but also have paper forms to give clients if they prefer to write testimonials.
- Open yourself to receiving. You are probably, by nature, a giver—and like many massage therapists, you may struggle with receiving compliments, receiving payments for your services and accepting tips. Remember: You provide a valuable service and deserve both compensation and praise.
In this season, your business is finally starting to flourish. Your confidence is high and you are probably feeling some well-deserved euphoria and relief that people want you and what you do so well. It can be tempting to let things coast a little now that you have a steady clientele. While it’s great to enjoy the success you’ve earned, don’t get overconfident.
3 Things to Do in Autumn
- Start saving money. Avoid spending too much of your income, whether on yourself or on the business.
- Keep marketing. Don’t slack off on your efforts at getting new clients in the door.
- Develop new, different promotional materials to leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing. While you may have to be more selective with your marketing efforts now that you have more clients to see, it’s still important to keep buzz going. Invest your limited time in the strategies you’ve found to be successful, and save new, untested marketing methods for the following spring.
This is a very critical time to observe your emotions. You may be on a euphoric high of your business success when suddenly business drops off. It is easy to shift into an attitude of fear, doubt and stress. This ebb and flow is a natural process; if you are prepared for it, it can be a great asset to your business that you can powerfully leverage.
First, take some time to rest. If you did what you were supposed to do during your autumn and saved some money, you will have reserves available to sustain yourself.
Next, take a breath and reflect with gratitude on what a great job you did in spring and summer, which produced an abundant autumn. Look back at what worked and what did not. Get inspired to expand what did work, fix what you can of what did not work, and trash the rest. Take all the raves and praise you have gotten from clients and integrate them into new marketing material for the coming spring.
5 Things to Do in Winter
- Do not worry too much if you have a business lull. This is a normal part of a business’ cycle.
- Create a to-do list of things you want to take care for your business, but until now have not had the time for. Set an easy pace for completing the items on this list, so you can also take time to rest.
- Create a to-do list of personal things you want to do, but until now have not had the time for. Do them.
- Start thinking about the coming spring season of your business. Evaluate your last seasons—what you did right and what you would do better the next time. Plan your next four seasons, along with marketing materials and offers you want to have ready. If you write for massage-related publications, contact those you want to promote yourself in and find out their deadlines for the year ahead.
- Spend wisely. Spring will come—and you will need your positive energy refreshed and your cash reserves ready to grow your business even more.
What Season Are You In?
Find out what season you are in, and if you are ready for what is coming next, by taking a one-question test at seasons.careerhearted.com.
Jeffrey Goodman is the founder of CareerHearted. An international speaker, business advisor and workshop facilitator, he has developed a new course, CareerHearted, which has helped massage therapists all over the world. His business courses offer eight, 27 or 35 National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE hours.