Massage therapy is definitely a profession helped by word of mouth. The truly successful therapists are people who have clients who love them so much that they tell their friends and family. For a freshly graduated massage student turned CMT, this can feel like a Catch 22 situation and, honestly, a little scary. But it doesn’t have to be…
When at first you don’t succeed, offer free massages!
I know what you’re thinking: Yeah freakin’ right. Work for free?! This just so happens to be a great marketing strategy though. People love massages, but, almost more, they love free stuff. Since massages can be a bit of an investment, potential clients aren’t going to jump at the chance to throw their hard-earned dollars at a newbie who may possibly tickle or hurt them for an hour. What you need is a chance to prove yourself! It doesn’t need to be a long massage—you can usually tell if you like the way someone massages you after fifteen minutes or so. All you need to do is find the right outlet to set up a massage chair (or table, if you have the space available) to offer massages and your business card to the passerby.
Always be on the lookout for places to find clients
There are plenty of places people would love a sample massage for their customers, employees, or potential clients. You just need to ask. Trust me. If you go down to Apple and ask if you can set up a chair and massage their employees at the next company party, they’re not going to say no. Intimate parties where friends get together to sell makeup or purses to each other are great opportunities as well. Or go down to your city office and ask if you can rent a booth for the next street fair. Even though you need to pay for the booth, you’re out in the public, passing out cards and sharing your touch. At the end of the day, it never hurts to get your card into as many hands as possible.
Offer coupons and get competitive
You need to create and share coupons with your clients right away. Never let a new client slip through your fingertips. If they liked your massage just as much as they liked Joe-down-the-street’s massage, give them a reason to come back to you and not Joe. If they can get a free massage after 8 or 10 massages, they’ll return. If Joe-down-the-street—the symbolic character that represents all competitors in your area—has a better deal, match or beat “him” if you can.
Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—you need to be an employee first…
I know you probably want to build your own private practice, make your own schedule and not work for the man, but let’s face it: you’re new! If you just graduated, keep building your business plan—take notes in your business journal in between clients at work whenever you come up with an idea—but you might want to secure a steady job with a spa or medical office when you’re first starting out. This way, you’ll get to know people and earn a steady stream of clients who will tell their friends about you. And when you decide to leave the nest, they’ll probably join you.
But above all things: never stop planning.
Write down reasonable goals for yourself and re-access them in a timely manner. Don’t set yourself up to feel like a failure by writing Attain fifty new clients this month or By the end of the year—own and operate a fully-equipped day spa with a staff of friendly fellow massage therapists who never come in late in your journal. You’ll cry yourself to sleep at night. Instead, write down the little stuff like buy new business cards or schedule an event this month. You’ll be encouraged that you can complete these baby steps and you will forever be working toward your lucrative private practice.