5 ways you’re probably wrecking your massage practice

Special thanks to Amber Robidoux for an assist on this post.

Roughly 40,000 people will graduate from massage school this year and the bulk of them won’t make it past 5 years in the business.There are many, many reasons for this. Sometimes it’s lousy education, other times it’s just general life circumstances. But there are basic, obvious mistakes many therapists make that can can squash an otherwise fantastic business.

Not creating a strong marketing foundation

Sure, one can build a practice just on paper business cards and word of mouth. But it takes a really, really long time. A great website that lands in the first page of search results, a solid email plan, and a social media presence is the equivalent of word-of-mouth on steroids. Learning good marketing habits and laying a foundation is best done while still in massage school. But never fear, you can certainly catch up using the same techniques outlined here.

Completing a marketing strategy doesn’t need to be as arduous a task as you think. Put it in your calendar, make it as important as a client laying on your table. Turn off your phone, shut down your email, and treat the time with respect. It’s an appointment with your business. Don’t neglect this stuff.

Not keeping good records. Of everything.

Money that comes in and money that goes out.
Tracking all of your income and expenses will give you a better handle of how well your business is doing. Knowing how much product you use and how much it’s actually costing you per client is important. Not to mention, if your water/coffee/tea expenses are skyrocketing – it should raise a red flag and maybe you should cut back or cap your complementary offerings. Likewise, if you sold x amount of gift certificates this year and only x amount last year – how has your profits gone up? What have you done differently?

Having the ability to track your progress and compare this months sales to the same month last year can keep you “in the know” about what’s happening with your business. Plus, being particular about your bookkeeping will keep your nose clean with the IRS.

Where your referrals are coming from.
Do you ask your clients how they heard about you? If so, are you logging it somewhere to keep track? If you’re not asking or forgetting to ask, slap that question right on your intake form. Ask if someone referred them and if so, if you are allowed to thank them. Pay attention if a client mentions seeing your ad or even ask them when they come in if they read the paper and happened to see it.

Gathering information like this is vital since it’ll give you an idea if your strategies are working and what can be changed in your marketing plan to improve your results. If you spend $100 on a newspaper ad that only results in 1 new client, and you spend $20 on an email campaign that gets you 3, which effort will you repeat?

Client notes
Keeping neat and tidy client notes is imperative when managing a successful practice.  It’s just plain responsible and professional to keep a chart/record/soap notes for your clients. And in many states it’s legally required! If a doctor or an attorney requests your notes you should be able to easily provide them. Or a client may for their record so their new therapist when they relocate will know the type of work you’ve been doing.

Ignoring the people who treat you well

Every new client deserves a thank you note. No matter how it’s written it should communicate, “I really appreciate you coming in and I value your business.” This applies to your long standing clients as well. A card that arrives out-of-the-blue that screams thanks for hanging with me reminds them why they like you and continue to patronize your business – aside from the normal aahhhh’s. It may also bring you new business since they may be compelled to tell a friend how “good mail” showed up.

Every local practitioner deserves a thank you note, every single time they send you a client. For whatever reason, if a colleague/doctor/complementary practitioner sends you a client that most certainly deserves a hand written recognition. Our world is so competitive and financially driven, having someone acknowledge a client’s need and that you would be a good fit for them is big. It’s huge. A thank you note is definitely in order.

Don’t forget the other non-massage related people in your life. The waitress at the restaurant next door who remembers how you like your eggs deserves a gift certificate at christmas. Ditto for the people who wash your piles of massage linens or watch your kids so you can work. Without them things would be much more difficult and in some cases, impossible.

Not cleaning your office enough

It can be exhausting to maintain a full load of clients and keep everything in the office sparkling clean and well organized. It’s easy to put off vacuuming ‘until tomorrow’, or toss books on the shelf but that doesn’t put you in a professional light – especially with a new client. If your client is in the prone position and your floors aren’t clean guess what they are looking at half their time with you? Dirt and whatever else ends up there. Keep your floors clear, trash empty, and sheets clean. You want each client to feel like they were the first one in your office that day. Your last appointment of the day doesn’t want to see the nasty remnants (dirty linens spilling over the hamper, tissues/paper towels wadded up in the wastebasket) of every client you’ve treated that day.

Tolerating no shows and extremely last minute cancellations

It can be really, really hard to deal with clients who don’t show up, or cancel at the last moment. We want to be nice. We want to be warm and understanding. We all forget an appointment at some time. We all have last minute emergencies, right? Even when we have cancellation policies in place, it can be difficult to actually say, “I’ve got to charge you for the missed appointment, would you like to send a check in or shall I take your credit card information now?” But when you tolerate repeated instances of no-shows and last-minute cancellations,  you’re wrecking your business in two ways.

First, you’re stealing money from yourself. When you don’t charge for a missed appointment you are accepting a loss on time you had scheduled to work. Uncool.

Second, you’re setting a precedent that encourages your client’s disrespectful behavior. If a client knows you’re not going to charge for that missed appointment, there is no incentive for her to be diligent about future appointments. More than likely, this will lead to a strained therapeutic relationship when the client does come in. That’s no good for anyone.

What mistakes have you made as a business owner, and how did you fix it?

Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net