By Elicia Crook – Originally published in the Massage and Myotherapy Australia Journal, Autumn 2017 edition
“But I just want to help people,” Grace said, “I don’t know how to market myself or have the confidence to really put myself out there. Surely if I’m here and good at what I do, I’ll get busier right?”
When I first spoke to Grace 12 months ago, she was only seeing 4 clients a week. She had left her full-time job to massage and was really struggling because she wasn’t seeing enough clients to make a living.
Once we identified her growth killer, which as marketing, she was able to create some social media campaigns which allowed her to have rapid growth in her business and be seeing her “magic number” of clients per week in a very short space of time.
When I introduce myself with “Hi, I’m Elicia and I’m a business coach for massage therapists” I am met with two responses: the first, if someone is not a therapist themselves, is “Wow, that’s specific.” The second response is “Oh my God I need to speak with you!”
There is no doubt of the need for business training in our industry: one in three new massage businesses doesn’t last more than 12 months, and even those that do survive often earn less than minimum wage for their efforts.
Why is this the case? I’ve spoken with hundreds of therapists in the last 12 months and I see the same issues recurring again and again. Many people simply haven’t been given any skills to “do the do” of the business side of things. They often feel unprepared and nervous. After all, most of us therapists enter the profession because we like helping people, not because we’re good at business!
I believe in the power of massage and I believe that we need to become more successful business people if we are to thrive as as industry and make an impact in the health of the Australian population.
My own experience comes from running my clinic for over 16 years, growing it from a solo business to at one point employing 9 staff who were seeing over 100 clients per week plus tenants. It was hard work and I know how much I struggled to find the right advice on everything from pricing, to hiring, to renting, to record-keeping.
I learnt every trick in the book but it seems like in the process I made every mistake as well!
So now I am on a mission to raise the professional standard of massage and show therapists how to become fully booked without burnout and be comfortable doing the do of business.
One question that comes up for people is “what is fully booked?” My answer is simply seeing your “magic number” of clients each week. Every therapist intuitively has a number they believe they can see, for some it’s 10, others 30. Whatever your magic number is, there are ways to confidently and strategically grow your client base to reach your goal.
So what is your magic number? How many clients a week do you want to see? And how many are you seeing now? What difference would it make to your life, and the people around you, if you were seeing as many clients as you want to?
Earlier this year, I created a self-evaluation survey asking therapists what their largest hurdles are in business. As well as providing evidence of the most painful and common business ailments within the industry, I use the details each person fills in to automatically match them to a free video training that is most relevant to their needs.
It has been completed by over 370 therapists so far, and the results are revealing. The four biggest growth killers this survey reveals are:
1. You don’t get marketing
Many therapists are fantastic at treating clients once they’re on the table, get fabulous results and have a beautiful, nurturing personality. Unfortunately, if you fail to attract enough new clients, your gifts remain underutilised and your passion can quickly fade as the bank account shrinks.
Marketing is simply the act of attracting new clients. There are many methods available, from free or very cheap, to more sophisticated. The most effective channel at the moment is Facebook: using a business page to build reputation and community, and targeted paid advertising to attract new clients. When combined with simple online bookings, a Facebook strategy like this is hard to beat for simply getting clients booked in.
So why do some people struggle with marketing so much? It is important to recognise that marketing is not just about learning the tech behind platforms like Facebook or other social media. Marketing works best when you make a connection with your ideal clients – at core, marketing is about authentic communication. The images, text and other design elements of each promotion have a massive impact on how well they perform. To be really effective you will usually spend more time sourcing the right image and writing a beautiful promo, than in learning how to then distribute it on social media.
And beyond the practical steps, marketing and “putting yourself out there” can feel foreign when you start. The fear of what people will think or say can cause you to procrastinate. So part of being a better marketer is looking at the larger goal and using that as motivation: each marketing step gives you opportunity to help more people and improve your business.
Quick marketing tips:
- Know your target audience clearly.
- Be your authentic self and connect with your community.
- Use Facebook ads and online bookings.
2. You can’t rebook
Rebooking clients after their initial treatment will exponentially boost the number of treatments you perform. If each client averages 3 or 4 or even more treatments instead of 1 or 2, then you will immediately double the number of treatments you are performing even if you don’t change your marketing or anything else at all.
It’s a fact that almost every single client who comes in your door would benefit from multiple treatments. Some of them will go through a short series and others will come back indefinitely for maintenance. So being able to rebook clients when it is in the best interest for their health serves them as well as you.
So how do you rebook? The best way is to start with a simple script. This is often as easy as a sentence or two that you create in advance and practice so that when the time comes to rebook you can do so with confidence. (You can rebook your family members – practice on your pets if you need to!) During treatment, mention the benefits that multiple sessions will have on any particularly problematic areas. Then as you’re leading your client to the reception desk it can be as straightforward as saying “I’d like to see you again in two weeks so we can keep working on that shoulder. Let’s book that in now so it’s confirmed.”
Quick rebooking tips:
- Assess if the client will benefit from multiple treatments (almost everyone can).
- During treatment, mention the idea of ongoing work for problematic areas.
- After treatment say “I’d like to see you again … so we can …”
3. You don’t get tech
Modern technology has made some parts of running a business a lot easier than they used to be. For example, booking software and accounting apps cut out time and paperwork, reducing headaches. And while these can save time and money – what happens if you’re simply not good with tech?
By and large, you will only need the technology that is appropriate to your circumstances. If you’re very small and personal, you will be able to get by with a paper diary and a box full of receipts. As you grow, you can gradually improve one area of your business at a time, to save time and reduce hassles.
The thing to remember is that technology is designed to make things better and it is getting easier to use all the time. The reason it may seem daunting at the start is simply because you haven’t done it before. It’s the same with everything – imagine trying to massage someone if you’d never learnt how, and never even touched someone’s back! The first few times would feel clunky and unnatural. Same with tech: take one step as a time and let yourself become familiar with it before moving on.
Quick technology tips:
- Improve one thing at a time.
- Ask for help where needed. There are experts on everything.
- Don’t be nervous – you’ve got this!
4. You experience burnout
Massage is a very personal service that can drain you physically and emotionally. There are long hours of standing while giving care and attention.
One interesting thing I find is that people often fear burnout more than they actually experience it. Also the stress of not being busy enough but feeling like all their time is choked up in their business leads to the feeling of burnout.
Instead, maintain balance in your life and care for yourself. Be clear on your goals and what you do each day to reach them. Take time out for something you enjoy, and make a habit out of it at a set time each week so you know you can look forward to it. Mindfulness practices, yoga and meditation are also shown to lower stress and improve resilience.
Being healthy in your own body and mind also set a great example to your clients. By showing them what a healthy lifestyle looks like you will attract great clients and be able to inspire and motivate them to look after themselves. In a way, your whole lifestyle becomes part of your treatment for them, as you lead the way to better health and wellbeing.
Quick burnout tips:
- Eat well and exercise to keep yourself healthy in mind and body.
- Make time for things you enjoy.
- Be a role model of health for your clients
Which of these growth killers is your biggest challenge? And what steps are you taking to overcome it?
Go and fill in the self-evaluation tool now and see for yourself what your biggest growth killer is and how you are able to overcome it: Growth Killer Quiz