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The Number 1 Most Important Thing In Getting Your Massage Practice Up And Running

Jan 20, 2008
So here you are, finally a certified massage therapist! Now you're ready to start your practice! But where are all the clients?!?

"Ah...", one might think, "That's the tough part." But it's not really. Like anything, it just requires discipline and tenacity.

The most important thing to remember is: Be Everywhere! Try to attend all kinds of functions: mixers, fund-raisers, parties, etc. Set up your table or a massage chair at a local walk-a-thon or other charitable event and do free 10-minute massages for the participants. (Be sure to have lots of business cards and brochures on hand, of course.) If you're going to be working on your web site or doing admin work on your laptop, don't do it at home! Take your laptop to a coffee shop and work there. There's always the chance that you might meet a future client. Right now, take socializing as seriously as you take the actual bodywork you do.

When you can't physically be somewhere, find some other way to still "be there". If it's a fund-raiser, call ahead of time and see if you can donate a gift certificate for the silent auction. If it's a mixer, see if there's going to be a prize given for a raffle or something that once again, you can donate a gift certificate for. Join MySpace, Facebook, and any other free online communities and be active in them. Wherever you have a chance to make an online profile, do so - Evite, Zoom, etc.

Formal networking groups like Ali Lassen's Leads Club and Business Network International can also be quite beneficial. The way these groups work is that the members become each other's sales force. They usually meet weekly to exchange referrals and learn about each other's businesses. A smart thing for a massage therapist to do in one of these groups is to offer a hefty discount for the first session for all group members - maybe 25% or so. The members who do take advantage of your offer, will find (if you do your job well), that you're skilled and professional. They will then have no hesitation referring you to folks they bump into in their day-to-day comings and goings, or maybe even their top clients. Having this "sales force" around town is yet another way that you can "be everywhere."

Ever see those cheesy promotional products? The mug that your insurance salesman gave you with the name of his company printed on it? The pen your realtor let you keep with his name and number on it? I bet you've thrown lots of promotional products away, huh? But I bet there are also a few that have hung around your house or office for a while before they ended up in the circular file.

Here's my favorite "promotional products story." I bought magnetic To-Do Lists with a peel-off sticky spot to adhere my business card to. The only reason I bought them really was I felt I should support the PR person in my networking group. I thought they were kind of cheesy, actually. I stuck my cards on them while I was watching TV at home and then distributed them to my clients. To my surprise, clients were actually happy to receive them and in some cases even asked at later sessions if they could have "more of those cool To-Do Lists". Not only that, but three years later, I had a new client come in for her surprise birthday appointment. Her boyfriend, who had to be out of the country on business for her birthday, had secretly scheduled and paid for the session ahead of time. He then called her from Paris the day before to tell her that he had scheduled a massage for her and told her where to go to receive it. When I asked the woman how her boyfriend found out about me, she said, "Oh, I've had one of your To-Do Lists on my fridge for the past few years and have been meaning to come get a massage."

Another way to "be everywhere" is with flyers and a web site. You can put up flyers on all the public bulletin boards in your town. The flyers need to have a photo of your friendly, professional, non-threatening face. Massage is a personal experience for most folks and it's important that you appear in a non-threatening light. Another point to keep in mind is that the keepers of these bulletin boards are usually more willing to let you post a flyer if the flyer is announcing a special event on a specific date, rather than simply advertising your services. Organize an open house. Or a workshop. For that matter, you can pair up with some non-profit organization and donate the proceeds to that organization. Include the name and tax number of the non-profit and shops will be even more willing to let you post your flyers.

Before you have your event, be sure to submit press releases to all the local publications - both online and off. Be sure to include a striking photo. You never know. They might like the photo. Don't forget the expression "a picture is worth a thousand words"...

When I first started my practice, my teacher encouraged me to teach a workshop. I thought he was crazy. I didn't have even one client. I had just gotten my certification. I thought, "I'm in no position to teach this stuff. I'm still a beginner!" He on the other hand, knew that I had 20 years experience teaching English as a Second Language and 10 years experience teaching Aikido. He told me to find some focus or topic for the workshop that was within my area of expertise - an area I could feel confident teaching. I decided to design a Compression Massage workshop for couples, focusing on centering and communication. Perhaps I'll write more about the workshop series at some later date, but the point here is that I sent press releases to all the media and one weekly publication actually printed a photo of me. It was a photo where I was performing compression massage - with my foot. Quite dramatic, I was standing and holding a stick (for balance), applying pressure to a man's back with my foot.

Only 10 or 12 people showed up for the workshop (not nearly the number I was hoping for), but as a result of the photo and accompanying printed text, people around town started to recognize me and tell me they had heard I was "really good". (I only had a couple clients at this time. Literally!) Four years later even, I got a new client and asked him how he had heard about me. He said, "I did a google search and when my wife saw your name come up on the screen, she said, 'Oh, she's really good." When I asked him if I had ever worked on his wife or met her, he said, "No, but she saw your picture in the paper a few years ago. You were giving a workshop." Go figure...

So there you have it. My ideas for "being everywhere". That should get you started. Of course, there are countless other ways to "be everywhere". You're only limited by your imagination.

Tune in again, where I'll go over how to keep the clients you get.
About the Author
Lia Suzuki Santa Barbara, CA 805-692-9850 lia@liasuzuki.com http://www.liasuzuki.com
Lia Suzuki is a practicing licensed massage therapist and educator based in Santa Barbara, California. Her clients range from Olympic athletes to Hollywood celebrities. Lia specializes in Barefoot Sports Massage.
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