Episode 141

Feb 9, 2018

Ahhh… pricing. Always a dicey topic. We discuss the factors to consider, especially for newer therapists. Come along!

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Ahhh… pricing. Always a dicey topic. We discuss the factors to consider, especially for newer therapists. Come along!

Check out Deciding Prices for Your Massage Practice, too.

This episode is sponsored by:


Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I’m Michael Reynolds. 

Allissa Haines And I’m Allissa Haines.

MR We’re your hosts today. Thanks for joining us. Allissa, I will have you know that all is back as it should be in the universe because I had my grocery-store sushi today.

AH Ah, yeah.

MR I changed it up a little bit. Instead of getting my regular California roll, I got a spicy California roll.

AH You are a crazy rebel.

MR I know, right? I’m just off the wall.

AH You know what I did? I actually cooked this morning, and I have been craving comfort food, and I made shepherd’s pie. Have you ever had shepherd’s pie?

MR No! The concept grosses me out. It’s like meat-filled pie. Is that what it is?

AH No, no, no. That’s meat pie.

MR Oh. What’s shepherd’s pie?

AH Shepherd’s pie’s a little different. And it’s one of those things that can also be made in varying ways. But in my home, it was you made ground beef — you just brown some ground beef and you put that at the bottom of a casserole dish, then you put — no, I’m sorry, you put corn and peas and some kind of vegetable, some people use carrot — I’m just straight up a corn girl, but I put some peas in there, too, because we had them in the freezer — then some browned ground beef and then mashed potatoes, and then you throw it in the oven until the mashed potatoes get a nice little crust on top —

MR That sounds gross.

AH — because it used to be made with lamb and stuff, hence the shepherd’s pie.

MR That sounds disgusting.

AH Oh my God, it’s a — and I am not a casserole kind of person, but one thing I like about it is it doesn’t have dairy in it. It’s a casserole that doesn’t have cheese in it; so I can eat it. It’s so good. It’s protein, you get the sweetness of sweet corn…

MR Ugh. You like pot pies, too, don’t you?

AH I do.

MR Ugh. I hate pot pies. A pie should be full of fruit and sugar, but when you put meat and vegetables and call it a pie, it’s so wrong.

AH See? Maybe this is the problem, because I have an opposition to fruit pies because people treat them like dessert, and I feel like desserts should be chocolate.

MR Oh. Well, that’s —

AH Or cake.

MR — that’s a whole different angle we should get —

AH I know, right?

MR — that’s a tangent we can explore also.

AH Varying preferences on pie, which I respect, but nonetheless, I was aching for this comfort food of my childhood, and I made it and we had it for lunch, and it’s delightful and I’m totally going to have seconds shortly when we’re done recording. So let’s do this, Michael. Let’s do this.

MR All right, guys. Let us know. Send us an email, podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. Should a pie be fruit and sugar or do meat and vegetables belong in a pie? The answer is, no, by the way, but let us know what you think and we’ll report back what feedback we get.

AH I’m going to do a Facebook poll. [laughs]

MR Go for it. There you go. Throw it in the premium group, on the page. All right, on to the discussion at hand, and that is how should a new therapist figure pricing?

AH And this is great. It came from Fran, who is a listener in the UK. She emailed us with this question and said, “As a newly qualified therapist, where should I pitch my pricing in relation to those of the more experienced therapists in my area?” We’re going to flash back a little bit, and I will put a link in the podcast notes. If you go to massagebusinessblueprint.com, you go to our podcast page, you’ll see this episode — the number I do not know, but Michael will come up with the episode number in just a minute — and I will put a note, a link, to our blog post about deciding prices for your massage practice. So let’s do some general rules, and then we’ll cover some specifics about being related to being a newer therapist and pricing in regards to the more experienced ones around.

Pricing is really, really touchy. People get super piffy about how to price; so I have a few general guidelines — and none of these are rules; they’re just things you should consider so you can come to a pricing structure that you are comfortable with. Look at the average price of massage in your area. When you do this, you want to make a few notes. Look in your area, because a 60-minute massage for me just south of Boston costs way more than a 60-minute massage even out in some more rural areas of my state. So look in your area and check out the average price and make note of things like is it a luxury spa? is it a one-person operation? does that place take tipping? is tipping accepted or is that pricing inclusive of tipping? What do those — when you note someone’s pricing, what are the things that come along with that? Is there use of a Jacuzzi? That’s going to jack the price up a little bit so that might not be as relevant when you’re figuring out your pricing. Ditto that for gratuities. If you’re working for yourself, your pricing — you might choose to go no gratuities and your pricing might be a little higher or in line.

Things that you don’t necessarily want to consider: techniques. I hate it when people price things based on technique. I hate it when people charge more for pregnancy massage or charge more for deep tissue or charge more for some — I love time-based systems, partly for simplicity, also for fairness. If you check out our deciding massage prices blog post, I expand upon that more fully. Really think about your own fear level going in. you want to consider how much of your pricing that you’ve started to figure out is based on your emotions or lack of confidence or concern that your hands-on skills are mediocre, in which case you should see last week’s podcast episode because we really talked about that.

There’s lot of different considerations, but — specifically in regards to being a newer therapist — after you’ve looked at some other local businesses, looked at their pricing, looked at the things that they offer, what can make you different? Think about the things that can make you different and, therefore, worthy of the same pricing, maybe, as someone who’s been around for a couple of years and is a little more experienced. Maybe that thing that makes you different is one price for your time — not changing it based on technique — and not taking tips, and really clearly articulating that. Maybe the thing that makes you different is embracing technology and having a killer website, a really good website that’s super informative, super friendly, and personable. And we’ve got a podcast episode with our friend Barry Hatfield that talks all about being really personable in your website and how that really helped him launch his new practice. Maybe it’s having video on your website about what a massage actually looks like so people who have never gotten a massage before, which is 65% of the population, feel more comfortable paying for a service where someone touches them, because they can see what it looks like. Maybe it’s embracing online scheduling so that people can schedule anytime. And I know that this is a bell I ring over and over again with online scheduling, but it makes me particularly bonkers that outside of the people in my office, there is almost one one using online scheduling in my area. Almost no one. I don’t get enough massage because, with the exception of the four other practitioners in my office who are all booked out for months — not all of them, but most of them — there’s nowhere else I can go online and schedule a darned appointment. Nobody has online scheduling, and I’m in a pretty hip, suburban area that’s tech savvy. I know I’m ringing that bell a lot, but it’s true. It’s a thing that can make you different and, therefore, more convenient than other massage practices.

The last one, and I’m going to ask Michael to expand on this, is to — a thing that can make you different is to pick a niche, which is terrifying, but a really, really useful thing that someone can do to launch a massage practice. Michael, what does it mean when I say to “niche” or “pick a niche”?

MR Yeah, so, niching is specializing. The reason we want to do that, sometimes, and the reason it can work is because most businesses, including massage therapy practices, are very generalized. They just kind of say we do general massage services, we serve anybody that wants to book with us, and you’re basically serving anybody. While that sounds appealing, because you want to get everybody’s business, it also makes you blend in with every other massage practice out there. By niching, you stand out from the crowd and you specialize, and a couple things can happen as a result. One is you can start to get more and more referrals and more business because you develop attachment to a specific kind of tribe or a specific type of person, and you really go deep into that niche. And, two, you can actually charge more, sometimes, because you are the only person in your area that specializes in a particular niche. One example is we’ve got a premium member who specializes in working only with runners. She is developing her brand — actually, she’s developed a really cool brand all around working with runners; she’s about to start a running podcast, and her logo is all about running and her messaging and everything, and she is focused on runners, and she is getting well known in the area for that niche. And so niching can help you stand out from the crowd and help you get more business and earn more money as a result because you are specializing.

AH And really, even as a newer therapist, you could take one or two education classes, continuing education in a particular area, back that up with a ton of online education, learn everything you can about one particular thing. So maybe learn everything you can about migraines, everything that you can find access to — and there’s plenty online and there’s plenty of in-person classes — on head, skull, jaw, neck work. Awesome. Maybe take some CE online about pharmacology for migraines. Maybe watch every video and every training thing you can that has to do with head, neck, jaw, skull stuff and get a couple of books about headaches. There’s tons of stuff out there. Scour through online. Scour through actual bookstores with actual books and take a few months and learn everything you can about migraines and everything you can about hands-on work for migraines, and then niche to it. You’ll find that — you know, right now, with a regular-old massage practice, your target market is probably people within 10 miles of your massage business, maybe even a little less that that. In the suburbs, someone’s not going to drive 10 miles to see me when they’ve got three other massage therapists within two miles of them. But they will drive 10 miles or 20 or 50 to see me if I’m the only one that specializes in migraine pain, if I’m the only one who does really refined, strategic work and treatment plans and follow-up to the suboccipital muscles. I am so — I am always so grateful for my massage education which taught anterior neck work, because so often when I work on new clients, and I’m working on a regular client, and I do something different and I do a little more anterior neck work, even people who’ve had tons of massage will say I’ve never had anyone touch the front of my neck before. And, to me, that’s ridiculous; I learned it in massage school, and I also took some CE on it. But it always surprises me. There are probably things you do that no one else does. And if you immerse yourself in learning about a very specific specialty — pardon me — if you immerse yourself in learning a specialty, you will find that there are tons of things you do that no one else does, and people will come far and wide for you to do that. It’s a scary thing, because people think that when they choose a niche, it means they have to say no to every other thing. That doesn’t mean that. It just means that you target all of your marketing and your resources towards that particular target client or issue or discipline. It is the thing you can do to differentiate yourself from all the other general practitioners, and it’s a great thing you can do as a new therapist to break into a market where there are already plenty of other therapists around and where all of those therapists are charging a decent wage. It’s a thing you can do to feel confident and comfortable charging the same price as some therapist who’s been around 10 years. Maybe over their career they’ve treated 20 people with migraines. But in the first two years, you’re going to have treated 100. So that’s a thing. That’s my schtick on niching. We’re going to jump into our halftime and then I’ll come up with my final two tips. Michael, who’s our halftime sponsor today?

MR Our friends over at ABMP.

AH Yay! Thank you, ABMP, for being our sponsor.

Sponsor message They are supporting the largest community — the largest community. I’m going to say it one more time for the people in back. They support the largest community in massage and bodywork. ABMP going above and beyond great liability insurance to make it easier for us to succeed at what we love. ABMP membership includes insurance you need, free CE you want, and advocacy and personalized customer service that you deserve. Join the ABMP family — you can be part of my family, because I’m an ABMP member — and learn why more massage therapists and bodyworkers choose ABMP. Expect more at abmp.com.

AH So how’d I do, Michael, was that okay?

MR Perfect.

AH I got a little excited. I lost my way halfway through.

MR [Laughs]

AH I’m always excited when I talk about ABMP. Oh! And now’s a good time to mention, if you haven’t seen it yet, we’ve got a column in the ABMP magazine Massage and Bodywork. It is called, it’s “Best Practices Blueprint for Success,” and it is a regular feature in all of their issues; so six a year. And we put one out in the January/February issue; there’s another one coming out in a few weeks, and I love the column. And you can access that magazine online free to everyone at abmp.com. Just scroll down a little bit and you’ll see the link to it. I was looking at a few past articles this morning when I was prepping for this podcast.

MR And they do a great job of the visuals and making it look pretty and everything.

AH It’s a beautiful magazine.

MR A really class act. Yeah.

AH It really is. I don’t read paper magazines much anymore, and I love when it comes because it’s beautifully done and award winning. They’re not messing around here, people.

Anyhow, some more thoughts for someone who is pricing as a new therapist in an area where they are surrounded by some more experienced therapists. I vote for pricing right along the same even if you are a little bit newer for all the reasons that I said. You can feel confident doing that if you are different, better in your website, better in your marketing, more reliable. If you do all of the things that make even just a mediocre therapist really good, which you can hear about in last week’s podcast episode, but you can also feel confident doing that if you really nail down your schtick. Be able to articulate what you do well. This take a lot of practice; it takes a lot of writing down your elevator speech, your pitch, your 30-second “this is what I do.” And, also, if you’re an avid networker, be super, super active in networking groups, in structured and unstructured events, meeting other small business owners in your area and even getting their advice and talking to them about the economy in your area and what you feel you can comfortably charge.

This was kind of a packed-full episode that indirectly answered the questions where do you pitch your price in relation to those more experienced therapists? I say you do even better than they do at the non-massage stuff, and you put your prices right there or even a little bit above. If you really want to pave the way to be a better, more successful practice, price yourself the same or even a little bit above, and make sure you’re doing things to differentiate yourself. Don’t worry so much about price; worry a lot about differentiating yourself and doing things that they don’t do or doing things differently to really attract the right people to you. Michael, did I forget anything?

MR I don’t think so. Good list.

AH All right. I’m done.

MR Good stuff. Well, we will wrap it up there, then. I know we talked about this last time, but just a brief little plug for our course coming up. We do have some spots left; people are signing up now. If you’d like to get in on the course where we do talk about things like niching and specializing and developing marketing plans and going deep into organizing your business structure and stuff like that, a lot of great stuff, you would go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/elevate. That will take you to the landing page where you can read all about the course, and you can sign up and enroll and reserve your spot there. We’d love to see you in that course starting in March.

AH We really would. And if you go to that page massagebusinessblueprint.com/elevate, you’re going to see a whole layout of what happens in the full 14 weeks of the class. It’s a combination of recorded lectures and then live web — web meetings– I don’t know what to call them — live classroom time —

MR Yeah.

AH — where you get lectures, you get homework — short lectures, under a half an hour — you get homework, you get accountability; so if you know the things you need to do, but you have trouble holding yourself accountable, or if you’re just not sure what to do next, we will hold your hand and walk you through the whole process of building a really successful business.

MR And we only have room for eight people. There really is legit limited space; so get on it. Thanks for checking that out, and we’re going to wrap up there. Thanks, everyone, for joining us for today’s episode. We love your feedback; so continue sending that to us at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. We appreciate all the iTunes reviews, as well, and for everyone who is sharing this podcast with their colleagues. So thank you, thank you, thank you. We will see you next time. Thanks for joining us, everyone.

AH Bye.

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