Episode 153

Apr 13, 2018

The very idea of choosing a specialty terrifies and causes instant defiance in many (most?) business owners. And yet, it can be THE key to building a full, successful massage business. We take you through the 3 approaches to choosing a niche.

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The very idea of choosing a specialty terrifies and causes instant defiance in many (most?) business owners. And yet, it can be THE key to building a full, successful massage business. We take you through the 3 approaches to choosing a niche.

Resources mentioned:

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Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by The Jojoba Company. I firmly believe that massage therapists should only be using the highest quality products, because our clients deserve it, and our own bodies deserve it. I’ve been using jojoba for years. Here’s why: Jojoba is nonallergenic; I can use it on any client and every client without fear of an allergic reaction. Jojoba is noncomedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores; so if you have a client that’s prone to acne or breakouts, jojoba is a great choice for them. It also won’t go rancid; it doesn’t contain triglycerides like many products; so it won’t go bad. This makes jojoba a great carrier for essential oils, too. And finally, jojoba won’t stain your 100% cotton sheets; so your linens will look better for longer. And since jojoba won’t go rancid, they’ll always smell fresh and clean. For more information and to get some jojoba, go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba. That’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/J-O-J-O-B-A.

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 am Allissa Haines.

MR And we are your hosts today. We’re exhausted. I’m just going to say it. [laughs] It’s been a marathon afternoon. We’ve been doing our course today, office hours today; so Allissa and I are tired of each other. We need to call this off here and be done. [laughs]

AH [laughs] Way to rally up the crowd, dude.

MR But I’m excited. I think we’re okay because we’re super excited about the topic today because it is on specialization and niching, which is kind of core to a lot of what we’re teaching. So I’m excited —

AH And you know we —

MR Yeah, go ahead.

AH Let me just — I’ll say why we’re covering this. Because, again, Michael and I have just spent three hours together online, and the thing that we have been taking about most with the participants of our Transformational Journey course as well as some of our premium members and our office hours is niching, choosing a particular approach or market for your business and sticking with it. And we’re talking about it because people are so afraid of niching.

MR Yeah, it’s terrifying.

AH It’s terrifying. This notion of saying that I’m going to pick one kind of client to see and focus on that makes them think that — it’s a very scary concept because people don’t think they can fill their book with that kind of client, when in fact you probably can. And really homing in on that particular market can help you refine your marketing and all of your — I’m getting way over-technical about it now, sorry. But you can really focus and really speak to people individually. You can make it so your message resonates with the exact kind of client you want. So I’m going to start, Michael —

MR Go for it.

AH — why you need a niche. You need a niche because you need to be better than everybody else. Most massage therapists generalize. And when you have a specialization, it helps you differentiate your practice, so you don’t just look like every other massage therapist that’s got some stock photo of some white lady with their head cranked to the side and stones and flowers on her back. You need to specialize so that you look different and you look like a better, more appropriate option for people who are seeking you. It helps you really focus and figure out who you’re talking to, and it helps you develop your brand and your identity as a business. And, ultimately, and this is why we’re teaching this, specialization helps you make more money. More money with the clients that you most want to serve.

But what we’re really talking about today is how to approach niching and the three different ways you can approach it. The first way is to choose a target market. Michael, what does that mean?

MR Target market is a type of population or a type of person that you work with. One great example we have is one of our members, Sarah, who specializes in runners, and so it’s a really clear, good example. Her massage practice focuses exclusively on working with runners. Runners are very easy to identify. It’s very clear here’s a runner; they run. Another example could be tennis players or golfers or physicians or lawyers or business owners or a type of person that is easy grouped into a community or has that kind of label attached to them.

AH And it doesn’t have to just be a community. It could also be a pathology. So you could treat people with shoulder issues. You could treat people with neck and — head and neck stuff; so migraine, brain injury, whiplash trauma. Depending on the area that you practice in, you could choose a slightly broader, like head and neck, or you could get really specific and only treat people with jaw and TMJ issues. A target market could also be young mothers, first-time mothers, things like that.

So the second approach — or is now a good time for our halftime sponsor, Michael?

MR Oh yeah, we can jump in with that. Our halftime sponsor today is the Center for Barefoot Massage.

AH Yay! The Center for Barefoot Massage.

Sponsor message They offer Ashiatsu CE classes across the country. So, hey, if one was going to niche in runners who need lots of deep work to their glutes and their hamstrings, the Center for Barefoot Massage would be probably a really good continuing education option.

MR I see what you did there.

AH Yeah, see what I did there?

They focus on a unique blend of anatomy-driven, game-changing, career-saving “FasciAshi” courses that empower you to provide massage with your feet, so you’re not busting your arms all the time, man. They are leading a movement in a niche market that offers massage therapists an opportunity to stay in the profession longer and not break their bodies and their hands. You can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/barefoot to learn more. That’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/barefoot and subscribe to their emails to win a chance for a free day of training with them.

AH So that’s that. I’m so hyped up on niching today. I’m just going to annoy the crap out of everyone, and I’m really sorry.

MR So our sponsor’s a great segue into the next one, which is discipline.

AH Yeah. Oh my God, I didn’t even do that on purpose.

MR Right? How about that?

AH So the second approach to figuring out your niche is with a discipline, so the service that you provide. So some examples of disciplines would be neuromuscular therapy, “FasciAshi” Ashiatsu, craniosacral therapy; there’s a whole bunch of them, particular disciplines. If you are someone who likes to really stay within one discipline, there’s your niche.

I’ll use my office mate as an example, entirely without her permission. She is only accepting new clients right now who want craniosacral therapy. She is transitioning her practice entirely to craniosacral, so all of her previous clients have all been moved to a blended service that’s a combination of her traditional massage along with craniosacral. But she is only accepting new clients who want craniosacral. And she’s doing this very specifically because she loves the work; she loves doing it; she wants to do more of it. That — she has niched on her discipline. We have a great — I think we have a podcast episode and a blog post, I think, with our friend Jeni Spring of the Center for Barefoot Massage about how she created her Ashiatsu-only massage practice. That is the discipline that she practices, and all of her marketing alludes to that and targets people who may want that “FasciAshi”, and she’s really figured out who can most benefit from that kind of work, and she markets directly to them.

And I’ll just have a little interlude here about — and we talked about this in class today — one of the coolest parts of niching is that it really takes a lot of decision fatigue out of your business decisions. Once you know who you’re serving, it’s so easy to not — to turn down jobs that you don’t want to do. And it’s also easy to make decisions about your marketing. Okay, what am I going to write a blog post about? Well, if I’m serving only people who have anxiety, my blog posts are all going to be about that. My blog posts are going to be things like three ways to help center yourself in a busy day at work; three yoga poses you can do with your kids when you’re both really riled up; here’s a breathing technique or a self-massage technique to help you sleep at night. It makes it so much easier to serve your people, because your people are so specific. It takes so much decision fatigue and confusion and unclarity — that’s not a word, but I can’t think of the word I want — out of all of your business decision making. It’s a huge —

MR Lack of clarity?

AH — lack of clarity, sure. It makes it — it was wordier, but whatever. It makes it easier to make these decisions and to figure out your marketing because you’re so clear and focused.

MR Ambiguity. That would be a better word.

AH Ah — thank you.

MR I was up in my head trying to find a better word for you there.

AH It takes all the ambiguity out. So the third way that you could —

MR Do you mind if I back up a little bit on discipline?

AH Yes.

MR So one thing to keep in mind with massage therapy is discipline can be a very effective, facetive specialization. But you want to be careful that you are also doing a good job of educating the public and your audience about that. For example, Ashiatsu is a little more obviously, hey, I massage with my feet. It’s very interesting and different and looks different and is a little more easy sell and promote. But if you’re doing craniosacral or some other type of technique that’s a little less easy or obvious to see, it becomes important to educate your clients on why that’s important to them and why that’s different.

AH Yeah, and it’s a really great way to differentiate yourself because you get to tell your story. So if I’ve had a ton of dental issues and jaw pain, but I’ve been to physical therapists or massage therapists who have beat the crap out of my jaw and made it worse and given me headaches, a craniosacral therapist who can say craniosacral work is really different because we do it this way; because it doesn’t pound on you, because it’s gentle; it does this, this, and this; it’s different from other massage because you don’t have to take your clothes off. It really provides this wonderful opportunity to educate people and based on how your discipline is different from what some people make have experienced in massage.

Michael, I love when you talk about this final factor, this final approach you can take to niching, which is perspective.

MR Really? Yeah perspective is a little bit harder, I think, and it can be very effective, and it’s a way to not necessarily have to pick a market or a discipline — and by the way, these can be combined, which I’ll talk about in a minute. But perspective is kind of the third facet, and that is your opinion or your, well, obviously your perspective on what you do.

One example that I like that came up in our Transformational Journey course recently, and I don’t know if this is going to go anywhere, but it was the example we were throwing around was if you are dealing with people that — I think it was the insurance question. It was no one should be at the mercy of their insurance company for their pain management, or something like that. It was taking a stand on something. And perspective is when you take a stand and you have a very strong, bold opinion about your industry or what you do that sets you apart. And so it takes the form, sometimes, of most massage sessions are like this, or most massage therapists do this, or most conditions are addressed like this. I’m different. I think it should be this instead. It’s like putting your fist on the table and putting a flag down on your property or climbing a mountain and saying this is what I believe. If your perspective is strong enough and unique enough and backed up by either stories or data or both, then that can set you apart as well. And often that can be enough to differentiate you.

AH And I accidentally did this when I built my massage practice. I found that the chiropractor’s office that I was renting space in wasn’t particularly quiet. And what I realized is that I was doing a lot of relaxation massage, but not in the way people had experienced relaxation massage. They walked in the door and it wasn’t like there were pan flutes playing and water fountains bubbling and Zen rocks all over the place. It was me being bubbly and excited to see them and there was other people in the office, not being noisy, but with a certain amount of ambient noise and people and community going on. When I would go and do chair massage out in public spaces, it wasn’t like I tried to have this calm, serene little corner of some event. I was out in the crowd with people giving massage, and relaxation massage didn’t have to be Zen gardens and pan flutes. It could be happy and bubbly and friendly to men and masculine presences, which has not always been the case in — and certainly wasn’t 13 years ago when I was starting my practice. There were far fewer men getting massage then than there are now, which is wonderful. My practice is almost — I think it’s probably 50 or 60% male. It was okay to have a massage office that was bright and happy, and I’m not going to say “loud,” but definitely vibrant. It was a very different approach to massage. And that served me, and it was entirely accidental. I accidentally took that perspective approach to marketing my practice.

Now that I understand it, I love it even more. And I love watching people who are doing that. But you don’t have to be a generic massage therapist, you can simply have a different approach than what people have experienced as traditional massage. And an example that I’ll give you of that, and we’ll put a link in the podcast notes, is our friend Rianne in — it’s Panama City, right? I get this wrong every time.

MR Yeah, Panama City.

AH It just sounds like it’s not a place to me. Anyhow, we have established that Panama City is a place.

MR It is, in fact, a real place.

AH Yes. And if you listen to our podcast, we’ve totally referred to Rianne before. She just has this fantastic, nonsensical approach to massage in a very funny and great way. We’ll put a link to her website in our podcast below. That’s all I have to say about that, Michael. Want to bring it home?

MR [laughs] What’s cool about these different aspects of specialization is you can combine them as well. Picking one is often very effective. But you can either inadvertently, by default, or intentionally put two together, for example.

One example I’m thinking of is our friend Marcy. She is building a practice around larger massage clients. And so that is a particular type of person she is working with, but — and again, this is not necessarily her perspective; I’m saying it could be a perspective whether she wants to do this or not — but a perspective going along with could be no one should feel bad about their body when getting a massage. No one should feel ashamed of their body. So there’s a perspective around a lot of times larger people feel that they are ashamed of their bodies or made to feel ashamed when they go to get a massage, and no one should have to feel that way. And that’s a perspective that goes along very naturally with her target market as well, which I think is kind of cool. So you can combine these. You can combine market with discipline, discipline with perspective, vice versa.

I think it also goes along with your geographic area. If you’re in a larger geographic area with more population there, you can afford to be more specialized. If there’s fewer people in your area, you might want to keep it a little more broad and maybe just pick one. Anything else you would add?

AH No. I think that about nails it. I also want to challenge people: if you’re completely freaked out by the idea of niching, then you need to explore it. You need to explore why you’re freaked out bout it. If your practice is so busy that you’re not looking for new clients, or you have a steady influx of new clients already, then okay that’s cool. You don’t need this information. But if it makes you uncomfortable, you think that we’re full of crap, I’m going to challenge you to listen to the next couple of podcast episodes and consider exploring a niche, if only so that you can tell me that you weren’t a sissy about it.

MR Oh, you’ve got something planned. I like it.

AH I’ve got a plan hatching. I think we’ve got one or two more episodes coming about this. We were really — we did a lot on networking at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. And it was a thing that so many of our listeners and so many of our premium members had a real obstacle about because it’s just scary. If you’ve never done it, it’s scary. Watching so many of them come through that and have so much success already with structured networking opportunities, it makes me really want to nudge people out of their fear of niching. And I say this as someone who is appropriately nervous about it and re-niching and rebranding my own practice this month. It’s coming; the new website’s coming. It’s a little scary for me, but I think that we can all work through this together.

And also I think also because we get — I’ve seen us get some piffy responses from people when we suggest niching and I kind of want to call them out and just be like “no, you’re totally wrong and here’s why.” So it’s the bit of a defiant, piffy rebel in me. If you gave me crap about niching, that would never work; that’s a way to tank your practice, well, buddy, I’m going to make you eat those words, love. Eat them.

MR That doesn’t sound like you at all.

AH Not at all. I’m done, Michael.

MR Keep in mind specialization is not just for the heck of it. It actually is designed to help you make more money. It’s designed to help you attract the right kind of people because, ultimately, what helps differentiate you is when you find a group of people that can look at you and say oh, that massage therapist is for me; I can identify with that person. That instantly creates a connection. The more you do that, the more you attract the right kind of people. And because you attract the right kind of people, you can start to charge more money because you are a specialist in their category. It’s the same reason why family practice physicians make a certain amount of money, and heart surgeons or neurosurgeons make a ton more money. They are specialized and sought after because of that deep expertise. That’s what it’s all about.

AH And it’s why someone will travel across the country to go to a particular heart surgeon, but they’re not going to travel across the country to go to a particular general practitioner.

MR Exactly. All right. Well, I can’t wait to see what’s planned next. But I do want to wrap up for a couple of minutes on one thing we made an announcement about. Just a couple more minutes. We have sent the email out about this, and we have posted on our Facebook page, but just to make sure everyone has the message. We are going to be increasing the price — the monthly fee of our premium membership on May 1. So that means if you are an existing premium member, your price will not change. I want to be very clear about that. Anybody that signs up before May 1 as a premium member will still pay $9 a month indefinitely for as long as you keep your membership. But anyone who signs up after May 1, actually on or after May 1, the price will be $17 a month.

I won’t go into all the reasons we’re doing this because it’s in the email, it’s also in our Facebook page. But a lot of it comes down to there’s a ton of value in there, and we also want to slow down the growth a little bit and control it a bit more and make sure that we keep the community and our group really, really high quality. It is high quality. We want to make sure we keep it that way. And there’s a ton of value that we’re adding more and more this year even. Just keep that in mind. If you’re on the fence about joining as a premium member, it is an amazing community. The monthly articles alone are worth way more than that; so that alone. But there’s a ton more stuff that goes with it. So if you’re a member already, you’re good to go. If you would like to sign up at the $9 a month rate and be grandfathered in indefinitely, be sure you get signed up before May 1.

AH Word.

MR Did I cover it well?

AH You totally did.

MR Wonderful, wonderful. All right. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us today. We were glad you were with us. Reminder our website is massagebusinessblueprint.com where you can check us out there and of course sign up for premium membership or read our articles or read the podcast notes as well. We have iTunes and Stitcher and Google Play as our primary outlets for the podcast, as well, so we love reviews on those platforms. We appreciate you sharing it with everybody else and your community as well. Thanks for joining us again. We’ll see you next time.

AH Bye.

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