Prefer to listen? We’ve got a podcast on this topic, too!
It’s a familiar question and I see it a few times a week in Massage discussion groups online.
The responses are usually great and….. all over the place. This is good! Variety is important, there are many types of massage businesses, and many approaches to success. But all the ideas in the world won’t help without a really strong foundation and a structured plan.
And there is no single tactic that will get you tons of new and long-term clients. Sorry. No shiny easy answer here.
Running a business has multiple layers, with many moving parts. But it all starts with a standard foundation. You may have already built some of the foundation, but left it unfinished as you try to juggle other tasks. You may have laid a great foundation, but have no idea what to do next. Or maybe you’ve found that your growth has plateaued.
We’ve got ideas here for everyone, whether you’re just starting up or elbow-deep in massage oil and business building. All the resources we link to are free, and we made our Essential Steps to Market a New Massage Practice webcast recording available for free as well!
So how do you get new massage clients? Here’s my answer.
Figure out who, what, and where you are
There are a few basics to get in place before you can really start marketing and networking. You need to know
- Name of your business (or maybe you’re just using your name, that’s cool)
- What kind of massage you’re doing/who exactly you serve, your ideal client (Yes, picking a niche is a good idea . Check out How Niche Marketing Can Grow Your Massage Practice)
- What are the service offerings and prices
- Where you are located
- How people can reach you
Here’s an example, using me!
- Allissa Haines, Massage Therapist
- Massage for desk jockeys and weekend warriors
- 30, 60 and 90 minute therapeutic massage $50, $90 and $110
- 172 East Bacon Street, Town, State, Zip
- Through the website, phone, or email hainesmassage.com, 508-555-5555, email@example.com
Once you have these basics, you can move forward.
Your website is your hub. No matter where else you are online (Facebook, Yelp! whatever) your website is the place where YOU can control the information, and YOU can be in charge.
There are plenty of free and cheap DIY website options. There’s no excuse for not having at least a starter website.
Yes, if you are a member of AMTA or ABMP, both have a free website option. But I don’t love either for several reasons (They are kinda ugly, make it difficult to integrate online scheduling buttons, and kinda ugly. They just look outdated. And ugly.) If you don’t know where to start with a website, check out Wix, Weebly, & WordPress: Options for Your Massage Business Website.
Pro-tip: You can use a free website, but still have a custom domain name. Purchase the domain name you want (Michael likes using Google Domains, and it’s only $12/year), and have that forward to your free site. Example, purchase smithmassage.com, and set it up to forward (super easy) to the free smithmassage.weebly.com. So your printed materials can say smithmassage.com, and when you are ready to upgrade to a fancier custom website, you won’t have to change all your printed collateral.
Must-have pages on starter website are:
- Home page
- Contact & Location Information
Ideally, each page will include your address and contact info as well, and maybe a link to online scheduling if you’ve got that set up. (Check out Massage Online Scheduling Systems: A Comparison and Review if you’re new to that.)
If you need some help figuring out what to say on that website, you are not alone. This is the obstacle most people face at this stage. Know this: you have to start somewhere, and you can improve it as you learn and grow. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Spend some time looking at other massage therapists’ websites and take note of what you love and what you don’t. And check out Do the Write Thing: Copywriting for Your Massage Business for some help.
If you’ve got a basic website set up, but aren’t sure what to do next, think about what you can do to improve it.
If you don’t get many new clients who ‘found you online,’ maybe try spending a little time spiffing that up. Start with SEO. SEO is Search Engine Optimization, which is simply the practice of tweaking your site in certain ways so that it comes up higher in searches for your kind of business. It sounds scary and technical, but Michael breaks it down well in the podcast episode SEO Guidelines for Massage Business Websites.
You could consider expanding your website to include all the local businesses and practitioners you refer to and want to support. We’ve got tips on that in How to Build a Great Resource Page on your Massage Business Website.
And my favorite idea for improving your website: a blog. I know, I know. Not everyone wants to write. We’ve got a few articles to help you get started blogging, Using Email Interviews for Blog Content or 25 Blog Post Ideas for your Massage Business Website.
Overwhelmed already? Don’t stress, we got you. You can get FREE pre-written blog posts in our free monthly content. And we’ve got nearly 4 years of archived content in there, so 40+ blog posts. Not every blog post will be right for you or your business, but there are plenty to get you started, and to inspire your own blogging.
If you already have a logo, be sure it’s clear and obvious on your website. If you don’t have a logo yet, that’s okay, too. It’s absolutely fine to start up without one. Put “figure out a logo” on your schedule three months from now. And check out What Makes a Strong Logo for Your Massage Practice (With Examples)? When you’re ready.
But my best website tips are pretty obvious.
Keep it simple (especially if you are DIYing it). You don’t need slideshows, ornate backgrounds, or fancy fonts. In fact, those are all usually a bad idea. Make it clean, simple and easy to read and navigate.
Get your website connected to your Google Business listing, too. (That will help with SEO).
You must be able to log in to your own website and change your content at any time. Do not pay a website designer a ton of money, only to have to pay more money every time you need to update the content.
Additionally, you should register the domain name. If you’ve hired a designer, or your savvy cousin is helping you, don’t delegate this step out. Buying the domain name, and know what registrar you bought it from, and how to access it, will prevent a truckload of issues if your designer drops off the grid/turns out to be a criminal/gets hit by a bus.
Once you’ve got a business name (or just your name and title), contact information and a web address, you’re ready to get a business card printed. Again, this can be an obstacle, because there are so many choices.
Here’s the good news: business cards are cheap. So even if you hate your first attempt, it’s not a crisis to get new ones right away. Vistaprint is a low-cost option, we also like Moo Cards. Or maybe now is a good time to strike up a relationship with a local printer!
Keep your business cards simple. Use your logo, or at least the same color scheme and fonts as your website. Resist the urge to list every specific type of massage you do, that’s what the website is for. Include your business name, your name, the address, phone number and website. That’s it.
If your business name is ambiguous, be sure ‘massage’ is on the card somewhere. If that gets complicated, just write out massage therapist as your job title, instead of MT. (Or licensed massage therapist, or registered massage therapist, etc. Whatever is right for your state and laws.)
If you feel confident about your service menu, consider a brochure or rack card. I love rack cards. They’re just a one panel brochure (and less paper = less expensive) and force you to be more concise and clear.
Again, the bulk of your info will be on your website, so a rack card just needs the same information as your business card, and on the flip side, a list of your service offerings and prices.
If you think your ideal clients will be really into printed materials, check out The Essential Printed Materials to Market Your Massage Practice.
Here’s where it gets tricky. The next steps will vary for everyone. Your strengths, schedule and desires will determine what you do next, and you don’t have to do all of the following. Check out your options, consider what is best for you, and pick one.
Then throw yourself into it. For reals. Commit time in your schedule to learn, master, and execute the tasks needed. In three months, see how it’s going. Make some adjustments and move forward. If it’s a total failure after six months, move along to another idea.
Or if what you’re doing takes off well and you really get the hang of it, add another idea in the mix.
This is the thing I most wish I had done sooner. For the first several years of owning my business, I was extremely shy and very lonely. I wish I had pushed myself a little further outside my comfort zone and joined a BNI group or my local Chamber of Commerce. It’s a great way to meet potential referral partners and also to get support and mentoring from other small business owners. (Also, with in-person networking groups, give it a year to take off.)
You’ve got to do some legwork, find the groups in your area and visit, maybe more than once, to find one that fits best for you. Consider your business and your community, maybe listen to our podcast episode Is It Worth It to Join a Formal Networking Group? AND we’ve even got a super-cheap audio course Business Networking Jumpstart, too.
Be prepared with an elevator pitch, and we can help you with that here The Massage Therapist’s Guide to Creating an “Elevator Pitch”.
On the surface it just seems so boring. But email marketing can also be the easiest, most cost-effective retention and recruitment tool in your business.
In a nutshell, you get a sign-up box on your website, get email addresses at events and from client intake forms, and then you have a way to reach out with news, offer, last minute appointments, and anything else you want to tell clients and potential clients about. Check out How to Get Your First 100 Email Addresses.
If you need more convincing, check out Five Reasons to Love Email Marketing. Then hop into our FREE content, and watch our webcasts that walk you through all the steps of starting a structured, effective email plan.
Presence on Social Media
Being active on social media is great for your Search Engine Optimization. It can also be great just for connecting with your community. But which social media platform should you be on? We tackle that question in a podcast episode Do I Need Have my Massage Business on Pinterest? The super-short version is: you should be wherever your ideal clients are. Think about your ideal client, maybe ask a few clients you already have. Are they active on Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? Somewhere else?
Pick one and focus your efforts. Read that platform’s user guide start to finish, and jump in. Practice, connect with other small businesses in your area. Watch other massage therapists and see what they’re doing to help you get ideas. We’ve got a lot on this site to teach you about social media, I’ve listed my favorite resources below, but you can use the search field in the footer here to find more, too!
Using Instagram in Your Massage Business
3 Tips for Building Great Images for Your Massage Business
How Can I Use Facebook Groups to Engage With Potential Clients?
How Can I Use Facebook Groups to Engage With Potential Clients? (Part 2)
How to Always Have Content for Your Social Media
Local events are a pretty obvious way to get yourself seen and known in a community. Check in with the Chamber of Commerce, do some google searching, ask around about local events that match up with your ideal clients’ interests.
Not every event will be right for you, so really do your homework. Will you be paying for a space at the event, or providing massage for free? Check out When Should I Do Chair Massage and Community Events for Free? to help you make an educated decision.
Ask business owners who attended previous events, and consider how much time and money it will take to prepare for, attend the event and follow up on any connections you make. Make sure you’re prepared and really willing to put the effort in, to make it worth your time and money.
We’ve got How to Promote Your Massage Business at a Wellness Fair and An Event Checklist for Your Massage Business to help you make the best of these local event opportunities.
Finally, the last tip is kinda boring and not at all glamorous: Consistency.
No magical unicorn dust or sorcery. Just good old fashioned work. Get laser-focused on your to-do list, schedule time to get things done. Then do it. If you’re struggling with getting things done, check out Making Time for the ‘Other’ Work in Your Massage Business.
This list is not complete. Really, no list will ever be complete. There are a zillion amazing and creative ways to bring new clients into your practice.
Laying strong foundation will help all those individual creative efforts succeed.