Thinking of giving advice to other massage therapists and business owners? Allissa and Michael share some tips and red flags for starting a consulting biz.
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Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone, and welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Michael Reynolds.
Allissa Haines And I’m Allissa Haines.
MR And we’re your hosts who’ve glad you’ve joined us today for this episode. And Allissa, I see on my screen that you have a very important Hulu update for me.
AH [Laughing]. Yeah. Well, I figured as part of our banter I wanted to give an update, but you — I didn’t know you were going to jump right to it, Michael. I wanted to say hi.
MR Well, I’m really intrigued because, as you know, I’m — everything I watch is on Hulu. So is this a good update, a bad update, like?
AH Well, it kind of depends. It’s — I am neutral about it for me. So I got a little warning on — because we use like a Sony Blu-ray device to stream things into the TV, and I got a little warning on my Blu-ray device last week that as of, I think, August 19th, Hulu will not be supported on that device. So —
MR Oh, that happened to me and my iPad too. But go ahead.
AH Yeah. So I will not have access to Hulu through my TVs at home, and I was like, well, I — this is not going to work for me. I’m not buying a new device, first of all. I’m just simply not. And the kids watch Hulu but not a ton. It’s mostly just me and Walt and — so I was like, yeah, you know what? I’m just going to cancel Hulu.
MR Oh, wow.
AH And — yeah. And I was like, you know, because I can watch it on my computer, but I don’t really like watching things on my computer, and I said earlier this year that when Scandal ended, I was going to shut my Hulu down, and I didn’t. But this timing is perfect because I already went in and I cancelled it, and my subscription ends at like August 26th or something, so it’s before the fall season of shows starts up because I know if I have Hulu when fall seasons of shows starts up, I’m going to get sucked right in.
MR Right. Right.
AH So I was like, yeah, I’m cancelling it. So I cancelled it. It’ll go away. I — I’m a little bummed because I just started watching Veronica Mars, so I’m only into like the first — the end of the first season of that, and I don’t know that it’s available anywhere else, so I might have to just let go of that. But I feel really good about my decision, and I’ve been reading a lot more, and really, at the end of the day, I don’t want to be like, uh, I spent so much time on a screen today. I’m really enjoying just, like, reading fiction.
AH I have a Kindle. Actually, I have a very old Kindle that I won at a vender fair years ago from you.
MR I remember that. Yeah.
AH Yeah. I have an old, old Kindle. Not the fancy one. It looks like a book. It looks like newsprint, essentially, and I still use that, and I’ve been getting all the free downloads from the library. So I’ve been knocking out a couple of books a week just by reading every night. And I — it’s so much better for me than playing on my phone or watching stuff on a screen. So I just wanted to let the world know that I have cancelled my Hulu.
MR Well, good for you.
AH So do not ask me if I’m up to date on any shows after August 26th.
MR Well, I did not cancel Hulu. I’m still sucked in, and that same thing happened to me on my iPad. We had a really old iPad that we used to watch TV on. We — up until recently, we just randomly use it to watch TV and Hulu stuff, and so when the next Hulu app was upgraded, it basically said, hey, you can’t watch Hulu on this device anymore. It’s not supported because the IOS version on my iPad was so old and it couldn’t be upgraded. So we’re like, ah. So we bought — I think on that — whatever that Prime Amazon day, you know, 15th or 16th of the month — it was like last month, I think, I found a Kindle Fire HD for under 100 bucks, so we got that because all we were using the iPad for was just watching TV when we were not in front of a TV.
So yeah. So we got a good deal on the Kindle Fire. It’s actually pretty decent. If you just want to use it for watching Netflix and Hulu, it’s great. So we went the opposite direction. We bought a new device, and we stayed sucked in, so. [Laughing].
AH Good for you.
MR That’s what’s going on at our household. [Laughing].
AH But now I’m — and also, I was kind of aggravated with Hulu because they — if you’re watching something that’s rated PG-13 or PG-MA, they will show you commercials for films that are more adult content, which is fine except they’re always scary, and I can’t handle scary stuff. So I was tired of seeing commercials for horror films when I was just trying to watch whatever, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. So yeah.
MR [Laughing]. That is odd.
AH It is odd. And I complained to them about it, and they were like, well, if you’re watching content that’s TV-MA — I was like, yeah, but I don’t — I’m — I don’t like to be scared. I’m watching — like, I think if you’re watching like a light comedy that you shouldn’t be subject to horror film commercials. But so I have like a little bit of a beef with them about that.
MR That does seem logical. (Indiscernible]).
AH But anyhow. Moving forward, I’m going to be saving $6 a month. I feel very good about this.
Michael, we haven’t talked in forever, and I can’t believe we spent this much time on Hulu. But how are you?
MR Oh, I’m doing great. Yeah.
AH How’s summer going?
MR Summer has been good. We’re kind of in that slightly cooler age of summer, which is nice because were going outside and playing outside and not getting all hot and sweaty as much because the evenings are cooler and nice. And last night, Eli requested that we have a picnic outside for dinner and asked to take our food out to the front porch, and he calls it a picnic. So we took our food out, grilled hamburgers, had corn on the cob. It was just an All-American front porch picnic last night. So good times.
AH That is adorable.
MR Good — he loves eating outside. It’s so funny.
AH Well, I’m so glad. That’s exciting. Good for you.
MR Yeah. Good stuff.
AH Glad you’re living it up in your new house.
MR Living the dream. Love it.
AH Okay. This was way more banter than we needed.
MR Oh, we should probably talk about things.
AH We should probably — [Laughing] — we should probably cover a topic relevant to our audience today.
MR Okay. Well, let’s do that then. So our topic today is how to, or not, add business consulting to your menu. And I know where this came from, so I’m excited. [Laughing].
AH Yeah. So I — ugh. I’m sorry. I can be, as you may have noticed, a little bit flippant sometimes when I see things that annoy me. So I’ll kind of explain that. I — there are a lot of experienced and successful massage therapists who are also offering business coaching and advice. This is a wonderful thing. We need more successful and experienced therapists sharing ideas and experience. We need more peer mentoring. I am 100% on board if someone’s got good info and a structured mechanism for consulting and they charge for it. I am a big fan. We need to also, as practitioners, be comfortable paying for professional guidance. I think that’s a big psychological obstacle for a lot of people, the idea for paying for advice, but it’s a good thing to do. I am a huge fan of this, so I don’t want any part of this episode to sound like I am crapping on my competition because that’s not what’s happening here. I love that there are more classy and experienced people offering business advice to other massage therapists. I think it’s wonderful.
That said, there are a lot of people and techniques trying to sell us consulting and information, and at the same time — and specifically trying to sell us business and marketing information — and at the same time really displaying some really curious marketing techniques that I would say are not kosher. So I’m going to give you an example of a couple things I’ve seen, and then we’ll do our halftime break, and then I’ll talk about kind of the — some potential dos and don’ts from my point of view, which may not apply to everybody.
So I saw a newish — new to me. I shouldn’t say new. I don’t know that she’s new. She was new to me — person who has a successful massage practice, it seems — it appears online upon gentle perusal. Okay. Stalking. I’m stalking. And then she also, it looks like, is launching a — either a course or a series of resources this fall to — that include some coaching like how to make your massage practice thrive. And that’s wonderful, except what I saw when I went to the website because that person’s name ended up in front of me and I checked it out, and I was like, oh, neat. I saw that the massage practice and the coaching practice — the business building practice for massage therapists were combined in the same place with a lot of weird overlap and also sharing a Facebook page. And I didn’t look on social media beyond the Facebook page, so I didn’t — I don’t know if there’s others out there.
But this is — it’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen this phenomena, and I — it rattles me. It like — and I think — I saw it a couple weeks ago, and I sent a message to Michael that was like, there’s a special place in hell for people who don’t understand how to separate the marketing of two completely different businesses. And so I made a really flippant comment about it on the Facebook like, somebody should slap me if I ever mix up my marketing. And I’m duly annoyed that oftentimes these websites are like a photo album of pictures of these young to middle-aged white women in very flowy outfits on the beach. And like, that’s your business consultant? Like, the website is just full of such pictures of someone leading a carefree, wonderful life while also running a massage practice, which is like, okay, people, I’m lucky that I have clean pants on today. Like, the reality of running a massage practice is that we don’t all spend a lot of our time dressed in colored linens walking up and down beaches. We spend a lot of our time in front of a washing machine or with — like elbow deep in Biofreeze and trying to figure out — trying to remember to not scratch our eye. So I have a real bleh feeling about that particular type of marketing, and clearly I have feelings about it.
So all of that said, some of this can be done really, really well. And if someone has really great information to offer, I’d like to give some tips and ideas on how they can do that really well and effectively without mixing it with their massage practice and when it might be okay to do that and when it is not. And I’m excited to have Michael chime in on the second half about some SEO issues and stuff with having these dual businesses.
So before we do that, Michael, who is — first of all, Michael, do you feel like I made it — the problem clear? Did I?
MR Yeah. Yeah. I think so.
MR Yeah. I would agree.
AH All right. Who’s our halftime sponsor, yo?
MR Our halftime sponsor are our friends at Acuity. Or is — are — is — I guess Acuity is because it is a company, so yes. It is our friends at Acuity. [Laughing].
Sponsor message This episode is indeed sponsored by Acuity, our software of choice. Acuity Scheduling is your online assistant working 24/7 to fill your schedule. You don’t have to pay phone tag. Clients can book online their own appointments. They can pay online if you want them to; they don’t have to. You can handle your forms before the appointment. You can look and act professional by offering convenient scheduling, and you can make it match your brand and your voice. If you want, you can put a picture of yourself in some kind of flowy linen outfit on the beach, if you want on your booking homepage; you can totally do that. Anyhow, customer service is delightful, and you can get a 45-day free offer special for you, our Blueprint listeners. You can check that out at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
MR We love Acuity because they keep inviting us to do webinars too.
AH Yeah. We do some really fun webinars for them. Michael did a really great website review one for them, which was super fun and fun and funny in a lot of ways.
MR [Laughing]. It was.
AH I’ll tell that story another time.
AH So let’s talk about if you’re a massage practice and you got a good practice, and you’re like, okay, I kind of want a — I find that a lot of my colleagues are asking me questions about business and marketing — which, by the way, is how I got into this, so I’m not saying that it’s bad. I think it’s great. If you find that you tend to be the voice of reason and wisdom in a room and colleagues are asking you lots of questions about how to run their own massage practice, you should keep giving answers. You should keep participating in these conversations. And yes, if you’re good at it, you should absolutely start offering some consulting. I don’t like to call it coaching because I feel like if you’re going to be a coach you have to — you should go through actual coaching programs, but there’s no real certification for that and blah, blah, blah. But — I mean, there is, but like not on a standardized level, so I’m going to say — I’m going to use the term “consulting.” That’s just me.
I think if you’re good at that, then yes, you should and can — to help other small businesses grow — offer business consulting. My persnicketiness comes when people merge the websites. So if you want to truly run a bigger business — you want consulting to be more than just a tiny little side part of the work that you do — adding business consulting to your massage website can do a few things that are bad. It can dilute the niching of your hands-on practice, which is to say when someone is looking for a massage therapist that’s perfect for them — like, say they have headache problems, migraine issues, and they search on migraine massage whatever town you’re in, like, I don’t know, Paris, Georgia. I’m making that up. I don’t think there is a Paris, Georgia. There could be. You — if you are a massage therapist and you treat people with migraines in that area, you want your website to come up, and you want someone to land on your website, to click on it, get to your website and think, ah, this person specializes in headaches, they’re in my area, I want to go to them. Period. You want them to think that. You want the — your homepage and your “about” information and the services you offer to match the thing that they need, right? This is niching. For someone to get on your website and be like, they’re the perfect therapist for me, or to get to your website and be like, this person is not going to help my knee issue. Okay. And then they’ll find someone who does help their knee issue.
If you have consulting featured on your website or in your services or prominent in your header, it’s going to dilute the value of your massage services. It’s going to dilute that feeling that someone gets when they land on your site and think, this person treats the thing I need. It also is going to dilute your search engine optimization, I think. And I’ve looked into this a little bit, but then I knew we would be consulting, and this could be one of those times Michael tells me that I’m wrong.
But, Michael, let me create a situation, and you can tell me if this is good or bad for SEO.
So I’ve got my massage practice website, and it’s got — my header says about, services — or maybe it says massage services — and then it says — it’s got contact, and it’s got business consulting services or something like that, and in my — and blog. It might have a link in the header for a blog, and you go to my blog, and there’s an article about self-care massage for headaches, there’s an article about jaw stretching you can do if your headaches are jaw-related. And then there’s an article about how to grow your small business within a community. And then there’s an article about neck stretches. And then there’s two articles about using Google Ads to promote your small business and then one about how to use a Facebook pixel.
So tell me what that does to your SEO —
AH — for either of the particular businesses.
MR So you are mostly not wrong. I say mostly because there are so many variables that go into search engine optimization, and we don’t really know what Google does in the black box, so we can only have a limited view into what the outcome could be. But that being said, you’re mostly not wrong. The biggest issue I see is not so much that it would hurt your SEO is that the opportunity cost of doing it keeps you from getting more momentum. So in your example, which is a great one, if you have — let’s say you write one blog post a week. I’m just making it up. So you write one blog post a week. If you are writing four blog posts in a month that’s targeted toward your clientele as a massage therapist, that’s one thing. If you are writing two per month that are focused on your clientele and then two per month that are business consulting articles, that’s two fewer articles per month that could have been working toward your website’s search engine optimization for your target audience.
So I wouldn’t say that it would necessarily hurt your SEO, but the opportunity cost would keep you from getting the traction you could otherwise get by focusing heavily into your target market. So that’s kind of my view on it. But yeah. You — I — you hit the target — or you hit the nail on the head by saying that when you’re diluting your audience between two different groups, then you’re not going to have as much traction either — in either direction.
AH Thank you. Thanks for clearing that up.
So one of the other problems with combining websites is that you could create some real weird boundary and dual-relationship issues unintentionally. As small business owners, many of us have small business owners as our clients. Like, when you kind of network within your local small business community, that’s a thing that naturally happens. Do you want to put yourself in a position with a current client where they’re like, hey, you do business consulting too? Could we do that? If you’re to meet with that person and do business consulting, are they — is your prior relationship as a massage therapist going to make them more or less receptive to your ideas? And what if they’re a terrible consulting client but a great massage client? Can you — what if they’re like, no, really — I really want to make my business work and I know I got to do this, and they’re like, I really want you to nudge me and nag me to do this. And you decide to do that, so you offer them help and you set up an appointment for three weeks from then to follow up, and they come back and they haven’t done any of the things, and they’re complaining that your ideas don’t work. And you’re like, yeah, this business consulting is not going to work for you.
If they’re a personality that can’t handle that, are you going to lose them as a massage client and a referral source [laughing], and how do you feel about that? So there are certainly situations where certain personalities are good with that. They can handle a dual relationship. They can handle knowing someone one multiple levels. But not everyone can. And if you’re advertising your business consulting on the same website in the same venue with the same social media as you’re sending messages out to your clients and sending information to your clients — your massage clients, that’s — that can create a really weird overlap.
There’s also — I’m going to jump a little bit ahead to some of the land mines of combining this stuff. Sorry. Jumping ahead in my notes, but it doesn’t matter to you. I didn’t need to say that out loud. Anyhow, this topic, like, makes me agitated, so.
You can confuse the — your regular clients, your massage clients. There’s some — a lot of misconceptions about massage that clients hold like you can only do this for a couple years, right? Massage really blows out your body? That’s a misconception. But if you start advertising and marketing your business consulting in the same place that all your clients are going to very obviously see it — on your website and in your social media and, God forbid, in your emails — your clients are going to think that you’re looking for a way out of hands-on massage. That’s not going to make them likely to book more appointments, feel like a long-term loyalty, and send their friends and family to you. So you’re — it doesn’t matter how much you say, oh, this is just a thing I do on the side for fun. It has the potential to confuse and alienate clients and potential clients because of some myths of massage, because people think that this is a short-term career. And while more and more I’m hearing of lifer massage therapist, which brings me such joy, it’s — we’re still a rarity. People who make it past 10 years in this industry are still a little less rare, I think. Although, I haven’t looked at the stats in a while, so I could be talking out of my butt on that one.
So another problem — another potential land mine of mixing these things is that if clients kind of get to know you and your massage practice and then they get to know you and your business consulting, they can feel used. If you are saying, well, in my massage practice, I did this, or I had a difficult client, and I did this, clients can start to feel like they’re fodder for your talk show — for your consulting business and for the experiments in your consulting. And I say this as someone whose clients have felt this way. Like, I have — because I’ve been in the Blueprint and in the iteration of before this was Blueprint, I have definitely brought much of my life and practice experience — even though I kept them very, very separate, there are certainly clients who have heard and seen my other resources. And when I’ve talked to them about that said — have said, yeah, sometimes it makes me feel a little bit more like a guinea pig than I would like. And for every client who’s has told me that, I would guess I have five who haven’t told me that.
So I’ve had to kind of change my approach a little bit and also make peace with that. Like, it could be that some of these clients haven’t come back because they’re nervous of — that I’m going to — I mean, I don’t give specific client examples on current clients, or a few examples that I have given are clients who have long-gone and/or passed away. So I try hard to not do that in a public forum like this podcast, but it happens, and it can really screw you. It can really mess you up. It can really mess your clients up. So that’s another of the land mines of when you combine these things.
That said, there might be some times when it is okay to combine your business consulting with your massage practice. So if you are hyper-local, if you’re only looking to do in-person consulting with people very local to you where you live and where you practice, it could be okay to just have a separate page on your website — a separate couple pages — a separate section that is not mentioned within your massage services page, it’s a totally separate page, that lists specifically what kind of business consulting you do. I would be very mindful of how you promote that. I don’t think you should be promoting your consulting services on the same social media accounts or the same email list that you offer to your massage and massage clients. That’s — that crossover still seems weird to me and wrought with land mines, but there could be situations in which this is okay. And once I tell you some stuff about when not to combine, I’m going to let Michael jump in and tell me if I’m right or wrong on this or what he thinks.
When you should not combine, I would say, is probably 75 percent of the time. If you want to — if you want your consulting stuff to be more than a very tiny portion of your hyper-local work, if you’re selling consulting over the internet, if you’re giving away resources, then it should definitely be separate because you’ll do better. Your business will be better if you’ve got your own website, your own social media. You can direct your ads and your thoughts to people all over the country or world, and you can run better Google Ads. You can track your SEO better. You can track the results of those ads better. You can reach a better audience with that consulting business separated.
If you keep it in your hyper-local massage practice, there’s so much wishy-washy. Someone could be interested in your consulting and get to that page of your website or see a Facebook ad you run and go to your Facebook page but then be really confused about your open appointments post or your stretching post because I’m seeking business consulting; I don’t need help with my jaw. So both of your businesses will do better if you separate them.
Michael, what do you think? I’m going to be quiet.
MR I agree. I do agree. I think it’s okay to link between them because — and for one reason, that is because I think there is value in showing that you’re an industry leader. And I’ll kind of — my perspective is coming from other industries. For example, as many people know, I owned a marketing agency for a long time, and being able to be a — I mean, the term is kind of lame, but a thought leader in the marketing industry where you often teach and train and coach other marketing agencies. It had value to my clients because they would say, oh, wow, this agency I’m working with, I like them, but they also teach other agencies what to do; they must be really good. So that has some value, I think.
So I sometimes think there are situations where it might make sense to say — on your massage practice site, maybe just have a little link in your bio saying, so-and-so also teaches other therapists in the industry how to, blah, blah, blah, be better, X, Y, Z. You link over to that site, or maybe you don’t even link to it. Maybe you just mention it. And then, with your coaching or your consulting business site, maybe you link back to your practice to kind of prove that you are hands-on experiencing this day-to-day in the industry. So I think that has value, so I agree completely, but I also want to kind of mention I think there is value in demonstrating to your clients that you are a leader in the industry.
AH I — and I absolutely agree with that. There are times where it can add some serious street cred. Just like you want to promote when you do continuing education, or like my clients loved knowing that I was heading up education in Massachusetts and New England back when I did that volunteer work. It can add cred in that it says, I am invested in this industry; I’m invested in my profession and at a much greater level than the other practitioner down the street. But I — and like you said, you got to be careful of the overlap —
AH — that it serves that purpose and doesn’t get too nitty-gritty and weird.
MR Yeah. I agree.
AH So those are my thoughts. That’s all I got.
MR I like it. Yeah.
AH Thank you.
MR I agree.
AH I hope this helped, and I apologize for being flippant on social media, and I have already apologized for my flippantness —
AH — directly to the people who messaged me and said, oh, my God, am I doing this wrong? And just a side note, if you’re teaching like Reiki or self-care or things like that to your client base as well as other practitioners potentially, this isn’t what I’m talking about. I was being catty about people teaching business and marketing skills specifically but not having necessarily the marketing savvy to make it its own website and business or not having the forethought. And it’s a pet peeve — and, you know, another thing — I’m sorry. Like, part of that crossover is I actually have had some problems with crossover in that people will hear my name and they’ll look me up online, and they’ll go — like massage therapists will hear my name, they’ll look me up on Facebook, and they’ll like my Haines Massage page. And then I’ll post some article for my clients and potential clients in my area about stretching, and like five massage therapists will chime in and be like, oh, actually, that theory of stretching isn’t correct, or I never share that kind of stretching information with my clients —
AH — it’s out of my scope of practice. And I have to delete them and block these massage therapists from my page because, although they’re well intended, my massage practice page for my clients, I will protect that fiercely because it is a space for them. It is not a space for other massage therapists to congregate. You want to argue with me about our profession, you go to the Blueprint page or you email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MR [Laughing]. Yeah. That’s annoying.
AH Like, I don’t want to feel bad in front of my massage clients. Do not question my credibility or my tactics on stretching in front of my massage clients. I would never do that to you — that’s not true. I’ve done that once or twice and immediately regretted it because it was just stupid. But, like, no. No. I totally crapped all over a massage therapist who shared some anti-vaccine thing, and I did it publicly, and that was really not cool. So anyhow — but whatever. Keep your colleague conversations out of view of your client interactions. Period. And don’t bother me at Haines Massage.
MR [Laughing]. I won’t bother you at Haines Massage.
AH Okay. I’m really done now. Thank you.
MR Unless I want a massage.
Yeah. That’s great. I love it. I agree, and thank you for expanding on the comment. I think often the, I wouldn’t say controversy, but the feedback you get from certain comments that can stir up opinions lead to really good discussion, which, I think, we had today. So thank you. I really liked it.
AH Thank you, sir.
MR With that, we will wrap up today.
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