Getting calls from the wrong kinds of clients? We’ve got a few tips to fix that.
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Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. 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. Welcome. Glad you’ve joined us today. Caveat, I’m recording from a hotel room in Georgia, so my internet connection is on hotel internet. So hopefully it will last. Do I sound okay?
AH You sound fantastic. What’s the weather like in Georgia?
MR It’s hot.
AH Yeah? That sounds lovely.
MR Yeah, it’s just plain hot.
MR But again, I’m in an air-conditioned hotel room. But yeah, it’s pretty hot outside. But that’s nice because the weather’s cooling down elsewhere in the country, so it’s kind of nice to have some warmth.
AH It’s sweater weather here, like, it’s — we went from a couple weeks of walking into the office in the morning and having to have the heat on and then having to switch it to the air conditioning in the afternoon, to now I walk in the office and I just straight-up have to turn the heat on. It’s really nice. [Laughing]
AH I’m wearing a sweater. [Laughing] It’s delightful.
MR So here’s a fun fact. So I’m in Savannah, and I flew through Atlanta. And on the way through Atlanta airport, I saw signs that says, no one calls it Hot-lanta. So apparently no one actually calls it Hot-lanta if you’re in Atlanta. So I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s your fun fact for the day.
AH I was just listening to a podcast episode — oh, yeah, yeah, yeah — talking about the news and it was based — this particular episode was in Chicago, and people are like — the host was like, do you hate it when people call it the Windy City? And the two guests were like, no one here calls it the Windy City. [Laughing]
MR Just tourists.
AH I was like, what about Chi Town because if I like in Chicago, I would call it Chi Town all the time.
MR That sounds way cooler.
AH Just like being in Boston, nobody calls it Beantown. Whatever.
AH That just isn’t a thing that happened. Although, that’d make a really good title for a comedy about Boston. Beantown.
AH Is it? It could already be. Anyhow —
MR Now that we’re off track already.
AH We’re super off track, but let’s bring it back in. Good banter, Michael, good banter. What is our topic today?
MR [Laughing] So today we’re talking about how to dissuade creepers and not-niche clients from your massage practice.
AH Yeah, and I have a caveat. Michael and I before we started recording, went back and forth about this for like five minutes because we tried to come up with a different title that doesn’t use the word “creepers” because I feel like creepers is really judgmental. And I would like to move away from referring to people who are seeking sexual services in a judgmental or negative way because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people seeking sexual services. We just don’t want them seeking them from legitimate massage therapists who are not sex workers.
Oh, so caveat, there’s going to be some language in this episode. Nothing — you’ve heard the worst of it already, and I’m sorry that caveat didn’t come in earlier. But I just want to be really clear that I don’t want to pass judgment on people who are seeking such services. I just wish they could get directed to the correct type of service providers. So I don’t like the use of the word “creepers,” but we couldn’t find another ay to express what we needed to in the title.
So anyhow, if you have had a problem, we’re going to cover two portions here. The first part being how to — the steps you can take to hopefully lower the number of calls or emails or bookings you get from people who are looking for sexual services that you do not provide. And also the second part is if you’re highly niched, how to hopefully reduce the number of calls you’re getting from people who are not your niche client.
So first, people seeking sexual services. What are some things you can do to reduce that? So the first thing is to have a modern, professional looking website, which many of you do. I’m going to specify say avoid super cheap freebie sites or the sites that come through professional organizations even because they’re super dated looking and they just don’t look really professional. I would say that it would be a good idea for you to use good stock photos and/or stock photos — or pictures that have been taken of you doing your work in your office with really conservative draping because you don’t — you can show some glute work in a video but — or in a stock image, but you want the context around someone’s gluteal region being undraped to be really, really clear. So those kinds of pictures probably don’t need to be front and center on your website, and you want to keep the context really clear. So conservative draping, good lighting, good realistic stock phots, not pictures of generic massage clients with their head turned to the side and half a boob hanging out. You want really good massage stock photos and/or your own images taken in your own office in a professional looking way.
Also in my aversion to generic stock photos that aren’t realistic, I also have an aversion to obvious generic web copy. And lots of professional organizations, and even here at Massage Business Blueprint for our premium members, we have some generic web copy to get people started on their website copy: service descriptions, things — just generic copy. But if you — and especially protocol, like things like policies and protocols. If you have on your website something that’s so — like it’s the same as every other massage business that hasn’t updated the copy, make it a little more personal and clear and even a little shorter to make it so that people actually read that. So generic web copy that was gleaned from something free offered by an organization is not — if you don’t edit it, it’s not a great idea. You need to really customize any generic web copy to make it fit your style and your website so people don’t gloss over it and so it very clearly indicates an owner-run massage business of real people and not a staff of sex workers. I hope that that made sense.
Michael, did that make sense what I was trying to say there?
MR Yeah, totally.
AH Okay. We’re recording in the morning, and I flubbed the last few things we recorded, so I’m trying really hard to use good words.
MR [Laughing] You’re doing fine.
MR You’re doing fine.
AH We’re trying.
MR Words are hard.
AH On your contact or your booking page or even in your services page, wherever you decide to put your policies and protocols, you want them to be very clear and very firm. I’ve got a couple examples toward the end, of that, if you — and some of these policies and protocols to discourage people seeking sexual services. No same-day appointments. I was reading up on this last night, and our friend Ian Harvey, the Massage Sloth, has some really great information about how to avoid people seeking sexual services and one of the things he says is that [laughing] — this is awesome — horniness and the ability to plan ahead are mutually exclusive. So if someone is looking for sexual services, they typically want them pretty quick. So not taking same-day appointments from people you don’t know, or not at all, is a really good policy to discourage that. By appointment only. No same-day appointments. Walk-ins not accepted. That in itself is really, really helpful.
Requiring a credit card for new clients or for any client to book. The more information someone needs to give in order to book the appointment, the less likely they are to be booking an appointment where they want illegal services. So requiring a credit card number, even if you’re talking to that person on the phone and you’ve done a phone screening and they pass that — a lot of times people will fail at the credit card portion — at the same-day appointment portion at the credit card portion. In that same vein of “the more information that people need to give, the more serious they know you are, and the less likely they are to think that you will provide the sexual service they’re looking for,” an automated intake form or an intake form that they have to complete before their appointment.
So — and all of these things can be automated. If you have online booking and you found that people seeking sexual services are getting through your online booking, no same-day appointments, requiring that credit card, which I know is a hassle because you don’t want all clients to do the credit card, but they’ll get over it. If you tell your clients, like, listen, I’m sorry, but I’ve had some untoward advances and this is how I’ve got to weed people out, people will get over it. Having that automated intake form, that “please fill this out prior to your appointment,” and — or form must be — intake form must be completed before first appointment. Or have it integrated into your booking system so that they can’t finish booking the appointment until they fill out that health intake form. That could be helpful too.
And then finally, I just want to pop this in here; don’t offer largely discounted rates. Businesses that offer sexual services tend to offer massage at a much lower rate because they’re actually making their money on the sexual services that come on top of that. So if you’re — if everyone in your area — if the going rate in your area is 80 or $100 and you’re offering massage for 45 bucks a pop, that’s a red flag. That’s a “please come to see me for sexual services” red flag. And so if you’re offering largely discounted rates, that’s — stop that. You might be making people think that that’s what you’re selling.
So and some other real obvious stuff. Like in your bio, have your credentials in there, at least somewhere in there. If you have a bio page, and you should, have a headshot and have it be a professional looking headshot, not something of you on the beach, not something where someone is obviously cropped out of the side because you’re squishing together at a wedding. Make sure your cleavage is covered and have a professional headshot or a working massage shot from that photoshoot you did in your own office and have it be a really professional one. The best headshot — if you’re getting — if people are soliciting you for sexual services, then — if this has been a problem, go hyper uber-professional in that working massage shot. It’s not the best place to have you elbow deep in someone’s undraped glute. Again, be super conserve — if this has been a problem for you, you should veer towards super conservative on your website. Avoid casual pictures of you on your website. It’s casual when everyone is fully dressed on a table after a 10-k race. That’s casual and fine. Not so much casual is you doing massage at a beach volleyball tournament where you are also wearing a bathing suit. Like, totally okay massage environment, but not the best pic to have on your website if you’ve been having trouble with people thinking that you’re selling sexual services.
Finally, avoid any code words. There’s a whole lot of these. There’s obvious things, you know, happy ending and all of that stuff. But also — if you’re a little naïve like I am, and was especially, anything with the word “release” in it. If you practice some really refined technique or modality that has the word release in it, make sure you’re using that really carefully in context or not at all and that the rest of your website is hyper-professional so that if someone does end up on your website because they search for “full release massage” which is a really obvious code word, that they are dissuaded by the rest of your website content. If you do spa services, be really mindful about the terminology. There’s some code words like “table shower” that are often indicative — or “hot towel massage” that are often indicative of selling sexual services.
Some people even choose to have a really clear disclaimer on their website, on their intake forms, they have people sign off on it. If you’ve done all the legwork and you’re still getting untoward advances via your website or online presence, or if you’re in an especially touristy area which is known for a little bit of debauchery, you may choose to have an actual disclaimer and policy on your site and on your intake form; make people sign out for. Something like requests for sexual activity will not be tolerated, will be viewed as solicitation, and will be reported to the authorities. Clients — I like the one — if I was going to have one, which I don’t need one; I’m very fortunate so far. I like one that says something to the effect of any sexual remarks, derogatory terms, advances, innuendo, jokes, illicit conduct or gestures will result in immediate terminations of the session. Client will be held responsible for the full cost of the session. Charges may be filed with local authorities. Period. It’s very clear. And that’s really nice. I like that approach in some ways because it discourages people from — as soon as — it’s very clear so as soon as someone violates that, if they decide they want to tell an off-color joke or start telling a story about the time they did get offered a hand job with their massage, you can shut it down immediately. It gives you a way to say — it gives you permission to say that kind of — I understand wanting to tell that story; however, that is against the policy of what can be discussed in a massage room, and I’m going to need to shut that down or terminate the session. Which is it going to be? I like that because it’s something they would have read prior and so when you reference that policy, it’s not rocket science, it’s not new.
So those are my tips there. This — all of these things also apply to any listings that you have. So like a lot of people found that if — as they improved the content of their Google Business listing, they got a lot more phone calls of people that weren’t the right kind of client for them. I personally chose to just take my phone number off of my Google Business listing so people go right to the website where it becomes really, really clear what I do and don’t do. And that stopped the problem in its tracks. So if you’re getting a lot of phone calls that you don’t want to get or your just feeling weird about it, it’s okay to take your phone number off of all the places. I think I took my phone number off of every place that I could because I don’t want people calling me anyway. So that worked really well for me.
Michael, did I miss anything in here, before I go into our halftime spot?
MR I think you were very thorough.
AH Okay. Who’s our halftime sponsor?
MR Yeah, our halftime sponsor is Acuity.
Sponsor message Acuity is our software of choice. No more phone tag. Clients can quickly view your real-time availability and self-book their own appointments and even pay online and fill out intake forms, reschedule with a click. It’s super easy for clients to just manage their schedule and for you to manage yours. You can look and act professional by offering convenient scheduling to your clients. You can change the verbiage so it matches your brand and voice. You can get your logo on that booking page. You can integrate the booking page into your own website. It’s really, really easy. Customer support is a delight, and Acuity’s style will help us just run our own businesses. Obviously, you can tell I use Acuity. You can get a special 45-day free offer when you sign up today. And you can check that out at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
AH So the second portion is how to avoid getting clients that are not in your niche. So Michael, can you tell people what a niche is?
MR Yeah, so a niche is basically specializing in, maybe, a target market or a type of discipline or modality, or it’s a perspective you have. Something that sets you apart and says, hey, I am serving this group of people. This is my target market. This is my audience.
AH All right. And one of the reasons I decided to kind of combine these topics here is because if you’re getting a lot of creepers, one way to avoid this is to go all in on a niche. So if you are like a general practitioner, but you find as a general practitioner you’re getting a lot of clients who come in in expecting hand jobs, one way to change that is to choose a niche. So maybe you decide I like working with people with headache and migraine issues. If you go all in and change everything about your marketing so that it becomes clear that you are the migraine massage therapist, you will get far fewer people coming in thinking you’re a general practitioner who may or may not give them a hand job. So niching, if you’re having trouble with this in your area, if you’ve done all the other things, niching could be a good option. And if you’ve already niched, here are some tips on making it so that people looking for general massage, or not your kind of massage, are coming to you.
So for me — I’m just going to kind of us myself or the rest of this example — I am trying very hard to only take new clients with anxiety and extreme stress is what I’m calling it because not everybody has a diagnosis of anxiety, they just think that they’re extremely stressed, which — you know, rock on. Two different things.
So if I’m having trouble with lots of general massage people booking, which by the way, I am, I need to go in and super clearly make it obvious that I am only treating clients with stress and anxiety. The first step of this, if I’m not ready to fire all of my old, general clients is I’m kind of going to kind of let my clients know I’m mostly only accepting new clients with stress and anxiety. And I will still make it possible for my old, general clients to book, but we’ll see how to do that in a minute. So your tagline and/or the first line of your website and/or in your logo should say super clearly, massage for people with anxiety. The word “anxiety,” or “migraine” whatever or “knee pain” should be in every single service description. Your services should be named after that: 30-minute massage for anxiety. 60-minute massage for migraine. 90-minute massage for knee rehab. Whatever your niche is, that should be in the service description so that if you are serving people with migraine and I have plantar fasciitis, I’m going to know there is no service for me at your business. Period. You are not the massage therapist for me. So I’m going to know if I’m looking for a hand job that there is no service description for that, there is not even one that can be mistaken for that, because all of your service descriptions are 30 minutes for migraine, 60 minutes for migraine, 90 minutes for migraine. Bam.
What you do should be the lead in your bio. Allissa began specializing in massage for people with migraine in whatever — or because she found the need was great. First line in your bio you want to have the words in your niche. Period. So there’s that.
Now, people are dumb. Sometimes people who come to us through the web are just dumb and they might book one of those anyway. So if you’re still having that problem, you can require a different kind of first-time appointment. So you could require a consultation with new clients. And this could be a free phone call or free short office visit or a paid consult with a shorter first treatment or a full first treatment. But you want to make it really clear that if you are coming to me for a migraine — and that is the only reason you should be coming to me — we are going to talk about your migraine history first to decide if you’re a good client for me. That would be a great option for a phone call or a free office visit to figure out if that’s even a good client for you. It’s screening. That’s great. That will weed out the suckers who are just looking for a quickie sexual service or are looking for a general massage. That really weeds out the — people who are like, I just want a massage. Then they’re going to go somewhere else that offers general massage, and that is not you. So you will not get someone with knee pain if everything says migraine.
You can also force new clients though a contact form or a phone call. You could set up a Google form for first-time clients that’s a little bit of an intake. Or for potential clients. Like, please complete this form, and I will respond to you as soon as possible to — with a determination of if you’re a good client for me. Or please schedule a phone call here so we can discuss if my services are a good fit for your issue. You could force that. Yeah, you’re putting an obstacle up, but if you’re highly niched, those kinds of obstacles are fine.
You can — and again, I went through that name your services with the niche in there. If you are still seeing general, old clients for general massage as you transition your practice, or if you’re never going to give up those general massage clients after you niche, that’s okay. You can have one service at the bottom of your menu that says — and begin it, like, name the service “for established clients.” 60-minute therapeutic massage. And you don’t even need a service description or that because the only people who are going to be booking that are your general clients who know what they’re getting. And it’s going to be really obvious if someone new books that treatment, you’re going to be able to cancel that treatment and reach out to them and say, this is only for established clients. You can go here to book a first-time appointment.
So that is it. Michael, do you have any other ways to avoid the wrong kinds of clients booking with you?
MR No, I think you’ve hit the main ones. Just being really clear is key.
AH Yeah —
MR I agree.
AH And I know people don’t love getting pushed into niching; it scares them. But it’s also really fun. It can be really fun. And if you are consistently having the problem where the clients that aren’t right for you for one reason or another are booking, then it could be maybe you’re getting backed into that corner and it’s finally time to go all in.
MR All right.
AH All right, I’m really done.
MR Cool. Well, thank you. Good stuff. So thanks to everyone for joining us today. Reminder our website is massagebusinessblueprint.com. You can find information about our premium member community there as well if you’re interested. We have a ton of stuff in there including a fresh batch of new professional stock photos every month. We just released the last batch, I think, last week so there’s a bunch of new stock photos there and some other stuff. So check it out.
And if you have a question or a topic or anything you want to give us feedback on about the podcast, you can email that to firstname.lastname@example.org. So thanks for joining us today. Have an awesome day. We’ll see you next time.