Is it cheating or a hack? Either way, Michael gives 5 ways to ease into niching.
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Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines.
Michael Reynolds I am Michael Reynolds.
AH And we’re your hosts, and we’re delighted about that.
MR We are delighted.
AH Michael, what’s the Midwest weather like?
MR It’s actually not too bad. It’s actually that kind of crisp, sunny, cold weather, which I kind of like because it’s not super cold because the sun’s out, but it’s also jacket and jeans weather, and it’s a little bit colder, so I kind of like it. It’s kind of nice. Not bad at all.
MR Can’t complain.
AH And I actually didn’t — I don’t even really care about the weather where you are, I just needed to stall for a minute —
AH — to bring up the thing that I wanted to talk —
MR Ah, the truth comes out.
AH — about, which was your guest hosting — your guest co-hosting on my favorite money podcast. And yes, it is my favorite money podcast even ahead of your money podcast.
MR Hey, fair enough.
AH It’s totally fair. So Money with Farnoosh Torabi, which is a podcast that I turned you on to.
MR You did.
AH And you in your capacity as a financial advisor guested. What are — and it’s a great episode, and I will put the link in the podcast notes. What did you guys talk about?
MR Oh, thanks.
AH and it’s great because it’s her Ask Farnoosh episode, where —
MR Yeah, those are my favorite.
AH — people ask questions. And what was your favorite topic of the podcast, if you even remember it.
MR Yeah, yeah. Well, we talked a lot about paying off debt and kind of the steps toward emergency fund, paying off debt, investing, kind of the order of things. I really like that because I always enjoy talking about kind of the clarity around what order to do things in in certain situations. So that was a lot of fun to be able to kind of talk through some of those scenarios. So we talked that. We talked a little bit about different vehicles for retirement investing. And just kind of a lot about — also about — I think we helped one person with career thoughts, how to further her career and make a higher income with different career tracks. And so that was always interesting as well because I really love talking career and entrepreneurship. So we had a lot of good questions. And I don’t fault you for making her podcast your favorite because she has a great podcast. [Laughing]
AH She does.
MR I’m (indiscernible).
AH It’s really oriented towards women and women who are high-earners and want to be high earners. It’s for everyone, but I really like that you geeked out a little bit about YNAB, You Need a Budget. And I love that —
AH — because I’m the one who pushed you on that as well. So I feel like all of my connector —
MR I give you full credit.
AH — tendencies are really benefiting you today.
MR They really are; they really are.
AH So I’m looking forward to my Christmas gift this year.
MR Hashtag, thanks, Allissa.
So now that we’ve all had a nice dose of Allissa’s ego, we are going to — we’re going to talk about our topic today, which I’m handing to Michael because he wants to talk about five legit ways to cheat at niching your massage practice.
MR Oh boy. Okay. So I hesitated on this one. It was a little bit scary because we have spent the past, I don’t know, thousand years talking to our audience about niching and specializing your massage practice. As you know. And so if you’re still listening to this podcast, you are no doubt humoring us or you believe in that or you’re putting up with us talking about niching all the time, which we believe in. Obviously, we really think there is merit to niching and specializing your massage practice. So I want to preface this with a disclaimer saying this is not saying we are changing our mind or that we’re walking back or that we’re saying, oh, we don’t really — I mean, you can do whatever you want, obviously. But we’re not saying that niching is bad. Niching is potentially a great way to differentiate your practice for many people. So I’m going to first talk about kind of — I’m going to reset the stage again, talk about niching a little bit more, we’ll do our sponsor, and then I’ll talk about five legit ways to cheat at niching your massage practice.
So let’s jut recap a little bit. So why niche? Why specialize your massage practice? Well, some of the good reasons to potentially specialize are it differentiates — or it can differentiate your massage practice. If you are kind of compared against two or three other massage therapists in your area and everyone is generalized and you’re the one that focuses on migraines or on tennis players or on whatever, then you look different, and you attract people who are interested in that specific thing, that specific type of service, or that specific person, or that specific group that you work with. So niching can be a great way to differentiate your practice and help you stand out and get chosen more often than a generalized massage therapist.
Niching, ideally, also can allow you to charge higher prices because if you think if any specializes service in any kind of industry, you’ll see this to be true. You’ll see in the medical field. You know, the general practitioner at the family practice makes decent money, but the heart surgeon or the brain surgeon typically makes a lot more money. They’re very specialized, they have a very specific skill set that applies to a very specific situation. A generalized attorney might make decent money, but a very specialized attorney that works in, you know, Medicare work or whatever, they’re going to make a lot more money, potentially significantly more money. And this applies to a lot of professions.
So massage therapy profession is no exception. If you specialize, you can ideally potentially charge more money because you are working with a group of people that have a very specialized need or a very specialized affinity, and they’re willing to pay more for that specialized care.
So that’s kind of the why behind niching. So we’ve talked to a lot of people in our community, and we know that a lot of people are getting success from niching. They’re seeing the benefits of it. We also know that there’s no one-size-fits-all for everybody. Niching can be great for many people, but a lot of people in our community, they are not niching because either they just don’t want to — they feel like it’s something that’s just a little bit too scary at this time or it’s a little bit out of their comfort zone; they’re just not ready for it — or maybe they’re making a conscious decision to not niche for other reasons, or maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it and they’re just kind of thinking through it still. There’s a lot of valid reasons for maybe not niching.
So this conversation today is not to talk you out of niching, it is to give you some alternatives for those who are choosing or who are simply not niching right now. There are other paths. There are other ways to get there, and there are interesting ways to differentiate your practice and kind of cheat at it in some really legitimate ways. And so I want to talk about those things.
So before we get to that, let’s do our halftime. And Alissa, who is our halftime sponsor today?
AH Our halftime sponsor is Jojoba holiday. That was fun to say.
MR Isn’t it? See? It just feels good, doesn’t it?
AH Really. Yeah.
Sponsor message So hey, you need to know about the Hobacare Holiday Gift Packs. This year, Jojoba is making it easy for you to share the love of jojoba and the love of the holidays with their holiday gift pack. You can get them packs of 12 or 24. They are selling these packs at cost, so they’re a kicking value for you and a really great option if you do client gifts or stocking stuffers or if you just have lots of teacher gifts and hostess stuff. Anyhoo, each little gift sack contains a 1-oz. bottle of jojoba, a $5 gift card towards a future jojoba purchase, and it’s in this lovely burlap gift bag with this gorgeous tag with a red and while string, and it’s really nice. And the bag is big enough to for you to put in a small bar of local soap or even a mini jar of local honey or a lip balm or an herbal tea, or whatever kind of little thing you want to gift your clients. It would be great to use for gift cards and gift certificates that you sell. You could totally roll up a paper gift certificate in there. They will be available for a limited time only through December 15th. And the 12 pack is $24; the 24 pack is $48. This is a ridiculous price. You should go get some, and it’s free shipping. So you can get all of this stuff, all of the info, and order your gift packs at massagebusinessblueprint.com/holiday. That’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/holiday.
MR Thanks, Jojoba.
AH So give us some cheating options, legit cheating options — is that even a thing? — for niching.
MR Yeah, yeah. So here are five legit ways to cheat at niching your massage practice and avoid niching by doing other things to still differentiate your practice.
So number one, have a strong perspective. A lot of people when they think about niching or specialization, they’re focused on okay, what type of person do I serve, or what type of condition do I treat, or what type of — maybe a combination of the two. Do I treat golfers or tennis players or runners or business owners or whatever, or do I treat specific conditions, or do I have a specific technique to use that’s kind of unique to me? Those are all kind of the service or the target market.
But there is another way to differentiate your practice without necessarily specializing in a type of person or a service, and that is your perspective. You might also think of it as copping an attitude, if you just have a controversial or unique attitude. Now, I’m not suggesting being negative, controversial, and stirring up all sorts of trouble. But I’m just sort of saying have a bold or an edgy tone or language in your marketing. Anything you can do to sound and feel and look different than your competition and taking a stand on that perspective can go a long way toward differentiating you. It still lets you be a generalized practice, but your massage business seems different because you speak in a different way. It doesn’t have to be anything really super edgy. It can be just, hey, I feel that massage does this for people and — obviously saying within your scope. But if you say, hey, massage can do this and has these benefits and here’s what’s wrong with the world and here’s how my approach to helping people — I mean, it can be as simple as that. I mean, that’s kind of a bold perspective. And most businesses in general, let alone massage therapists, do not get bold or edgy in their language and their marketing. So there is room to try a little of that, to be a little more bold in your tone, to be a little more — to have a little more attitude or perspective. So that’s one way you can potentially differentiate without having to niche.
And Allissa, I definitely — I don’t have to ask, I know, but I definitely want you to jump in with examples that you think of as a full-time practitioner as well.
AH Yeah, I mean, this is kind of — I think without realizing it, this is the approach I took 15 years ago when I was starting my practice. And you have to remember that 15 years ago, the field of massage was very different. It was still very common to get asked if you give happy endings or things like that. And the bold — there weren’t a ton of massage therapists around, but the ones that were, tended to be kind of hippy-dippy and ran their businesses more like a hobby than a business. So I, without realizing it, really took this attitude approach of being a different kind of massage therapist where your appointment time was sacred, I was not going to start late or run late, and I dressed like a business-ish professional. It was kind of what I wore when I worked in retail pharmacy, but a little more resilient to oil and stuff. But still I dressed like a business owner. And I was very structured in that I had set appointment times and I had a website and I didn’t — like I wasn’t going to be ringing wind chimes to let you know that your treatment was over. Not that there’s anything wrong with that —
AH — but it was just very different from other therapists — the very few other therapists around. I did email marketing from the beginning. I was out in the public and speaking to people. And when someone would be like oh, yeah, no, my massage — I got a chair massage at work and they say I had a knot in my shoulder and I need to release the toxins, and I was very clearly like yeah, that’s not a thing. There’s no toxins in your muscle, and there’s no such thing as a knot either, but I’m really happy to work on you, so let’s see what we can do about that pain you have. And I very — without trashing other massage therapists, I very clearly was like, yeah, I’m not into myths, I’m not into wives-tales, and running my business like a hardcore business was really effective, and that was a very different attitude at the time. Now it’s not so much. Also I’ve calmed the heck down a little bit.
AH But yeah. So that’s my story. That is the approach to niching that I took without realizing it was a thing back then.
MR Nice. Nice.
AH So carry on.
MR All right. Number two, define and marketing different specialties under one business. So often Allissa and I talk about how a lot of principles that apply to huge companies don’t apply to our micro businesses. This is one case where I think it actually does. If you think about — think of a big consulting firm or any kind of big global company that does service work or consulting or professional services. Very often, if you go to their website, you’ll find they have different practice areas. They say hey, here’s our healthcare group, and here’s our aerospace group, and here’s our industrial group, and here’s our finance group or whatever. And they have different practice areas they work in. That is because they understand the merit of diversifying their practice area, but still specializing within groups.
So you can do this as well as a solo massage therapist. You can have a website that has maybe five different specializations in it. Let’s say you don’t want to pick one. You love working with so many types of specialization areas, maybe different types or people, different modalities, different services you treat. Whatever those things are, you just don’t want to let go of any of it. Well, you could embrace that and you could set up your website to say, okay, here’s the services I provide and have sub-pages that say okay, here is my work in migraines. I do this great work in migraines, these techniques, here’s my process, blargedy-blarg. Another page might be here’s how I work with athletes and here is the sports massage I use, and here is the techniques I use and, kind of, the packages I provide, and it’s all about sports massage. Maybe the next thing is here’s something else I do: I work with business travelers and here is how I help them, and it’s all about business travelers, and you could have — I mean, in theory, unlimited, but don’t get carried away. I’m thinking three to five might be reasonable. But you can have different types of people and different types of things you treat and not have to give up any of them because you are creating little sub-pockets of marketing for those things.
And then when you’re doing your marketing — let’s say you’re going to a business meeting that’s full of business owners. Well, okay, you’re going to speak the language of that niche. You’re going to say, you know what, here’s my card. I do great work with business owners who are typically stressed and they need to do some self-care, and here’s what I do. So that’s how you would speak. If you go to another situation where you’re working with — or you see the people in a different situation or different types of groups, then you’re going to speak their language. And you can even have little marketing campaigns for those sections. You can do Facebook ads for your migraine clients, Facebook ads for your anxiety clients, Facebook ads for these clients, and you can really make them feel like you specialize in them without having to revamp your entire business around it. So that is one way that you can — you can not have to give up any generalized areas, but also kind of micro-niche within them.
Any thoughts, Allissa?
MR All right, cool.
AH [Laughing] Not on that one.
MR Moving on.
AH Carry on, dude.
MR Carry on. All right, number three. Market your practice based on a unique process or treatment plan. So let’s say you’re a generalized massage therapist, you don’t specialize in any particular person or condition, you just kind of accept a wide-range of people. But how do you look different? Well, one way to look different is to create a curriculum or process, and package it as a unique kind of product. This could be — I mean, you could take anything you do that’s kind of normal and you could just kind of unlock how it works. Let’s say you do some stretching techniques or you do a special kind of modality or you do a combination of things. Well, most massage therapists don’t really go terribly in depth on how it all works. And most people don’t really know how it all works. But let’s say you write a whole client-friendly marketing piece on your website that explains hey, here’s the process I use: I see my clients typically three types if they have this condition, we do these stretches, these techniques, these these these, I measure them this way, and here is my process for helping people get better when they have this problem. If you lay that out really clearly and really in a user-friendly kind of way, so to speak, then you can really stand out and look different because most other massage therapists are not going to bother to communicate to that level.
Now, this is a little off the wall, and most people aren’t going to go this far, but I want to just mention it. You might even consider trademarking something. You might actually name a process that you have or a package that you create an you might even consider trademarking it and putting that little TM symbol after you get the trademark and that looks pretty cool if you have this process or technique that you provide. Now, that’s going pretty far, but I don’t want to discount the potential opportunity of doing that. So you’re probably not going to go that far, but even so, you can package your process or services in a way that makes it look really unique and different. So that’s kind of what I got on that one.
All right. Next, number four, expand your services to serve more client needs. So this is kind of the opposite, the antithesis, of specializing. It’s kind of looking the other way and running the other direction from specialization. So specialization is reducing what you do to a more narrow market. Expanding your services would be the opposite, which is getting even more generalized. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with embracing broad generalization and expanding services. So maybe you create a strong retail channel. Maybe instead of providing massage therapy service you really, really put a lot of effort into — instead of doing massage, you also do massage plus a really strong retail component that compliments your massage services. So with every treatment, maybe you have a checklist or a specialized plan for retail products that go with it. Obviously, you believe in these products and they’re legit that you really think help. But you want to package it with retail. Maybe you add additional modalities to treat additional needs. Maybe you create unique packages for lots of different types of conditions. Becoming the anti-specialist could be an interesting way to attract a lot of clients that have different needs. So again, embracing that broad line of services and even retail of products can really be a potential way to differentiate and expand.
Have you seen this successful in any cases, Allissa?
AH Not off the top of my head.
MR Just curious.
AH I cannot think of any, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means I got to think about that.
MR Yeah, yeah, definitely.
All right, so last but not least, number five, create a strong brand. So there are certain professions where a lot of people do a great job of branding. Marketing agencies for example, a lot of them are pretty much doing a great job of branding, a lot of retail organizations, a lot of professionals are really into branding. However, there are some industries and professions where branding is a little bit less developed. In my — for example, a lot of you know I’m in financial services as a financial advisor. I’m discovering that branding is pretty sparse. Most financial advisors are not great at branding so I’m having a really great time doing this particular point number five, personally, really well. Massage therapists also typically do not put as much effort into branding as they do things like technique and other things. They just — it’s just no something that’s inherently prominent.
So let’s say you are really, really focused on branding and you decide to invest time and maybe a little more money into things like a great logo; a beautiful website; great technology where if you answer the phone — maybe you’ve got virtual receptionists or a really great clean phone systems that guides people where they need to go — awesome online scheduling that works really, really well; beautiful businesses cards; consistent messaging across everything — your messaging is the same, you have a tag line you have brand messaging that says hey, I talk this way on my website, I talk the same way on my business card, I talk the same way on my videos and social media — maybe you have beautiful imagery use on social media; a very consistent posting schedule; really thoughtful insightful articles you write that have the same one as everything else. So all this stuff sounds like a lot of work and it is a lot of work, but there’s a reason that most people don’t do all this stuff because it’s a lot of work. So let’s say you put a ton of effort into every possible marketing channel you’re on and every possible touchpoint the client experience participates in, and you really make your brand consistent and super strong, you will stand out because you’ll be in the minority. It’s a very open opportunity to really stand out with, again, the great design, the great experience, the whole package.
You might also along with this consider talk triggers. We talked about talk triggers in episode 236 of the podcast, so you might go back and listen to that. So if you make talk triggers part of your brand by something really unique and maybe even quirky about what you do in your marketing or your practice, that can also be part of your brand. So maybe go listen to 236, incorporate some talk triggers in as well. So strong branding in this particular profession of massage therapy can go a long way to making you stand out. Allissa actually alluded to this a lot when she talked at the beginning about 15 years ago, part of her brand was this way of operating her business and presenting her business. So I’m a big believer in good branding, and I think a massage therapist has a great opportunity to embrace branding.
Thoughts? That’s what I got, Allissa. What do you think?
AH That is sweet, and I think you make some good points that could be a real nice soft entry to niching for people who are freaked out about it.
AH So it’s good. If you haven’t taken any steps, maybe look into one of these.
MR It’s not a one-size-fits-all. You can do both. You can do some of this stuff, you can do some niching, you can experiment. It’s all about making yourself stand out and differentiating. So whatever does that is probably right for you.
AH Yeah, and if your market’s saturated, this is something you can do to make a lot more money. So yay.
AH And that wraps it up for today. Thank you, Michael.
AH I want to remind everyone that you can visit us online at massagebusinessblueprint.com for lots of free content as well as our premium member community. If you have a question you would like us to answer, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and one of us will get back to you, and we’ll probably answer it in a future episode. Tell your friends about us, leave us a review on iTunes if you want or wherever you listen to podcasts, and that’s all I have to say. I hope you have a lucrative and productive day.
MR Thanks everyone.