How to Promote Your Massage Business at a Farmers Market

We're delighted to bring you this guest post from Jeni SpringJeni Spring is the owner of Heeling Sole Barefoot Massage in San Antonio, Texas– the nation's first large specialty clinic only offering barefoot massage services. She's been a practitioner of westernized Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage since 2003, a Massage Therapist since 2002, and a Barefoot Massage instructor since 2009. In February 2017, Jeni co-founded the Center for Barefoot Massage, a continuing education company for LMTs, which teaches the Myofascial Ashiatsu ("FasciAshi") barefoot massage technique developed at Heeling Sole.

Jeni feels that it's necessary to "Practice what you teach", believing that continuing to massage the public using her course content keeps the material fresh, evolving, and responsive. As a practitioner, educator, author, influencer and total nerd on the subject of Barefoot Massage, Jeni encourages attendees in her classes to be lifelong learners and to continue to deepen their understanding of what Barefoot Massage means to them. Taking one class, or attending a class once, is never enough!

I do a lot of marketing to promote my business, and have found that the most successful and fun way to educate the locals on the benefits of the barefoot massage services that I offer is to show them in person. This works better than paper ads, boosted Facebook posts, and YouTube videos for me. Massage is a touch-based business, right? We gotta get out there and touch people for them to trust us and our work!

My business, Heeling Sole Barefoot Massage, has set up massage tents at CrossFit competitions, 5ks and marathons, health fairs, art walks, yoga and music festivals, trade shows as well as farmers markets. There are differences for each event – you’ll have different demographics in each setting, so you’ll need to cater your booth to fit the vibe and tribe. The trick is to stay minimal while still recreating the brand and “feel” of your business in that booth space, without having to bring your entire massage office with you!!! Keep your focus on recreating the experience of what it would be like to get a massage from you if they came to your studio – because getting people to come to your location is your ultimate goal.

Heeling Sole helped to start a Farmers Market in our shopping centers parking lot, so every Sunday we have the option to set up our booth with the other vendors. When we set up our booth, on a hot or rainy day, we’ll take the following big items:

  • 10x10 pop up tent – with or without the detachable walls
  • our portable Ashiatsu bars
  • our massage table
  • maybe a fold up event table… sometimes that’s overkill
  • a rolling cart full of supplies needed for the day.
  • My iced coffee. (I always need that.)

If the tent isn’t needed, we’ll leave that behind and maybe just take an umbrella or some decorative fabric to create shade. We want to be able to set up and tear down the booth in 20 minutes, and not have to make a million trips back and forth to the car!

Once we have the basics of our booth set up, then we break out the Rubbermaid tub o’ supplies. (I call it my “Tubba Rubba.”) Here’s what we keep in that trusty tub:

  • Earthlite’s disposable face cradle covers
  • Earthlite’s Zenvi face cushion (charged the night before) and an old iPod shuffle OR a Bluetooth speaker. (Depends on if you want only the client to hear the music, or anyone who walks by your booth.)
  • Trash bags
  • Foot/hand sanitizer
  • Table cleanser spray
  • Customized logo table cloth for the foldy table, or the massage table
  • Extra decorative fabric for shade, or to put over the table if vinyl is hot
  • A few rags or paper towels for cleaning
  • Incense, or a candle & a lighter
  • Spray on sunblock and spare sunglasses (not just for us, but for the clients, too!)
  • Biz cards, fliers
  • Life saving things like zip ties, bungees, duct tape, masking tape, pens, clamps, shells/rocks to use as paper weights
  • Sign up sheet that doubles as a waiver – make sure it meets the needs of your state requirements
  • Sidewalk chalk &/OR a sidewalk sign
  • Kitchen timer to keep us limited to allotted massage times set – even better if it makes an annoying ringing sound so you can’t miss it and “accidentally” go over on time.
  • Extension cord and chargers

I try to keep as much as that stuff tucked away in the tub as I can. (Except for my coffee.) You might not need all these items, or you might need more, or you might have a better list – but these items have boiled down to be our basics. The more events you do, the more you’ll customize the contents of your tubba-rubba!

Every time we set up the booth, it’s a little different. Totally customizable to the therapist working it that day and their preferences, or to the event we are at. Sometimes we will have a fold-up table with our business promotional materials presented, and sometimes we creatively display those on our portable ashiatsu bars or bar stools. 

Sometimes we have walls up on the tent for weather protection or to make us stand out, sometimes not. Somedays it’s 80’s music, others its calming ocean waves. Sometimes we take a stand-up sidewalk sign, or sometimes we’ll use sidewalk chalk! With that chalk, you can write out a fun message or our service prices out for everyone to see. “Get off your feet and under mine…” “One of you two go SHOP while the other DROPS on my table” and “Gluten free, organic, non-dairy massages!” I may even leave the chalk out for kids to play with, which draws a crowd of parents (who now have free time to get a massage, gee!)

One thing that is a constant, and the thing that converts sample massages into real sessions, is our deal. We don’t offer free massage – I feel that it cheapens our work and attracts a crowd who won’t come in and pay our $80-90 rate in the office anyways. We charge $20/15 minutes. If they put their email down on the sign in sheet, we will email them a coupon for $20 off a 60+ minute long massage, non-transferrable but redeemable within 30 days of that specific event. This has a great return rate, and we have converted a lot of “Lookie Lou’s” into repeat customers who regularly visit our studio, all because of this strategy.

By requiring the massage recipients to provide their email in order to get the coupon, this helps build our mailing list. By including an expiration date on the coupon, it creates a “use it or lose it” urgency to get in within a specific time frame. By spending an easy $20 on a massage from my feets, (rather than on a bag full of locally sourced Beets) the client gets a mini tune-up for their body, gets to feel what barefoot massage is like, AND watch the circus-like massage therapist walk, dance and bodysurf peoples backs.

On that note, a big tip for when you are massaging at an event: think of yourself as a performance piece. People never really get to see a massage, and so this is a rare, socially acceptable chance for them to watch! Even the act of watching someone relax has a relaxing effect on the viewer. It’s like yawning - you can make the feeling and vibe of your massage contagious to a whole crowd! So always be massaging.

You don’t have to be “showy”, the performance is your massage and your clients reaction to it, not your body. Pull out your best massage techniques that particular audience would think feels good. Close your eyes, get centered. Acknowledge people when they look like they have a question, don’t make them feel awkward for watching. Get good at massaging and talking, so that you can work on the receiver and communicate with the crowd simultaneously. (This is where a Zenvi sound cushion from Earthlite would come in handy: the massage client can be listening to ocean waves that down out your voice and crowd noises!)

Seriously: always be massaging! It makes you look more in demand. Even if that means you bring your bestie along with you, or you grab another vendor for a minute to massage during slow times. The attendees of this farmers market or event are going to be more interested in what you do if you are demonstrating your work, than if you are sitting there playing on your phone. That being said, keep a tablet or phone handy to charge credit cards, show them your website, schedule their next hour-long massage at the office, or play a video demonstrating how this massage ~really~ looks when it’s in the privacy of your massage room. Just try not to play on it, there’s nothing worse than a bored-looking vendor who switches into insta-sales mode the second someone walks by.

I stray away from working events that require me to offer free massages, mainly because this whole system breaks down. The mentality of giving something away for free, especially with as awesome and in demand as the Ashiatsu services we offer at Heeling Sole are, has not paid off (literally or figuratively) for my business. The only exception is when I need a random body to massage to help show a crowd what I do. (Even in those situations I try work out a trade and get some fresh Tomatoes in exchange for the massage from my toes, hah!)

My Heeling Sole Sasquatch staff may not get out to the Farmers Market weekly, but weather permitting we’ll set up and have a fun day massaging outdoors. We have developed a following of market clients who come for the tune-up on Sundays, then use their coupon at their scheduled massage later that week – so it really does serve as a between-appointment tune-up or check up, and they love that concept. Plus, myself and my staff get to break up the monotony of massaging in a dark room and meet new clients. These regularly scheduled events turn into an extension of your clinic/office/spa, so consider it a satellite location and nurture its growth with your attention. Have fun with it! 

outdoor massage table and sun canopy

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