Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marketing... not an easy task. After finishing my full time research training, the past two years, I've found it necessary to practice build once again (my client base had dwindled from lack of attention to marketing). After reviewing what other MTs had to say on the Massage Professionals website last year I considered running a Groupon ad. Turns out one must have a number of positive reviews on Yelp to be eligible to run a Groupon ad. Now I have positive reviews all over the web, because I've been running my business for a number of years; not to mention a whole page of testimonials on my website. But if you are in practice rebuild mode you must stay current and that means going along with Yelp for the time being. So, I asked several clients to post reviews (some old, some new) and they did; only to have them filtered within a few days. That's five reviews down the drain friends! I've decided not to worry about it and just run an ad on Yelp anyway; I'll get to Groupon, or Living Social, at another time. I also have an ad with Google (who did post my reviews); I appear to be breaking even with them so far.

Here's a crazy idea I've liked better than running ads: handing out cards for half priced sessions to various folks I know socially who won't allow themselves massage with their current finances; like students and young moms. I've also e-mailed clients who aren't regulars anymore and offered them the same deal for specific times and dates. For example, I sent out an e-mail a day or two before at a time I knew was good for them on a day that was slow in my schedule (a last minute fill the slots special). One week I targeted seniors, the next teachers, etc. So far, about one third of these folks have responded and we're both happy. Keep in mind, at half off my regular rates I'm still making double what I would with a Groupon ad. I'm also not undercutting other MTs because these are my clients who haven't been getting massage because of the economy.

I've also followed through with old clients who can afford full price but have gotten out of the habit of wellness massage for one reason or the other (usually they just got too busy). For the past month this has worked out about 90% of the time and they are all happy to be back. These are follow-up things I should have been doing all along but did not make time for while going to school in addition to seeing clients. Any who, I've doubled my clientele over the summer with considerate and respectful folks who are a great fit for my practice. Yes, most of them were my old clients, so they knew me already, but it still counts. I also know that most of the friends I've offered the half off sessions to aren't going to become regulars, but I don't care. They're people I know and like, and they'll tell other people AND it creates momentum in the meantime (it's as good as comping a session). I'm also in the process of joining a site called Hands for Heroes which offers veterans free massage. Hands for Heroes is meaningful to me as I'm a veteran and am happy to support their efforts.

Then of course there are all the social networking groups. I've done this a lot over the years and decided to start with the online groups I'm a member of already. So for me it has been a matter of updating sites and getting back into regular communication with places like LinkedIn and Face Book. This has resulted in a couple bookings and I pay nothing for these memberships. There are also a few local on-line groups; I just haven't made time to re-connect with them yet.

The next step for me is to physically attend a couple local networking events. I plan to soon but first wanted to re-connect with old friends and several practitioners I know over coffee, lunch, or an after hour drink. Supporting each other through cross referral is a great source of increasing both our businesses. I even refer to other massage therapists. It might be the client is closer to the other MT's office, they offer a service I don't provide or a time when I'm not available. I have found however, you must be clear, direct and realistic with how they can help you too, for example, pointing out a modality you provide that they don't. Then it's important to stay in touch with your network so they don't forget you!

Marketing never ends. It's not just new MTs that have to deal with marketing, as you can see, it's us long timers too. If your business needs a pick me up, you know what you have to do, some of the old and some of the new, some tried and some true (not so much a poet and I know it). That reminds me, there are many successful MTs out there who are happy to provide ideas and advise about marketing; Laura Allen for one. She's a business dynamo and among the best; check out some of her videos if you haven't already for more marketing ideas. Yes, that may mean pushing outside your comfort zone as you did when you first started out; big deal, just do it.

Next up: Using research to promote your business.