I remember back in Massage Therapy school, one of the things our teachers always told us was to never sign a contract that had a non-competition clause.
If you haven’t heard that term before, a non-competition clause is a line in a contract that prohibits you from opening a similar business (like another massage therapy clinic) within a certain distance for a certain period of time. For example, it might state that if you were to leave the clinic, you wouldn’t be able to open another massage business within a 3 kilometers radius of their clinic for a period of 1 year. Doing so would put you at risk of legal action.
The ins and outs of whether these clauses are truly legal aside (we all know I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not the best person to ask about these things anyway), they’re common in a lot of ‘associate’ therapist contracts. In fact, I believe all the contracts I signed for the years I was a massage therapist had one of these clauses in them.
Why do we have ‘non-competition’ clauses in Massage Therapy anyway?
In spite of the advice from my teachers, I really couldn’t avoid these types of things in contract negotiations.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why these clauses are so common?
The obvious reason, of course, is that business owners are worried about someone ‘stealing’ their business.
They (usually rightly) assume that if an existing therapist opens up a clinic right across the street, they’re going to lose some business to that new clinic. Not just clients that therapist has been seeing for a while, but potential new clients, who might be attracted to the other clinic first.
That’s fair. Everyone has bills to pay, and no one wants to feel like their business is losing out to the new place across the street.
But let’s look deeper at this.
Choices between massage clinics
Ask yourself this: If you were a potential client looking at two massage therapy clinics in a certain location, how would you choose between them?
Well, you might choose based on which one has available appointments that day, or which one has late hours that suit your needs.
But what if they both offer same-day appointments and after-work hours? Then what? Do you just draw a name out of a hat?
If we take away all of the ‘matters of convenience’ factors when choosing which business to give your money to, what are you left with? How do you choose?
Chances are good you’re going to choose the business that you feel most comfortable with. The one who has the more appealing website, or that talks about having extensive experience with the types of treatments you need, or who has a social media presence that makes you say ‘oh I like these people!’.
This is your key to finding good clients for your business, even in a crowded market. Even when there’s another clinic two doors down. Even if they have longer hours or more same-day appointments.
Those convenience factors only get you so far. It’s you that makes the difference. It’s making connections with people. It’s specializing in a way that is unique to you.
This is how we use this idea of ‘competition’ to our advantage.
So how do you specialize as a massage clinic?
Here’s a common example of what I see on social media profiles or websites for health clinics.
At [insert name of clinic here] we specialize in massage therapy, cranial sacral therapy, deep tissue massage, hot stone massage, and pregnancy massage.
Is that specializing?
We specialize in massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy…
Or is that?
Sorry to all the health, wellness, and holistic businesses out there, but this is not specializing.
You make a big list of your services and say that’s what you specialize in. But let’s be realistic: all massage therapy clinics offer essentially the same kinds of services. All multidisciplinary clinics? Same thing. And this applies to anyone with a service, from childcare to gymnastics coaching to accounting to, yes, web design.
That isn’t specializing.
Specializing, or niching, is much more nuanced. It’s taking your story, your approach, and your ideas, and putting that into your business. It’s using your personality and life experiences and blending them into your business.
That’s something that no other business is going to have.
Maybe you’ll get known as the clinic that plays rock music and has funky art on the walls and serves espresso in the waiting room, because that’s how you roll. Maybe you’ll be known as the ‘go to’ spot for athletes, because everyone who works there is an athlete too, so knows what it’s like having a training schedule, special diet, and sports-related injuries. Maybe you’ll be known for being a ‘tell it like it is’ therapist, who has a clientele who know they can trust you to be real about things and not sugar coat anything, because that’s your personality – both in and out of the clinic.
What’s your unique story? How is your approach different from others? Why should people care?
So, should we care about massage therapy competition?
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned, at least a little, if competing businesses open close to yours. In the neighbourhood I used to live in Toronto, we had three dental offices open within a 10-minute walk of each other in a single year. You have to wonder if any of them knew the others were coming before they signed the lease on their units.
But five years later, all three of them are still open. It wasn’t because everyone in Toronto suddenly had bad teeth. It was because each had their own style, their way of differentiating themselves from the others.
One focused on being known for their friendly and relaxing environment, good for anxious clients and kids. One focused on having all the state-of-the-art equipment and latest cosmetic procedures. One focused on wholistic dentistry. Sure, all did all the basics: cleanings, checkups, x-rays, and so on. But they each had their own approach in their marketing and overall ‘vibe’.
So it’s not just about proximity. Location. Convenience.
People have choices. Why should they choose you?
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