Let’s be honest: there is a lot of advice online about how to build a massage therapy client base. Or, how to build any kind of client base, since the general idea is the same.
Most articles will list various ways you can ‘get your name out there’. For example, build a website. Go to events where you can meet people. Do free demos. Use Groupon. Use social media. And so on… you get the point.
Those articles can be a little confusing. Each one has different recommendations. Some emphasize one method and tell you to ignore another. Some just give you the list of ideas with zero guidance on how to actually implement them.
So what’s a solo business owner, who has little time and a small budget, to do?
The truth about building a massage therapy client base
Here’s the secret: all of those items – websites, free demos, attending events, and so on – are not how you truly build a client base.
Those are all marketing techniques. They’re ways for people to find out who you are, what you have to offer, and why they should choose you.
But they aren’t how you build a client base. They’re just how you get people through the door.
Now you might be wondering, well Candice, what’s the difference? Isn’t getting people in the door what I want?
Let me ask you: are people who book once and then never again really part of your client base?
It’s great they came once and you made some income off that visit, but a one-time visit doesn’t really grow your business.
And that’s what a “client base” is all about: a solid group of people who form the base of your business and from which you can continue to grow.
The real way you build a client base? Create honest connections with people. People who you can not only help but you really ‘click’ with. People who will become regular clients because they not only appreciate what massage therapy can do but they specifically like your treatment style.
That’s really powerful. Once you make those connections, your business will really start to grow. Not only will they come to see you, but they’ll refer their family, friends, and coworkers too.
So now we’ve established what a client base truly is.
But how do you actually achieve this?
5 Steps to building a solid massage client base
- Niche down
- Make your website match that niche
- Choose one method to promote yourself
- Ask happy clients to refer you more people like them
- Continue to do steps 3 and 4!
Step one: Choosing a Niche
Take a deep dive into discovering what type of clients you work best with.
It could be very narrow, like pregnancy massage or working with runners. Or it could be fairly broad, like young professionals in your city.
No matter what you decide, the group of people should be one that you generally “click” with personality-wise. One that not only respects you as a professional but also you relate to on a more personal level (and vice-versa).
If you’re stuck, think about the types of clients that you have really great conversations with, or who you can laugh with.
I’ve also got a couple of articles about the importance of choosing a target audience that you can refer to for help: how niching helped my massage therapy practice and the truth about niching: it helps fill your appointment book faster.
Step two: Make your Website attract your Niche
We’ve got our niche, so now we need to make sure they understand that we’re a good match for what they need in a massage therapist.
Make sure your website attracts your ideal, niche clients. The language you use should feel familiar to them. The photos you use should be relatable.
Need help with this? I have an entire post about this process right over here.
Step three: Choose a promotion method
Ok, we all know we need to promote our services if we want to find clients. But what method do you choose?
The thing about marketing is that if you try to do everything, you’ll just end up with nothing. There are only so many hours in a day, and with many other tasks on your plate, you just can’t expect to be able to be on four social media platforms, write a newsletter, attend events, do free demo massages and go around handing out business cards to local businesses.
No one has time for that @#$%!
So instead, choose one method to promote yourself. The method you choose needs to meet two criteria:
- It has to be something you’re comfortable doing.
- It has to be something that will actually reach your target audience (niche).
When you’re just starting out, things like email newsletters probably aren’t your best bet, since you need to have a base of people to send them out to. But things like social media, in-person events, or anything that helps you meet new people more directly can be a good choice.
Once you’ve picked something, give yourself some time – at least a month, preferably longer – to see how well your method works. If you’ve worked hard to promote yourself but aren’t finding any new clients, then you can try another method.
If you are thinking of picking social media, I’ve got lots of resources for you on this page.
Step four: Ask clients to refer you more clients
This is such an important step and shouldn’t be skipped.
I know it can be nerve-wracking for some people who get nervous about these things. They don’t want to come across as pushy or ‘salesy’.
But remember: the best source of more great clients is the great clients you already have.
Even in this digital age, word-of-mouth is still the most important way to find new clients. That’s why people read online reviews: they want to know from real people what a business is like. And if they actually know the person giving the review or recommendation? That makes it that much more likely they’ll book in.
When asking your clients to refer you more people, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as asking them to keep you in mind if they have friends or family who need treatments. Or it could be something you add to your email signature, email reminders, or website. Some therapists who work in settings where they don’t accept tips put up a sign that says something like ‘Enjoyed your treatment? I don’t accept tips, but I do appreciate you referring any family or friends who may need my services. Thank you for your trust!’ You can do a similar sign even if you do accept tips.
The key is to actually ask. How you do it is up to you. Over time, it should feel easier and more natural.
Step 5: Repeat!
Once you start to get a base of clients built up, it’s very important to keep up with your marketing and asking for referrals.
As I’ve said in past articles, even therapists who have been at this many years need to keep up with their marketing! The methods might change, but they still do it. The important thing is to maintain a connection with people so they keep you top-of-mind next time they have an injury, need that soreness from too much winter shovelling worked out, or just need some ‘me time’ or stress relief.
Following this five-step process is really key to building a strong foundation for your business. It is certainly a process – I’m not going to lie about that! But if you put in the work, you can absolutely succeed.
Need some help with your website content and attracting those ideal, best clients? The ones that will refer you to other amazing people like them? I got you! Sign up below and I’ll send you my free workbook on the one thing your website needs to attract great clients.