Chair Massage Marketing that WORKS

1. Set up your space

2. Present yourself as a professional

3. Make a connection

4. Call to Action

5. Email follow up

It is extremely easy to find companies, events, and charities that are looking for volunteer massage therapists to provide chair massage. If you are just starting out and have ZERO clients, doing a free chair massage event is acceptable. You will get to a point in your career where it will not make sense to leave your office (losing money) to go work for free. At that point, limit yourself to paying chair massage events, but you can still use the steps below to use those events as a marketing opportunity.

So, without further ado, here is how you can successfully turn a chair massage event into paying clients:

  1. Set up your space like a boss. Create your own little “relaxation station.” If it is a situation where there are lots of vendors in a large space, make sure you have a table to block off your space to create a mini treatment room. Use the table as a barrier so your chair and clients are in a space that is separate from the rest of the event. Set the mood by having it smell nice (while being cautious about using perfumes or air fresheners as some people are sensitive to scents), making sure it is clean, maybe play a little music or have appropriate decorations, and use a tablecloth on your table.
  2. Present yourself as a professional that is there to work. Dress to impress. Consider the type of clientele that is attending the event and try to match their level of attire. If you are going to a law office and everyone will be in suits, showing up in yoga pants and bare feet will make you look out of place. Dress up and wear shoes. If it is a yoga expo, by all means wear your yoga pants and kick off those shoes! Consider your audience. Not only do you want to look professional, but you also want to present yourself as someone that is ready to work. If you are not working on someone, stand next to your chair and ask people engaging questions to get them to come over. “Have you ever had a chair massage?”, “Do you want to take a minute to relax?”, “Want to get off your feet for a few minutes?”
  3. Once you get your client over to the chair, it is time to engage, slow down, take your time, and connect with the client. Make it all about them. Ask any intake questions you see fit, make sure they are comfortable in the chair, and get to work. Here is where you can wow them with your psychic abilities. As a massage therapist, you can tell who works at a desk, who is on their feet all day, etc. Talk to them about this. “Hmmm, I am noticing you have a lot of tension in your shoulders, do you work at a desk?” Saying things like this will blow their mind and get them thinking you really KNOW them and what they need. What better way to show them that you are THE massage therapist for them?!
  4. Now let’s get into the marketing stuff. You have impressed them with your professionalism, charming personality, and stellar massage skills. It is time to close the deal. Before the client got in your chair, you had them give you their name, an email address, and maybe you had them sign a waiver (depending on the laws and regulations in your area). Set your sights on getting the client on the schedule today. In order to do this, have a call to action. This is something to make your client feel the need to buy in that moment. It calls them to purchase right then, not in the future. If they do not do it then, they lose out on a cheaper price, a free gift, or an added bonus. Calls to action have been around since the beginning of sales because they work. Now, don’t give away the farm, but think of a solid call to action. My favorite in this case is to have a product that compliments your practice, is cheap to make or buy, and is aesthetically pleasing. A perfect example is a sugar scrub. You can find a recipe online where all you basically need is sugar, oil, essential oil, and a labeled container. The most expensive thing is most likely the container. Keep your costs low on this! Have your product displayed nicely on your table with signage indicating that this is not for sale, it is only for the *special* clients that make an appointment today. Having a tangible product serves multiple purposes. It grabs people’s attention visually, it is a conversation starter, it is something for people to have in their hands as they walk around the event (another person may ask them where they got it, directing people to your booth), and it is a reminder that that client is special because they got a gift for booking with you. Utilize this call to action when you are done with the massage. If the client seems at all interested in your business after the massage (they ask you for a business card, where your business is located, what your hours are, etc.) tell them that clients that book today get a free sugar scrub. Show them to the scrub on the table and put one in their hands. As they look at it, you pull up your schedule in your book or on your computer and offer them a specific appointment time. If that does not work for them, find a time that does. If they are really not interested, it will be apparent. You will be able to tell the difference from someone that needs a little prodding to someone that just wants to run. This is not going to work for everyone, and some people may say “no.” That is ok! At least you tried. Just keep in mind, if you do not close the deal right then, they will leave and never call you. I don’t care how many business cards you hand out, the chances of someone calling you after an event are slim. The key is to book them that day.
  5. Now, as a last ditch effort, you have that email list, right? The day after the event, email everyone on the list that did not book and send them an email stating that you are extending the offer for the sugar scrub for three more days. If they schedule with you within three days, they can still get the sugar scrub. This may get someone that was on the fence to pull the trigger. Just keep in mind, that you must send the email out the very next day, no later. If the sugar scrub idea isn’t for you, you can always add something to the massage. Consider an extra 15 minutes, an aromatherapy blend, or a tension tamer head massage. Never offer a straight discount. Do not offer a dollar amount or a percentage off as a call to action. You want clients to come in and pay your full rate. You already gave them a FREE chair massage, remember?

Nine Reasons NOT to Give Your Clients Extra Time on the Table

            I was a brand new, rising star of a massage therapist. Ok, who are we kidding, I was just starting off and only had two regular clients. I had all the time in the world, and I had an awesome connection with one of my new clients. I did what any new massage therapist would do; talk to the client for an hour, then got her on the table for her hour massage. As I got busier, I struggled with spending less time talking with this client. It put a strain on our relationship as client/therapist and there was a wishy-washy boundary between a professional relationship and friendship because we spent so much time talking about our lives before her weekly massage.

Running a tight schedule is an extremely important part of having a successful massage practice. If you do not stick to the agreed-upon appointment time, it can be harmful to your business. Just so we are all on the same page, the scenario I am citing in this article is about running over on time when the client is unaware, and you do not intend on charging them for it. The time overflow could be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. It has happened to all of us, but here is why you should stop.

  1. It is disrespectful of their time.

I know you think you are doing the client a favor by giving them bonus time, but they have places to be. Nothing ruins a great massage like looking at the clock at the end and realizing you are going to be rushed to get up off the table and out the door because you have somewhere to be.

This has happened to me as a client. I had a massage therapist go over on time as a bonus to me because she appreciated me as a client. I got off the table all dreamy and relaxed, eased my way out of the room, checked out, and floated to my car. ERRRRR! My world came to a screeching halt when I turned on my car and looked at that little digital clock with a time that was way later than I expected. She gave me extra time, and I had no idea. Then I was late for the thing I had to go to. I don’t remember what it was, probably because I was so late.

2. It makes it about you and not them.

It is easy for our egos to slip into the picture as massage therapists. We feel that we can heal everyone with the beautiful gift of massage. The more seasoned you get as a massage therapist, the more you realize that we cannot heal everyone. Giving someone extra time because they “need the work” is led by the ego. It is saying, “I can heal this person if I just have 10 more minutes.” Let it go and work on it in the next session.

3. You get less of a break between clients.

Giving a client more time on the table means less of a break between clients for you. This is a recipe for burnout.

4. You are setting the expectation for it to happen every time.

Spending extra time with a client turns into an expectation. It is going to put stress on your therapist/client relationship if there comes an appointment when you can’t give the extra time.

5. It encourages lateness or clients arriving early.

Most of the time, when therapists end up running over appointment times, is because the client arrived late. We feel bad that the client is not getting their full table time. This encourages the client to be careless about punctuality. They will know that even if they are late, they will still get their full time. What is the incentive for them to be on time?

The same goes for clients that arrive very early. If you take a client in early and give them their full appointment time plus the extra time at the beginning, they will be encouraged to continue the behavior. They will realize the earlier they arrive, the more free table time they will receive.

6. It makes it less likely for them to rebook.

Clients are coming to see you, as a therapist, because you provide structure, respect, and care. Being clear about the amount of time you spend with a client is a great way to have firm boundaries. Ending a session when there is still work to do is a great opportunity to educate your client. It took months or years to create the patterns we are addressing in the body. You cannot be expected to “fix” it all in an hour. Give them something to look forward to the next time and a reason to re-book.

7. It puts pressure on your clients to spend more money than they planned for.

When you give a client extra time, it puts pressure on them to tip you more or to pay for the extra time, even if that is not your intention. You can tell them you are not going to charge them more, but they feel bad. This situation can put undue stress on your client/therapist relationship. Remedy this potential awkward situation in advance by asking if they would like to upgrade their session before the session begins.

8. It makes it harder to upsell the client to buy a longer session in the future.

It is simple to say, “we keep running out of time, you should consider coming in for a 90-minute session next time.” It is impossible to upsell if you are turning their 60-minute massage into a 90-minute massage by going over on time and not charging them.

9. It cuts into your bottom line.

Most massage therapists charge by the hour. Every minute you go over, is another minute you are not being paid. Employees with other jobs would not dream of working for free, why should you?

A great alternative to going over on time is to simply ask the client if they would like to upgrade their massage to a longer session. Tell them the price difference and see if they are ok with it. That is a way to increase your revenue and build your business. If a client is late, be up front with them that you cannot give them extra time, even if you do have the time. Setting that boundary with everyone is extremely important. Trust me, I struggled with late clients for years. It is extremely freeing when you stick to your boundary and have clear rules for all your clients, no matter how much you like them.

What to do if your client has a muscle spasm during a massage

If it hasn’t happened to you already, it will. You are giving a relaxing  massage and your client’s breath is taken away by the sudden pain of a muscle cramp. You spring into action and quickly guide your client in a way that stops the charley horse in its tracks. Here is a quick and easy fail proof technique to stop a spasm.

  1. Take your hands off the client.
  2. Ask the client where the cramp is.
  3. Have the client contract the opposite muscle or muscle group from the muscle that is in spasm.
  4. Have the client hold the contraction of the antagonist muscle until the spasm has stopped.

If there is time left in the session, continue the massage. Avoid the area that was in spasm. The muscle needs time to rest and recuperate. Refrain from stretching, compressing, or manipulating the muscle. Any work in that area could cause the muscle to spasm again.

At the end of the session, ask your client about how much water they had that day. Chances are, they are dehydrated. If they were well hydrated, a nutritional deficiency or possibly a medication side effect could be the culprit. Stay within your scope of practice and refer out as needed. Do not dabble in nutrition if you are not qualified to do so.

If the muscle cramp was due to overuse, like from an intense athletic activity – encourage your client to rest in addition to hydration.

If a client has a spasm on your table, it is a great opportunity to educate them on the wonders of reciprocal inhibition. Antagonist, or opposite, muscles cannot contract at the same time (example – the biceps and the triceps). Knowing this and a little anatomy can allow your client to take action if they have a spasm, even if it happens outside of your presence.

Check out the video above for examples of how to execute cramp management for a spasm in the low back and the calf.

Are tip jars appropriate or tacky?

            Tip jars can be a subtle way to let your clients know you accept tips. They can be especially helpful when working with the public in a situation where they may not be aware that it is appropriate to tip. However, it can come across as pushy or even tacky to put out a jar or envelopes soliciting a gratuity.

            If you are relying on tips, it is an indicator that you are not charging enough. Tips should be a bonus to your income, not something that you depend on to make ends meet.

            Have you ever been to a restaurant and it was clear that the server was soliciting tips? You know, they immediately tell you their life story and how many jobs they are working to get by? It is uncomfortable, right? This is exactly the situation you do not want to be in as a solo massage business owner. It should not be part of the experience to ask your clients for additional money. Have one clear price where you believe you are receiving the compensation that is appropriate for your business and services.

            Joyce, what if I am doing a free chair massage event? Well, grasshopper, doing free chair massage is a rite of passage every new massage therapist must experience. Chair massage is a great way for potential clients to experience your work. Free chair massage is a long-term investment in your business. If you work at a free chair massage event and book one client as a result, and that client comes to see you once a month for years, then that did not end up being a free chair massage event. You actually made thousands of dollars from a few hours of chair massage. Putting out a gratuity jar seems like small potatoes compared to the long game, right? The same goes for the end of a massage in your office. Getting the client to rebook is much more lucrative than a tip. Keep your eye on the prize.

            Putting out a tip cup is living in the moment when it comes to your income. I want you to think about your business and money long-term. Getting clients to come back and see you multiple times over the course of many years should be the goal, not squeezing another $20 out of them at the end of the massage.

            Tips happen naturally, and I expect you to accept them with grace. I’m not saying to turn them away. What I am saying is that soliciting tips with a jar or envelopes could put your clients on the spot and make for an uncomfortable and unprofessional situation. This practice could ultimately hurt your business more than help it.

The Secret to Effective Massage Marketing

It’s all about consistency. Keep your targeted “ideal client” in mind, and market directly to them. You need to accomplish four things in each marketing strategy you deploy.

  1. Get their attention
  2. Introduce yourself
  3. Get them to know and trust you
  4. Make them comfortable with giving you their time, money, and body.

When you look at it that way, it seems like a lot. That’s because it is! Anyone that is trying to sell you a fast or easy way to market, is marketing to you themselves.

There are plenty of ways to market to your clients without being sleazy or salesey. Just be genuine and truthful. Be upfront about being a massage therapist and being the one that can help them. If you provide value within your marketing techniques, your potential clients are going to be more likely to engage with you and your business. It gives them a chance to check you out.

Here is an example:

Write a blog post about safe ways to massage a pregnant woman’s feet. This is how it accomplishes all the goals listed above:

Get their attention – you have written an article that is for pregnant women (and their loved ones) specifically. It is like you are talking directly to them.

Introduce yourself – they will get to know you through your writing and have the opportunity to explore the rest of your website to learn about you and your practice.

Get them to know and trust you – you are letting your knowledge and education shine through your writing. Since you are taking the time and care to make sure they are safe, it allows them to trust your expertise.

Make them comfortable with giving you their time, money, and body – you have proven that you are an expert in prenatal massage. You are the person to go to in the area if you are pregnant and want a massage.

Take it a step further – provide a class at your office. Pregnant ladies (and their partners/families) can come to your office and learn proper, safe massage techniques for the feet. Do you see how this can be even more effective in getting them to meet you and your practice?

Even better?! Teach the same class at an OBGYN office. This not only lets your expertise shine, but it shows you are endorsed by their doctor, someone they already know and trust. Bring the appointment book to this one, because you are going to be booked!

Touching on the point I made at the beginning of this post, be consistent. You can’t expect to write one blog, or teach one class, and have clients pounding down your door. Develop a strategy and execute it over a period of time. You must put yourself in front of your target audience multiple times before they will be ready to take the next step. Stay consistent and your hard work will pay off.

Watch the video below for more details.

How being in control of your schedule can lead to more bookings

Creating scarcity in your massage business schedule gives your clients a reason to act. If you are available to take appointments seven days a week at any hour, there is little motivation for your clients to schedule in advance. Also, you do not appear to be a successful massage therapist when your schedule has a lot of availability within it. What restaurant would you rather eat in, the one with the empty parking lot or the one where you need reservations a month in advance? Create a scenario in which your clients feel as if they must schedule their appointments in advance. If they do not rebook or have a reoccurring appointment, they may have to wait weeks (or months) to get on your schedule.

I started realizing the power of scarcity when I started taking vacations. When I took my first week off, two years into my practice, my clients FREAKED OUT. Like, they totally went bonkers like I was never coming back. The week before and after my vacations were completely booked to the point where I had a waiting list. So, when I started taking time off, I got busier. I know it seems counter-intuitive. Fewer days and  hours should mean fewer clients and less money. However, my schedule became busier with recurring clients, clients that rebooked, and clients that were booking further out in advance because they became afraid of missing out. FOMO! They were more motivated to book because they realized I wasn’t always sitting and waiting for the phone to ring. They had to schedule in advance to make sure they got their spot.

Now, if you are already in business and want to pull back on your hours, or days, or even incorporate more vacation time, you must be clear with your existing clients and potential clients WHY you are pulling back on your time in the office. If you don’t say anything about it, it can appear to outsiders that you are not busy enough to fill your schedule, so you are cutting back. There are plenty of good reasons to decrease your hours. (Like, you need to work on your sailboat so you can live your dreams!) Just make sure that your clients know why you are decreasing your hours so they don’t think the worst. The real reason is, you are successful and want to enjoy life more! You should be shouting it from the rooftops!

I give you full permission to have the schedule of your dreams. I give you permission to take vacations. Show your clients that self-care is important – it is a subtle way to empower them to do the same.

Want to dive deeper into this subject? Watch the YouTube video!

Book More Clients by Using Treatment Plans

If you are looking for a quick, easy way to build your massage practice, please stop. If you find anyone touting that they can build your practice quickly, they are just trying to sell you something. Building a busy, successful massage practice takes time. There are hundreds of nuanced factors that lead to a full schedule, and it can take months, or even years, to get there. Be patient, grasshopper. If you build your practice with a firm foundation of boundaries and structure, you will find success.

Building a long-term relationship with each client is probably the easiest way to fill your massage schedule. Attaining new clients is more expensive and time consuming than rebooking current clients. The best way to rebook clients is to have a plan. From the first moments you talk to a new client, you should be thinking about how often this client needs to come in to achieve their desired results.

Have a conversation with your client when they first come in. Ask them what they want from massage therapy, not only for the current session, but for future sessions. Ask them what their short-term and long-term goals are for health and wellness. No matter what your client’s answer is, there will always be the need for a long-term treatment plan. The only difference between situations will be frequency of visits.

Example One: A client that was recently in a car accident. This client not only presents with neck pain radiating down their arm, but the client is also clearly traumatized by the accident. They have difficulty getting in a car for fear of getting into another accident.

It is appropriate, in this case, for this particular client to be coming in for massages once a week (or more). I am recommending once a week, because in this situation I am assuming this client is seeing other practitioners, as well, such as a chiropractor and therapist.

Example Two: A client that works at a desk all day and runs in the morning (when they can) and on the weekend. They are pretty stressed out between the kids, the house, the job, etc. They come in for a massage just to “relax,” or to release muscle tension if they have a big race coming up. This client can be tricky. They can be harder to pin down because they look at massage as a luxury or perhaps something they only need when they feel pain. Educating this client is key. You could easily be seeing them at a minimum of once per month. Let them know the importance of having time for them in their schedule every month. Educate them on the importance of regular massages for injury prevention. Don’t let this client slip through the cracks because they are not injured or in immediate distress. This client can function at a higher level at their job, as a parent, and as a weekend warrior athlete by receiving regular care.    

Each and every client that comes to you has a potential treatment plan. Be clear from the beginning of the session that you are in it for the long haul. Educate and show your clients with results the benefits of regular massage. If you master this skill, you won’t need to hustle for new clients for very long.