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.