To market, To market

I was asked in a previous blog why I haven’t written about how I market my business, and how I have accrued my client base. Honestly I only have two bits of advice and they aren’t what you think they are.

I have a successful massage therapy practice, by all standards. I work in a small rural town on the coast of Maine, the great frozen north, getting warmer all the time. In my busy season (July through early October) I see on average 15-18 clients a week. The rest of the year, I average 8-12 per week, barring blizzards, flu or everyone going on vacation all at the same time.

August/September I’m flush. March/April I’m broke. It’s a success.

I’m blessed with drive, stamina, a good head for business, and, by far the most helpful thing of all, I was an English major in college. Which means I can write killer brochures, web content, newsletters and holiday postcards.

(*note – this is the only real marketing advice I will give: IT’S IN THE WRITING. Clients test drive your work long before they ever meet you in person: GET A GOOD WEBSITE. Here’s mine. I always ask new clients “How did you find out about me?” and I get two answers “Someone in town told me about you” and/or “I found you online and I liked what I read.”)

I am my own boss, employee, janitor, marketing director, educational consultant, administrative assistant, dishwasher, community outreach director and bookkeeper. It gets schizophrenic.

Here are two of my brochures, my biz card, the cards of others I recommend, and a good luck rabbit I got in Philly a few years ago.

Here are two of my brochures – one for my massage therapy practice, the other explaining the benefits of oncology massage, my biz card, the cards of others I recommend, and a good luck rabbit.

I work when I don’t want to. I work packed, intense days where I sit down only for 2 reasons: to work someone’s head/neck/upper chest supine, or to use the john. I give myself holidays off, but I still do 10, 12 hour days on occasion.

I wanted a massage practice and after 13 years full of doubts, fears, fatigue and tears, I have it. I now want new things for my practice, but I aimed the arrow and hit a bulls-eye. Blessed be. Here’s how it happened:

If you want clients, you have to work. For me — and maybe this is because I come from a long line of glum tireless Anabaptist farmers – there is no stronger incentive than being poor to sink everything you’ve got – your whole mind, body and spirit – into your practice, and make it happen. I have a dark side. This is one of the ways it serves me.

Nothing but massaging lots of people, as much as I could, even when I didn’t think I could, over and over, with consistency and ardor every time that client came in, made things get better. That means: seeing clients. Which only happens if a) they know you exist b) they can get in touch with you c) you respond to them and d) get them scheduled.

It’s work. Massaging someone is bliss; but getting them in your office and on your table is work. For every fifteen business cards you hand out, maybe one person will contact you. Get used to disappointment. And keep putting yourself out there.

If you have other options, you’ll take them. If there isn’t anything else, then you will stick with what you’ve got. Is massage what you want to do? Don’t let anything deter you: not your spouse’s plentiful income which makes your work unnecessary, not calls from your previous employer, not your deep desire to just be left at home puttering among the flowers.

Sometimes that gets decided for you: I had nothing else: no easier career, no part-time work that really satisfied, and no one to bail me out if I failed. I was a server at a popular restaurant in Belfast, Chase’s Daily, for four years.  I needed that work bad, to help me while I built my practice, but I knew eventually I had to quit.

In the movie “Living in the Material World,”  Olivia Harrison says, “What’s the secret of a long marriage? You don’t get divorced.” This is true of long-term relationships: with another person, a creative endeavor, or a career. You show up. Even & especially when you don’t know why.

Eventually the clients come, and the money, but actually you became a smarter, humbler, hungrier, and devoted person in the process, and THAT’S what people respond to: who YOU are. That’s an irresistible magnet, and it pulls people in faster than any marketing plan.

If there’s something inside you that always says, “yeah I love this,” hang in, dig in. You’ll love it even more in a short while. Even and especially during those short contemplative moments on the john.

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7 thoughts on “To market, To market

  1. Kristen,

    I have been having this conversation with myself for most of the summer. I have the possible opportunity to reduce my dayjob hours from 3/4 time to half-time in order to have more massage hours. I’m still not sure I have the clientele to make enough money to make up for the missing income. And like everyone, I’ve got bills that cannot go unpaid. I have a deadline for December on this decision, and I just don’t know how to screw my courage to its sticking point and jump. I feel like we just got financially comfortable. What if I mess it up? Gah!

    Long story short, thanks for the message. I’m working on it.

    • Hi Jade dear, thank you so much for writing. I am hoping you see this reply, as you have brought up something that I feel I really need to mention here, and that’s the importance of not quitting your “other job” before it’s time.

      Am I remembering correctly that you’re out of school just a few years? In this bossy post I made a few days ago, about the virtues of jumping in the deep end and holding on, I forgot — I FORGOT! — to mention that I worked at spas for years, got my own office 3 years into practicing, and 8 months later had to *close that office* and go back to working at spas again…for another 3 years…and by the time I hit my 6th year of practice, I was ready to have my own office again: the one I have now: the one I had a part-time job until 2 years ago to sustain.

      I have been in practice for over 13 years and only 2 years ago was I able to finally go full-time.

      I’m writing this to strongly encourage you: DO NOT discount the importance of financial stability. If you go solo too soon, you will be massaging people because you are desperate to make money, and you will be leaning into your practice, asking too much of it in its fledgling condition. (Like asking a small child to go grocery shopping.) No matter what good heart and great hands you have (and from other things you’ve written, I *know* you have both) clients will sense it and it will not be attractive to them.

      You’ll be pressuring the holiness of your work to be all things, and maybe it’s not quite there yet.
      It certainly wasn’t for me, when I first started, which is why I had to quit my first attempt and then wait a few years until I had more clients regularly rotating in and out of my schedule.

      I am not you, however, and so perhaps you actually DO have just enough clients – who will be willing to sing your praises to others – at this point in your career, that by December you can take that cautious step of making more time for your clients.

      I certainly wish you all the VERY best during this decision-making. Know that even if you mess it up, you have plenty of time to learn and get back on track, so you’ll be just fine in the long run. : )
      hope this helps! Jeepers.

  2. Kristen,

    Thanks for the reply. I am inching along. Getting more clients each month. I have high hopes. I have a handful of folks who have been with me for the last three years, and I am hoping to meet more like them. One of the nicest things about the Midwest is that we have a lot of folks just now starting to realize that massage can be complimentary to their overall health. It’s a good time to be a massage therapist here.

    Don’t worry. I won’t walk away from financial stability. I am mostly just assessing through the next 2 months if the numbers are good enough. It’s hard to tell when you’ve reached that point sometimes.

    Thanks for your encouragement!

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