by Pallas Hutchison
Last April, I joined a BNI group and found that the 60 second elevator speech is mildly terrifying. I don’t want to say the same thing week after week but what to talk about? It’s hard to do more than introduce massage in 60 seconds so how do I describe my business, massage, which I view as a complex and widely varied topic…
My solution: Research common massage myths and debunk them one at a time. Not only do I have something to talk about for several weeks but I also can turn each myth into it’s own blog to fully explore and correct misconceptions about my field of work.
To me, the statement “All massages are the same” is obviously ridiculous. To someone not as familiar with massage and bodywork, let me give you a few examples.
A hammer and a saw are both tools, therefore they must be interchangeable. While cutting down a tree with a hammer may work eventually, it certainly is not the most efficient approach to the problem. A podiatrist is a doctor; so is an ophthalmologist…. Therefore it wouldn’t matter who is testing your vision. The many years of school required by all doctors makes them familiar with every part of the body. However, their specialization varies and determines what services they provide to their patients. The same can be said of massage practitioners.
Bodywork includes massage therapy but not all bodywork is considered massage. An analogy for this would be a boot is a type of shoe but not all shoes are boots. (I will explore the vast catalog of bodywork in a future post.) Massage is a general term for a wide array of therapeutic touch modalities. Styles and techniques have developed independently on every continent over thousands of years. Dozens of different applications are taught by countless schools around the globe. Each student gravitates towards a different specialization, accumulating a unique combination of skills. Now take into account the individual’s value system and life experiences. The result is not a cookie-cutter massage script that every therapist follows to the letter for every client every day.
The following are two fictional bodyworkers to help further illustrate the misconception:
Speaking from experience, I have not given the same massage twice, even to the same client. Each time someone comes in my door, they have a different body than the previous visit. By listening to each client, I get a different area to focus on. They’ve taken a long car trip (focus on low back, glutes and driving leg) or they’ve babysat their three grandchildren (just relax, with some focus on left shoulder from holding the baby). They’ve run in a 5k (all leg work please) or they’ve spent too many hours in front of their computer for work (shoulders hunched forward, pecs shortened, neck and eyes strained). I can keep creating scenarios and explaining what I would expect to see but I think my point has been made.
by Pallas Hutchison
Many people view massage and other spa treatments as luxury services. Without a doubt, it feels luxurious with a good therapist. However, the body treatments offered in many spas do more than just feel good. A good spa immediately lowers stress levels - which also lowers blood pressure - by simply providing a soothing atmosphere to remove clients from an often hectic lifestyle. Frequently, clients receive herbal teas or water infusions while waiting for their treatments to begin. Candles and incense further soothe or stimulate, depending on the scents chosen. Relaxing and healing services offered vary and include combinations of massage, body scrubs and wraps, reflexology, aromatherapy, and energy work.
Massage reduces stress, pain, anxiety, and depression using various techniques including effleurage, petrissage, and friction. Deep tissue and sports massage techniques can correct chronic conditions and postural issues over time. Stretches used in Thai massage - similar to many yoga poses - keep muscles flexible, restoring range-of-motion after injuries and helping prevent future ones.
Body scrubs, usually salt or sugar based, remove dead skin cells and improve circulation as well as detoxify the body. Mud, clay, and algae wraps hydrate and soften the skin, drawing out toxins while putting the client in a deeply relaxed state. The products used during these body treatments may also be infused with essential oils to further enhance their therapeutic value.
Reflexology uses specific points on the hands, feet, and sometimes ears that correspond with areas of the body. By stimulating these points, good health is promoted throughout the body's systems.
Some spas also offer holistic energy healing such as Reiki, a restorative practice originating in Japan. Reiki practitioners tap into an inexhaustible universal energy source, directing it through themselves into their clients to enhance the natural healing process. The energy is drawn to the injured areas and leaves the client balanced and energized. Unlike other spa treatments, clients remain fully clothed and may not even come in contact with the practitioner.
First-time spa clients speak with an experienced therapist or aesthetician for help in learning what treatments are right for them. By taking advantage of spa services on a regular basis, clients become healthier in body, mind, and spirit.
by Pallas Hutchison
For the first few years of doing massage, I went through a long series of sneakers and shoes. Some squeaked as I moved. Others cut into my ankles or had so little traction, I'd slip along the carpet when I lunged into the deep strokes. One pair was so big and clunky that I tripped over my own feet. The task of finding the right shoe to massage in seemed impossible.
Eventually, I lost the shoes altogether and started massaging with just my socks on. By sticking to basic black or dark grey, I still kept my appearance professional. My feet and ankles were happy. Problem solved. At least, it was up until about two years ago when a client jokingly complained that my socks were boring. It hadn't occurred to me that my footwear, or lack of, would matter to clients.
I know it's a little odd but I love socks. The funkier the pattern, the better. My current favorites are poly-fleece slipper socks that my sister got me a few years ago. Not only are they delightfully tacky prints but they fit my little feet perfectly and they're thick and warm.
I dug out a fun pair of socks and brought them to the office to wear for his next appointment to see if he'd actually notice. He did. At each of his weekly sessions, I'd try to outdo the previous pair in brightness or tackiness. Other clients began commenting on the fun socks and now I wear them for all of my sessions. It has grown into a running joke with existing clients and, to my surprise, a great ice-breaker for new clients.
There is some controversy among the massage industry around our selected footwear. Some claim that we make ourselves appear less professional by eschewing shoes. Others, like myself, feel that barefoot is unprofessional and possible unhygienic but stocking-clad feet pass muster. What do you think?
by Pallas Hutchison
Building a client base is a huge challenge for any new business, whether it is a service- or product-based industry. When I opened my business, I had no official business management training or financial expertise. I still don’t balance my own checkbook; that's my accountant's job. To jump start my client base, I jumped on the shared revenue bandwagon with minimal research first.
What is a shared revenue company?
(For ease of writing/reading this, I’ll abbreviate this to SRC.) The concept is relatively simple. A vendor offers a deal. The SRC sends your deal to their consumer database using a combination of email, print, social media, and radio advertising; the methods of distribution vary depending on the SRC in question. The SRC collects money when people buy the deal and sends the consumer a voucher. You receive a share of the revenue once the deal closes. The consumer brings you a voucher. You redeem it. Presto, you have a new client.
Groupon and Living Social are probably the most familiar names. Local companies have also entered this emerging market. For me, that means Limelight (an off-shoot of the Cape Cod Times marketing department) and Cape Cod Daily Deal (an independent company, I think). The SRCs make a big deal about their consumer base, claiming that they’re great tippers and just looking to discover new businesses.
The representatives from the SRCs I’ve dealt with have been fabulous, except for Living Social. They are very helpful and motivated to generate sales on my behalf. However, the fine print can cause some problems if you don’t pay attention. Keep in mind that this is a contracted agreement and the SRCs want to make money, not just help businesses reach a wider client pool. So, before you sign up make sure you understand the agreement….
Deciphering the Financial Mumbo Jumbo:
The deals offered need to be substantial, usually a discount of 50% or more. Of that 50%, the vendor splits the income generated with the SRC. This leaves the vendor with 40-60% of the net revenue, depending on the SRC.
I ran a deal for 50% off a 60-minute massage. My rate at the time ($70) got cut in half so consumers purchased the deal for $35. That’s a great deal, for them. To make the math easy, I’ll say I sold 100 of these discounted massages…
Original cost for 60-min massage: $70
Promotional price at 50% off: $35
Number of deals sold: 100
Gross income generated from the promotion: $3500
My cut (50% of the gross): $1750
Income generated from each 60-min massage: $17.50
When you take the business overhead (massage table, sheets, oil/lotion, office space, electricity, etc) into account, you’ll find that you may actually be losing money by offering these deals. This is especially true if you run a multi-practitioner establishment and a staff member handles the session. You can generate more money per voucher by upselling to a more expensive service, selling products and/or when you turn that person into a repeat client. Repeat clients are great but there are some things to consider: timing, location and deal-seekers.
Why does timing matter?
Depending on your business goals for the deal, and you should clearly spell out what you want to accomplish, the time of year you run the deal has a big impact. Do you want an influx of people coming into your business during your already hectic summer season? Probably not. The deal runs for a few days and consumers have 6 months, depending on the terms of the deal, to redeem it for the promotional value. (After the deal expires, you are usually required to honor the cash value.)
Here is an example timeline… To boost my slow season, I ran a promotion in November. This gives clients until June, and the beginning of my busy season, to redeem the deal. Also, in November, people are beginning to think about gift giving for the winter holidays so people aren’t just shopping for themselves.
There is another reason that timing is important. If you sell 100 deals and 25 want to redeem within the first week, your current clients won't have any available appointments and you may suffer cash flow problems. One possible solution would be to restrict redemption to specific days of the week. This is done by including the days in the fine print of your deal. By setting aside only certain days for voucher redemption, you keep your schedule open for your current clients to make appointments.
Why does location matter?
Look carefully at the region your deal will be publicized in. How many people are in the SRCs database for that region? How many show an interest in your industry? The SRCs should be able to give you the answer both of those questions.
If you’re in a rural area, how far is the commute from the target region? Running a deal through a smaller, local SRC will generate more local exposure, increasing the potential for repeat business. A national SRC, like Groupon, operates in larger regions. A larger region means more exposure to a higher number of potential clients. Neither choice is wrong; you decide which is right for you and your business goals.
For example, I live on Cape Cod, which is a seasonal beach destination about 90-minutes from Boston (depending on traffic). If you live in a vacation destination, like I do, you’re going to find that a lot of people purchase deals to offset the costs of their vacation. Many clients that redeem vouchers don’t live in my state, let alone within a reasonable commute. Those clients, if they vacation in the same area every year, might come in annually. Boston, while still a commute, isn’t a completely useless region to market in for Cape Cod businesses because some people visit on weekends throughout the year. However, regularly marketing to people that far my actual location is not going to generate the sustaining year-round clientele that is needed to stay in business.
What is a “Deal-Seeker” and why are they bad for my business?
For a few people, it is a budget issue; they want the services/products but can’t afford them at full price. If you’re willing to work with people to make it affordable, you will turn “deal-seekers” into loyal clients. Unfortunately, the majority of “deal-seekers” that I've dealt with just don’t want to pay full price, for anything, ever. They purchase deals often with little-to-no brand loyalty. These people rarely rebook without a discount incentive and tip poorly, if at all. In short, not your ideal client.
Bottom line: SRCs are effective tools when used intelligently!
There are a lot of factors that can make a deal successful. I have had successful campaigns and unsuccessful campaigns. My first one, I charged in without really knowing what was going on and it almost bankrupted my business. However, I have gotten several clients from deals that have turned into loyal customers. Some come in regularly and I’ve counted them as clients for several years.
Did you find this helpful? Share this article with other business owners!
If you’d like contact information for any of the SRCs I’ve mentioned, I would be happy to connect you with the right person. Best of luck with your deal!
If you’ve already run a deal, how did it go? Please share your experience in the comments!
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