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Massage Today
February, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 02

Are Your Clients Trained?

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Many of my students have been asking me about the economy and how it has affected my practice. I understand their concern and value their questions. I am also pleased that they feel comfortable enough to ask and are considering the future of the industry and how the changed economy is going to affect the bottom line. That's head-ups thinking and shows me my teaching efforts are paying off.

We have a candid conversation about the economy, where I think it is headed (not that President Obama asked me) and how my business is doing in these tough times. I am pleased to admit that my private practice has not suffered one bit. The reason is simple. My clients are trained.

There are two sides to the massage industry. There is the health care side of the industry and the personal care side. "Health care" encompasses medical massage, treatment of injuries and specific conditions, and massage for general well-being. This is by no means an exhaustive list. The "personal care" side of massage typically happens in spas and salons, on cruises or at resorts. The clients are not "regulars" and often schedule as a result of a gift certificate or special occasion. Both are necessary and valid models of care, and many massage therapists have their hands in both camps.

One of the most appealing aspects of being a massage therapist is variety and flexibility. The typical therapist has two or more jobs, so you often find an MT who works in both the health care and personal care setting. Other MTs have a preference and focus more in one area. Both are fine and acceptable; no judgment here.

The interesting point to make is that in these tough economic times, one of these camps has taken a "hit" and one has stayed constant. Can you guess? Americans, and people all over the world, have cut back on excessive spending. Much of that excessive spending falls into the personal care category. Getting your nails done or having highlights put in your hair can wait an extra week or two, or be tabled altogether. When the choice is between a good manicure or food, the right decision seems clear.

Health care, however, is an area that people have not skimped on. The dollars spent on getting well and staying well has remained constant and unchanged, and I believe that is the key to being recession proof. Taken to another level, the trend has been to spend extra money to stay well in the first place.

Training Your Clients

Here's where the training comes in. My clients are "trained" that the care I provide is health care. Now more than ever, it is important to stay healthy, not get sick and miss work, not throw out your back, and keep your musculature strong. This is not the time to skimp on massage dollars. You've heard the saying, "penny wise and pound foolish"? That applies directly to paying for regular massage as part of health care and preventing sickness or injury in the first place. The average client will save time away from work and money if they consider and use massage as part of health care.

The easiest way to "train" your clients that massage and what you provide is health care is to decline tips. Turn away money? Yep. Something as simple as declining a tip sends a message to your client that you are not a personal care provider. Just today, I was given a $10 tip. I kindly gave it back to the client, thanked her for the compliment and told her the best compliment is the referral of family and friends. She had a puzzled look on her face and I further informed her that I consider myself an allied health care professional. "Just like you don't tip your doctor or psychotherapist, I don't accept tips either. If I considered myself a personal care provider like your nail technician or stylist, I would happily accept the tip." She was blown away, but understood. Within minutes, she booked another appointment for two weeks later.

There is no doubt about it: Tough economic times are here for a while. People will continue to cut their budget and personal spending. However, I think you can recession proof your practice by positioning yourself on the side of health care. "Train" your clients by educating them about what you do, how you do it and how it can help them.

Stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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