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Massage Today
November, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 11

Practice Building: Taking Your Massage Practice to the Next Level

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Many massage therapists are frustrated by how the current economic situation has affected their practice. They are having difficulty making ends meet while trying to find or maintain continuous employment. While most massage therapists love their chosen profession, many doubt their ability to sustain themselves financially in the field over the long term.

Sound familiar? There is hope! There are proven strategies to create an effective plan of action that will help you build a rewarding and financially lucrative career as a massage therapist. It starts with asking some vital questions and then using the answers to help focus your time and efforts in ways that produce positive results.

Clarify Your Goals

Free your mind by capturing your thoughts on paper. This will help you get organized and focused. Start by writing your goals, followed by the actions you need to take to achieve them. Be as specific as possible. For example, don't set a general goal: "I want to make more money." Instead, set a specific goal: "I want to make $10,000 more this year." Another general goal would be "I want to have a more regular treatment schedule," but a specific goal would be "I want to treat my clients on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 pm to 7 p.m."

Create an Action List

Once you have specifically defined your goals, you will have a clearer idea of the questions you need to ask yourself to determine the actions you need to take to achieve them. Think about the following questions and answers related to increasing your income.

Question: What businesses in my area could also be referral sources?

Answer: First make a list of potential sources in your area. Depending on the modalities you practice, these could include chiropractors, physicians, physical therapists and health care providers; professional office complexes; health food stores; hotels; gyms; and hair and nail salons. After you have created a viable list, hit the ground running. Schedule an appointment, call or simply pop in for a visit to introduce yourself and explain what you do, how you can help and how to schedule an appointment.

Question: How can I educate my clients so they see progress quickly and become raving fans that refer their friends, family and coworkers?

Answer: Take a few minutes to perform a full evaluation, provide education and develop a customized treatment plan to meet each client's specific needs. Taking such measures will gain your clients' respect and confidence, earning you a reputation as a knowledgeable and skilled massage therapist. Integrate postural analysis photos and trigger-point charts into your treatment plans so that your clients will understand why they hurt and how you can help. Encourage your clients to commit to a series of treatments that will reduce and/or eliminate their pain. Other articles I have written on this topic include: Getting Comfortable with Postural Analysis (MT July 2008), Simple Answers Create Positive Results (MT May 2008) and Charting Your Progress: Visuals for Success (MT February 2008).

Question: Which clients and referral sources should I focus on to increase my income?

Answer: Typically, 20 percent of clients will produce 80 percent of your income and/or 20 percent of your referral sources will send you 80 percent of your clients. I have written several articles on this topic: The 80/20 Rule: Maximizing the Return on your Investment (MT March 2008).

Question: How can I ensure that my clients will come back to see me?

Answer: Nurture your relationships with your clients by making follow-up phone calls, sending "thank you" cards, offering treatment specials and showing a genuine concern for their overall health and well-being. Another article I have written on this topic: Building Raving Fans: Consistency is the Key (MT April 2008).

Question: What products can I sell to generate additional income?

Answer: Items like topical analgesics are popular with the public and have a 50 percent markup. It is important to realize that making just an extra $20 a week in profit from selling topical analgesics adds up to more than $1,000 in your pocket at the end of the year. One manufacturer will send therapists complimentary brochures printed with the therapist's name and phone number, as well as a sample of the product attached. This saves valuable advertising dollars while helping to promote your business.

Question: Who has the experience, resources and track record to help mentor and guide me?

Answer: It is very important to keep up on the current research in the field, as well as become familiar with the industry's movers and shakers. Continue reading professional trade publications such as Massage Today. Seek mentors who provide an array of resources to help you grow your practice, such as seminars and home-study programs, online resources, and products. For tips on designing empowering questions to help clarify your goals and determine the actions you need to take to get there, read The Power of the List (MT January 2008).


Once you have listed specific goals and the actions you need to take to achieve them, the next step is to create a timeline for completing each action. The word syntax involves the arrangement of parts or elements. The order of these parts or elements determines the outcome. For example, a phone number is a form of syntax. It consists of a series of digits in a specific order (area code + phone number). To call a specific person, it is necessary to dial all of the digits in the correct order or your call will not be successful. The same concept applies to your practice. There is a syntax, or order, in which you must complete each action to achieve your goals.

Question: What is my timeline to perform each action so I achieve my goals?

Answer: Write each step you need to complete on a calendar on the date you plan to start the task and the day you intend to complete the task. Be sure to schedule a date and time for each action. Plan a day to research online and then drive around to become familiar with the local businesses in your target area. Plan another day to write and practice what you will show and tell referral sources and potential clients about your services. I always carry a trigger-point flip chart with me so that I can show people that I understand their pain and that I can help. Be familiar with your charts so that you are able to quickly show pain patterns. Schedule several days to hit the streets to market your business.

Follow Through

Take a few minutes every day to work on attaining your goals. To succeed, you must consistently write down your goals and the actions necessary to achieve them. Then you must frequently review your action list and follow through. Each day, ask yourself: What are three items on my action list that I could work on today to help build my practice? Other articles I have written on this topic include: The Power of a Minute (MT June 2007), Consistency Breeds Success (MT February 2009) and Hire Me! Getting a Job in a Tough Environment (MT April 2009).

I hope this article has stimulated a few ideas and provided the motivation for you to focus your time and efforts in ways that will take your practice to the next level.

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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