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Introducing the Acupuncture Today Digital Edition
In response to the changing habits of our readers, Acupuncture Today will introduce a digital edition of the publication (in addition to our print edition) beginning with the August 2016 issue.
Sit or Stand? Analyzing a Mixed Message
I'm more than a bit confused. At my age, that seems to be a rather common occurrence. However, today more than ever, I'm getting a mixed message.
Increasing the Value of Spine Care: CMS Approves New Low Back Pain Registry
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the Spine IQ Low Back Pain Registry as a qualified clinical data registry for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) in 2016.
An MD Who Understands the Opioid Epidemic
Doctors of chiropractic have an important role to play in ending the opioid epidemic and dealing with chronic pain by conservative means (see our top story in this issue) – but who's to blame for opioid dependence and abuse in the first place?
Adventures with the San Jiao
Those of us who have been in practice for several decades relish the way meridians and points reveal new diagnostic clues and new insights. I love to encourage my students to see this as an adventure that goes way beyond the textbooks.
Believe it or not, an estimated one-third of your patients have eaten some form of fast food within 24 hours of their appointment with you.
Beating the Odds: Interview With Para-Powerlifter Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta
Since October 2015, the FICS Foundation, the charitable organization affiliated with the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS), has been supporting disabled athletes internationally.
The Pertinent Negative
We all have to perform evaluations on patients. Most of us don't like doing it – exams take time, and worse it takes even more time after the evaluation to put together a narrative summary of the findings. Sometimes, this process becomes downright tedious.
Multivitamin Supplement May Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the value of multiple vitamin supplements in cancer prevention.
Treating Hip & Groin Pain With Abdominal Release of Upper Lumbar Nerve Impingements
Have you encountered patients with groin and hip pain you can't seem to solve? You know it's not a worn-out hip; you suspect the pain is somehow connected to the spine. But somehow, you just can't help them break through.
How to Stay Sane During the Elections: Understanding Through the Lens of Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine philosophy, everything consists of Yin and Yang. The law of polar opposites – one cannot exist without its opposite.
AOM Hospital-Based Practice: A Future Reality?
The natural evolution of health care on the planet is integrative health. We may have some challenges ahead, but based on my research, all indicators are pointing in a positive direction. There seems to be an evolving consciousness among our patient population that is "getting it."
An Emerging Partnership Model
Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) has educated integrative health and wellness practitioners for the last 40 years, originally as an acupuncture clinic and school. The institution's transformative, relationship-centered programs integrate traditional wisdom with contemporary science
What You Say Isn't Always What Patients Hear
A few years ago, my aunt Edna (name changed for the purpose of this story) suffered a stroke. After a short hospital stay, she was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation. When she arrived at the nursing home, Edna requested a private room.
What's New in Phytonutrition: Mangifera Indica, "The King of Fruits"
One hundred percent pure Indian green mango fruit (mangifera indica), harvested at a special degree of ripeness for efficacy and taste, can now be concentrated as a phytonutrient nutraceutical powder.
Acupuncture's Impact on the World
For several years, I have been hearing about the town of Rothenburg, Germany. It seemed just a dot on a map until I arrived. It is the home of the TCM Kongress which began in 1968. It has been held annually for 47 years and it has only missed one year.
Tai Chi Documentary Premier
First Run Features recently announced the world theatrical premiere of Barry Strugatz's documentary The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West, which premiered last month at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.
Insuring Quality Control in Herb Importation: An Interview with Wilson Lau
Wilson Lau is the vice president of Nuherbs, a Chinese herb importation company based in San Leandro, California. Before joining Nuherbs, he trained as a lawyer specializing in FDA law.
Kansas Achieves Licensing Law
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed House Bill 2615 into law on Friday, May 13, 2016. HB2615 includes provisions for the licensure of acupuncturists in the state of Kansas.
Chronic Pain: Become Part of the Solution
I have lectured to more than 7,000 chiropractic physicians over the past five years regarding the chronic pain and opioid epidemic in this country.
Acupuncture Muscle Trigger Point and Oriental Medicine Sports Therapy
It is difficult to ascertain the internal condition of professional basketball player Lebron James during game one of the 2014 NBA finals, in which he developed debilitating muscle cramps that led to his premature removal from the game.
A Long-Overdue Win for Oregon Medicaid Patients - and the Implications for Other States
Beginning July 1, 2016, Oregon Medicaid patients with spinal pain (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, pelvic) who are determined to be low risk based on a biopsychosocial assessment tool (STarT Back – Keele University) can receive four chiropractic visits per episode.
Three Tips to Help You Analyze the Acupuncture Case Studies of the NCCAOM Exam
Confirm the answer quickly by the elimination method. Case study:
After two treatments for back pain, a patient presents for a third
session complaining of rapid breathing and wheezing that is made worse
during cold weather.
February, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 02
Successful Therapists Reveal Key Tactics
By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT
A recent poll by Massage Today indicates that most massage therapists are experiencing a reduction in their number of clients.This should come as no surprise, as this represents the tightening of purse strings and belts by most Americans. As of the autumn of 2008, the United States has seen some of the worst economic times since the Great Depression. And although, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we are not there yet. Many sole practitioners are struggling to make ends meet, spas are closing as fast as they once opened, and hiring new therapists has come to a halt. It seems that there just isn't enough business. But, as the recent poll also revealed, there's hope.
Thirty-six percent of those surveyed in the Massage Today poll responded that their number of clients has stayed consistent, if not improved. I wondered how this could be the case in these troubled times. What are they doing "right" or different from the 64 percent who said they had a shift in their numbers? Is there some way to quantify or describe what to do to make this happen? What can these successful therapists share with the readers in an effort to boost client numbers across the board?
I was determined to find out.
After several months of interviewing, I have compiled thoughts and responses of dozens of successful therapists. Although this is a very informal study, I attempt to represent a cross-section of therapists ranging in age, length of practice, and region in the U.S. What follows is a description of what many massage therapists are doing to keep their businesses strong.
The general consensus of the therapists I surveyed is that existing business has stayed consistent, if not improved, but that finding new business is more difficult. In tough economic times, trying something new, especially something with an undetermined value, is difficult for the average consumer. If you have never had a massage before, now might not be the best time to start. If you are a veteran of massage, you might not wish to try someone new but rather, stick with your "sure thing" therapist. It is a risk to spend $75 and 75 minutes of time on something you are unfamiliar with. The choices people make during an economic downturn are based on familiarity and established value. So while the successful bunch of MTs are keeping their regular clients, new clients are harder to secure.
I believe the answer to this dilemma lies in sampling. Have you ever changed brands of a product because you tried a sample? If I like a sample of something, the risk of purchasing the entire product is greatly reduced. I would not consider spending $10 on a gallon of laundry soap without first smelling and feeling its effects on my linens. The same is true for massage. Giving a 10-minute sample of your service can reduce the risk of booking for an entire hour. Get your hands busy, "give to get" and let new potential clients sample your work.
Quality of Work
A second theme that is pervasive in my interviewing is quality of work. Every single one of the therapists I interviewed said they did "good" work. I know that means different things to different people and is hard to quantify but the quality of your massage must be up to snuff. If you are unsure of your work, ask someone you trust to give you feedback. If clients are not rescheduling, your radar should go off. This is the most basic of concepts. All the business acumen in the world won't matter if you don't provide a quality hands-on service. Terms that were used to describe what this means include: consistency, client-centered, therapeutic, results oriented, present, intuitive, tailored to each client, never the same, big bag of tricks, personal preferences, skill set, and not a routine.
Educating the Client
All the therapists interviewed agree that educating clients is the key to retention. "We are all experts at ignoring our bodies", said one therapist. This provides an opportunity to teach clients about ergonomics, posture, overall well-being and including massage into their wellness program. An educated client will reschedule more frequently, recognizing or having been trained to recognize that massage is a vital component to healthcare.
Rescheduling the Client
Furthermore, all agree that rescheduling clients, preferably before they leave the office, is the key to keeping a full schedule. "How often clients get massaged is not as important as how regularly they get a massage," said one 26-year veteran in the industry. He said that every client has a rescheduling formula that works best for their body. If they stick to that schedule, even if it is once every three months, it is better than if they get three massages in three weeks and then not again for a year. Consistency is the key. It is that same consistency that keeps your schedule full.
If a client chooses not to reschedule at the time of the appointment, many of the therapists interviewed said they have a follow-up program in place. One therapist has a chalkboard in her office and keeps track of when to follow-up with clients. Perhaps Mr. Smith can't reschedule now but asks her to contact him at the end of the season. She records his name and a date to call and stays on top of the schedule so no one goes missing. It is good relations to provide this service. Keeping track of someone's schedule might feel like a burden but if it means booking a client and a full calendar, you should be more than willing to do it. Other therapists record the follow-up date in their calendar or smartphone.
The point is to have a system in place. It is a better use of time and resources to retain the clients you already have versus drumming up new business. "Don't let your existing clients drop off if they like your service. Find a way to make it easy to reschedule with you," said a 7-year veteran in a rural community.
Make the Client Feel Special
In this day and age of speed and instant gratification, time is a commodity. Often what massage offers to clients is the gift of time. On average, an hour is spent with the client and it is their time to dream, heal, release or escape their daily lives. Many therapists commented that they are not clock watchers and while they need to maintain a schedule for their appointments, they don't book so close together that clients feel rushed. "Cultivating relationships and spending time with your clients is the key to making them feel special," according to a therapist in the Midwest.
While this may not be true in every community, especially more urban areas, the idea of making a client feel special transcends geographical borders. Everyone wants to feel special and unrushed and when asked, each therapist described a way they did this with their existing clients. "Discover your own special way," was sage advice from a newly established, already successful, young therapist from the South.
Lastly, I asked all the interviewees about raising their prices. In tough economic times, it is usually prudent to hold steady and not raise prices. However, as everything has gone up around us, so has the operating expense of our practices. Yet, none of the therapists interviewed had a price increase in the last two years. In fact, some had not raised prices in the last five years. "At this time, I want to be respectful of the economy and not put additional financial strain on my clients," said one entrepreneur who runs a group practice. Furthermore, not one therapist is planning a price increase this year, although all agreed they probably should.
Summary of Findings
There is no magic formula in this economy. Certain areas of the country have been more affected than others but overall, our industry has not remained unscathed. Speaking to this successful group of therapists revealed a few things. New business is harder to garner at this particular time in history. You must provide quality work if you want to be successful. Having clients reschedule at a consistent rate, whatever that formula is, keeps a schedule full. Clients want to feel special and unrushed. And lastly, everyone wishes they could raise their rates.
There was much more I gleaned from these interviews but these tidbits were consistent throughout. There is one take-home message that I will leave you with. A 9-year veteran hit the nail on the head when she said, "Cultivate a clientele that doesn't consider massage a luxury. It must be part of healthcare."
I welcome your comments and feedback. Stay focused.
Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.
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