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Balancing Spring Challenges
As the winter months come to a close and warmer spring weather appears, patients may begin to present with new challenging pattern presentations.
News in Brief
ACA Adopts New Governance Model; ACA 2017 Awards; CCA Helps Calif. DCs "Share the Love"; $1 Million to Help Advance the Profession; D'Youville Raises the Bar on Anatomy Education; ErRatum.
Women's Hormones: A Western & Eastern Perspective
Sometimes it may seem that you require a degree in medicine to understand hormones and how they function.
Creating Good Business Buzz
What do patients really think about working with you? Rarely do you hear the whole truth. Those who improve may be candid in their gratitude.
Why I Quit Doing House Calls
My father was a chiropractor who did house calls, so when I became a DC, I figured doing house calls was part of the job. My March article recalled my experience as a small boy, accompanying my dad while he went to patients' homes to treat them.
New Relationships, Old Trauma: AOM & Other Healing Strategies
Being in love is one the most beautiful and enjoyable experiences. Most of us are willing to pay almost any price to have that experience, and still often find it elusive or fleeting. Navigating the ups and downs of loving relationships are often challenging — even for the most psychologically balanced among us.
Clearing Blocks: A Way to Improve Cosmetic Acupuncture
As a Five Element acupuncturist who teaches facial acupuncture classes nationally, I was surprised to learn that one of the basic principles I was taught in school is unfamiliar to most acupuncturists.
Raditation & Your Smartphone: Is it Worth the Risk?
If radial arteries could talk (and in my experience they can to some extent), they would say, "Step away from the smartphone." At least that is the message I am receiving loud and clear as I feel the pulses of many patients.
Eczema & Acupuncture: A Sound Solution (Part 1)
Eczema affects approximately 3.5 percent of the global population and is one of the most common skin complaints seen by dermatologists.
Universal Design: Principles & Practice
In many respects, universal design serves as the core of ergonomics. It's also a good tool to use when designing a return-to-work program for injured and/or ill patients. Let's take a closer look at universal design and why it should matter to you and your patients.
Give Yourself the Digital Advantage
When you see this article in the print version of this issue and swear you read it already, don't be alarmed: you probably did. That's because by that time, the May issue will have been available online in digital format for three weeks.
A Major Role in Back Pain: The Multifidus
Back pain affects roughly 80 percent of the population at one time or another and is one of the leading causes of doctor visits.
Taking the Chiropractic Message to the Press
"There is no better place on earth to have a news event," the National Press Club boasts, and it's easy to understand why: Every year, the 108-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization hosts countless press conferences on the hottest topics impacting America and often the world.
A Daily Strategy for Heavy-Metal Detox
In modern society, we are constantly exposed to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. These heavy metals have no essential biochemical roles in our body, and conversely, can cause us a great deal of harm if they build up to toxic levels.
The Visual Error Scoring System: A Concussion Tool
Postural stability and oculomotor function are the most easily recognized physical indicators of neurologic motor dysfunction associated with concussions.
Is It Time to Rethink Mental Illness? (Pt. 1)
Invariably, patients will ask their chiropractor about depression or various mental illnesses. Some practitioners will reflexively offer a cervical adjustment, suggest St. John's wort or contemplate a referral to a specialist.
An Integrated Approach to Chronic Pain
Findings from a unique Medicaid pilot project in Rhode Island involving high-use Medicaid recipients from two health plans were recently presented to the state's Department of Health, demonstrating stellar outcomes with regard to medication use, ER visits, health care costs and patient satisfaction.
Is the New Medicare Reporting Exemption Right for You?
What you've heard is not a rumor – there will be exemptions for providers of Medicare patients, with no penalties assessed for offices that do not do Quality Payment Program (EHR, PQRS, MACRA and MIPS) reporting.
Bill With Confidence: Learn What to Collect
Q: I am trying to understand what I may collect from my patient when there is insurance. Do I have to accept the amount allowed by the plan or may I collect up to my billed amount? Please note, I am not a member of any insurance plan.
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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