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Massage Today
March, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 03

Make a Resolution to End the Massage Therapy Discount

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

All too often, massage therapists discount their services in an effort to bring clients in the door. Sure, it is risky for a client to spend $100 and an hour (or more) of time on an unknown massage therapist.

But why do many massage therapists feel it is their job to lessen this risk by providing deep discounts? Not only does this impact the bottom line of the massage therapist, but it also affects the perceived value of the massage. Furthermore, I believe it can have a negative impact on the industry in general.

The first point is obvious. If you discount too much or too often, you will not bring in the amount of money you planned to make, or need, or want to sustain your life. I've seen some therapists discount as much as 50% just to schedule a client and then be upset at the end of the month when they couldn't pay their rent. Well, whose fault was that? This is especially true now that deal-of-the-day sites are becoming more popular. The bottom line is, you can't give away the farm and still pay your bills.

Perceived value is the bigger point. It is up to the therapist to educate the client about the value of massage. This comes from discussing the benefits of massage, outcome of treatment, reputation, the relationship that is established between client and therapist and lastly, pricing. It is this perceived value that keeps clients coming back. After all, if it isn't "worth it," a client won't return and a successful practice is built on client retention. What does your pricing say about your product or service? Have you discounted yourself so much that your clients consider your services cheap or cut-rate? If you discount too much or too often, you run the risk of being viewed as less valuable compared to your competition. I have found that keeping prices steady and resisting the temptation to discount has long-term benefits for my practice and for the perceived value of my work.

This is true in so many other areas of life. Consider the vendor on the streets of New York City. If you have never been to the Big Apple, there are street vendors everywhere with deals that are sometimes too good to be true. When confronted with three of the same jackets at three different prices, I feel like a character in the Goldilocks story. One jacket is "too expensive" and one jacket is "too cheap." The third jacket is "just right." Why is that? It is human nature not to want to spend the most money for fear of being ripped off. Equally, spending the least amount of money symbolizes a cheaper or lesser product. The majority of consumers will pay the middle amount or what is considered fair market value. There is an underlying psychology behind every purchase you make and massage is no exception.

The psychology behind purchasing a product or utilizing a service is called neuro-marketing, a fast growing field. I recently read a book by Roger Dooley, called Brainfluence. In one study, the author points out that people who were given the same wine to drink thought the $45 bottle was superior to the $5 bottle, even though they were the same bottle of wine. In another study, 85% of the subjects given a placebo for pain relief reported a reduction in pain when they were told the pill cost $2.50 per dose. Only 61% reported pain relief when told the pill cost only 10c a dose. The pills had no active ingredients. The key point of these studies is that the price of a product or service has a very real and tangible effect on the perceived value. This perception is so powerful that people who thought they were drinking the expensive wine thought it tasted better and people who thought the were taking the expensive pill actually felt better.  In other words, when you discount too much, you're damaging the perceived value of your service which, in the long-run, will reduce your ability to generate healthy revenues.

The industry has always struggled with the balance of what is the fair amount to charge a client and what is the appropriate amount a therapist should make. This battle happens annually as therapists debate whether to raise rates or not.  I don't know a therapist who hasn't walked this line. Discounting too much or too often has ramifications on the entire profession. After all, clients will always have a plethora of MTs to choose from. Have you ever been asked, "Why should I schedule with you when I can go down the street for $30 less?" It's maddening, as I have to defend my position each and every time against the therapist who only wants to undercut my price. The answer lies in perceived value and that is where the conversation begins. You have the ability to boost the entire profession by not giving away too much. Consider these points and resolve to end the discount. It is win-win for everyone.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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