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The Marketing Coach

By Cary Bayer

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Why the Answers are All in the Numbers

There is an expression in our culture these days that says that numbers never lie. I'm well aware that numbers are the domain of left-brained people. As the marketing coach for massage therapists, I'm also acutely aware that massage therapists typically are far more right-brained than they are left. Nonetheless, there are things you, as an MT, can learn from numbers — especially numbers that concern themselves with your field of massage.

When I gave the keynote address at the 2006 American Massage Therapy Association national convention, I did quite a bit of research to glean the current statistics on the massage therapy industry. Those numbers were very impressive at the time. They're even more so now. Consider the numbers that follow from a recent fact sheet supplied by the AMTA, which culled this information from federal government statistics, as well as through polls conducted among both MTs and consumers.

Massage therapy is currently a whopping $10 to $11 billion industry. There are nearly 90,000 nationally certified massage therapists and bodyworkers in the U.S. According to statistics I discovered independently of the AMTA fact sheet, 55,000 new therapists are trained each year and 45,000 leave the business annually. That means that an additional 10,000 net new MTs are brought into the marketplace every 12 months. It also means that, for those MTs who stay in business as the ball drops over Times Square on New Year's Eve, there's an even greater need to think more creatively with regard to marketing their services. That's assuming, of course, that the market itself doesn't grow. If you aren't doing anything with regard to marketing, you certainly need to start, because the numbers are not stacked in your favor.

dollars - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark That first year in business for new MTs isn't usually a good one, making as they do, on average, $9,585. (This figure was also obtained separately from the AMTA's online fact sheet.) That income grows, of course, with experience but the majority of these wonderful bodyworkers earn just a little more than $21,000 a year, even when they're seasoned, according to the AMTA. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics show different numbers: the average income for massage therapists was $35,970 as of May of 2012. Whether you accept the AMTA's salary numbers or the Dept. of Labor's, it's no wonder then, that 53% of MTs take another job to supplement their income from the work they do on their tables.

One reason that they're not making more money is that of the 619 (average) hours of training that massage schools typically provide, only about 20 of them — which equals 3% or less, is devoted to business. How can one expect to survive in the massage business when one has spent less than half a week learning business? That's why it makes so much sense to take business-related classes for continuing education. The irony, of course, is that right-brained MTs typically gravitate to more right-brained CE courses on modalities that they can practice on their tables, instead of focusing on the left-brained business and marketing classes that they need to bring clients to those tables.

Sixty-two percent of clients don't re-book an appointment (another stat I learned elsewhere.) That's often because they're not asked to, so start asking. These statistics were compiled prior to the advent of online booking software that enables the clients of many MTs to set up their appointments in the comfort of their own homes — in their pajamas by their computers, if they like — on their therapist's website. My intuition tells me that, since the development of online booking, this statistic on the lack of re-booking has further increased.

Eighty-one percent of massage clients polled (stat found elsewhere) said that they'd be more likely to refer family and friends of theirs to a licensed massage therapist who has a website than to one who doesn't have such a presence on the Internet. If you're an MT who doesn't have a website and this statistic doesn't jump out at you and get you onto the information superhighway in a New York minute, then I'm not sure if anything ever will.

If you like working in a spa, there's some good news for you. In 2011, there were nearly 20,000 spas operating in the U.S., that's nearly double the number of Starbucks stores (11,100 in the fall of 2012). Spa revenue for that year was a whopping $13.4 billion. Better yet, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, employment prospects for massage therapists are expected to increase 23% by 2022, faster than the average for all other occupations.

Will there be clients for all those extra MTs? According to the AMTA survey, 44% of adults say that they've used massage for medical or health reasons. Of these people, more than 9 in 10 see it as an effective means for reducing pain, and of general benefit to their overall health and wellness. What's more, there is a great opportunity for the market of people getting massaged to grow: a staggering 69 percent of grown-ups in our country have denied themselves, for more than five years, the benefits that massage offers.

What can you learn from this immersion in numbers? Hopefully, your eyes didn't glaze over while reading them. If they didn't, you have much to gain. I'll sum it up simply: more than two thirds of adults are crying out for relief for what you offer. If you don't market your work, there's a great chance that you will become one of those 45,000 MTs who leave the business every year. Or you may become one of those 53% of therapists who are forced to take on another job to make sure you make the rent or don't lose your home to foreclosure.

On the other hand, if you choose to use 21st century tools, like a website and a regular electronic newsletter, you have a great chance to not only stay in business, but to thrive as well.

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