Retaining massage clients is the heart of a massage business. When people come in regularly for massage you can build a solid foundation for your massage business. People come in for various reasons – stress, pain, injuries. They need different types of massage for different times in their lives. Getting people to come in once a week for a massage should be your goal. Understanding why they are coming in can help you to create a dynamic massage session that is just for them.
I can’t tell you the number of really bad massages I have had during my career- massage therapist telling me their problems, me telling them to work on my old quad injury and them totally ignoring it, people telling me what they think I should do… all of these things are the things that will help you in creating a base of regular weekly (every other week) massage clients.
When people really feel like their needs are being addressed and attended to they feel cared for. When their massage session gives them the results that they were looking for they feel relief and grateful.
The key to retaining massage clients is less about the massage or technique than it is about your presence or focus on a person during a session. So many massage therapists don’t understand that doing things like talking during a session, giving advice, sharing personal information and not focusing totally on the client can influence whether a client comes back or not. These things are really making the massage session more about you. It is a common misconception in the massage profession. Since our work is so personal we often find ourselves being personal with people on our tables – becoming friends with them and sometimes even more. (It is now illegal to date clients in some states.) Because our work is personal it is even more important to be aware of who’s needs you are serving – yours or the clients. Talking, giving advice and being bored in a massage session is more about your needs for attention and connection. Getting those needs met outside of your practice within the constructs of peer supervision or individual supervision can be very helpful in creating more in depth client relationships as well as retaining massage clients.
Now people come and go – they have busy schedules, go on vacation and at times want to experience other types of massage and touch. You can’t help everyone nor should you try. Everyone does not have to become a client although it is a nice thought. Learning who your ideal massage client is can also be a big part of this scenario. You want to be working on people who value their health and your time. Working on draining clients is one of the best ways to scare people away. Draining clients are those people who make you feel less than inspired in your work. They are the ones who show up late or cancel at the last minute or have so many complaints and they already tried 5 different massage therapists and not one person could help them. After awhile you will be able to tell who these draining clients are right from the first phone call. Your ideal client is unique to you though so you have to take time to discover who that ideal massage client is. Your chances of getting them and keeping them as massage clients dramatically increases.
I personally like a good challenge to work on- difficult situations that doctors gave up on or were about to do surgery on and the client wanted to just try something else. I also like working on people who are working through some deep emotional issues like grief, job changes, divorce and other things like that. I find that type of work to be rewarding. I won’t stand for anyone who cancels at the last minute and doesn’t want to pay me for my time. I don’t like to work on people who just want maintenance massage but want me to bill their insurance (it is not within the medically necessity clauses). The clearer the boundaries I create around these things the more clients I get when you would really think that it would be limiting my clients. It works the opposite for the most part.
Other simple things that you can to to encourage repeat business is to offer special discounts or even monthly memberships for massage. I also try to set people up on a regular day and time and keep that as often as we can. When people know they have a regular spot it makes it easier for their schedule too. Educating clients as to the benefits of getting regular massage can also help. I usually try to explain how muscles work and how massage works. I also ask people in the intake interview to explain in detail to me how they feel and check in with them each time so that they can see the improvement.
Even if you are an employee it is up to you really to build a framework of regular repeat business.
What do you do to retain massage clients and take care of yourself?