I know many people may think I’m crazy, but giving my services away for free has actually been one of my most successful marketing campaigns since I originally started by massage practice. Many would say I’m cheapening my brand and that the people looking for a free massage are only looking for just that…a free massage. Of course there are always going to be those people looking for something free or the next best deal. But what about everyone else? What about all of the potential clients out there that are looking for a massage therapist they can create a relationship with and trust to solve their specific problems? Trust me when I say those people are EVERYWHERE and I know just how to get them through my door and onto my massage table.
My very first taste at giving my massage services away for free was in the fall of 2006. I was fresh out of leaving my full time corporate desk job and was ready to take my massage practice to full time. I was determined to never go back to the corporate world. The scariest part was that my safety net of a steady paycheck was gone when I left that job. But steady paychecks are never worth it if the job supplying them makes you miserable. And so I did what any other terrified, new business owner would do…I hustled my ass off!
The concept of “sampling” and “trials” has been around as long as business has been around. Think Costco and their sampling of dozens of food items at any given time. There is a reason why they have always offered samples and probably always will. Who wouldn’t want to try something before purchasing to be sure you are going to like it? And this is exactly why I began offering my massage services for “free”.
If you know anything about me you should know that I value my time and my creative talent as much as the next therapist. I am here to earn a good living and create a good life for myself. l would never just blindly offer my services away for free without creating some type of “event” or reason behind giving the free massage. In offering my services for free it provides an opportunity for those seeking a massage therapist to schedule with me without risk, and no money out of their pocket. Offering a sample of what my massage service can provide is what I consider a win/win for both parties. The “hesitant to spend money on something” client gets to experience a sample of my massage completely risk free. And I, the amazing massage therapist with holes in my schedule and gaps in my day gets to fill my schedule with potential clients looking for a massage therapist.
The first free massage event I did in 2006 was a huge success for me and taught me the value in exposing my business to so many in need. An idea came to me one day to send a letter to each of the schools in the Seattle School District and offer a complimentary 30 minute massage session as a way of thanking those members of the community for their hard work and dedication. School had just started and I was sure the teachers and staff members were stressed out and overwhelmed with the start of the school year. My sister and her husband are both elementary school teachers so I have a special place in my heart for those that work with our youth. In addition to each complimentary 30 minute massage, each faculty member had the option to upgrade to a 60 or 90 minute session at a discounted price. The complimentary massage session also had an expiration date (very important). I mailed out each letter one by one and waited a week or so before I saw the results of my special invitation It was incredibly thrilling for me when my phone started ringing about a week later and dozens of people started scheduling with me.
Success? Well not quite yet! I had to turn these prospects into actual clients. Step 2 of your free service promotion is to give your new client the best massage they’ve EVER had. Schedule in enough time to have a very thorough consultation with them. Aways be warm, friendly, inviting and positive. Listen to what their issues and needs are and deliver a massage that addresses those issues. If time allows maybe throw in an extra 5-10 minutes on top of the free 30 minutes to wow them even more. Schedule in enough time to discuss your findings with them and the importance of incorporating regular massage therapy into their life. If my clients try to tell me that massage is too expensive I suggest ways and ideas to budget massage into their monthly or quarterly budget. We talk about regular massage being just as important as going to the dentist or getting the oil changed on your car. Remember, you aren’t here to just give a free massage. You are here to give a sample of what you can do to help your potential client live a better life. Offer them some sort of discount for scheduling their next massage before they leave and follow up with a handwritten thank you card. The idea is not to constantly be reducing your rates and giving coupons or discounts. It’s about offering some sort of special or deal to encourage your first time clients to reschedule with you. After 2-3 massages with you they will be hooked and beging incorporating massage into their regular routine. Trust me on this!
So, after 8 weeks of running my “event” I looked over my books and tallied up my success. About 50% of my new clients had upgraded, which meant I made money on my ”free event”. About 75% of my new clients rebooked with me. And many others referred friends/family member and coworkers along the way. After all was said and done I felt like my event was a huge success. When I look back over the years since I did that first free massage event many of those initial clients have referred multiple clients to me. Those referred clients have referred multiple clients to me and so on and so forth.
The point I want to make is that EXPOSURE is key when you are building your massage practice. Sure you may have your pretty little website online and you may have your Facebook business page, but are you truly exposing yourself in a way that is beneficial for your potential clients? When running a “free” massage event make sure you are approaching your potential clients in a way that will help them realize the importance of incorporating massage into their lives. Don’t just offer up free massage! Make it about offering those seeking massage the opportunity to receive a sample of what you offer risk free with no money out of their pocket. If you approach your massage practice with posture, confidence and as a sought after healthcare provider, people are going to be attracted to you. Schedule out at least an hour so you can take the time to get to know each client, give them a great massage and discuss long term care with them after the massage. If you approach your business first and foremost from the aspect of healthcare vs. pampering it will be much easier to get clients to rebook with you.
No matter what, always send a handwritten thank you card with a coupon for a discount off their next massage (always put an expiration date on coupon) and follow up if you haven’t heard from them within a few months. In addition, make sure they know you have a referral rewards program (you do have one, right?). Since I began practicing massage my greatest source of new clients has always been referrals from my existing clients. If you are giving amazing service and taking care of your clients it shouldn’t be hard to attract referrals. But make sure your clients know you are always looking for referrals and new clients. Remember to approach this from a place of wanting to help as many people as you can. Never come off as desperate or needy…that is such a turn off!
I recently ran another “free massag event” through the event page on Yelp and attracted 8 new clients in just 1 week. Free advertising and 8 new clients to WOW with my amazing massage! If you believe in what you do and KNOW without a doubt that you can WOW your free massage customers then you have nothing to lose. Don’t think that the economy is causing people to close their wallets completely. On the contrary, people are still spending money on the important things. Massage is important if you approach it as important and offer your potential clients a ”risk free” incentive. People want to spend money on massage, they just want to make sure it’s going to be WORTH their money. Overwhelm them with your incredible massage and watch your practice grow by leaps and bounds. Mine has!
To your success,
P.S. Don’t be devastated if everyone doesn’t rebook with you or you never hear from them again. Yes, you will give some free massages away. Don’t focus your energy on those clients, get over it, move on and focus on the clients that do appreciate you most. Those clients are sure to become your ideal client and will make your life so much more meaningful!