Why I Give My Massages Away For Free…Sometimes!

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,

Ann Ross

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!

18 thoughts on “Why I Give My Massages Away For Free…Sometimes!

  1. Robin

    Kudos to you Ann! When I gave a free massage now I always ask if the client liked the work sincerely to review me on a review site. This has paid back in terms of higher search traffic and Groupon coming to me with a deal. as I was the first MT in my town to do it, my exposure soared. We have sold 300 deals, and in one day sold the ‘deal’ direct to new clients for the rest of one day. It is hands down the best advertising my business has gotten. Do they all rebook? No but as you say they talk, they network, they use social media and are your best free salesman out in the world!

  2. Ann Ross Post author

    Thanks for commenting with your own experience, Robin! :) I firmly believe that if you do it “right”, offering free services and groupon type promotions can be really beneficial for MT’s. Congrats on all of your success as well. You surely know how to market your business in a positive light that has shown tremendous results! You’re a wonderful inspiration for MT’s! :)

  3. Michele

    Thanks Ann! I’ve been doing this for several years. It has filled my book enough that I was able to open up my own center with a partner and one employee so far!

  4. Ann Ross Post author

    Michelle that is AMAZING! Great work marketing your services so well and turning those free massages into longterm clients. I love it!!!!

  5. KellyBenford

    An this is exactly what i going to do . For the last few days i have been looking for ways to start. But seems like there are to many things out there to read . For some reason this only seems right to me . So im preparing for this weeks. I will let you know how its comes out . Thank you so much and im very happy i found your page.

  6. Ann Ross Post author

    Hi Kelly! Oh yay! I’m so glad you found my page and are going to implement the free massage promo. One extra hint, there is an events page on Yelp where you can post an event for your business. Try if for the free massage promo. I was able to find a few new clients a few weeks ago by going that route. Best of luck, Kelly! Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.

  7. Toronto Massage Therapy

    I am impressed at the results you got from your freebies. You must bwe amazing. We tried the free route a few times when we first started out, but none of the therapists got much of a return from it. We did enjoy getting out there and meeting the community which was pretty tight knit. Also, a few of the events were for charity and even though it never converted into $, it left us with a good feeling

  8. Megan

    When you started your business did you have a studio of your own or do it out of your house? If you did it out of your house, how did you feel about have strangers in it, especially wen advertising on yelp and places like that?

  9. Ann Ross Post author

    Hi Megan! I started my business out of a chiropractic clinic and have not ran a home based practice at this point in my career. However, I did often work alone at the chiropractic clinic after the chiropractor had left for the day. I tried my best to make sure I saw all new clients when there were people around but that wasn’t always possible. I understand how running your business out of your home can leave you feeling very vulnerable if you do not know your client. I would suggest speaking with each and every person over the phone thoroughly prior to making the appointment and always trust your intuition to guide you in accepting a new client into your home. Ask questions like “have you had a massage before” and “what inspired you to look for a massage therapist” when speaking on the phone for the first time. If someone doesn’t feel right over the phone your gut instinct will tell you. Also, perhaps it would be best to do some in person advertising at a trade show or health fair so that you can meet your potential clients in person first. Word of mouth is always more trustworthy as well. However, no matter what avenue you take in attracting new clients into your home, it’s always best to keep yourself in a safe situation at all times. As is the case with all massage therapists, we should always know how to protect ourselves in any situation that can threaten our safety. At the end of the day, we must always trust our instincts and remember that we are always in charge of each and every session!

  10. Heidy

    Ann, Thank you for such a great website and what a helpful article you put together. We recently did a wellness event for a company providing them with free chair massage and it was a success. In three hours we had about 8 booking for 60 minute massages!!! While reading your article I did pick up on a few things that I will incorporate next time!!

  11. Ann Ross Post author

    I’m so happy to hear that! When done correctly, it’s a wonderful way to get your hands on people and gain exposure for your business. It sounds like you had a very successful event. Great job! Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing as the months go by! Much love!

  12. Jeannien

    Hi Ann, I just found your blog and love this Idea. I myself took that leap of faith almost three years ago, leaving a JOB with a steady paycheck. When I first started I rented a room at a local massage business for about a year then I decided to open up my own massage studio. I started with one other girl who leased a room and have grown to three massage therapist and two esthetisians. My newest esthetician is trying to build her clientel so I will present this to her along with presenting it to the other therapist as they are still wanting and needing to grow cliets. Do you have any other suggestions on how to build her clientel.

    Thank you for such great advice and cant wait to hear more!

  13. Nic Scogna,LMT

    Thank you for the great marketing inspiration! I was just feeling apathetic towards all my previous marketing efforts as I was told the response rate was 1-3% in this industry. I love the feel of this program. As I work at a chiro ofc they do a similar thing to draw in new clients. With my own studio space opening in a few weeks I now hope to wrangle in new clients in a “free evaluation” type thing. As a male therapist it would seem to be even more important for the monetary barrier to be removed so the clients can get a feel for me. Many happy returns :-)

  14. Barb C.

    Hi Ann,
    Love this idea and have been trying to implement this with other business owners. They offer a free 30 minute massage to their clientele as a “thank you gift” with an upgrade available for 60-90 minutes. Can you share what amount you charged for the 60 and 90 minute upgrades? I’m very new and still setting my pricing. Thanks!

  15. Ann Ross Post author

    Hi Barb! Yes, during this time my prices were $65 for 60 minutes and $95 for 90 minutes. When I offered the upgrade on the free 30 minutes I charged $45 for 60 minutes and $65 for 90 minutes :)

  16. Ann Ross Post author

    Hi Lindsey! I chose different target markets. First teachers, then firefighters. The list is really endless. You can offer them to anyone :)

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