What are the similarities in running a successful massage practice and a successful skin care practice? More than you might think. In this episode, esthetician and business owner Ella Cressman talks about how delegating parts of her business gave her time to focus on her clients, why rebooking practices are vital to your business’s success, and how to get comfortable in suggestive retail.
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0:00:00.3 Kristin Coverly: The Elements Massage brand believes massage therapists deserve a supportive team, business and marketing resources, linens, lotions, and the chance to learn as much as they want, so many Elements Massage studios offer continuing education too. What's better, they're hiring. To get your foot in the door, let them know we sent you by visiting elementsmassage.com/abmp. That's elementsmassage.com/abmp. As a massage therapist, you know that, truly, the world's most beautiful machine is in your hands. You help relieve the pain and pressures that hold your clients back from fully enjoying life. The CBD CLINIC massage collection uses ingredients from nature to deliver strong, effective temporary pain relief, with aromatic botanicals and natural emollients like CBD. Our tiered pain products let you personalize your massage to meet each client's needs. Be your client's hero by giving them the massage treatment of their dreams with CBD CLINIC. Learn more at cbdclinic.co.
0:01:25.2 Darren Buford: Welcome to The ABMP Podcast. My name is Darren Buford, and I'm Editor-in-Chief of Massage and Bodywork Magazine and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP.
0:01:33.2 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and ABMP's Director of Professional Education.
0:01:38.5 DB: Our guest today is Ella Cressman. Ella is a licensed aesthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and ingredient junkie. As an educator, she enjoys empowering other aestheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view. In addition to running a skin care business, Ella founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and is consulted for skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands. For more information, visit ellacress.com. Hello, Ella, and hello, Kristin.
0:02:14.8 Ella Cressman: Hi, Darren, hi, Kristin, how are you guys?
0:02:17.1 KC: Great, we're excited to have you here, but... Hang on a minute, Darren. I did not hear the term massage therapy or massage therapist in that bio. What's going on?
0:02:28.2 DB: You would be correct, listeners. We have decided today to invite one of our podcasters for our sister association, ASCP, Associated Skin Care Professionals, Ella Cressman to join our podcast, because we thought it would be so cool for her to talk about the aesthetic world and how that relates to massage therapists. You're gonna find out a little bit about her background here in just a second, because she's worked with some massage therapists, and you're gonna hear the delightful, soothing tones of her voice, because she is the host of ASCP's Esty Talk podcast as well. So let's jump right in.
0:03:03.7 KC: Ooh, a crossover!
0:03:05.3 DB: That's right, a crossover.
0:03:09.8 KC: Watch out, everyone put your seatbelt on and buckle up. It's gonna be a fun one. Let's start by introducing you to our listeners. So tell us a little bit about your background, and how did you get into aesthetics?
0:03:20.0 EC: Well, it's a fun story, and I will save it for either a coffee or a cocktail sometime, but the long story short is a blackhead changed my life. So, we should start... I'll give the very short version, I wanted to be in the... I wanted to be a cosmetologist, and that wasn't practical in my grandfather's eyes, so I changed and I wanted to go to nursing. And while I was... Prenursing, I was in... To getting my prerequisites, I worked in an Alzheimer's home, and it was so emotional. I was like, "I cannot do this," so I did the least emotional thing and I got a business degree. And so from that, I worked in industrial construction, and naturally, the next course of action was go into aesthetics. So, from there, It's just been... Like my life is... My life purpose is completing. I say completing as in present tense, because it's so fun.
0:04:11.2 DB: Oh, okay, I love it. Tell me, Ella, a little bit about the professional environments that you've worked in with regards to aesthetics.
0:04:19.1 EC: In aesthetics, so I started out, as I mentioned, from... Working in industrial construction, where I was getting paid to working in a booth... In a salon, even, in an upstairs of this cute little Victorian-style building as a booth renter. So I was paying to work at that point, and it was right before the economic crash of 2008; it was a year or two before that. And... So I learned how to hustle. I learned what it meant to build a business. After that, booth rented for a little bit, became an educator for a few brands at the same time, became a certified organic formulator, and then ended up accidentally owning my own brick and mortar store and having practitioners work for me, either in a booth rent capacity or as employees. So a little bit of full circle. And along the way, you also have the HHP Collective, which is a consulting firm. So I have my toes in a lot of bathwaters in the industry.
0:05:19.3 KC: Yeah, and there are so many future pods I'm feeling, just from that one answer alone. [chuckle] We have a lot to talk about.
0:05:25.0 EC: [chuckle] Teasers.
0:05:26.2 KC: [chuckle] Exactly. So, question though, for you, and one of the reasons we are having you as a guest here on The ABMP Podcast. Working in all those environments, you've worked with massage therapists in many different settings. Tell us a little bit about things that you might have noticed that are differences in how esties work versus massage therapists.
0:05:46.0 EC: It's hard to put anybody in a box, really. And my interaction with massage therapists has been... It seems like... When I was in sales, for example... When I was in sales, a lot of the spa directors were actually massage therapists. So I had a lot of interaction with them in that capacity, and then when I was in education, especially when I got into the CBD side, because I've been in the CBD space since the dawning of time or 2014. And that was such a fun time, to be able to build those programs, build those education programs, and then to convey them personally to our practitioners. And... So I've been around practitioners, and then also, having friends... I'm also a client. [chuckle] I'm not just an educator, I'm also a massage therapist client, so... And having friends and such, so I've been around them in different capacities, and one thing I noticed that's a similarity is that there's specialties in each. And also, in both sides, there's also similar fears, I'll say fears or challenges, because you have all capacities in massage. For example, you have sports massage, prenatal massage, you have Reiki body work, you have pelvic... There's just a gamut. And then aesthetics is similar. We have so many different things, different areas of specialty. And then, we also have employees or self-employees. So it's similar, very similar. We're cousins.
0:07:12.5 KC: Yeah, that's what I think of it too. I always call them our peers in the skin care profession. There are so many, it seems same, but different; so many similarities.
0:07:20.2 EC: But a lot of 'em are dual-licensed too. A lot of aestheticians are dual-licensed massage therapists, and so there is, again, a crossover, if you will, but... It's all similar in intent, if you think about it, in that we want... When I used to teach in schools, for example, and I would always ask the question of students, this is my favorite thing, 'cause it seems to be three answers. But it's like, "What made you wanna get into this?" And the answer, inevitably, was one of three, and one... The first one was, "I wanted to help people." And so, that's a parallel between massage and aesthetics, is this desire to help, or to heal, or to make people feel better.
0:07:56.2 KC: Absolutely.
0:07:57.5 DB: That is a perfect segue to our next question. So Ella, a lot of massage therapists self-identify in their work; not all. Some. I'm saying some, so listeners don't jump at me. Some identify with a healer mentality. And as a result, they have conflicting feelings sometimes between healing and working with their clientele and then the business side of things. How do aestheticians self-identify when they kind of reflect on their work?
0:08:26.0 EC: Well, as the representative for all aestheticians...
0:08:31.2 EC: I can say... No, I'm just teasing. I think it's very similar. We wanna help, we wanna heal. And the business side is intimidating. I say this as someone with a business degree. It's intimidating when you think about... All I wanna do is I wanna be in my room, and I want to be lotioning and portioning and making people feel better. The last thing I wanna do is be paying retail sales tax, or making a social media post personally. And similar, I can imagine, with massage therapists, they wanna be healing with their hands and working on bodies, doing their body work, rather than making a marketing strategy. And, so that makes sense. And to think about business, so that's a big thing. Again, there's so many things in the business side. To take some pressure off, I always suggest, delegate or outsource those things. If you look at my social media, you can see that I have delegated my social media for a while, and that person ended up having to take another job, and you could see that's where it stopped. It's about May 2021 is where my social media posts stop. And I had a decision to make: Do I do it? Which... It's going to change, 'cause I'll have someone else do it. Do I do it? And I... Do I spend the time making the posts, or do I spend the time in my treatment room, or writing content? What am I gonna spend my energy on?
0:09:57.3 EC: And so, there's some things, like accounting or bookkeeping, you outsource. And it's not that much, when you think about it. It sounds intimidating, especially as a self-employed person. That's a lotta money, but it's money well-spent; trust. So get a good accountant, get a good bookkeeper or a bookkeeping software; there's software for so many things, including social media. You just haven't put the time into that. You can pre... Set it up to where they just... Or scheduled postings and such. So outsource, I think, for those things that are uncomfortable, or delegate for those things that you don't wanna do, and... You spend as much time in your room as possible.
0:10:39.3 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.
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0:11:19.4 DB: Ella, time out, before we dive deeper. You paid someone to do your social media. I know listeners just stopped whatever they were doing. How much did you pay, where did you find the person, how often were they doing this for you?
0:11:35.0 EC: Okay, so I paid... There's a lotta different organizations that you can use. I just happened to use a friend who was great at it, and he worked in the industry, so he was an aesthetician, so... And he also had worked for me in the HHP Collective, so he knew my heart. He knew what I wanted to post, he knew what I wanted to convey, and he's amazing. And I wish that he wanted to be a social media person, but he's an aesthetician. [chuckle] And... So, I would pay him $50 an hour to make these posts, and they were once a week, I think, on Wednesdays. But I know there's other organizations that you can do. I know... He specifically worked with Canva to do some of those things. I mean, maybe a quick Google search would work. Obviously, I haven't done that myself, or else my social media would be up-to-date, but stay tuned, check back, and see how it's going.
0:12:27.5 EC: And previously, previously, I had a receptionist who was doing my social media, so I paid her extra to do those things, and so that's something else you can look for, so... See where you can combine tasks too, because... Maybe not... Maybe you don't have the workload for a receptionist; the calls aren't coming in, or the emails aren't coming in, but what can a receptionist-style person or a spa manager-style person do, even part-time? So, she was amazing as well. She was doing my social media, she was doing my inventory management, [chuckle] she was helping... She was going through my emails. All those little tasks that feel heavy, and shoulder-heavy tasks, she was doing, and she was doing for an hourly rate; it was slightly above competitive for the market area, and... Money well-spent; money well-spent for me, because I could concentrate on what I was doing, which was providing excellent care, which was part of my business strategy, and then that is my marketing. And we can talk about marketing and such, but at least in my experience, the best marketing is word of mouth. I've tried everything. I've tried a lotta different things, so that's what I would concentrate on.
0:13:41.3 KC: Let's talk about three important ways practitioners can increase income in their practices. First up, let's talk about rebooking. What are some tips and tricks? What's your favorite strategy for rebooking?
0:13:53.6 EC: Rebooking is really gonna depend on the kind of practice you have and then the needs of the client. So there's one simple phrase that goes with rebooking, and also with retailing, and that is to find a hole and fill it. And so, when you are looking at rebooking, you can think of it in a couple ways. So let's look at the first way. The first way is, after you have an initial appointment or your first visit with your client patient, you want to understand what they're coming to you for, right? And then, you're using that information, their lifestyle, all the things, as you're working on them, and then when you're wrapping up and you're finalizing things, you want to instill this idea of teamwork. "We are in this together." So, you're going to give them homework and then offer them some tips. "Here, you were talking about this area was sore; maybe your traps, maybe your quads. I want you to do these kinda stretches or stand up every so often, and then I'd like to see you back in X weeks." And throw that number off. Don't have it be four, eight, or 12. Do three, five, seven. A number that sounds... "Well, there's a real, intentional reason she said three or he said seven. What is that for?" So, have them... "I'd like to see you back in that time."
0:15:12.1 EC: So that's strategy number one: "We're in this together, and we're gonna make you feel good because you told me you need this. This is your idea; I'm helping you get there." Another strategy, and here it's, again, reading your clientele. Clients, patients, they love exclusivity. They love an expert. They love what everyone else is having. And so, when you're talking about exclusivity, and I learned this the... It's a funny story, how I learned this, but I learned this. So when you're exclusive, they wanna get in, so saying something to the effect of, "You know, my schedule is... As you know, when you try to book, my schedule is very packed; it's very full. It's easier to adjust your appointment than it is to try to get in. So let's put you on for X amount of weeks, and if that doesn't work, we can tweak it but at least you're in the queue." And so, that's another touchback for rebooking. Those two seem to work really great for me.
0:16:08.2 EC: Another thing, you can also read the client and say... They... A lot of first-time clients, depending on the intention of when they come in, you have to understand, I'm corrective, I'm not pampering. We're scraping. We're squeezing. We're burning. And so, I'm not pampering, but I always get the question, "How often should I get a facial?" And I know that's a question that massage therapists get as well. "How often should I get a massage?" Because I've asked it. I've asked it of... I've done a lot of research on the subject. [chuckle] So I'll tell you, the good answers that I've received are based on your, blank. You should come in in, blank, right? And... Some generic answers I've gotten is like, "Well, I don't know. Some people come in seasonally, or whenever you kind of feel like it, or if you're in the area." So those are the gamut of explanation, and guess who I rebooked with? The person who said, "Based on you and your needs, this is what I suggest." So...
0:17:04.5 DB: So listeners, I had a massage on Sunday. And as you know, as a client host here, I often check in about the experience that I had. Guess what? There was no rebooking question! [0:17:16.3] ____ Do you know how many times this happens again and again? Instead, I got... "I'm actually gonna be moving offices soon, so just wanted to give you a heads up. So if we work together again, it won't be at this location. Okay, so you know, if... Whenever you're ready, maybe just give me... And shoot me a text or an email." No! No! On the flip side of this, I often talk about going to physical therapists because I think they're so good at doing this, and recently, during a session, the physical therapist said to me exactly what you're saying, Ella. He said, "I can tell you really like homework. So here, I'm gonna give you this homework for you to check in, and some exercises for you to stay in touch. And then, we're gonna make sure to get that booking for the next session. But we are really booked out right now. If you go up to the desk right now, even though you've got this ice pack on, and go talk to Betty at the desk, I bet she can get you in for that eval really quickly." I'm done! I'm totally sold on the whole situation. They got my homework, they got me caring, and they got me rebooking right there, because I couldn't possibly wait two months to come back in.
0:18:24.0 EC: You're compliant, right? You're doing it, and you're following up, and you're not missing that appointment, 'cause now you've instilled... They've instilled a value in that appointment for you.
0:18:32.7 DB: Okay, Ella, what about retail sales? How can massage therapists get comfortable selling products?
0:18:38.0 EC: Well, there's a quote that W. Clement Stone has, and I think it's very appropriate for this. It's "Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman and not the attitude of the prospect." And I think, in particular, this industry... I'm gonna say this industry, because it happens... This industry of personal services, I'll say, where massage therapists, aestheticians, even hair stylists, or other... Even the physical therapists that you mentioned, they don't always offer suggestive retail. And for one reason or another, I've heard the excuses, because I've trained massage therapists and other people, "I don't wanna be a salesperson. I didn't get in this to be sales-y." Okay. And other excuses... "Well, if I give them something to use at home, why are they gonna come back to me?" Or... "But they're not... I don't know if they can afford it, and I don't know... I don't want them to... " All of those may have different words, but they're all conveying fear; fear of... Your own personal fear, not fear from the client. You can see, especially in massage therapy in 2020, what a hard hit that was on that industry, because there, you're only working when you're working on someone, right? You're having no passive income unless you're selling retail. Retail is an opportunity for passive income. That means you don't have to do a whole lot to get more of it.
0:20:09.9 EC: So, retail... How can you get more comfortable, how can you not be comfortable? So it's gonna start out with things that you believe in or that complement the service. If we're talking about... And that's gonna depend, again, on the specialty... The area of specialty... I'll tell you a story about my massage therapist that... And I have a couple, depending on what's going on with me. But I'm in her space, and I'm changing, and I'm looking... As I'm hanging my clothes up, I'm looking that she has a very specific stone for a specific part of the body. And I come to find out that she specializes in pelvic health. And I'm like, "Oh, cool, and she sells the stones that help with that." Well, don't you know, I bought one. I never used it; I haven't used it yet, but I sure did buy one, and it was $80, and it was on top of my other thing. And... So there's retail there. There's other opportunity, same thing, in my research and development here, going into massage clinics, and I'm like, "I have a pain. What can I do at home?" I walk out to the reception area. There is a device that I see that's like some kind of... I don't really know what it is. It looks like a back scratcher with wheels, where there's this roll-on... Icy-hot, so to speak. None of that was offered to me. I still got it.
0:21:29.3 EC: And your clients are still going to get that. They're still going to pick it up, because if they're not feeling the relief after they leave, or if it's a Sunday at 5:00 PM, they're gonna go get something. Best they get it from you. Best... You are the expert that is guiding that journey, and that thing can be anything related back. Again, find the hole and fill it. So a client comes in, and they're stressed out; they just wanna relax. This is the scenario. "Great! You know what, I think that's awesome. I think that'll really help. I noticed that you have some tension in this area of your body. Have you thought about bath soaks? I think that would be really good for you." You're finding a hole, and you're filling it. You're not saying, "We have some really great bath soaks from this company, and they're kinda local, and... You can get 'em if you want to." You're saying, "You need this bath soak; you told me that you need this." Or... Honestly, CBD-infused products, easy. This is the easiest sell, 'cause everyone's curious about it. And it... You can have products that are out of your scope, like a tincture that... Full disclosure, but... Or a bath bomb, or a lotion, a daily body lotion.
0:22:41.3 EC: So all of these things are opportunity for healing, or for relief when they're at home, but also, they are thinking about you. They're remembering you, right? So, when they're applying it on... "Oh, I got this great cream... " And it's free marketing to you, "I got this great cream from my massage therapist, and she really did a great job, and she loved it, and... " "Oh, you did? What is it?" "It's this." And then you get a phone call from their friend, "I need to get that cream." They come in for that passive retail item, and then, "Hey, maybe you should book a massage," and then boom, your business is going. Okay? So, those are just a couple things, super easy. Having a couple of smaller items to add to your... They call it cash wrap sale, but... Like the bath bombs. They're under $20, they're really easy impulse purchase stuff, but... You have to also think, physically... Oftentimes, after a massage, "I'm super stuffy," so things that smell good, [chuckle] being... Oils, or diffusers, or things like that. Think outside of the box. And it has to really resonate with you, and you have to believe in it. So, there's a huge opportunity for those things.
0:23:53.7 DB: I absolutely love this discussion, because so many clients can be powerful brand advocates for you. For instance, if you've sold... The first things that pop to mind, Ella, when you were saying this... What if you had a foam roller for sale? Those are very cheap, and you're like, "You know what, every morning, I want you to wake up and do these foam rolling exercises that are gonna be really helpful for you; it's really gonna help align your spine, X, Y, Z, it's gonna do this... " And you're right, Ella, every single time you do it, I'm gonna be thinking that... About that... The practitioner who I purchased it from. Years ago, when I got married, somebody gave me a starter set of knives. This is unrelated, but this is going somewhere. What was powerful about this? And so I was like, "Oh my God, what a cool gift." And they were like, "You know why I did that? Because every single time you're in the kitchen, you're gonna think, "That person bought that for me."" And I do this, to this day, all the time. So, just the power of that, and the longevity of that, right? And then... Again, if you think about people being advocates for you, I'm one of those people. If I'm really into your business and what you're doing, I wanna buy the coffee cup, I wanna buy the T-shirt, I wanna buy the products... I'm all in, right?
0:25:09.3 EC: Yeah. Big fan. [chuckle] And there's a statistic that talks specifically about massage therapy, that 90% of clients find... Let me repeat this, because I want you all to lean in so you can hear this. 90% of clients find their massage therapists from a referral, from their friend, from their doctor. 90%! That's a huge thing! And you can... And 68% are on social media, which is still a huge statistic. But, I think networking was like 17%. So where are you spending your time? Where are you spending your time as a massage professional? Are you going to go to your meet-up groups once a week? I don't wanna say any names, but they have those groups, those networking groups that you go to breakfast or whatever. Or are you gonna spend this time giving amazing service? And service doesn't end after the 60, or the 90 minutes, or the 75 minutes. Service continues when they go home.
0:26:13.1 KC: Ella, what about add-on services? Should practitioners consider introducing these to a session?
0:26:19.9 EC: You know what, I have a very, very, very biased opinion on this. And it comes from the aesthetic world, so let me explain on the aesthetic side first. In school, we learn about add-on, right? So you're in the middle of a facial, and, oh, you can add on a lip service, and you can add on an eye service. And to me, I always felt like, lips and eyes are part of the face. And how could you have to add that on, right? Isn't it a facial? It never made sense to me. It didn't make... I understood where it was coming from. The model that it came from was this thing, but, as a consumer, I don't wanna feel taken. I wanna feel cared for, okay? So when I'm going somewhere and I have to a la carte a facial, then I'm in charge of the facial and you're not. You're the professional, I'm picking out what I'm getting, right? And... Maybe it's a little ego for me. As a professional, I'm gonna tell you what you need. [chuckle] So, you don't tell me you need an acne facial when your skin is dry, or... You know what I'm saying? Let me help you... Let me give you my expertise, because I've... I'm... Got advanced training in this subject.
0:27:22.4 EC: And so, I designed my menu in a way where it was just a flat fee. It took me years to get there. But it's a flat fee, with the exception of a couple different services, like different devices to do the services. But they know what they're getting into. And my massage therapist now, same thing; whatever I need. For example, I came to see her after traveling, and I was swollen; my feet were swollen from a long flight. So she did lymphatic drainage that day. Even though I wanted some elbow in the back stuff, she did that... What I needed that day was the lymphatic drainage, and she did some arm stuff, because it wasn't in my best interest to get what I thought I wanted that day. And it was the same price, and it wasn't an add-on. And... So for me, add-on services were, I understand, a corporate decision to have those in a lower price to lure someone in, and then to raise the bar. I don't understand them from a practitioner standpoint, so... I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer that question. [chuckle] I think you just make a flat rate, they know what to expect, you take good care of 'em, and they're gonna come back for that.
0:28:26.4 DB: Okay, Ella. Finally, can you put together some guesstimates on how much money we're talking about, specifically, with rebooking or retail sales?
0:28:34.9 EC: Rebooking is a great way to build your books, but also to sustain your books. So, that would depend on your demographic and what you're charging, but I guess the limit would be how many hours you're wanting to work a week. With retail sales, there's a magic number in aesthetics, and that is 1:3, so for every service dollar, you spend three retail dollars. So, for the case of simplicity, $100 in service, $300 in retail. I would say, for massage therapy, if you can aim at a 1:1 or a 1:0.5, then you're doing pretty good. And... Especially as you're getting more comfortable and more and more comfortable with that. Understanding that that's an average, and some clients will buy $200 worth of things, and some will buy $50 worth of things.
0:29:20.3 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, Ella Cressman. To find out more information about Ella, visit ellacress.com. The ABMP Podcast is produced by the team at ABMP, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, a professional membership organization supporting massage therapists and body workers. Membership includes liability insurance, free continuing education, and the award-winning Massage and Bodywork Magazine. Go to abmp.com to learn more about becoming a member. Thanks, Ella, and thanks, Kristin.
0:29:48.0 EC: Thank you guys, it was a pleasure.
0:29:50.2 KC: Ella, thanks so much for being with us for this fun crossover event and sharing all of your wisdom from your estie world with our practitioners in the massage therapy field. We appreciate you.
0:30:00.1 EC: Thank you guys, thank you so much.
0:30:03.4 KC: Members are loving ABMP Five-Minute Muscles and ABMP Pocket Pathology, two quick reference web apps included with ABMP membership. ABMP Five-Minute Muscles delivers muscle-specific palpation and technique videos, plus origins, insertions, and actions for the 83 muscles most commonly addressed by body workers. ABMP Pocket Pathology, created in conjunction with Ruth Werner, puts key information for nearly 200 common pathologies at your fingertips and provides the knowledge you need to help you make informed treatment decisions. Start learning today. ABMP members, log in at abmp.com and look for the links in the featured benefits section of your member home page. Not a member? Learn about these exciting member benefits at abmp.com/more.