What matters most in pricing massage services? Business or Pressure host Allissa Haines walks through all the factors to consider to help you gain confidence in your pricing structure.
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0:01:14.8 S1: Welcome to Business or Pressure. Taking the Pain Out of Massage Business with me, Allissa Haines. This is your no-nonsense guide to building a happy, sustainable massage therapy business. In this podcast, we operate from the premise that we can be in a caregiving profession and make a living wage in a thriving business. It is our mission to make sure that every massage therapist and bodyworker has the tools to make that happen. Let's jump in. I got a great email from a listener recently about pricing and specifically regarding pricing when one is a nationally certified massage therapist or versus not being certified. She writes, The trend in my area is to copycat price increases with others. Massage therapists are now more expensive by about 20 to 40% higher than local acupuncturists. I live in a state where licensing requirements are only 500 hours, approximately 350 classroom and 150 hands-on hours of training and 12 hours of CE every two years.
0:02:19.6 S1: And I thought this was a really interesting discussion because I had never had someone ask so clearly like, Should prices be different if one is certified or should I compare with what other types of practitioners are charging? This was a really great clear question. I'd love to say that I have fantastic answers here, but pricing is so arbitrary and it's also just a moving target. So let's jump back a little bit and think about how do consumers choose a massage therapist? What makes someone choose you? Often the primary consideration is your location. Are you easy to get to from wherever they live or work or spend time? Next is referral. If someone is referred to you by someone they trust, they are much more likely to seek you out and go to you and just you. Then there's the presentation, the presence of the massage therapist either in person if you're meeting someone in person at some kind of event or whatever, or your presence online in your website or your social media or wherever someone lands first, when they are searching for a massage therapist, oftentimes price is at the very bottom of that list.
0:03:34.7 S1: And yet price is often the first thing we think about when we think is a consumer going to choose me? But really it's at the bottom of most people's list. Your pricing might be a consideration, but it's very rarely the primary factor that influences someone to come to you or not come to you. Often it's just ease. If they can find you easily and schedule easily, if you have a fairly trustworthy looking website, they're gonna choose you. And moreover, if price is the biggest and only consideration, are they the best client for you? Do you wanna be spending time and effort on them? So let's look at other ways to consider your pricing. And much of that does involve looking at the marketplace around you for some loose numbers, and loose numbers.
0:04:27.1 S1: I am not saying that you should base your prices on what everyone else around you is doing, but some awareness of the marketplace is really, really thoughtful. And you wanna look at different kinds of businesses. You wanna look at the massage franchises, you wanna look at other indie businesses like you, little small one, two person shops. You wanna look at spa's and clinical and medical places. And as you note the prices for these different kinds of places also make note of the included amenities. The differences between your business and these other businesses and these other kinds of businesses include things like tipping. If your prices are inclusive of tipping, they should be reflective of that and that becomes something you can market off of. What do you offer that these bigger places don't? And vice versa. You might be able to go get a free 20 minutes and a salt cave at the spa down the street, but you're never gonna know who your massage therapist is from visit-to-visit because they have high turnover.
0:05:30.2 S1: So there's good things and there's bad things and it's all relative and it's all subjective. It can also help to get really granular and read the reviews for lots of other businesses in your area, taking note of what kind of business they are because they're really different. Do you see lots of complaints that there was a billing issue or a credit card issue? Do you see complaints that it's hard to schedule? Do you see complaints that the therapist didn't listen to the client's requests? Do you see props about customer service or any other particular aspect of the business? You wanna see what the consumers around you like and don't like about any particular kind of facility. That's gonna help you see what kinds of factors you can promote and market off of that might relate to your pricing and your worth and what you can charge for a massage.
0:06:27.1 S1: For me, I will pay more for a massage therapist that has online scheduling any day of the week because I prioritize convenience. And we're gonna talk in the next episode about making your business really easy-to-use. But for me, I have no problem paying 10 bucks more for a massage if I can schedule it when I'm thinking about it at 11 o'clock at night versus having to wait till the next day, make myself a note. Remember to call, wait for a call back to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Like 98% of the time. I simply won't do that. I will choose another therapist or any kind of appointment that has online scheduling. That's a priority for me. It doesn't mean it's a priority for everybody. There are places in which having a parking spot for clients, like easy parking is worth way more than a $20 savings because they're gonna have to pay $15 to park in order to come get a massage.
0:07:18.3 S1: To have a parking space could be something that impacts your pricing. So do a little legwork and look at some different places around you, what kinds of things they offer, what are the good factors and what are the bad factors based on consumer reviews. You can also consider what you do that is different massage-wise. And we don't have to go down like a really deep niching rabbit hole. I want you to just kind of think a little lighter. What do you do that is different from three other independent practitioners in your area? Do you do salt stones instead of hot stones? Is that different? Do you do warm pillows instead of hot stones? Like that's what I do and people love it. And that's like my little marketing point that I can say is a little different for me. So people who didn't like the assertiveness of warm stones love the gentle warm pillow approach.
0:08:06.6 S1: Do you do a Shiatsu so you can do deeper broader pressure? Do you do any kind of stretching or functional movement? Are you an exercise specialist? So anything that is more or different that could be a factor that you consider in how you are different, how you are more desirable, how you are more appropriate for any particular kind of client pathologies. If you treat very specific issues like headaches or knee pain or pregnancy or you cater very specifically to Ironman competitors. These are all things that can factor in to how you consider your pricing. Now our listener asked about other kinds of practitioners and noted that massage in her area is like 20 to 40% more than what acupuncturists charge. I tend to not look too much at other kinds of practitioners because they're... It's very apples and oranges. Acupuncturists can see multiple clients at once.
0:09:06.4 S1: They can have clients in two or three different rooms and be bouncing between them. I don't tend to look at pricing for physical therapists because it's again, a whole other ballgame. They might take insurance, even the cash only physical therapist. It's a very different mindset. I don't like to compare our pricing to acupuncture or physical therapy or anything else because it's not super relevant. Bodyworkers and massage therapists are really the only kind of practitioner that is one-to-one care for a longer period of time. For that reason, I don't like to compare pricing with other types of practitioners. We are so different and the thing that we do can be so desirable because we are so different. I don't wanna spend too much time of my life thinking I am like these other kinds of practitioners. I like to spend my time thinking about how I'm different from them.
0:09:58.6 S1: And another thing that our listener mentioned was NCB certification or board certification. I think that board certification, national certification can be just fine if that is relevant to your practice and it's something that you're interested in, maybe if it's super relevant in your area, if you're working in a very medically oriented area, if you're getting lots of referrals to and from specialized healthcare practitioners, maybe it's relevant and maybe that could impact your pricing. So I'm gonna say I don't think it's a huge factor except in very, very limited specific cases. I can tell you that in my 18+ years, even back when I was certified, I've never had any client or referral partner or healthcare worker ask me if I'm certified. I have people ask about education, but no one's ever asked me. And I don't think I've ever lost a client by not being certified by an optional credentialing.
0:11:00.1 S1: And our listener noted like how many hours their initial education was. And I gotta say, I don't know that consumers really even think about or care about the level or the rigor of primary massage education beyond is this massage therapist safe and effective? So I love these questions and I hope that I can alleviate the no, none of this really matters in your consideration of pricing. Considering your pricing requires a lot of thought and it requires a lot of bravery. You have to be willing to balance knowing your worth. And that can be a little weird for people who haven't been business owners who haven't had to put a price on the service or the product even that they provide. You gotta be willing to balance that and have confidence in that without letting your ego get away from you. And you have to be able to think big picture.
0:11:51.4 S1: There are a lot of massage therapists around me who don't charge very much in my opinion. And again, this is all subjective. And I asked one of them recently like, Why are you still charging $70 an hour? And she said, Because it's really important to me that massage be affordable for people. I think this is wonderful and I don't think it's a wrong decision. What I do tend to remind people when they say that if their price is much lower than what's going on in the area or lower than what I think they are worth after having experienced their work and their business as a whole, I suggest that we remember that if accessibility to massage is important to you, that doesn't mean you have to charge everyone a very low price. Sometimes that means that higher paying clients can support lower ones. And maybe that means a sliding scale fee.
0:12:40.9 S1: Maybe that means some kind of pay it forward or scholarship fund. There's a lot of ways that you can run a business. There's a lot of accommodations you can make for certain clients to keep massage accessible. So if that's something that's really important to you as you think about pricing, also think about longevity. And think about pricing that will sustain you and your practice. Because you can't serve anybody if you can't feed yourself and you cannot serve your people if you have to quit your massage practice to go work somewhere else 'cause you're not making enough money. So let's note here that I have not told you really how to price your services in this podcast episode about how to price your services. 'Cause I can't tell you how to price your services. I can only tell you things to consider. You can look at your marketplace, you can look at what you offer that other people don't and vice versa.
0:13:28.9 S1: And you can consider how you feel about what you're paying yourself at the end of every week or month. I wanna hear your stories on pricing. So if you have thoughts about this, if you think I'm super wrong or you think I'm super right or you just wanna give me some other thing to consider, please, please, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Cause I think that this is a subject ripe for more episodes and more conversations. All right, we're at our high five. Every episode I like to give a high five to someone who I think is great or something I think is helpful. And today my high five is going to my friend Michelle, who defines herself as the world's Okayest massage therapist. I know Michelle from some online communities and once when I traveled to the area where she practices, I actually scheduled a massage with her and it was a great, not just, okay, Michelle, it was a great massage.
0:14:22.4 S1: But I love the way Michelle thinks because she gives a good massage. Her business does not involve bling or gimmicks. It involves consistency and really good customer service. She listens to the client and she delivers a good massage. She's got good boundaries. It's right there on her website. She's got her phone number there, but it says very clearly no texts and she doesn't answer texts. She has set office hours. She treats her business like a business. And Michelle's our high five today because when I was thinking about how to price your services, I thought a lot about Michelle in that what makes her special is what makes her consistent. No BS, easy to work with. So high five, Michelle, I take a lot of inspiration from how you run your business, and I think you are a good reminder of how an okayest massage therapist can actually be a really great massage therapist because you're providing exactly what consumers need.
0:15:14.9 S1: If you have a question about running your business or an idea for an episode, reach out via email at email@example.com. You can also find me building websites and playing with my community of massage therapists over at deepbreathdigital.com. And make sure that you are subscribed to ABMP's podcast so you don't miss a beat. There is so much to learn about building and maintaining a massage practice. We're gonna help you cover the business and marketing side, the communication skills, and all the things you need to help you be successful. I will meet you right here for the next episode. I can't wait.