Stand Out from the Crowd

Three Ways to Specialize Your Bodywork Practice

By Michael Reynolds

We all want to attract more clients and make more money (at least that’s a reasonable assumption for most massage therapists). We do lots of things toward this goal: networking, advertising, email campaigns, and all sorts of marketing tactics. All these tactics can be very effective. But if you’re like most practitioners, you sometimes feel stuck.
Maybe you feel like you’re trying the same marketing tactics as every other massage therapist and you wonder how you will ever stand out.
Maybe you struggle to communicate the value of your bodywork to others and can’t find a way to articulate what makes you great, aside from saying something generic like, “I help people relax and ease their pain.”
Here’s the thing: while you may be great at what you do, it can be difficult for the general public to understand what makes you great, which means they’ll have trouble figuring out why they should pick you over other massage therapists.
There is a way to stand out. The key is specialization.


Specialization means focusing your practice in a specific area or direction that sets you apart and increases your perceived (and actual) value to your clients. For an analogy, think of physicians. Family physicians are highly educated and provide a valuable service. However, you can find them pretty much everywhere, and they all sort of seem the same. You probably picked your family physician by asking a friend and just went with it. You’re not going to be willing to travel very far to see your doctor, so you’re going to look for one who is convenient and close to your home.
However, let’s say you develop a rare heart condition that requires surgery. Suddenly, your priorities shift and now you want the best heart surgeon you can find in your area. Maybe you’re even willing to fly to another city to see the renowned heart surgeon everyone recommends. Here’s something else: that heart surgeon is making a lot more money than your family physician.
This is specialization in action. Specialization (or “niching”) is focusing your massage practice in such a way that you become the sought-after specialist for a specific target market or issue.
Specialization can have an extremely positive impact on your business. It can attract more of the right types of clients for you. It can get you talked about as the expert in your area and help you work from a position of greater authority. It can help focus your marketing efforts. And it can also help you make more money.
So how do you specialize? There are generally three categories you can use to specialize your massage practice: market, discipline, and perspective. If you can niche your practice in one or more of these areas, you can command higher prices and attract more of the right types of clients for you.
Let’s unpack each category.


Focusing in a target market means specializing your practice toward a specific group of people who share a common attribute. This can be job title, hobbies, lifestyle, specific events, or anything that draws people together in a common “tribe.”
Some of the most obvious examples of this can be found in sports. We know a successful massage therapist who focuses her practice exclusively on runners. She has named her practice with a running theme, she has built her website all around runners, she markets herself as a specialist for runners, and she even produces a podcast for runners in her area.
Another practitioner has focused her practice on “weekend warriors,” people who are very active in their spare time, including runners, cyclists, climbers, and other people who maintain active lifestyles as a hobby. She also produces a great podcast for this group and she boldly states that weekend warriors are her specialty.
More examples of target markets that have worked for others include business owners (always stressed), nurses and similar caregivers (on their feet all day), pregnant women (no explanation needed), police officers, firefighters, plus-sized people, airplane mechanics, tennis players, golfers, dentists, teachers, and the list goes on.
When you focus on a specific target market, you can immerse yourself in that market and gain real momentum by learning the lingo and terminology of that market, getting to know their wants and challenges better, and immersing yourself into the thinking of this community. You start to get more referrals because the people in this tribe talk to each other and recommend you. You start to speak their language and use terminology they relate to. You start to get better and better at addressing specific concerns common to everyone in this group.
Everyone likes to feel special. By niching your practice toward a target market, you are inviting your market to self-select into your marketing by empowering them to say, “Yes, you are for people like me!” Your messaging will attract the right people for your business while avoiding people who are not ideal fits for you.


The second area of specialization is discipline. This is the service you provide or the thing you do for your clients. Some examples of discipline can be a specific modality, like ashiatsu or Thai massage. These modalities are unique enough that they can help you stand out.
Other examples can be focused on specific conditions. For example, there are members of our community who focus exclusively on head and neck issues. This can encompass different target markets or specific issues like temporomandibular joint disorder, whiplash, or chronic headaches, but the common thread is the deep focus on head and neck issues.
Specializing in a discipline can be effective because just about everyone loves to talk about their neck pain, headaches, leg pain, stiff joints, etc. We can’t help but broadcast to others exactly what’s causing our discomfort, and it’s easy to see it in others.
Let’s say you focus your practice exclusively on treating migraines. Soon you will start to develop a reputation for being the “migraine whisperer.” People will tell others about you and as soon as someone has a friend with a migraine they will insist that they have to go see you. You will create and center your marketing blog all around migraines and dealing with them. Your social media accounts will become a resource for migraine sufferers who are looking for relief. You will optimize your website so that it gets found when people in your area search for migraine remedies. This is just one example, but think of all the possibilities when you focus on a specific discipline.


The third category you can use to specialize is perspective. This is sometimes a little more difficult to pull off, but it can often be the most fun.
Your perspective is your opinion about the work you do. For a perspective to be effective as a specialization, it should be bold, unique, and potentially a little controversial. A strong perspective can differentiate your practice simply because it resonates with the people who think like you do.
For example, a practitioner recently posed the possibility of working with people who have anxiety issues. In theory, this could be a target market or a discipline. However, it could work even better when developed as a perspective.
Think about anxiety for a minute. Many people with this condition often feel isolated, embarrassed, weak, or ashamed. They feel like no one understands them and, as a result, they try to hide their anxiety and may live a life full of stress and shame.
But what if you were to focus the brand messaging of your massage practice around the idea that anxiety is not something to be ashamed of, but rather dealt with openly and without judgment? What if your perspective was “no one should feel ashamed to struggle with anxiety” or “everyone with anxiety should have a space to feel safe and free from judgment”?
How would this resonate with people who struggle with anxiety? Would it be a breath of fresh air? Would it attract people to your massage practice? Would they think “Finally … someone who gets me!”?

Implementing Your Specialization

Choosing any one of these categories can strongly differentiate your massage practice. Sometimes your specialization can span two (or even all three) of them. The point is to find what works for you and what aligns with your skills, energy, and passion.
Choosing a specialization makes your marketing efforts much simpler. Once you choose your area of focus, decisions flow more easily. Your website is then designed around your specialty. When you blog, it’s all about your niche. Your social media content is more focused. Your brand is well-targeted. Everything is pointed in the same direction.
You also get better at speaking the language of your client. You learn to serve them better because you learn more from each and every one. This, in turn, gives you a stronger foundation for your marketing.
Specializing can be scary, but some of the scariest things in business are the things that bring us the greatest reward. If you truly want to stand out and attract more of the right types of clients, choosing a specialty may be one of the best ways to get there.

Michael Reynolds is a professional speaker and business consultant based in Indianapolis. He partners with Allissa Haines to create business and marketing resources for massage therapists at