The A-Z Guide to Improving Your Practice in 2019

By Kristin Coverly

A is for Active

What type of business owner are you? Active or passive? Proactive or reactive? Active business owners plan, change, and adapt, while passive business owners sit back and let things happen. Can certain aspects of your practice develop organically without you putting too much time and attention into them? Sure. But will they develop in the way that you enjoy most or that sets you up for sustainable success? Probably not. Use the tips in this guide to step more fully into your role as an active business owner.

B is for Brand. Chances are you designed your business card one year, created your website during a different year, and your social media platforms in yet another. Are all of your marketing materials speaking the same language, using the same design, and coming together to create a cohesive brand? Clients and potential clients should be able to easily pick your materials and messages out from the crowd.

C is for Crust. Kids often request that we trim the crust from their sandwiches. They know what they like and don’t like, and they’re not afraid to ask for change. Take some inspiration from them and ask yourself: What’s your business’s crust? What isn’t working for you anymore? Identify specific things you’d like to change—a modality or old marketing strategy—and take steps to trim the outdated items from your practice.

D is for Dual. Take a dual approach to marketing your practice and think of it in terms of these two general categories: “hello” and “welcome back.” Ideally, you’d have strategies in place to attract new clients (hello!), as well as strategies to keep current clients returning for additional sessions (welcome back!). Practitioners often focus more on efforts to gain new clients and don’t put enough attention into improving their client retention. It’s worth the time and resources to create strategies like acknowledging birthdays, frequent visit rewards, and package plans to keep clients coming back.

E is for Experiment. Your practice can start to feel stale if you’re doing pretty much the same thing day after day and session after session. Reenergize by experimenting with change. Go to a coffee shop to do your business management work instead of your home office. Buy a small new item for your massage room or bring something in from home. Enliven your hands-on work by adding a new stroke to every session you do this week. Experiment with little, nonpermanent changes to see what works and what doesn’t. It’ll help shake things up a bit for you and your clients and bring fresh energy to your practice.

F is for Flop. It would be absolutely wonderful if everything in our lives and practices was perfect at all times. But, as we’ve all experienced time and time again, it isn’t. Things go wrong. We have a slow week, a new marketing strategy doesn’t work, or the babysitter calls in sick on a fully booked day. Successful business owners work to develop a mind-set to cope when something’s a flop instead of a hit. They maintain perspective, evaluate what happened, learn what they can from it, and make a plan to move forward. Work to develop your own strategy for picking up and moving on when things don’t go as planned.

G is for gift

How would you describe your gift certificate program? Do you have specific marketing strategies to promote gift certificate sales? Have you made it easy for them to be purchased by adding an online gift card in addition to the traditional paper certificate? Are you using them as a marketing tool to bring new clients into your practice by giving them to current clients to share with friends and family? Rethink your strategies to ensure you’re promoting them effectively to increase sales, minimizing the challenge for people to purchase them, and maximizing their role as a marketing tool.

H is for Horn. Bodyworkers often resist the idea of marketing because they believe it means having to be overly salesy and pushy to the extent that it becomes off-putting. Not true! Marketing simply means letting people know who you are and what you have to offer. Yes, you need to toot your own horn a bit to let people know what makes you special and why they should choose you over the competition, but you get to do so in your own words. Choose language and a style that is true to who you are, and you’ll be marketing your practice in an authentic and genuine way.

I is for innovate

Modernize the way you’re managing your business. Take advantage of all the technology available to you to help you communicate with clients, maintain client records, track your income and expenses, etc. Sure, there will be a learning curve as you figure out how to use all the exciting bells and whistles of a new program, but the long-term benefits in efficiency and convenience will be worth it. If the options feel overwhelming, choose one new program to implement each month or quarter. Ask others for advice and reach out for help if you need it. When you innovate and use technology to enhance the way you run your practice, you transform your practice and pave the way for growth.

J is for jelly

Who’s the peanut butter to your jelly? It’s often more successful (and more fun) to partner with another business owner to create joint marketing efforts, events, and promotions. Co-marketing allows you to brainstorm exciting ideas that benefit both businesses while sharing in the duties and costs. Pick a local business owner—within the health and wellness profession or outside it—that complements your strengths and weaknesses and together you’ll create a perfect pair.

K is for Kickstand. Like a bike needs a kickstand to be able to stand up on its own, your support team is the human kickstand that allows your practice to stand successfully as a business. Start by thanking your existing support team—professional and personal—for everything they do to support you. Then, identify areas where you would benefit from support but don’t have it yet (accounting, marketing, cleaning). Actively work to fill those gaps with new team members who help you and your business stand tall.

L is for Listen. When surveyed, clients said the number-one reason they did not return to a specific massage therapist was because they didn’t receive the session they asked for. It is absolutely worth the extra few minutes it takes to ask the client what their goals are for the session and come up with a plan together. When a client asks you to focus on their neck and shoulders, you might think that means give those areas extra time during a full-body session, while the client thinks you will only work on their neck and shoulders. They may also say shoulder when they really mean rhomboid. Put all your active listening skills into practice every session to alleviate miscommunication and disappointment: listen, clarify, and follow through.

M is for Membership. Is it time to develop a monthly membership program? It will take a bit more business management time on your end, but the increase in client loyalty, frequency of visits, and regular income more than make up for it. Examine how other businesses structure their programs and consider creating a unique version that works best for you and your practice.

N is for Net. Let’s think of net in two ways: versus gross and safety. It’s important to know your net income figure versus your gross income figure each year so you know how much of your income goes to expenses and how much ends up in your pocket. The more you can minimize your expenses, the more net income you’ll have in your account. And, even though there are many ways you’d like to spend that money in your account, it’s incredibly important to add regularly to your savings. You never know when you’ll need a safety net to help pay for an unexpected expense or to cover a slow time in your practice.

O is for ostrich

Some business owners choose to stick their head in the sand when it comes to facing facts. They’d rather look the other way than at their bank balance. Or stay so busy in the day-to-day workings of their practice they don’t take time to pop their head up, evaluate how things are going, and look forward to plan strategies for their future. You have to take a good hard look at the facts so you can make smart choices for the future of your practice. This means tracking data, like number of sessions, busiest and slowest days and times, changes in income and expenses compared to the same time period last year, etc. The more you know about how your practice is functioning as a business, the better equipped you are to make informed decisions about how to move forward successfully. Or, as I like to say, “Know so you can grow.”

P is for Plan. As both a verb and a noun, plan is a powerful word for your practice. Planning and having a plan help you make smart decisions and achieve your goals. As tough as it might feel to carve out the time, dedicating an hour each week to plan your marketing strategies, client communication, and future growth has a huge impact on your business. Go from verb to noun and actually create a marketing calendar and to-do lists, and set goals so you have a step-by-step plan for how you’re going to make your exciting new plans reality. 

Q is for Quick. Think outside your normal marketing box and consider implementing new types of promotions like a quick-return offer (QRO). These offer an incentive—extra time, small discount, an add-on—to clients who return for a second visit within a specific period of time. You decide the time period, incentive, and type of session—maybe a specific modality or length of time—that qualifies. QROs motivate clients to return more frequently and try new modalities. For example, “Return for a hot stone massage within two weeks and receive a complimentary upgrade from a 60-minute session to a 75-minute session.”

R is for retain

How do you know if your “welcome back” marketing strategies to keep current clients coming back are working? Calculate your client retention rate! How? Follow these steps:

1. Choose a time period to study: three months, six months, a year, etc.

2. Determine the total number of clients you had in your client portfolio at the beginning of the time period.

3. Calculate the total number of sessions you gave during that time period.

4. Determine how many of those clients were existing clients before the start of the time period and how many clients were new.

5. Start calculating! Divide the number of existing clients that came for a session by the total number of existing clients you had at the beginning of the time period.

Your client retention rate helps you decide whether you need to increase your marketing efforts. Also, seeing a sharp decline in this rate might be a cue that it’s time for a client satisfaction survey. Maybe there’s something you’re unaware of that’s affecting clients in a negative way.

S is for Share. The key to growing your business in these days of digital marketing is sharing. Having clients share your website and social media posts with people they know and posting a positive review on sites like Yelp and Google My Business for people they don’t. Will they share your information on their own without a prompt from you? Maybe. Is there a much better chance of them sharing on your behalf if you ask them to? Absolutely! Make it easy for them by sending an email they can forward to potential new clients and posting shareable content on social media. Let them know which review sites you’d like them to add comments to. Everyone’s busy. Sometimes people just need a little reminder of how much impact a share on your behalf can have on your business. Ask for it

T is for Thanks. Be sure to thank people when their sharing of your information results in new clients. Thank them quickly and sincerely. Examine your referral thank-you program. Is it time for a tweak? Consider offering clients a choice of rewards—a discount, additional time, an add-on—so they’re getting something they really enjoy.

U is for update

Promoting your practice is not a once-and-done activity. Your marketing materials need ongoing updates to keep them accurate, fresh, and worthy of a new visit from clients (and potential clients). Take a close look at your website and social media pages. Is it time for an update? Consider adding new photos and a welcome video, updating your bio, and revamping your modality descriptions.

V is for Visit. When you receive massage and bodywork—and hopefully you do that regularly—do you always receive from the same person or at the same location? Mix it up! It can be informative and inspiring to receive sessions from other therapists and wellness practitioners in new spaces. See how their booking process works, how they communicate with clients, and what their waiting area and room are like. Experience their work. You’ll almost always take away some nuggets of inspiration to bring back to your own practice.

W is for welcome

What’s your onboarding experience like for a new client? Is it easy for them to get the information they need from your website to choose you as their therapist? Is it a straightforward process for them to book their first session? Do they have all the information they need to find your building and park? Have they received and filled out their new client paperwork in advance? Do they feel comfortable because they know what to expect from their session? Think about your process and make sure it’s just as streamlined and informative as it is welcoming.

X is for Xiphoid. Is it time to brush up on your anatomy? Can you locate your own xiphoid process? Are you still able to distinguish between the semitendinosus and semimembranosus? Can you chart your sessions accurately and answer your clients’ anatomy questions with confidence? If not, it’s time to refresh your knowledge.

Y is for Yes. Say yes to the thing you’re hesitating about because of fear. Say yes to the opportunity to learn something new from a new instructor. Say yes to doing something simply because it will bring you joy. Say yes to setting goals to expand your practice. Say yes to embracing your role as an active business owner.

Z is for zebra

Schedule time off for a vacation to see zebras in Africa, hike a gorgeous mountain, or wiggle your toes in the sand. After all the work you’ve done in A–Y, you deserve some relaxing ZZZs.