Shoestring Marketing

7 Simple Tips

By William J. Lynott

In uncertain times, it’s only natural to pull in your horns and take shelter until things look more promising. But that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. There are plenty of clients out there. Your job is to ratchet up your marketing efforts while your competitors are slacking off. When the smoke clears, you’ll be stronger than ever, and the competition will be wondering what happened. Following are seven ways to build your practice on a tight or nonexistent marketing budget.

1. Commit to Client Satisfaction

Massage therapy is a people business; you sell your professional services and products to unique individuals. There’s no substitute for an understanding of that basic business principle.

The most effective, and least expensive, marketing technique for any therapist is an uncompromising commitment to client satisfaction. As you know from your own experience, it’s a pleasure to do business with a firm that keeps customer satisfaction at the top of its priority list.

Making certain that every one of your clients goes home with positive feelings about you and your professional skills will turn those clients into walking advertisements for your practice.

2. Harness the Power of the Telephone

Independent studies show that the telephone remains one of the most underused business tools. In one study, researchers called 5,000 Yellow Page advertisers to say, “I saw your Yellow Page ad. How much does your service [product] cost?”

The responses clearly indicated lost opportunities. More than 78 percent didn’t bother to ask for the caller’s name. More than 55 percent took eight rings or more to answer. According to the researchers, many spoke so rapidly that the caller had a difficult time understanding what was said. Less than 10 percent answered the phone in a way that made the caller feel welcome.

To harness the power of the telephone as a marketing tool, you must regard every ring of the telephone as a marketing opportunity. Following are three simple steps that will help you create that profitable first impression.

Try to answer the phone by the second or third ring. Taking too long to answer creates an impression of disorganization and lack of interest.

Speak slowly and give your name. Add a phrase like, “How may I help you?”

Most communication experts agree that a smile on your face translates into a smile in your voice. That’s why some professionals place a mirror next to the phone so that they can see the expression on their face when they answer.

3. Make Use of Cross-Promotion

Massage therapists are ideal candidates for cross-promotion—an inexpensive and effective way for noncompeting businesses to help each other.

Here’s how it works: Sara, a massage therapist, works out a cross-promotion arrangement with John, owner of a beauty supply store in the same town. Each agrees to display copies of the other’s business brochure at their businesses. The cost? Nothing more than the cost of printing.

There’s no need to limit the participants to like professions. The combinations for cross-promoting are limited only by the participant’s imagination. Depending on the nature of the businesses involved, cross-promotion techniques may include such methods as window signs or posters, discount coupons, or personal referrals.                 

4. Put Networking to Work

People prefer to do business with people they know. Think about it. If you need a plumber, an attorney, or any professional, who are you most likely to call? Will you call a stranger from a generic listing or will you call someone you know—perhaps a neighbor or the friendly person you met at last week’s mixer for professionals?

Service organizations, special-interest nonprofits, and your local Chamber of Commerce is populated with entrepreneurs and professional people, and most are as anxious to meet you as you are to meet them. Joining a local service club is an excellent way to put networking to work for you.

5. Tell Your Story Through an Attractive Brochure

Every massage therapist needs some form of written material to provide information to prospective clients. A skillfully designed brochure is an easy and low-cost way for you to grab and hold their attention. Brochures have a longer shelf life than many other forms of business advertising and are often passed from person to person and kept for future reference.

A word of caution: while desktop computers have made the physical job of producing a business brochure a simple task, creating an effective selling message is not a job for an amateur. If you do the job yourself, you should enlist the help of a good copywriter and graphic designer. While this will add to the initial cost of your brochure, the results will make the additional investment worthwhile.

A business brochure may seem too costly to be a shoestring marketing tool. In truth, it’s not. Done properly, your brochure, distributed at every opportunity, will prove to be one of your lowest-cost marketing techniques.

6. Get More Mileage from Your Business Cards

Business cards are among the most inexpensive, yet most underused, shoestring marketing tools. A carefully designed business card functions like a miniature billboard. Held at arm’s length, it registers in the viewer’s eyes as apparently the same size as a 30-foot billboard viewed from a distance. And a good business card contains more useful business information than many full-sized billboards. That’s why you should make sure that your card is attractively designed and professionally printed on good stock.

Use every opportunity to get your card into the hands of anyone who may be a prospect. Don’t wait for someone to ask for your card. Ask for the other person’s card first, take the time to look it over, and then present your own.

7. Grab Your Share of Free Publicity

First, learn what makes a good story. Then, learn how to sell it to your local news media. Your news item doesn’t have to be of monumental importance to gain a free spot in the media; it just has to be newsworthy. That simply means there is something about you or your practice that the public might find interesting.

Following are some newsworthy story ideas about your practice.

Employee News

Many neighborhood newspapers and websites run columns dedicated to residents of the community. Such things as hirings, promotions, and special awards are ideal candidates for submission. Another area of interest is employees or owners who have unusual hobbies or who have performed public service in the community.

Changes in Your Practice

Most newspapers and area websites are keen to run newsworthy items about local businesses. Any time you make a change in your practice—whether it’s an increase in the size of your staff, remodeling, relocation to new premises, or the addition of a new product line—you have an opportunity for some free publicity.

Your Own Activities and Accomplishments

Don’t be shy when it comes to publicity about yourself. If you are involved in community service, invited to speak to a local service club, have an unusual hobby, operate your practice in an unusual way, or participate in any events that have news potential, don’t hesitate to grab a spot on the free publicity bandwagon. You may get additional invitations to contribute.

To get free publicity for your practice, you have to seek it actively. The media isn’t going to come looking for you. While it isn’t necessary to have a contact in the local press to get your share, it doesn’t hurt. That’s another reason to put networking to work for you. The good news is that the more news organizations transition onto the Web, the more they’re looking for reader-generated content. You can provide them a service while promoting your practice.

 William J. Lynott is a former management consultant and corporate executive who writes on business and financial topics for a number of consumer and trade publications. His book, Money: How to Make the Most of What You’ve Got (iUniverse, 2000), is available through bookstores. He can be reached at or