Ten Low-Cost Promotions You Can Start Today

By Shannon Perez
[Business Side]

Promoting your massage business to potential customers takes work and persistence as well as creativity. Research shows that on average, consumers need to hear a message at least three times before developing name recognition or recall and nine times before they become a customer. Promotions that target new customers must therefore be consistent and continuous, but they don’t have to be expensive to be effective. A successful campaign can generate hundreds if not thousands of dollars in new revenue each year. The following ideas represent low-cost promotions that can translate into big results.

1.  Celebrate community. As a massage therapist, you intuitively understand the importance of relationships, but may forget the importance of integrating that sense of community into your professional business-building activities. Collaborate with local artists, musicians, and small-business professionals while hosting an open house for the general public at your establishment. It’s a fun way to meet people while allowing everyone involved an opportunity to mingle and demonstrate their talent. Consider targeting this activity toward a group that you would like to work with—for example, a hip interactive meet-and-mingle night for singles or a business card exchange for small-business professionals. Music, art, and even catering will add to the ambiance of the meeting while reducing or even eliminating your primary costs. It’s free or low-cost exposure for those who desire to showcase their talent, plus it’s a great way to meet people while giving back to the community. Invite your regular clients and have them bring a friend. Post notices on the local community event boards—most are free—and ask the other presenters to do the same. Total cost: usually free or under $100.

2.  Loyalty Exchange Clubs (LECs). Not familiar with LECs? Don’t worry, most people aren’t and that is exactly why they can be so advantageous to your practice. A Loyalty Exchange Club builds on the 80/20 rule that states that 80 percent of your business will come from roughly 20 percent of your clients. Those same people who are your very best clients are likely to be great clients to other small business owners and vice versa. For example, perhaps you have a client like Ted. He comes in for a massage every two weeks like clockwork. The beauty salon around the corner has a similar client by the name of Diane who comes in weekly for her hair, nails, or a facial. This is a great way for you to meet Diane and introduce Ted to the salon. And your clients will thank you for the benefit.

The key to making an LEC work is to recognize and reward your loyal clients with a free membership in the LEC, allowing them discounts for trying out other services. To do this, you only need to coordinate with other local business providers who all agree to recognize and reward their best clients—usually the top 20 percent—with LEC cards. Each LEC card list looks like a standard business card from the originating company on the front, but on the back lists other participating businesses for your client to receive a discount. Total cost: shared cost of printing a batch of two-sided business cards, usually less than $100.

3.  Celebrate. Who doesn’t love a good party? Who doesn’t love a good massage? Combine the two and you have a double reason for celebration. Some small epicurean delights, great music, and a relaxing atmosphere combined with good company and massage or facials make for an engaging pre-wedding celebration or fun and relaxing girls’ night out. Offer an assortment of healthy vitalizing energy drinks, jazzy music, and invigorating sports massage for a pre- or post-sporting event celebration. Private massage parties are all the rage in many metropolitan areas and represent premium revenue opportunities. Team up with event planners, bridal consultants, photographers, travel agents, and others to let them know of your services. Total cost: free.

4.  Be your own billboard. As a small business owner, you are your business and should be proud of that fact. Unfortunately, many massage therapists miss the opportunity to engage hundreds of potential clients each and every day. Remember, people need to see your name at least three times before remembering it and approximately nine times before becoming a client. You can be seen for very little money. Have a custom T-shirt with your business name, logo, and phone number printed on it and wear it in public while you do your routine errands and shopping. Ditto for magnetic car signs. Want an even bigger response? Include an introductory offer for anyone who sees your T-shirt and stops you to request a business card. Likewise, offer a discount massage for those who see your car and call in to schedule an appointment. It’s a great way to be seen and an even better way to let people meet you in person. Total cost: less than $100.

5.  Creative charity campaigns. Support that special cause while growing your business. Team up with the Lions Club to collect used eyeglasses for the visually impaired while offering a discount day for those who donate or collect three canned goods to feed the needy during the holidays. The list is endless and can reflect those causes most near and dear to your heart. As an added benefit, many charitable campaigns are eligible for free press coverage in local news or community event calendars. Total cost: free.

6.  Tame technology. More than 80 percent of people use the Internet routinely and you should too. Even very simple promotions can bring exposure when consistent. For example, many communities have free online bulletin boards or classified ads, like Craigslist.com, where you can post. Use e-mail to book yourself solid by sending out last-minute specials when you anticipate a slow day. Write a small newsletter or create a list serve with healthy tips for your clients that promote the benefits or special offers you have planned. Join a professional networking site like LinkedIn.com to virtually meet others in your community. There are literally hundreds of inexpensive ways to promote your business by simply using technology and a lot of creativity. Total cost: free.

7.  Go viral. Infect the community with a buzz while creating good will and fun. Select a small item that symbolizes your business—this may be a customized coin, massage money, or even a small figurine. Almost any item will do. Have your name and contact information engraved on the item and then let it loose in the community. For instance, you might leave it as a tip for your favorite waitress. The person who brings the item back to the office receives a deeply discounted or even free service and then is free to take the item and pass it along to the next recipient of their choice who then passes it along again. The end result is word-of-mouth advertising. Total cost: less than $100.

8.  Become an exhibitionist. Approach local corporations and nonprofit groups that rely on exhibitions and entertainment to offer your services. Be prepared to demonstrate the strong response and attention generated by free massage. If you have attended trade shows, corporate events, or fundraisers, you understand how much planning goes into presenting a compelling attraction to bring attention to the company. Offer a free chair massage by the display or provide a sign-in sheet and randomly select from the list every fifteen to twenty minutes and watch people line up. It’s a win-win for the corporate or nonprofit client and yourself. Total cost: free.

9.  Create a club. It’s not only profitable, but educational and cost effective. For a small annual membership fee, your clients receive the gift that keeps giving. A club is a great way to educate members on the benefits of massage, stay in constant contact with clients in a positive and educational manner, and gain valuable insight into what is on the minds of your members. The club benefits members by providing special offers and discounts to products or services that you have reviewed, educating clients on important issues. And, most importantly, a club fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty among your clients. Total cost: less than $100.

10.  The art of appreciation. Your clients are the key to your success, but showing appreciation—and allowing others to show their appreciation—can benefit your bottom line while creating fanatical customer satisfaction. Many massage therapists send out birthday cards or special occasion reminders, but the art of appreciation takes it one step further by allowing the community an opportunity to nominate special people in their own lives. Sponsor an art of appreciation day with refreshments, flowers, and a drawing once an hour for special prizes, awards, and recognition. Have nominations sent in by family members, friends, or employees explaining why someone deserves an extra special recognition, a bit of relaxation, or just a little pampering. Don’t forget to invite the community editorial pages, local radio station, or other media to cover the event and remind people to nominate that very special someone. Most importantly, the art of appreciation allows the massage therapist to sponsor an event that touches the lives of those across the community who give so much to others. Total cost: free.

  Shannon Perez has worked extensively with leading organizations, including the CDC, WebMD, and others. She has taught college health for a decade while writing and consulting in the industry. She holds master’s degrees in health science and business. For more information about her upcoming books, planning guide, and practice management tools, visit www.massagepracticeplanner.com.