Your Best Year Ever

2013 Marketing Road Map

By Eric Brown

When it comes to growing your massage practice, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly where to start the journey. There are many routes to take and many possible destinations. What you really need is a map to make sure you get the best mileage out of the time and money you invest in your practice. 

This road map outlines one simple marketing idea for each month of the year. All you have to do is follow along, implementing that month’s strategy, to reach your goal of a healthier, more profitable practice. Plus, you’ll help more and more people in your community benefit from massage along the way.  

Cut these pages out and keep this map handy—on the bulletin board in your office, on your desk, or even laminated and with you as a reference. 

Ready to start your trip? Let’s go!


Valentine’s Day Gift Certificates

As with any trip, you need to anticipate your needs and prepare for them ahead of time. You don’t want to arrive at your destination and then think about what you should have packed. So let’s look ahead to the first major stop on our marketing calendar, Valentine’s Day, and start preparing now.

Gift certificates are ideal ways to build your practice. Someone buying a gift certificate is not only referring someone, they are actually paying for that person’s session ahead of time! This initial process for creating Valentine’s Day gift certificates is simple, and that’s good. Simple things get done! 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Buy a supply of gift certificates. The better the gift certificates look, the more you will sell. (I’ve found that I can increase redemption rates by 60 percent by selling a full-color certificate rather than one with black print on colored paper.) Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) partners with (get discount information in the Members section at There, you can find customizable gift certificates when you log in. 

• Start planting the seeds. Post one of your beautiful gift certificates on the back of your treatment room door with a sign that simply says, “Gift certificates available.” This is the last thing clients will see before walking back to the reception desk with their credit card in hand. 

• Remind your clients that Valentine’s Day is coming. In the middle of the month, put a sign up at your reception desk with a Valentine’s Day image and a message that says, “Give the people you love a gift certificate this Valentine’s Day,” and display the gift certificates you have available. As clients come to pay you at the end of their session, simply ask, “Would you like to purchase gift certificates for Valentine’s Day?” Clients will appreciate the reminder. 


Grow Your Email List

How many of your clients have fallen off the map? They’ve come in once, or even several times, but have since disappeared. 

To improve retention, it’s important to have an easy way to stay in touch and educate these clients on the range of ways you can help them. This month you are going to compile an email list of clients (or even prospective clients) and start sending at least one newsletter each month. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Start collecting email addresses. The best way to do this is to ask new clients for their email on your intake form. Ask existing clients for this information at the end of their next session. Better yet, call each of your clients and let them know you are starting an email newsletter and would like to include them as a subscriber. You’ll be surprised at how many of these clients will book an appointment simply because they’re on the phone with you.

• Subscribe to a commercial email service. There are paid services, but there are also some great free services as well. ABMP members receive a discount with Constant Contact, which can help you create custom newsletters and manage your email list. I would also be pleased to send you a list of recommended providers; go to the link you’ll find in my author bio at the end of this article. 

• Send out email announcements. For your first newsletter, include a reminder that you have gift certificates available for Valentine’s Day. 

• If you do not accept credit cards at your office, set up an account at so clients can pay by debit or credit card online. Include a purchase link in your email. The easier the certificates are to purchase, the more you’ll sell. 


Educate Your Clients

Most clients, even those who have been seeing you for years, don’t understand the incredible range of ways that you can help them. It’s time to start educating your clients. After all, the only way they’ll find out about what bodywork can do is if you tell them. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Log in to the Members section at and go to the “Client Brochures” link in the Marketing Center. 

• Customize and print a dozen copies of at least two brochures. If you do not have a good quality color printer, simply save the files on a USB stick and take it to a local printer. 

By now, the email list you started in February should be compiled, so let’s make use of that. ABMP offers members a quarterly digital publication to send to their clients called Body Sense magazine. Sending your clients an email with the link to this online magazine is an opportunity to make contact and help them understand how they can benefit from massage.

• Log in to the Members section and click on “Body Sense magazine” in the Marketing Center. 

• Click “Send magazine to your clients now.”

• You’ll see a sample email with the link to the newsletter on that page. Simply copy and paste that message into the commercial email program you subscribed to in February.  

• Customize the message, and be sure to ask clients to take action. For example, “Call me at 555-123-4567 to book your appointment today.”


Create or improve Your Website

A website is a must-have. It is your 21st century brochure and a whole lot more. When someone is thinking about massage, one of the first things they do is hop online and search Google. According to Statistics Canada, over half of all consumers regularly engage in virtual “window shopping” like this before contacting or visiting a local business. 

When someone is looking for massage therapists in your area, you want to make sure your business appears near the top of the search engine results. If you don’t have an optimized website, that’s never going to happen. 

Luckily, ABMP offers all members a free website. 

Here’s what you need to do:

• Just log in to the ABMP Members section, click on “Member Website” in the Marketing Center, and follow the prompts. If you haven’t yet created your site URL, then I suggest you choose one that includes the word massage and your city (e.g., or Using a search phrase rather than your business name in the URL will help your website get ranked in Google. 

• Think of your site as an online brochure that answers the most common questions people may have about using your service. The ABMP website builder is so user-friendly, you can probably set up your customized site in an afternoon. Pages you should include are:

1. Home page: A welcome that describes the key benefits of seeing you and orients potential
clients to your website.

2. Services and rates: Potential clients want to know what you offer and how much it costs. 

3. About us/me: This is a chance to connect with the visitor and establish your credibility. 

4. Testimonials: Word-of-mouth referrals are the greatest ways to build credibility. 

5. Location and hours: Your location is most likely a key factor in their decision to use your services. 

ABMP’s website builder offers preloaded, editable content to help you build your website quickly and easily. You can also set up a blog where you can post monthly newsletters and announcements. 

Remember that Mother’s Day is coming up on May 12, so change the gift certificate signs in your office to reflect that holiday. Again, be sure to ask each client if they’d like to purchase a gift certificate for Mother’s Day. 

You have your email list set up with a newsletter service, so every month you are going to send out two newsletters. During the first week of the month, write a short article about the benefits of massage. During the third week, send a sales message. This month, you are going to send a reminder that Mother’s Day is coming up and that a massage session would make a great gift. 


Meet Your Neighbors

We’ve explored some online marketing approaches over the past few months; now let’s take the off-ramp back to the real world. While web marketing allows you to reach large numbers of people in an inexpensive way, nothing beats good old-fashioned face-to-face communication. 

You’re going to stroll through your neighborhood on this leg of the journey to meet fellow business owners, connecting with two business owners each day until the end of the month. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Pack up your business cards and take a walk down the street, dropping into local shops and offices. You don’t have to overthink this—walk, stop, and talk. 

• Ask for the owner and introduce yourself. Let the owner know that you own a nearby massage practice and you want to get to know other business owners in the area.

• If they don’t have time to chat, make arrangements to go for a coffee. Make the conversation about them, not about you. If you want to be interesting, then simply be interested. Find out how they got started, what their challenges are, and how they get new customers. Find out what solutions they provide and who you should refer to them. Then briefly tell them about what you do and say you are welcoming new clients if they want to send anyone your way. 

• Leave them a small number of business cards and ask if you can add them to your newsletter list so you can stay in touch.

• When you get back to the office, follow up with a “nice to meet you” note—a handwritten note is better than an email. These local business owners can be your greatest sources of referrals, and I suggest you send them a gift certificate for a free 30-minute massage so they can experience firsthand the benefits of your service. 

Don’t forget that Father’s Day is coming up on June 16, so change the gift certificate signs in your office to reflect that holiday. Once again, be sure to ask each client if they’d like to buy a gift certificate for a dad they know. 


Generate Some PR

Why toot your own horn to get noticed when others will do it for you? Public relations (PR) includes a whole range of activities that allow you to connect with people, including charity work, donations, public speaking, special events, writing, and more. It’s a powerful way to raise awareness about your practice.

ABMP’s EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week runs July 14–20, 2013, and this event provides an excellent opportunity to get media coverage. You’ll find it’s surprisingly easy. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Decide what you can do for the weeklong event.
For example:

* Donate a percentage of each massage session to a charity.

* Ask clients to bring a can of food for a local food bank to each massage.

* Create special offers for a target group: firefighters, nurses, students, teachers, or veterans.

* Offer free on-site massage for employees at local businesses: animal shelters, food banks, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.

* Offer free chair massage “samples” in public venues, such as community events, parks, shopping malls, and workplaces.

* Massage a radio DJ on the air during the stressful workday commute times.

* Try something really different, like a flash mob massage with other practitioners. 

• If necessary, make contact with appropriate organizations about the idea and brainstorm how you can both promote the event.

• Get the contact details for editors at local media outlets. Prepare a press release that answers the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your event, but don’t send it yet.

• Complete any other necessary tasks in preparation for the event, like gathering equipment and supplies, printing, scheduling, etc.  


Get Local Listings and Reviews

This month you’ll run your event for EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week. Send out your press release to the editors of the media outlets you’ve identified about 10 days before the event and follow up by phone. Send a newsletter to your clients to announce the event. Ask them to participate if appropriate, or at least share the news with their friends. 

Our next stop on our practice-building road trip is Google+ Local, along with some other important online review sites. 

If you search for massage in your city in Google, you’ll almost always see special local listings appearing at the very top of the page. This is one of the easiest ways to get your site found. And it’s completely free!

To get found at the top in the local results, you need to first claim and fill out your listing. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Go to Google Places at
and log in with your existing Google account information (i.e., your Gmail address and password)
or create a free account. 

• Click the “Get started now” button and you’ll be prompted to enter your business phone number so Google can check to see if you already have a listing or not. 

• Create or edit your listing. Just fill out the form as completely as possible. Use search terms that people may use in the description field. Upload pictures of your business and a video if you have one. 

The ranking of your listing depends on a variety of factors, primarily the distance from the identified location, the relevance of your listing (does your listing and website contain the words searched for?), and the prominence of your website and listing (are there references to your business on other sites and are you getting reviews?). 

The number of reviews clients submit to these sites will determine how often your listing gets clicked, so every time you see a new client, send her an email with a link to your listing and ask her to leave her feedback. Do the same for existing clients. Then, make sure you follow up to thank them when they do endorse you. 

There are other important local review sites you’ll want to be listed on for maximum exposure. These include Yelp, Bing Local, and Yahoo Local. 


Reactivate Past Clients

It’s likely some clients have dropped off your appointment book over the years. You need to reactivate these folks. 

It’s important to recognize that most clients don’t stop seeing you because they didn’t like your massage; they simply got busy and forgot about you. These people are very likely to book another appointment with you, but they need to be reminded you’re still around and you give amazing massages. 

Here’s what you need to do:

• Identify anyone who hasn’t seen you within the last six months. Contact each one by email, postal mail, or phone. (Chances are email will be the least effective and phone conversations will be the most effective.)

Use one of these approaches: 

1. “I was wondering whatever happened to Amanda, so I thought the easiest way to find out would be to give you a call.” 

2. “I haven’t seen you in a while, and I was worried that you may not have been happy with your last massage.” 

Initiate a conversation to find out what’s been going on in their lives and invite them to come back in for a massage. It’s that simple. 


Initiate Follow-Up 

We’ve gone quite the distance in our little marketing road trip. For our next adventure, you’re simply going to get into the habit of calling each new client the day after his or her massage. That’s it! There’s no real agenda other than to let clients know you care and to make sure they were fully satisfied with their experience. 

Just say something like, “I’m just checking in on you. Some people feel a little sore or tender after their massage, and I wanted to see how you are feeling today. What did you enjoy most about the massage? Is there anything you’d like to change or have me do differently for your next appointment?”

This little step makes a huge impression and gets clients talking about you. Plus, if there were any issues that came up, you’d have a chance to address them directly and avoid negative word of mouth. You want advocates, not adversaries.  


Client Appreciation Month

In our quest to get new clients, we often neglect our existing ones and take them for granted. Don’t let that happen to you. They are the ones paying your bills and supporting your family. 

This month, you are going to make plans for a “Client Appreciation Month” in November. Focus on giving clients more value instead of just offering a discount. 

Here’s what you need to do:

• Give clients who come in a little present, somewhere in the $5–$20 range.

• Add a half hour to their first treatment in November at no charge.

• Donate a percentage of their treatment fee to a charity in their name.

• Offer them a substantial discount on gift certificates. 


Big Gift Certificate Sales

Winter holidays are the season of gift giving, and you want to be prepared. Start planning for what will be the biggest gift certificate sales period of the year. 

You can do a traditional promotion. Change your signage on the back of your treatment room doors and on your reception desk and send out an email notifying clients that gift certificates are available for the holiday season. 

If you’ve done your work in May and have networked with business owners, approach them individually and offer them a discount on gift certificates if they want to buy a large number for their staff or best customers. 

Alternatively, you can really ramp it up with an unconventional approach. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

• Offer half-hour gift certificates for a ridiculously low price ($5–$10) to all current clients. 

• Put the following conditions on the sale: “For first-time clients only; one per client; no cash value; please redeem before January 31, 2014; can be upgraded to a full hour for just $30.” Be very upfront about these conditions and print them right on the certificate. (Of course, make sure you can meet the demand for the certificates you sell.)

• Again, put signage on the back of the treatment room door and at the reception desk. Make an announcement by email and ask every client who comes in if they would like to buy several. 

• When clients purchase these, ask if they would like to upgrade each one for only $30 more (or whatever amount you want to charge).

It sounds like a crazy idea selling gift certificates for just $5–$10, but it works. Whether you decide to be conventional with your gift certificate promotion or go crazy is up to you, but be sure to promote these gift certificates in any way possible. 


Start Planning Your Next Trip

You’re still rolling, but our yearlong journey is coming
to an end. Keep your gift certificate promotion in full gear through the end of the year, accommodating people who do last-minute shopping. Send one or two announcements via email in the last week of the holiday season.

As you wind down toward the end of the month, take some time to reminisce about the adventure you’ve been on this year. Sit back, relax, and celebrate all you’ve accomplished on the way. Figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and how you can improve as you move forward. 

Take time this month to start planning your next trip: your 2014 marketing activities. Visit the Business Management area at for ideas and start mapping your activities. Bon voyage! 

  Eric Brown, a massage therapist for more than two decades, provides practical online business courses and resources specifically for massage professionals. He can be reached at