Give Them Something to Talk About

Your Clients are Your Best Marketing Tools

By Jed Heneberry

Have you ever watched a movie just because a friend recommended it? Or gone to a restaurant someone raved about? We rely on word-of-mouth advice so frequently that it is easy to forget the powerful effect it has on our purchasing decisions. 

According to The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 72 percent of people say reviews from family or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence on the decision to use a brand, company, or product1—and lucky for you, people who get a massage love to talk about it.

In 2012, two out of three people who had a massage recommended it to someone else.2 That means about 67 percent of your clients are so appreciative of your work that they’re out telling friends and family about it—let’s call them “ambassadors.” And while these ambassadors spread the good word about your practice, you’ve either given them the tools they need to make a sale for you, or you haven’t. 

Let’s say one of these ambassadors, Shannon, just got a massage from you, then met some friends for dinner. Shannon is talking about how the pain she had in her hip is gone, and that you have magical hands. One of her friends then mentions he could really use a massage for his tennis elbow. How can Shannon tell him to get in touch with your practice? Do you have a memorable website name? Do you have a website at all? Is there an incentive for Shannon to close the sale and earn a referral discount?

Thinking about your clients as part of your marketing plan can help you make them more effective ambassadors for your practice. Here are a few ways to get started.

The Social Network

When talking about Facebook statistics like “users” and “posts,” the numbers stretch into the billions, and even trillions. How do people sort through the digital deluge? Friends. In fact, 48 percent of Facebook users surveyed for ABMP’s 2013 National Consumer Research Survey said they would “completely” or “mostly” trust a recommendation for a massage therapist if it came from one of their online acquaintances. (The site is so influential that fully 15 percent of users would trust a recommendation on Facebook that is not from a friend.)

Does your practice have a Facebook page your clients can tag when they update their friends on the hot stone massage they just received? You’ve no doubt asked clients to recommend you to friends, but have you ever asked them specifically to refer you to Facebook friends? What about creating Facebook-only discounts for people who “Like” your posts, even if it’s just $5 off their next massage? You can also try posting content that is easily shareable, like 50 words on how massage is great for golfers.

Thinking about ways to engage clients with your Facebook page will create opportunities for them to share the content with friends. If you also incorporate online booking into your website, through a company like Full Slate, for example, you can book a new client without ever having to lift a finger. Your ambassador does something she normally does—post to Facebook or “Like” some content—and you benefit from the power of word of mouth.

Give Something
to Get Something

“Tell your colleagues about the benefits of ABMP membership.”

“Tell your colleagues about the benefits of ABMP membership and earn $20 off your next renewal.”

Which statement makes you more likely to tell someone about the benefits of ABMP membership? The same goes for your practice. Giving someone a discount on his next appointment if his friend books an appointment with you just might inspire him to go the extra mile in directing someone to your website or praising your work. You might lose $10 on his appointment, but you’ll gain that back, and possibly earn much more, by reaching a new client.

We all know referrals are valuable. But how can you make it easier for your ambassadors to actually sell their friends on the fact that they need you? 

Offer Gift Certificates

Consider creating gift certificates that are good for new clients only, and write your current client’s name on the bottom as the referrer. If you get a certificate turned in, your ambassador gets the credit, whatever that means for your practice. (This idea is borrowed from “Your Best Year Ever” by Eric Brown. Get the full details in the January/February issue of Massage & Bodywork on page 64.)

Give Consultations

If a client has friends who are new to massage, offer to show them around your space, talk about what a session would be like, and listen to their pain or stress complaints. They can come in alone or stop by with your ambassador before one of her sessions. You might even throw in a five-minute chair massage as a preview, if that’s something you’re set up for.

Hold an Open House

This is the same concept as the free consultation strategy, but on a larger scale. It gives people a chance to see your space, and you can offer a brief presentation on the benefits of bodywork. If you’d like, offer new clients a discount on their first appointment, and offer every existing client that brings a friend the same discount. You could also partner with other local businesses to expand the guest list or have them provide food or drink in exchange for free publicity.

Find the Experts

In his book The Tipping Point (Little Brown, 2000), Malcolm Gladwell identifies types of people who help create what he calls a “social epidemic.” There are connectors, those with large social networks; mavens, experts who love to share information; and salesmen, those adept at persuasion. Do any of your current clients come to mind when you hear these descriptions? Make it a point to give them what they personally need to refer you to others. For example, give a connector some content to share, a maven specific understanding of what techniques you’re using and why, and a salesman some incentive for every referral.

More Mouths, More Words

By making it easier for your clients to tell people about you, you are multiplying the voices out there singing your praises to potential clients. Consider how you can package that knowledge for your current clients, and incentivize them to share it, and you’ll have ambassadors spreading the word about your practice to people you’d never reach otherwise. Go, give them something to talk about. 


1. Word of Mouth Marketing Association, “Wommapedia,” accessed June 2013, 

2. ABMP’s 2013 National Consumer Survey, conducted by Harstad Strategic Research.

Jed Heneberry is associate editor for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. He can be reached at


A Massage is Worth a Thousand Words

If you want to get people talking about your practice, it helps to know what they are already saying. During ABMP’s 2013 National Consumer Survey, adults who received a massage in 2012 were asked what word or words come to mind when they hear the word massage. Consider asking your clients the same question, and see how the results compare.

69% think “relax,” “relaxing,” or “relaxation”

11% think “no pain,” “pain free,” or “relieve pain"

10% think “feel good,” “feeling better,” or “happy"

10% think “stress relief”

How does this change your sessions? 

Will you talk less? Address different areas of the body? Provide a different kind of essential oil or choose a different kind of music?


How does this change your marketing? 

Will you incorporate these words into your messaging? Will you design a session that highlights relaxation? Will you reduce your emphasis on specific health benefits?

How does this change your practice? 

Will you work on techniques and routines to facilitate relaxation? Will you seek out and specialize in those clients looking for pain relief?

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.