Massage and Bodywork Magazine for the Visually Impaired - Myths (and Realities) of Running Your Practice

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September/October 2013 Issue

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Myths (and Realities) of Running Your Practice

By Marty Morales
[Feature]

A while back, I read an article relating to managing one’s own business. A lot of the points were simply standard marketing content that I received back in my massage business classes. They were nowhere near the marketing techniques I currently use in my private practice, nor did they follow a philosophy that would lead to a successful practice. It was a collection of old, hand-me-down thoughts that had no basis in real-world applications. These ideas were not “alive.”

I asked myself, “If I could give aspiring bodyworkers some real-world knowledge, what would I want them to know?” I began searching my mental database for things I believed when I first started, as well as common issues that massage therapists come to me for guidance on. 

I entered the world of bodywork and bodywork instruction after unplugging myself from the matrix of the finance world. I had an undergraduate degree and MBA in finance, and I started my practice thinking I knew it all with regard to running a small business. When my practice started to take a turn for the worse, I quickly realized I wasn’t looking at my practice through the right set of lenses. 

Mentors and massage therapists more experienced than I taught me it was very important to change my perspective and start thinking differently. Rejecting the following five common myths and embracing what I learned helped me succeed. 

Myth
Lower Rates Attract More Clients

Reality
Lower Rates May
Decrease Long-Term Revenue

Many new massage therapists fall into the trap of not valuing their work enough and charging way too little in order to acquire clients. When their confidence increases and they feel they can raise their rates, they may be worried about losing clients by charging a higher rate. This can happen if a client was initially attracted only to the low rate in the first place, in which case the massage therapist is left having to market himself all over again. This re-marketing can be costly in terms of time and revenue lost. The same scenario plays itself out when using discount programs directed to large numbers of people. 

Tip
If you are starting out and feel you need to charge a lower rate, charge an introductory rate, but always let clients know what your regular rate is. Clients need to be aware of your regular rate so they can be mentally prepared to pay it when the time comes.

Myth
Always Be Available for Clients

Reality
Keep Boundaries With a Structured Framework 

I used to think that if I didn’t always make myself available to my clients, they would move on and find another bodyworker. I would leave my schedule fully open, seeing clients early in the morning and late in the evening on the same day. It wasn’t until I tried an experiment that I realized I didn’t have to leave myself so open. I set up a fixed schedule for a few weeks, then compared the number of clients that month to the previous month. I blocked off time in order to have a six-hour day, and also to have a day off. At the end of the experiment, I noticed that I had just as many clients booking under the new schedule as I had the previous month. I also had the predictability of a set schedule that allowed me to work on other projects or see friends and family. 

Tip
If a client asks to see you on a time that you blocked off, let her know you are unavailable; however, let her know you can accommodate her with several other times, making sure she feels like you listened to her needs. 

Myth
The Customer is
Always Right

Reality
The Customer is Always Right (Sometimes) 

When I was a kid, I worked at a fast-food restaurant, and the manager gave me an important saying that I still use with my students: “The customer is always right, sometimes.” What this means is that although your clients may have the final say with what happens to their body, they may not necessarily know the best course of action, the proper amount of pressure, the best area for work, or the ideal number of sessions they may actually need. This is not to say that we, as practitioners, know more than clients. Instead, it means that in order to run a successful practice, bodyworkers need to see their business not as a health-care or wellness business, but as a business of relationships. This means that we need to open a dialogue with clients and ask questions that will provoke thought and give our clients new insight, an idea emphasized by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). 

Tip
If a client tells you to give him more pressure and you don’t think he will benefit from it, you could say something like, “Let’s see how this current pressure works and we can assess in a couple of minutes.” After a couple of minutes, ask your client how he is feeling. He might be surprised that he feels better without having to receive a “no pain, no gain” type of massage.

Myth
Give Something Extra to Get Referrals

Reality
The Best References Happen Organically

Remember that we are in the relationship business. What kind of relationships are we establishing if we have to pay our clients to refer their contacts to us? We end up getting clients that are pushed on us. Instead, what we want is to have our clients refer folks they believe will truly benefit from our work. I use a simple statement if the topic of referrals comes up: “My business runs on referrals, and I hardly do any outside advertising. If you know of anyone that you believe would be a good fit and would benefit from this type of work, feel free to forward my newsletter to them or introduce us via email.” 

Tip

If clients want to take a few of your business cards, graciously appreciate that they are willing to refer someone to you. In addition, let them know you are open to being introduced to this person via email or phone. This gives you the opportunity to start a dialogue with your new potential client. If you gain a new client from a referral, send the referrer a thank-you email, or better yet, a handwritten thank-you note.

Myth
There is Competition Everywhere


Reality Competition Exists If You Believe It Does 

I learned from my mentors, and I’ve experienced for myself, that not seeing others as competitors will save you from wasting time and energy. We are so unique in our personalities and in our approaches to our work that even two practitioners who took the same exact training may work with a client completely differently. If we incorporate just a bit of ourselves and our personalities into our work, and if we come to the table with a genuine desire to benefit our client, then we will experience success. Any practitioner who acquires a client does so because at some level there was a connection between client and practitioner, not because she won that client from someone else. 

Tip
If you “lost” a client to another practitioner, maybe he or she was never yours to begin with. Be happy for your client who found a practitioner she connects better with. This means there’s another client out there just waiting to connect with your own unique self.

Marty Morales is a certified Rolfer, Rolf Movement Practitioner, and bodywork instructor. He teaches advanced bodywork workshops in his home state of California and internationally, and is the author of Mastering Body Mechanics—A Visual Guide for Bodyworkers (Create Space Independent Publishing, 2012). For more information, visit www.martymorales.com.

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



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