Get Connected, Part 2

Embracing Technology Isnít Scary; Itís Business Savvy

By Les Sweeney, NCTM, and Kristin Coverly, RMT
[Business Side]

Kristin Coverly: Welcome to Part 2 of our column about how to embrace technology to help run and market your practice! Last issue, we talked about some of the ways therapists can use technology to manage and market their practices and communicate with clients. Les, now that everyone has aced their homework and created their own website, pumped up their Facebook presence, and started using their phone as a business tool, what’s next?

Les Sweeney: Well, my first advice would be to take a nap. That’s a lot of good work they’ve done! They need to be ready for the onslaught of clients.

KC: Yes! Hopefully getting all those tech tools up and running will bring in more clients and help make their current clients happier. How about some post-nap ideas? 

LS: Life is complicated these days, and figuring out the best way to reach your clients isn’t easy. And you probably shouldn’t rely on just one method, either.

KC: True. The more avenues you use to connect with people and tell them who you are and what you have to offer, the more opportunities you create to bring new clients into your practice and encourage current clients to keep coming back. So what’s another technology-based technique for communicating with and prospecting for new clients?

LS: I’d say email. Despite the declaration that “email is dead,” I’m not convinced. It seems like everyone is either checking email or Facebook. I don’t think email is going anywhere. And as a reasonably involved technologist/nerd/consumer, I am way more open to acting on email solicitation and engagement from trusted sources than checking out anything through Facebook. For me, Facebook is for keeping tabs on what people are bragging about today. 

KC: Perfect. Let’s talk about email marketing. What does it mean? It’s more than just sending a sporadic email to your clients from time to time. It’s a shift in perspective to view emailing your clients as a marketing opportunity, and it should be approached like any other tool in your bag of marketing tricks—meaning it should be planned, professional, and personal.

Start by planning the content of your message and get clear about the action you want people to take. Do you want to encourage people to fill the open slots in your schedule? Do you want them to buy gift certificates? Do you want them to try a new or underutilized service or modality? Even if the focus of the email is client education, include a clear call to action to encourage a response, like sharing your newsletter.

LS: And don’t forget to set your “timer.” You need to set up your effort to be measured. Let’s say you want to upsell to hot stone treatments, because you are awesome at providing hot stone, and you can charge a little more for it. So the objective is “sell more hot stone treatments.” When? For the rest of your life? By tomorrow? 

KC: OK, how about this goal: “After three months of concentrated marketing efforts, average six hot stone treatments a week, compared to my current zero.”

LS: Great, Kristin. Specific and measurable. Now, we have an objective, and a time frame, and now we just need to prepare a plan to promote this new offering. We can break it down into a few simple steps:

1. Tell them.

2. Tell them again.

3. Give them a reason to do what you want them to do.

4. Tell them again.

Email marketing is not stream of consciousness, or blogging, or sharing on Facebook. It should be a controlled burst of information and enticement to get your recipients to take action—in this case, get a hot stone treatment.

KC: Right, but there’s more to it than that. Here are a few important reminders:

1. Get permission. You can’t just blast away to anyone; your recipients have to be willing to receive your messages (and have given you permission). If you collected email addresses for a free giveaway or raffle, then you don’t have the legal right to send marketing emails unless you made that clear at signup.

2. Offer an out. Give them a way to opt out of future emails.

3. Create action. Encourage a behavior or response and give them an action step.

4. Plan it. One message every three months doesn’t qualify as an email marketing campaign. Strike a balance between frequent enough to stay on their radar and excessive to the point of turning people off.

5. Look sharp. Using an email marketing service allows you to use professionally designed templates, which reflects positively on the quality of your practice in a client’s eyes.

6. Read it again. Remember the rule of thumb for all written material: have some extra eyes read your work to help catch misspellings, grammatical errors, or confusing content before you hit send. 

Also, read up on the CAN-SPAM Act (http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business), a law that sets the rules for commercial email, to learn more about the dos and don’ts and avoid any trouble. 

LS: Excellent use of technology! What’s another one our readers can use?

KC: How about online scheduling? Some therapists have embraced it, but others are still a little leery of how it works. 

LS: We’ve heard that one barrier to using online scheduling is the safety concern that strangers will book appointments. 

KC: Totally understandable, but this is really a case of fact versus fiction. The frightening fictional scenario is that people will book all sorts of appointments with you and you will have no control over when, where, how long, who these people are, etc. The fact is, you have all sorts of control, options, and opportunities to customize the booking process to meet your comfort level. Want clients to be able to see your openings but not book without your approval? Want to receive a text message any time someone books an appointment? Want to allow clients to book online up until 48 hours before a session, but within 48 hours they have to call you? Want to allow current clients to book online, but new clients need to call? Done, done, and done.

Not only do the programs not do the things you’re afraid of, they offer you a lot of really wonderful and convenient benefits that you probably didn’t even know you needed but will really appreciate (and will make your life a lot easier), like sending reminder emails or text messages to clients when you want them to. 

Before you dismiss the idea of using online scheduling, check it out and get the facts first. It might be more user-friendly than you think. 

LS: I agree, Kristin. If a therapist is serious about growing her practice, she needs to think about meeting clients where they are. If I look at my checkbook, here’s what I write checks for: a few utilities, a few service providers, and, of course, my gambling debts (just kidding). The world of commerce is moving online, whether it is payment or scheduling. I can schedule my car’s service appointment, doctor’s appointment—I could have even scheduled my recent surgery—online! 

KC: While we’re talking about adding useful and client-friendly options to your website, don’t forget that you can easily add the ability for people to purchase gift cards with just a click of a button by signing up with one of the online gift card companies. People click the link on your website page, purchase a gift card in the amount they choose, and pay for it online. Therapists pay a percentage of the order amount as the fee for having the service. Easy for everyone involved!

LS: OK, Kristin, what’s one last techno tip to offer our friends?

KC: Well, we touched on using smartphones for your business last time, but we didn’t really talk about all of those wonderful, and sometimes addictive, apps that can help us manage our business—and our life—better.

LS: I am a big fan of apps. There are some great ones that therapists can use.

One of the most important apps I personally use is called Things, made by Cultured Code. It is a GTD or “get things done” app that helps you manage your to-do list. It is designed for the iPhone and also the Mac, so I have a version on my phone that syncs with my computer, and vice versa. I put everything on it from paying bills to writing proposals to remembering to give the dogs their heartworm pills to writing this column. It’s not cheap—$50 for the computer version and $10 for the iPhone/iPad version. But for me, it’s what makes sense. A cheaper alternative is the free Reminder app on the iPhone.

KC: There are some really useful anatomy apps available that are not only great to keep our own knowledge fresh (how many years has it been since we sat in an A&P class?), but are helpful to use with clients to show them where you’ve been working and what’s happening in their own bodies.

A quick search on keywords in your app store will pull up a surprisingly long list to choose from. Browse through the features of each and find the app that matches your specific needs. Here are a few that I’ve used or have heard good things about: Trail Guide to the Body’s AnatomyMapp, MyoFinder, and Anatomy in Motion.

LS: And when it comes to managing your money, apps are making big strides. Most of the bigger banks now have their own app, so check to see if yours does. It’s a quick and easy way to check your balances, pay bills, and transfer money without having to hop in the car. If you use a personal-finance manager, check to see what they offer. I use iBank (again, for the Mac), and they have a mobile version and a more robust iPad version (in addition to the desktop version). Mint is a money management app that made the Mac App Store “Best of 2012” list, and is free for both Apple and Android. Manilla is a bill tracker that is also free and on both Apple and Android, and regularly is mentioned among “must-haves” in money management articles. PayPal has a mobile app that can allow you to take payment, scan checks, and send or request money.

And lastly, you should have a few good time-wasters in case you have a tardy client: Angry Birds (very 2011), Lumosity (the basic version is free), and Dots (I admit I am addicted to this).

KC: I just started using Lumosity, too (hope it’s working), love the quick bursts of inspiration from the TED Talks, and am still trying to beat my mom at Scrabble. 

LS: Did I mention I like Dots? Until next time! 

Les Sweeney is ABMP’s president and resident blogger. Contact him at les@abmp.com and read his blog on www.abmp.com. Kristin Coverly, kristin@abmp.com, is an ABMP education facilitator who teaches workshops for therapists and instructors across the country. Both are massage therapists with business degrees who care about you and your practice. Want more? Check out their ABMP BizFit video tips on www.ABMPtv.com.

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