Steps to Build a Better Practice

By Eric Brown

Has your massage income hit a ceiling? Do you feel stuck wondering how to get more clients in the door? Do you wonder how you can increase your sales right now so you have enough money to cover your rent at the end of the month? Sometimes taking your practice to the next level seems like an impossible task, but the reality is there are lots of things you can do right now to increase your practice income. Here are six simple strategies you can implement this week to see long-term sales increase. Don’t dismiss these strategies as too simple—some of the simplest tactics are the most effective.

Strategy #1:
Get Instant Appointments

To get instant appointments, send an email to your clients letting them know about openings in your schedule for the week ahead.

Here’s how to do it:

• If you already send an email newsletter to your clients, you are halfway there. If you don’t have a client email list already, compile one from previous email correspondence and intake forms. Put these contacts in a group in whatever email program you use. 

• On Monday mornings, send your clients an email listing the appointment times you have available. Your email could read like this:

Feeling stressed? Need a massage? I have three one-hour slots open in my schedule this week that need to be filled:

• Tuesday, November 8, at 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

• Friday, November 11, at 6:00 p.m.

Reply to this email with the time you want, or give me a call at 555-123-4567 right away. For helping me fill my schedule this week, I’ll give you $10 off when booking one of these open spots. I’m waiting for you. Make the call.

Jane Doe, Your Massage Therapist

If you send out communications using your email program, be sure to put everyone’s name in the “Bcc” field. You don’t want to be sharing your clients’ email addresses with the world. It would be better to use a commercial email service. Some therapists worry they are spamming their clients, but this isn’t the case. You have existing relationships with your clients and are allowed to communicate with them. Most of them will truly appreciate the notification. Don’t think you need to offer discounts to get people to respond. Here’s a note I got from a therapist who uses the strategy without offering any financial incentive whatsoever:

“I send out an email every Monday with my open appointments listed for the next two to three weeks. I always get at least two appointments, maybe as many as five or six through this method. My clients love it and they were the ones who encouraged me to send it on a regular basis. It reminds them once a week that I am out here.”

The power in this approach simply lies in staying in front of customers and providing a friendly reminder that you are there to help them.

Strategy #2:
Ask Each Client to Rebook

I remember the first massage I ever did after becoming licensed. I was so excited to have a client. I did a great massage and felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. My client, Daniel, got dressed and came out to the reception desk to pay for his treatment. I processed the credit card, gave him a receipt, and sat there beaming proudly. Then there was an awkward silence. Daniel started to look uncomfortable. He cleared his throat a little and asked sheepishly, “Can I come back for another massage?”

“Of course!” I blurted. The way he asked indicated he wasn’t sure if it was OK to request a second appointment. Being my first massage ever, it never occurred to me that clients need some guidance on a treatment schedule. It never occurred to me to ask him to rebook.

After a couple of decades in the profession, I now know that simply asking each client to rebook their next treatment can mean the difference between a struggling practice and a thriving one. With the tracking that I’ve done with therapists in my clinic, I can tell you that therapists who routinely ask clients to rebook can make up to 60 percent more than therapists who don’t ask.


Here’s how to do it:

• First, be sure to recommend a treatment schedule to your clients. The ideal time to do this is after their first session with you. Give an honest recommendation on what you feel is in their best interests. You can say something like: “To resolve these headaches you’ve been having, I suggest you receive massage two times a week over the next two weeks. We can evaluate your progress after that and see how your body’s responding to treatment. How does that sound?” Find out what they think of your proposed schedule and discuss other options if necessary.

• At your reception desk, simply ask,  “Would you like to book your next few treatments now.” Assuming you’ve discussed a treatment schedule and you have agreement with the client, it’s a simple matter of booking appointment times that are convenient for them.

• If the client is unsure of his or her schedule, then book something tentatively. It’s always easier to reschedule an appointment than it is to try to reconnect at a later date. If a tentative appointment is not possible, make arrangements to call your client at a specific date and time when the client has access to his or her schedule. Take some responsibility for making sure your client gets the help and support he or she needs.

Strategy #3:
Offer to Extend the Client’s Session Length

One day I was looking at our clinic appointment book and noticed that one of my therapists was almost completely booked with 90-minute sessions. I leafed back through a couple weeks in the appointment book and noticed he went from doing 60-minute sessions to doing 90-minute sessions almost overnight.

This is a big deal, because increasing session times from 60 minutes to 90 minutes means you have increased your sales by 50 percent! I pushed him for the secret.

“I just suggested that if they liked a one-hour massage, they would love a 90-minute massage. Then I asked them if they wanted to book 90 minutes for their next appointment,” the therapist explained.

It was that simple. Woody Allen is quoted as saying: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I say, “Eighty percent of getting clients to buy more massage more often is asking.”

Here’s how to do it:

• When rebooking your client, ask if they’d like to try a 90-minute appointment instead of their usual 60-minute appointment.

• Do it impromptu. When clients come in for an appointment, mention you have 30 minutes free immediately after and you could offer a longer massage if they would like to upgrade.

Strategy #4:
Call 10 Inactive Clients

Under the premise of keeping the clients you have, this strategy is not only easy to carry out, but can increase your sales volume significantly. Call 10 clients who you have not seen for some time and ask if they’d like to come back for a massage. Now, before you start to get anxious over this suggestion, let’s take a look at why those clients aren’t seeing you.

• Was your massage horrible? Not likely.

• Was your customer service atrocious? Not likely.

• Do you smell bad? Hopefully not.

In all likelihood, they enjoyed their massage experience, felt better after their massages, and were generally pleased. So why aren’t they seeing you now?

Essentially it boils down to this: clients forget about you. They are well-intentioned. They want to feel good, and they want to take care of themselves, but they have lots of competing priorities. Life gets in the way. Between getting the kids to school, working hard all day, making dinner, and fulfilling social obligations, they forget to take care of themselves.

It gets worse if you are not proactive in communicating with your clients on a regular basis and reminding them of the importance of regular massage. They forget how good your massage felt. They forget how much they benefited. And, believe it or not, they even forget who you are.

It’s not that they don’t like massage or didn’t enjoy their experience with you; they just forgot. When you give them a call, you are simply reminding them of your existence. Once given an invitation, a large percentage of the inactive clients you contact will be happy to come see you again.


Here’s how to do it:

• Go through your client files and pull out the records for 10 clients you haven’t seen in the past 6–12 months. Call them and use one of these approaches:

1. “I was sitting here at the office and I thought to myself, ‘Whatever happened to Jane?’ You used to come in regularly and I haven’t seen you here for almost nine months, so I thought I’d give you a call to check in with you to see how you’re doing.”

2. “I was concerned about you and thought I’d give you a call. Most clients come in at least every few months for a tune up and I haven’t seen you in almost a year. I was worried something may have happened to you or that maybe you had a bad experience last time you were in. I thought I better give you a quick call just to see that everything is OK.”

• Ask them if they’d like to come in for an appointment.

Not everyone you contact is going to come back. But my guess is, if you talk to 10 inactive clients, three to five of them will start seeing you regularly again.

Strategy #5:
Meet 10 Business Owners in Your Neighborhood

People won’t use your services if they don’t know about you, so it’s important to get the word out. One of the simplest and most direct ways is canvassing other businesses in your neighborhood. You’re not going to try to sell them anything, you just want to meet them and find out a little bit about their businesses. You’re being friendly and starting a relationship. Because they are business owners, they likely have a large network of people they know and would be willing to refer to you once they get to know you better.

Here’s how to do it:

• Grab your business cards and walk around your neighborhood. Step into shops, restaurants, and offices and ask to speak to the owner. There is no need to plan your trip or call in advance. Just stroll by and drop in.

• When you meet the owner, introduce yourself and let him or her know you have a business in the area and wanted to meet some other entrepreneurs. If you want them to be interested in you, then you must start by being interested in them. Ask them questions about their background and their business. Have a handful of questions prepared to stimulate some conversation: How long have you had this business? How did you come to open up shop here? How has business been for you? What kind of marketing is working for you? How did you get involved with [whatever service they offer]? What are your plans for your business? What’s the next step for you?

• Give them several business cards and invite them to come in to see you for a treatment. Let them know you are taking clients and if they should come across anyone who has a need, please send them your way.

Strategy #6:
Give Away 200 Gift Certificates

Here’s a technique that works beautifully if you need clients fast. It’s perfect for therapists who have a lot of time on their hands, but not a lot of money to spend on marketing. I’ve tested this strategy out with hundreds of therapists in my “60 Clients in 60 Days” program at and have tracked their results, so I know it works.


Here’s how to do it:

• Print 200 gift certificates on your home printer. You don’t want to spend much money to do this. Use a template in Microsoft Word or create your own. Format three to a page so that they fit into a standard envelope.

• Make the gift certificates for 30-minute massages. This is not a discounted offer. This is a free half-hour massage with no strings attached. Print these conditions clearly at the bottom: “For first-time clients only. No cash value. You can upgrade this gift certificate to a full hour for only $30 [or whatever price you want to charge for the upgrade] by requesting a full hour when booking your appointment.”

• Have your contact information clearly printed on the certificate, and include an expiration date that is two weeks out from the time you plan to distribute them. You want to encourage people to use them immediately. You don’t want these to gather dust or get lost. By having a short expiration date like this, you will attract people who are action-oriented, not people who are only half-interested and will do it one day when they get around to it.

• Carry the gift certificates with you and give them away at every opportunity. For example, when a client comes in for her next massage say, “I’m looking to build my practice. I would like to give you five gift certificates, worth $200, that you can give to your friends. If you know of anyone who’s under a lot of stress or who gets headaches [mention several of the conditions you like to address], then please give them one of these gift certificates. I’d like to help them if I can.”

• When you give out the gift certificate, point out the short expiration date on the bottom of the certificate.

• When someone calls to redeem their gift certificate, ask them if they’d like to upgrade to a full hour for only $30 more. If they don’t take advantage of the upgrade at this point, you can remind them again when they actually come in for their appointment. Just say, “I have some extra time available. Would you like to upgrade your session to a full hour of massage for just $30?”

Most therapists find that about 80 percent of clients will take advantage of the upgrade offer when it is presented in the way I’ve described. For a $30 upgrade, you should make about $24 on average for every gift certificate redeemed.

Don’t forget to apply the previous strategies. Discuss a treatment schedule and ask each new client to rebook. To multiply your efforts, give five certificates to each new client and have those clients pay it forward to a new group of clients. Your financial benefit from this strategy is threefold:

1. Income from the initial visit.

2. Income from clients who choose to rebook and see you on a regular basis.

3. Income as the result of referrals
and gift certificate sales to these
new clients.

This is a great strategy to use if you tend to be passive in asking clients for action. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable making calls to inactive clients, you can send them a letter with a free 30-minute gift certificate. When you are meeting business people in your neighborhood, instead of giving them your business card, give them a free 30-minute gift certificate so they can experience the benefits firsthand; give them enough gift certificates for each of their staff as well.

Start applying these six simple strategies today to give your practice a boost. Repeat these activities regularly and not only will you be helping greater numbers of people, but you’ll also have a much healthier income. 

 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