By Allissa Haines
This is part of a recurring blog series with business expert Allissa Haines that focuses on simple ways you can improve your practice.
You’re at a networking event, or maybe just at your town’s block party, talking to people after yoga class, or in the pickup line at school. The conversation turns to you being a massage therapist and you’ve got an opening to talk about your work. Are you prepared to make the best of that opportunity?
It takes some practice to get good (and smooth) at talking about your work. It can feel uncomfortable and salesy to tell people what you do and that you are seeking new clients. But these moments are not sales opportunities as much as they are connection opportunities.
Our goal in talking about our massage work is to connect with the people we wish to serve. Reframing these interactions can be really helpful to increase our comfort level in talking about our work.
1. Pick a Niche, If Only For Networking
Many of us are generalists, seeing all kinds of clients with a variety of issues and goals. But telling someone “I see all kinds of clients” doesn’t help them send the right clients your way. When you are presented with an opportunity to talk about your work, especially in a structured networking situation with other business owners, choose a niche.
“I work with all kinds of people, but right now I’m seeing a lot of success helping people with headaches and migraines. If you know anyone dealing with that, send them my way!” Ideally, you’ll have a blog post or resource on your website for people who have headaches or migraine issues, so when you get those referrals, you can woo that potential client into scheduling.
When real conversations are allowed to happen, there will be natural ways to expand on what you do, so when someone inevitably asks, “Do you also treat rotator cuff issues?” you can easily segue into the depth and width of your skills.
2. Follow Up
Meeting someone at an event or in passing is great. But the magic of building a real referral relationship is in the follow-up.
When it’s appropriate in more formal networking situations, schedule a time to meet the person in your office so they can really feel your vibe and understand your work. People who don’t have experience with massage often picture every massage office as a spa or zen garden with chime-y music and fancy water glasses.
Then, do the same for them. Take the time to learn about their business and what kind of clients they are looking to attract.
3. Track It
Use a spreadsheet or just a plain document to keep track of referral partners. That information becomes a really valuable tool as your business expands.
Record a person’s name, contact information, their business and any notes you want to remember from your conversation. Then, just like you would chart a client’s treatments, make notes whenever you have a meaningful connection/communication with them, when they send you a client, or when you send a client their way.
Creating a record of your interactions and revisiting it regularly allows you to follow up with referral partners on a regular basis. That record can help you plan coffee dates to catch up and know who to send gifts to over the holidays, thanking them for all their support.
Networking is a long game, based on two-way relationships. It’s worth the time and effort to nurture those relationships with structure and consistency.
It’s not glamorous, but thoughtful networking can be a strong foundation for a happy and sustainable massage business.
Allissa Haines is a practicing massage therapist and columnist for Massage & Bodywork magazine. You can read her column, “Blueprint for Success,” in the digital edition at massageandbodyworkdigital.com.