Gaining and Retaining Massage Clients: Eliciting Emotional Responses
By Angie Patrick
Humans are emotional creatures. This is neither good nor bad. It simply is.
We are wired to respond to situations, stimulation, sensory input and vocalizations in an emotional and sometimes even subliminal manner. Loud noises startle us and make us wary of danger, the smell of bacon makes us hungry, the sight of beauty can make us weep, and watching a puppy’s antics can make us laugh. Whether we want it to be or not, our entire response to the world is highly weighted on emotion. Once you understand this basic fact and embrace this as truth, it makes interaction and involvement with others more easily managed.
Business and marketing professionals bank on emotional responses from their clients in order to gain a stronger bond with their prospect. Banks and law firms often employ the use of blues and greens in their advertising to instill a sense of professionalism and strength. Fast food places focus on red and yellow hues to remind you of catsup and mustard, all with the idea of making you hungry. The same can be said of spas, as purple and violet hues, along with other soft or earthly colors, are used in the hopes of putting you in a peaceful state of mind and one that promotes being grounded, centered and relaxed. While not overt, the use of color can trigger emotional responses in us that can help sway our thinking to the mindset of the marketer, making their message more easily received and understood.
Just as sight is a sensory input that can trigger emotional responses, so is scent. Have you driven by a steakhouse or other food establishment and smelled the delicious aromas coming out of the stacks atop the building? I would bet smelling these scents immediately makes you think of the food you smell and entices you to treat yourself to their wares. Have you ever stood in the shampoo aisle of the store and opened the top of the bottle to smell the product before you purchase? Have you ever returned one quickly to the shelf because it was unappealing, while lingering over a bottle that you found pleasing? If shopping with another, did you offer the pleasing smelling bottle to your companion to also smell to gain their insight and opinion? It is likely you do the same sharing mechanism with food you enjoy as well, offering your companion a taste of something you have that has brought your senses pleasure and provides a happy emotion. We share what we love, and that which brings us joy. Be it knowingly or subliminal, what we experience as soothing, pleasing, or enhancing our positive emotions is something we will share with those who are important to us.
So, understanding the basic need for humans to be impacted emotionally in a positive way in order for us to be satisfied and share our findings with others, it makes sense for us to examine our practice and surroundings to see what we offer and work to make the experience one that will be remembered and recommended to others. I encourage you to take a few minutes and consider the following as a means to understand how what you do, how you present and how your interactions can evoke emotional responses, and help gain and retain clients.
Whether you have a brick and mortar location, a rented space or are a mobile therapist, you bring to the table a palette of color and an array of scent opportunity that can set the mood for your services. Depending on the impression you wish to leave with your client with your hands on skills, you can also add visual and olfactory stimulus to add emphasis and help make your clients experience a deeper, richer one. While we are each individuals and each have our own style, it makes sense to help reinforce the positive emotions felt by your client by utilizing a few additions to your marketing and regular treatment.
Consider your business cards. Do they send the message you would like your clients to know about you without reading any of the text? In other words, are your business cards an accurate depiction of the feelings your services provide? I once received a business card from a therapist that was black, with red writing and red tribal art. My first thought was this was a card for a tattoo artist or musician. These colors evoked that mental image for me and the use of tribal art was reminiscent of a tattoo and the all black card and red font reminded me of rock and roll. The therapist was actually a mobile therapist, focusing on relaxation and chair massage. And while the card was indeed attractive, nothing about it spoke to the business or the care the therapist would provide. In the mind of the client, or prospective client, this impression can be a lasting one and when the need arises for a massage they may not correlate your name and business to the need, as it may not be in sync with their visual and emotional expectations. I am not saying to copy everyone else, I advocate your individualism. However, if you are working to build a clientele of people who will be interested in what you do and call you when they have a need, then being synchronous with your visuals and your services makes sense.
So how about your treatment room? What message are you sending with your décor? Consider the colors you use and the way your room smells. Let’s take the example from the above card and extrapolate that to the treatment room. With the marketing tool I was given by this therapist, I would envision a dark treatment room, dark linens and a bit of a vampire feel. Not really the feeling I would want when going to a therapist for stress management and relaxation. While the services of this therapist may be absolutely nothing of the sort, mentally I already see this image and will likely not choose to call upon them for my needs. In my mind, and certainly in the minds of other consumers, softer colors and soothing scents are what they often think of when they think of stress relief. Make sure your surroundings, whether they are static or brought along for the ride, are consistent with your treatment.
Bring soothing colors into your space by thinking about how they make you feel when you see them. While you may adore the latest shade of passion-neon-pink, jarring or unusual colors may create a negative mental check mark in the checklist of your clients mind. Keep in mind, soft palettes of color help sooth the mind and firm colors such as blues, greens and whites often create a more clinical feeling. Soft, earthy tones such as browns, beige, plum, slate, sage and taupe are wonderful neutrals that can work in any space, as they lend themselves easily to any services.
Creating a space and environment that enhances your treatment can include the sense of smell. Have you taken a good sniff of your linens? Do they smell fresh and clean or do they have a faint smell of old oil? Try hard to be objective, as the client’s sense of smell regarding your linens will likely be more acute than your own, as they are not in contact with your linens as much as you are. We can grow accustomed to a scent and even become immune to the objection as a direct result of familiarity. If your linens have become a bit less than enchanting, wash them with enzyme rich detergent designed for oil removal. If this is still not enough, invest in new linens. Your client will be enrobed in your linens, and anything less than a comforting and cocooning experience will leave a negative impression. You work too hard to have your client be put off by this highly correctable issue.
Consider the massage lubricants you use and whether aromatherapy may be of benefit. Essential oils are a powerful tool in bringing about the desired emotion within your client. Floral and soft, woodsy and earthy, clean and crisp, or citrus inspired, each can help you set a tone and feel for the treatment while helping to quiet the mind and stresses of your client. Think of your desired outcome and then set the tone by using sensory stimuli to help evoke this desired response. Just as a realtor stages a home, even going so far as to bake cookies during the open house to make people think of “home” and “family,” you can use the tools in your arsenal to help direct the client toward a mindset that will enable your treatment to have greater impact and a lasting positive emotion.
In total, the most important way you can encourage a client to return is to be an educated and capable therapist. Also take into consideration how what you do, offer and provide makes them feel. Consider how what they see and experience inside and outside your treatment impacts them emotionally and work to make those feelings be those of enjoyment, ease and success. When we feel good about something, we share the information with others, and return for more of what makes us happy. This can mean repeat clients and referrals which can bring you great rewards, both financially and emotionally. After all, who would refuse happy, returning clients who send their friends and family to you, too? In this scenario, everyone is happy! View more of Angie Patrick’s articles at Massage Today.
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