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Gaining and Retaining Massage Clients: Eliciting Emotional Responses

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

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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Positive Trend in Massage Conferencing

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I am Beginning to See a Trend….
By Angie Patrick

I just got back in from the Florida State Massage Therapy Association Annual Convention in Orlando. Not only did I see all my old and dear friends, but I am DELIGHTED to say I made MANY,  MANY new ones!

While this does not seem to be extraordinary in and of itself, it does show me a definite trend in massage conferencing I am in high hopes will continue to grow and develop.

At the last two Massage Conference / Conventions I have attended, < The AMC and FSMTA> I have seen an influx of new people coming out who have never experienced a trade show before. These are practicing massage therapists who have never had exposure to a conference or tradeshow floor before. This is a VERY good thing for the massage industry, because it means that people who had not been active in the community are now branching out and learning how involvement can benefit us all.

My litmus test for this new trend is quite simply, our orders. Our company would have <arguably> one of the largest repositories of massage therapist data in the country. If someone works in the massage field, the chances are strong we have their name address and phone number. That being said, we have averaged 25-30% of our total orders being that of people who are not already in our databases. THIS IS HUGE! This is something we have not seen in years, and it is a trend that will be welcomed news by massage associations, distributors, vendors and manufacturers alike.

I am especially encouraged as I am seeing a rise in spending by therapists at shows. The last two years have been hard on many economically, and with an increase < albeit slight> in spending at trade shows, I am hopeful this is heralding in a stronger industry trend upward. While I am not saying we are back to the levels we saw in 2007-08, I am saying I am becoming ever more hopeful with the positive signs I am seeing in the marketplace.

I am also excited to see the level of participation from massage STUDENTS! This is a virtually untapped market of folks eager and hungry for information. As evidenced at the last two student events I have attended, the attendance is rising and we are doing a better job overall of bringing these new peers into the community. The FSMTA has SUCCESSFUL START, and this is really a powerhouse event! The American Massage Conference has the SMART FROM THE START event, and it was also a huge success. Finding and informing massage students about events such as this is a challenge, so growth in this tier is truly exciting.

Forward momentum and a unified community will help us reach our industry goals. Being part of the massage community for me is a blessing. I have met and had the pleasure to work with so many gifted and amazing people. If you have never been to a conference, I encourage you to go! It is an experience not to be missed as the opportunity for education and savings on massage products and massage equipment is substantial. Completely worth the price of admission!

Read more posts by Angie Patrick at Massage Today.

Separating Business from Pleasure…

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

By Angie Patrick

In the past weeks, I have had two emails asking me advice. In both instances the Massage Therapist is asking me how I would suggest handling friends and family as a client, especially when they sometimes pay less for the same work, and often do not show up for appointments on time.

I can certainly see how having family and friends as massage clients can be beneficial, but then you have to also consider the “dark side” if you have friends and family that really push the envelope and take special allowances because they “know you”. It can put you in a very difficult position indeed and finding a way to salvage the friendship while putting your foot down can be a daunting task.

If you find this is happening to you, and you can read the words above and identify completely, then you need to read below. You can have business and pleasure together, but there have to be some lines of delineation drawn. Once you have these parameters set up, then you should be able to either enjoy working on the friends and family that can respect your position or you can politely cull those who have questionable regard for your livelihood from the herd.

One thing you can do before entering into any kind of “friendly” client arrangement would be to make sure you are crystal clear in your expectations, and that you communicate this to your friend or family. Be sure you take the time to explain while you are so glad you have that person in your world, you also have a massage business to run. Set the ground rules up front about timeliness and cancellations, and set a fair price from the start. If you choose to discount, that is certainly your prerogative, but be sure you stand fast on this. Waffling is weakness, and it is bad business. While you are trying to dance around and save the feelings of a friend, you are spending time on something other than growing your massage business with full paying customers. Be concise and clear from the start and avoid this dilemma.

If you are already in a relationship with a “friendly” client that is wearing on you and you feel you are being taken advantage of, then it is high time for a face to face conversation among friends about your feelings. Honesty, regardless how painful, is always the best policy. Friends and family may not even be aware they are impinging on your professional livelihood, and may well be open to listening and working to make things better.

When you have these conversations, summon your courage and make the following points:

  • You love that person.
  • You want to speak with them about a difficult subject, but you hope the relationship is strong enough to be wholly honest.
  • Massage is not a hobby for you, it is your career.
  • Management of your time is paramount to you and to your practice. When the client runs late, you cannot adjust the remainder of your calendar to accommodate the single late client. You hold this rule with the rest of your massage clients, and you need to have the same hold true for them as well.
  • Because you want them to benefit from massage and from the education you have obtained, you would like to set them up on a regular basis, and for this massage treatment your pricing will be _____________.

If after this conversation, the person is less than understanding of your point of view, and does not see it as a problem, then it may be time to make some hard choices and politely refer them to another massage therapist for treatment. I know that sounds hard to do, but in the long run, it may be best for you, your practice, and your peace of mind. Ultimately, it is up to you how lenient you wish to be with friends and family. You may be able to handle the issue with no troubles! But for others, it is not so easy. Taking some steps at the onset of the relationship can prevent an issue later, and being honest with yourself and your client about expectations and pricing can alleviate misunderstandings leading to angst on your part.

If you have faced situations similar to this, share with us how you worked things out. More people than you may realize find themselves in this boat, and could likely use some additional pointers and tips in how to hand it.

In the mean time, love your family, love your friends, and be sure to draw your lines clearly whenever the twain shall meet.

Other articles on Massage Today.

Blind massage therapist and employer receive honors

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Tim Herold knew that massage would come naturally to him. He had been doing it within his family circle since he was 11. He’d rub his mother’s shoulders and his cousins’ backs. It made them feel better, and Herold felt he was helping them.

He didn’t let the fact he’d been legally blind since birth deter him.

Herold and his employer, Rosalyn Coggins of Beauti Central Salon and Day Spa, have received state honors for their work.

A rehabilitation counselor for Arkansas Services for the Blind nominated Herold for Consumer of the Year for outstanding achievement in his career, and Coggins for Employer of the Year for an eight-county area. The statewide winner will be announced in December.

Herold says he now has his “dream job” and couldn’t be happier. The styles of massage he offers include reflexology on the feet, deep tissue massage and Swedish massage. The salon and day spa is equipped for Herold to give brief chair massages of the head, back and shoulders, too.

Coggins says she wasn’t hiring when Herold first contacted her about a job, but he asked for a meeting anyway and his professional way of presenting himself convinced her to give him a chance.

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