Body Slam These Body Scams

I’ve recently been the lucky recipient of two separate yet equally annoying scam attempts on my business phone line. Woot!

Take a look at this text message I received a little while back. You can see that the sentence structure and vibe seem more than a bit suspicious. At first I chose to reply in a professional manner, just in case this was an actual prospective client:text

Then their reply confirmed my suspicions, so I responded in kind:fu

This scam has been making the rounds among massage therapists, salon folk, personal trainers, etc. for years. If you engage with the texter the convo eventually morphs into a fraudulent credit card scam involving wiring money to the texter. Sometimes the scammer will engage via email as well, due to being “hearing impaired”. 

A friend suggested that we all make it a habit to reply to these scammers with pictures of goats, because why not? In support of this new campaign to Ram the Scam, I’ve designed a little something to blast back at these criminals. Please use, share and enjoy!

goataway

Scam #2 manifested as numerous phone calls from “merchant services”. Their phone numbers were varied and sometimes featured a local area code; sometimes they’d even leave a voicemail message that I wouldn’t return. 

I unintentionally answered one of their calls the other day. The scamming bozo on the line said he was from “merchant services” and wanted to send a rep out for a quick ten minute appointment so he could update my horribly out of date credit card processing equipment (that I do not currently and have never had…Square, baby).

I nicely told him that I don’t have an account with them, and requested he take my name off of their list so I don’t waste any more of their time. This rude asshat had the nerve to raise his voice and inform me that he got my number from Google so if I wanted to remove myself from the internet I could go ahead and do that. Well I never!

So I did him one better. I put myself on the do not call registry. [insert laughing goat meme here]

Then I researched the scam he was trying to pull. It involves “merchant services” switching your credit card processing activities over to their company without telling you they’re doing it. Apparently you can incur major fees by dumping your old company like this. So don’t. 

Have you got a scammy story to share? Please post it below (with farm animals, if you wish). 

I’m A Big Girl Now

I’ve been growing my little foot spa biz for over two years now. It’s currently at what I feel is a really good place number-wise for a part-time hands-on gig. I look forward to filling things out a little bit more in the upcoming year — booking more appointments further in advance if possible — but I’m happy with where things are right now, too.

I’ve also been engagin’ in a lot of learnin’ about potentially uncomfortable subjects recently, including cancer treatment, oncology massage, and death. I think I even finally know how I want my gravestone to look — complete with a refreshing sense of well-placed joy and excitement! (Cue the weird looks!)

bear

When I first became a massage therapist ten years ago, my retired insurance exec cousin told me I should look into disability insurance. What if I injured my tools? How would I support myself? Her questions were valid.

I ended up working at spas that provided disability insurance as a benefit, but those days are over. Being 100% self employed means I have to think about these things and put on my big girl panties. I have to do the things I dread.

This afternoon I visited my insurance rep, Mary. I’ve purchased my business, homeowner’s and auto insurance through her over the years, and she has always been super helpful. I told her I knew nothing about disability insurance, but I’d appreciate it if she’d talk me through it and present me with my options “in case my arm gets chopped off one of these days”. 

We had a lovely chat about the trials and tribulations of small business life and neighborhood gossip. Then she showed me that I could acquire disability insurance for as little as $23.13 per month. 

Tonight I’ll present my options to my better half and we’ll talk it over while we do laundry and watch Fringe. Being a grown up isn’t always easy, but it’s how things get done…and hopefully done right.

10 Things Your Mother Never Told You About Entrepreneurship

Since posting about my resort spa-leaving in October, a handful of lovely people have approached me to express their own desires to go out on their own and become entirely self-employed. Some have asked questions like “what’s the first step?” or “how do I find clients?”. I hope to share my insight on these matters briefly yet somewhat competently in this post.

Let me start by mentioning that no two paths to entrepreneurship will be the same. Each of us are born into individual circumstances, raised in different environments, given unique opportunities, and influenced by factors specific to our own lives. I share some of my experiences here, modestly hoping that at least one small, useful part resonates with someone out there in our virtual living room. If you have an entrepreneurial story of your own – good, bad, even completely unrelated to massage therapy – I encourage you to share it in the comments section. Entrepreneurship is one of those blog topics that can only benefit from group participation, and I thank you in advance. Now let the listing commence!

 

  1. Identify your vision. What kind of work are you passionate about doing? What types of products are you passionate about using? I love doing many kinds of massages and spa treatments, but foot massage is right up there at the top of the list. I also like using luxurious creams and oils that are beneficial to the skin (this is especially important here in the Mojave Desert). So I opened a little day spa that specializes in feet. Pinpointing your passion will help you to hone in on your signature offerings, which will set you apart from the chain massage clinics down the street. This is one of the first steps to building your identity as a business.
  2. Get cozy with your branding and stay consistent. Maybe you live in a small town and you’re the only massage therapist within 200 miles. You can probably afford to name your business “AAAAA Massage Therapy” even if everyone hates the name. But in my experience, I’ve found that in a marketplace full of half-baked business ventures and forgettable distractions, having a fun, clever or thoughtful name is a plus. It also helps to keep you on track when you’re considering the overall feeling that your brand conveys. “Feetish Spa Parlor” has always been very Victorian in my mind, so I keep my branding consistent with that vision as much as I can. Victorian influenced furniture, cabinets, ceiling tiles, lighting fixtures, décor…even the typefaces and clip art used on my signs and printed materials are reminiscent of the time. Obviously I use a smartphone, hot towel cabi and factory-produced hand soap too, but you get the idea. You wouldn’t install Ashiatsu bars in a room that isn’t used for Ashiatsu, so don’t clutter up your image with inconsistencies that dilute and confuse.
  3. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. I can’t do couples treatments because my office is tiny and there’s only one of me. Once in a while I have to explain this to a caller. But I continue to put myself out there, and the right people find me. Again, focus on what you can do, and on what you enjoy doing.
  4. Location is key. I don’t necessarily mean you have to be in the biggest, flashiest building in town, but if you’re running a brick and mortar operation, location is pretty damn important. You’ll want your location to be convenient to the clientele you’re looking to attract. You’ll also want your location to be convenient to yourself, as you’ll be your very own #1 VIP client. Is there parking nearby? Is the area relatively safe? Are there other businesses in the area that mesh well with yours (cafes, boutiques, other places where relaxed or adventurous people with disposable income hang out)? Are there other businesses in the area that compete with yours that might cannibalize your clientele now or in the future? Stake out the locations on your list of possibilities. Become obsessed. Check out the flow of people on different days of the week during different times of the day. Do this for months. Talk to people who are active in the community where you hope to set up shop. Make allies before you sign your lease. Spend your money in this community. Say hello. Smile.
  5. Make your presence known. You will have to market your business. You will have to invest countless hours into this seemingly thankless task. You will be tempted to give up, but you shouldn’t. Cast a wide net. The advertising I pay for right now consists of my website, business cards, and printed spa menus. I will sparingly and selectively donate gift certificates to causes I’m passionate about. I send out a monthly email newsletter using MailChimp. I have a free Yelp listing. But other than that, most of my marketing efforts are concentrated on social media. I use Instagram a lot, and I usually auto post my photos to Facebook and Twitter. Someone may see you on Yelp today, someone else may see you on Google tomorrow. You never know.
  6. Don’t get in over your head. Signing a lease on an 8,000 square foot facility may sound like a dream come true right out of the gate, but I’m having heart palps just thinking about it. It’s perfectly OK to start small.
  7. Consider your schedule. The more hours you make yourself available to take appointments, the more appointments you’ll likely take. Wait! You say you only want to work Tuesday through Thursday from noon ‘til 5? And you wonder why you’re only booking two appointments per week? And you resent the whole damn thing because you just drove 45 minutes one-way to perform a 30 minute service when gas is $3.26/gallon? It sounds like it’s time to rethink your schedule. Two years ago when I first opened my business, I had set hours when I was in the office — appointments or not –five days per week. This was good at the time. But last year I realized it benefitted my clients (and my sanity) more if I switched to working by appointment only, but with greater availability. Now I can schedule my life around the appointments on my book and vice versa.
  8. Make things happen. Create excitement! Start a blog for your biz! Video chat online and upload it to your business’s YouTube page! Visit with your neighbors! Throw a party at your office and invite the neighborhood! Offer them food! Share meals with people…people like to eat! The early days of business ownership are usually the loneliest. Fill that time connecting with people and building relationships with people in your community, because eventually, when you’re super busy with appointments, you’ll wish you had more time for that.
  9. Adapt. Now that I have more appointments on my book I’m no longer able to sit in my office with the door open, waiting for retail customers to stroll by. So I’m running a clearance sale on Dermalogica this month, and it’ll probably be a while before I order more retail-sized items. And y’know what? I’m totally OK with this.
  10. Some pressure is OK. Like a firm handshake or a leather corset. But business is messy, invention is messy, and life is messy. To quote my dad: “We can’t control everything that comes our way; we can only control how we react.” Countless successful entrepreneurs have failed in business multiple times before they eventually made it big, but they learned a lot along the way. Entrepreneurship is hard work, long hours, boatloads of stress and tons of sacrifice. I’m still really happy with my decision to take this path, but if it ever gets to be too much for me – if I feel like I’ve been paying too high a price for too long with too little return on investment – I’ll do my best to adapt. And if that means hanging up my holster for a bit so I can treat myself to some well-deserved kindness and understanding, then that’s what I shall do.

Seven things about massage therapy I learned from teaching toddlers.

You think you learned everything you needed in massage school? Forget that. Here’s what six years of working with two-year-olds taught me about being a great massage therapist.

1. Taking turns matters.

You will get your chance to relax, to deal with your personal problems, to break down, to chat about your interests, to cry. But while you’re giving a massage, it’s not your turn. Learn to be patient.

2. It’s mean when you won’t share your toys.

There’s no room for trade secrets in this business. You’ve got two hands, some oil, and a human body in front of you. The rest is just gravy. Playing hard-to-get with your colleagues because you see them as the competition, slapping a trademark on your particular take on deep tissue massage, refusing to mentor students and new therapists for fear they’ll steal your ideas … it’s petty. You’re a special snowflake, okay? Anybody else trying to be you is going to spend a lot of energy and end up with mediocre results.

3. Poop happens.

Also drool, snot, sweat, and period blood. Latex gloves and bleach, my friends. Latex gloves and bleach.

4. Everything can be interesting.

If you’re bored, it’s not the world’s fault, it’s yours. There are ants on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky, and glue sticks have an unusually satisfying flavor. Searching for the causes of a headache is like reading a good mystery novel. Find the wonder. Just because you don’t see it yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

5. Eventually, somebody’s going to throw a tantrum.

A tantrum is an outsized reaction to a real or imagined problem. If the problem is real, it’s important to fix it. But know that the fixing won’t necessarily stop the tantrum right away. The nice thing about tantrums is that they’re exhausting. They can be scary while they last, but nobody can keep it up for long.

6. Everybody changes.

You will change. You will grow. You will pick up new values and new vocabulary, and learn to do new things on your own. Your body will do things you never anticipated it would do. The same is true of your clients. Expect it.

7. Everybody likes to have their back rubbed before a nap.

Seriously, everybody. Some quiet music, a soft blanket, and a back rub. There’s nothing quite like it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any toddler understands the value of regular massage. Maybe it’s time we learned that for ourselves.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

Turning Warm Leads Into Well-informed Clients

Looking for some suggestions on how to get, manage, and effectively turn warm leads into “a client on your table”?  I’ve got some practices, here, in lead gathering and use that apply to primarily a sole-proprietorship but can also apply to any business.

Even before I started professionally practicing massage therapy, I knew I had to get as many people on my table as possible, and the more diverse in body type, considerations, and client goals, the better – I was going to open my own private practice someday.

But, before I even got out into the massage therapy world after my basic training, I knew that I had to come out from under my shell..and actually talk to people to get them on my table.  Student Clinic prepared me for that one-on-one interaction and encouraged me to get my hands on as many people as possible AND gave me a tool to keep track of everyone I had on my table [during Clinic]…and off the table [that I had talked with about massage therapy].

head-scratcher

In the beginning, and with people that I talked to (trying to get them on my table) understanding that I was “new”, I had a hard time getting contact information, much less talking about what I would do with it once I got it from that person.

I thought a good method would be to direct “people on the street” to my website, where they could sign up for an occasional newsletter that I would publish and learn more about me – that way I could get their email address.

Then I thought, a good way to get “people at gigs where I was doing chair massage” to get on my table was to include a space for the chair client’s email address and permission to contact them on the release form.

Then I thought, why don’t I get “people at a wellness event/fair” to sign up for my contacting them via email.

These, unfortunately for me I learned, were really permanent warm leads that I was creating.  However, the web-disseminated information about massage therapy I did create to serve these warm leads allowed others who would search for a massage session and become my client find me (based on relevant search results, in “massage”) through my various (and consistent) business listings and profiles, and book with me based on my web presence or presentation.

Following are some practices I use to effectively and for-the-long-term interact with potential clients and some techniques I use to create, through my database information, working relationships as “people who get on my table”:

Contact [Enrollment] – anyone is a potential client.  Be aware that personal relationships can also be professional relationships and that your sister will eventually hold two or more roles in your professional practice: sister, client, referrer – be sure you put her in the appropriate-named database categories, too.  Treat every Contact as your client, and treat their contact information, permission, and intent like gold – because it really is fortunate that they want what you have to give.

admtCreating a List – collect contact/business cards.  If they don’t have one, ask for their name/phone #/email address [to write down] so you can keep in contact with them about that awesome, enthusiastic conversation you just had with them about massage therapy.  Any other information you think is important to know/note: also include that in the information you collect.

Storing your List – when you get their phone number through their business card or verbal information, keep it in your phone or, better, an online service that is seen through and interacts with your phone/website.  Often times when someone calls you, Caller ID may fail – if their name & phone number are already in your phone, you’ll know who it is right away and be able to minimize or avoid altogether that awkward feeling of that “I recognize your voice, but…who are you, again?” moment.  Also: computer spreadsheets, paper spreadsheets, paper address books, contact databases in a local email client (Outlook, Eudora, etc) or online (Gmail, Yahoo, etc) are efficient ways to keep the information permanent – in electronic version, you’ll definitely want to BACK UP your information or print it out on paper every once in a while to assure you never lose it.

Using your List – regarding contact information: if you have the ability to categorize your contacts easily, do.  I separate non-clients and clients in my database with color coded categories in Outlook for easy access later, for things like creating client letters, broadcast announcements, and the like.  Regarding email addresses you got in an online form: I use Google’s Feedburner to automatically send out my blog website’s RSS feed entries to my Feedburner-subscribed email list.  This is so I know that everyone interested in the information but who are not necessarily my client get the feed they subscribed to on my website.  With Feedburner, I can manually enter email addresses that I have collected and have “permission to market” on file.

Once you have your contact list started, populated with people who are “warm” leads (aka, of whom you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting) and of whom you have permission to market, start the scheduled emails.  Stay ahead of the game by always having more than enough articles to publish.  If you have specials to promote, make sure that you include that information (maybe even a link to a permanent webpage featuring the details of the special) somewhere in the email.

Maintaining your List – the best rule of thumb that I have used is: take care of it now.  Any delay in adding or removing a contact from your list only reflects on you as apathetic and uninterested in the needs/desires of your audience.  Most email systems, like Feedburner, Constant Contact, Email Brain, will have automated unsubscribe links within each email sent – easy for the recipient to Unsubscribe if they want.  But make sure manual entries and deletions to these permission-based list are done promptly – your efforts will be appreciated, leaving you looking professional…and possibly worth electronically- or professionally-reconnecting with at some point.  I like the automated emails that state “did you mean to unsubscribe?” or “if you would like to re-subscribe at any time, please click this link” in the unsubscribe confirmation emails – I keep these for future (resubscription) intentions.

The following suggestions are based more on ethical considerations moreso than business practice or practice-building:

DOs – establish permission-based marketing

checkedCollect business cards – it has always been my understanding that if someone gives me a business card, it is implied consent to contact them.  That said, I only contact them with their business card information about the “thing that we talked about” when they gave me their card.

checkedUse “sign up/in” sheets at events – include a space for [your client’s or potential client’s] email address AND indicate, somewhere on the form, that you’ll contact them [in the future] with…well, you decide: newsletter, specials, surveys, etc.

checkedCreate a form on your website that collects a visitor’s email address – when they are asked to sign up, they are usually promised something: a regular newsletter, specials notifications, first-time client offers, and the like.  You can make it worth their while – to be in your database – if you personally email them an article you wrote, a “tips”/information sheet, or even an infographic you have permission to use or made yourself to connect their website entry with you personally.

DON’Ts – spam

uncheckedCollect email addresses anonymously or “harvest” them from sites that explicitly state that using the information on the site in ways other than the purpose of the site (which is to connect massage therapist(s) to clients, for massage therapy purposes, et al).  This type of information gathering is not permission-based and will get you blacklisted on the major email services (AOL, gmail, Hotmail, etc) or account terminated on web-based email list management services (Email Brain, Constant Contact, , etc) if you are reported as “spam” – to the ISP, mail service, or list management services through their no-spam “unsubscribe” policies.

uncheckedPut people on lists that they did not sign up for.  The fastest way to lose an electronic client…and possibly a live one…when they figure out you added them because they were in your database and not subscribed or interested in the information you started sending them.

uncheckedSend too many communications by email/RSS feed – when you do more than monthly newsletters that have advertisement or promotion in them, “overbearing” comes to mind of the reader…and every time they see your email header in their Inbox.  This results in a behavior modification that not only hurts your business but also your identity/reputation.  If you send an article ONLY of interest to your email database – and make it relevant to the service and/or product you purvey in another space (like a booking webpage), link it in the footer or signature of every email you send out.  I promise: people will always know where to find you when you are consistent in placing your contact information there.

 

Now, if you’ve read this far AND are not familiar with all these concepts, your head might be swimming – please ask questions, give suggestions, confirm/deny, or feel free to leave your favorite smoothie recipe below.  Maybe you’ll be able to put down the Dramamine before you’re done typing 😛

What are some ways you collect contact information, methods you use to connect with warm leads, or “best practices” for maintaining a relevant database for your practice or business?

Putting the FUN in Crowdfunding!

Crowdfunding: The use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to fund a project or business. 

Have you ever heard of Indiegogo? How about Kickstarter? These are two popular examples of crowdfunding websites, and if you haven’t checked them out, you should. You’ll find all kinds of creative projects, posted by dream-pursuing individuals looking to employ an emerging form of fundraising that’s accessible to supporters at almost any level of net worth. Even if you go just for the entertainment value, or for inspiration, you’ll walk away with a little something you didn’t have when you first typed the URL into your toolbar.

My first experience with crowdfunding took place about two years ago. My friend Jøsh publishes a zine (a “perzine” for those up on their ‘90’s indie culture lingo, and an “independently published magazine of a personal nature” for those who aren’t) called Negative Capability (link probably not safe for work…but also extremely funny). He had taken a break from his late-‘90s, early-‘00s writing frenzy, had a few kids, and was looking to get a new issue out to the masses. The material was there, but production funds were required.

Enter Kickstarter.

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites allow a project to be posted for a specified amount of time, with a specific monetary goal, and a list of perks that are given to funders depending on the amounts of their contributions. At the end of the campaign period – if the project’s monetary goal is reached or surpassed (with Kickstarter, but not necessarily Indiegogo, more on that later) — the perks are sent to the funders, and the creator goes ahead and uses the funds to make his dream a reality. In Jøsh’s case, I contributed $100; because the campaign’s goal was met and then ultimately surpassed, I was given a bunch of Negative Capability’s back issues, the brand new issue, some original films used to make the offset printing plates, and I got a shout out on negcap.com! (again, probably NSFW) — but the best feeling came from being part of a cool project that I believed in.

What does this have to do with rubbing oil on strangers?

I’m currently running a campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds for my new skin care studio-meets-Victorian parlor-meets-curiosity shop business in Downtown Las Vegas. As of today, my campaign is 16% funded, with 27 days left to go. I won’t bore you with the rest of the deets that you can easily access by clicking here, but I will tell you that my heart has melted several times over with the outpouring of support I’ve received from friends (both online and in real life), family, clients, and even a few strangers and anonymous folks! It’s interesting how a $5 contribution can make me feel like $5,000,000. I appreciate every morsel of support, including all of the sharing on social media sites, and the opportunities for media exposure that have come my way over the past few weeks. But that’s enough about me and the risk I’m running of sounding like a self-promoting narcissist.

Are you thinking about starting a new business? Indiegogo allows you to seek small business funding on their site (Kickstarter is more for creative projects. Read the terms and conditions on any crowdfunding site you’re researching…there are legal considerations to be aware of). Indiegogo also allows you to set up your campaign so that you’ll receive funds raised even if you don’t make it to your goal amount. Maybe your business is already up and running. Do you need some new equipment? Or do you want to travel to Thailand to learn Thai massage? These dreams can also be realized through a crowdfunding campaign.

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Crowdfunding can also serve as a useful marketing tool. If you promote your campaign, people will notice. They’ll ask questions. If they like what you’re doing, they’ll want to be a part of it, will want to help you, and will spread the word. It’s exciting, and thanks to your campaign’s mandatory deadline – whatever it is – there’s a sense of urgency about it. A rush. It’s like a game, and when you know in your heart you’re going to come out a winner, games can be a lot of fun.

(I’m planning on writing Part II next month, right after my campaign ends. What will I have to say? I have no idea!) 😉

 

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Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

 

On Ignorance

When I was really little, I believed Canadians didn’t attend church. I knew that my family didn’t go to church because of my father, and my father was different from other people’s fathers because he was Canadian. Furthermore, I had met quite a few Canadians, and none of them attended church either.

The fact that my grandmother’s house in Montreal was right next to a Catholic church didn’t phase to me. (Also, not only did I eventually figure out that my extended family was not representative of Canada as a whole, but I also learned what “Jewish” meant. Look how far I’ve come!)

Sure she’s cute, but can she drive a stick shift?

The truth of the matter is, we all start out ignorant. While the fact that I confused nationality and religion in Kindergarten certainly caused some laughs, nobody got angry at me for what I should have known. Our tolerance for ignorance usually decreases with age: it’s okay for an 11-year-old not to know how to balance a checkbook, but we get annoyed if they still don’t know by 22. While the opposite is sometimes true when talking about new technology, most of us set age-based standards for wisdom.

You should use the toilet by 3. Learn to read by 6. Do algebra by 15. Understand the electoral college by … probably never. 

Unfortunately, these assumptions on our part can hurt not only our businesses, but our community.

When I was 26, I read LMT on a business card and had no idea what it meant. I got annoyed with the person. What the heck were they trying to convey, the fact that they knew the alphabet? Why wouldn’t they just tell me what they did? I wasn’t stupid, but someone assumed that I would see that their business was a spa, make a list of possible spa occupations in my head, somehow match one of them up with the letters I’d been given, and decide they were the person for me.

They lost my business.

When we assume that very young massage therapists can’t do a great job because we were ignorant at that age, everyone loses out on what might have been a great professional relationship.

When we assume that just because a massage therapist has years of experience and a well-known practice, they must also have a firm grasp on ethics and professionalism, we can get ourselves into sticky situations.

When we’re furious that someone doesn’t realize there’s a difference between a massage therapist and a prostitute, we effectively stop that person from ever coming to us with a back injury.

When we get angry at new massage therapists straight out of school who’ve been taught that massage flushes lactic acid from their muscles, we lose a chance to educate and to foster the growth of a potential advocate for scientific literacy.

There are lots of blameworthy characteristics in the world: dishonesty, untrustworthiness, egotism, greed. We do what we can to avoid dealing with people who show those qualities, because there’s not much good that can come from it.

But ignorance? Ignorance is a shockingly easy fix. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have schools, we wouldn’t have newspapers, we wouldn’t have blogs or libraries or advertising, for that matter.

So take a minute for the ignorant. Explain your techniques to a client. Explain why your decision was the ethical one. Write out “Licensed Massage Therapist” instead of leaving your business card a wash of alphabet soup.

Just because we’re bodyworkers doesn’t mean we can’t be knowledge-workers as well, so get rid of your “shoulds”share what you’ve got. Potential clients, students, colleagues, (and possibly the occasional churchgoing Canadian) will thank you for it.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: ` TheDreamSky via photopin cc

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

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I still don’t know what I was waiting for

And my time was running wild

A million dead-end streets

Every time I thought I’d got it made

It seemed the taste

Was not so sweet

David Bowie

 

I’m sitting here at the Toyota dealership, waiting for two hours while they change the oil in my trusty ride. I’m four days out from Young Thumbs Posting Day, which is about ten days behind schedule, according to my manic brain calendar.

I’m not implying that YTPD is a dread-inducing event. To the contrary, the opportunity for catharsis is of immeasurable value to me (and hopefully to you, too!). I’ve just been busy on a few fronts: some good, some shitty, some personal and off-limits, and some made up of an enticing blend of personal-meets-professional-meets-business-meets-art-meets-community-meets-fun-meets-good-great-awesome! Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Friends and lovers, I am starting my own damn business. I view this as a huge step for your humble narrator, because although I’ve been e-pubbing, hanging out on the faceplace, and grading online continuing education quizzes at ConfidentMassage.com for a solid year or more, that stuff has all been virtual, and safely nestled within the protective cocoon of distance and quasi-anonymity that shields one from taunts predicated on shoddy off-time grooming habits and cheesy jammy-sportin’. Now things are gettin’ really, really, real.

 

When it’s all too late

It’s all too late

Change

You can change

Tears For Fears

 

A brick-and-mortar spa biz of my very own. A small enterprise; a nugget, if you will. A special space designed to my own specifications, with a service menu to match. A creation I’ve been dreaming of for years, kept sitting on its shelf, aging like a fine wine or cheese, until playing it safe was no longer safe, and I was ready to identify and seek out the optimal conditions to prepare for lift-off.

10…9…8…7…

 

 

Fear is a self-defeating emotion. I am not afraid of challenges, but I am aware. I am aware that entering into a living, breathing building – no, community – full of creative people and strong personalities can come with an adjustment period, and that the interpersonal unknowns and complications that come from interacting with any group of humans can be interesting, to say the least. But shit, this happens every time I start a new job, or meet a new client! I got this!

6…5…4…

 

We’re tribal companions, you and I. I hope I can rely on support from my usual, trusted sources, and I look forward to finding support in new and unexpected places. Looking back to the very first Young Thumbs post on putting your authentic self out there, naked and exposed, feedback be damned, the words ring just as true in this situation. I’m honing my schedule, and reallocating assets like time, energy, and brain space. If you’re not on board, someone else wants your seat. Kindly make room, and thanks.

3…2…

 

 

This journey began for me 30-something years ago, blanketed in the warmth of parental love and healthy touch. Today the caravan includes my supportive spouse, who has done more to fire up the engines on this small business adventure than I thought possible, exceeding my expectations in every way. And you’re here too! I will do my best to make you all proud! Please stay tuned, and for chrissakes, if you get the impression that I don’t have as much free time to spend with you as I used to, come find me in the construction zone that is now my office. We’ll drink hot beverages on overturned paint buckets and catch up.

1… . . .

 

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

******

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Get A Loyal Client – Tell Me About Yourself

a word on Selling:

Any good salesperson will tell you: “it’s not about what you say…it’s HOW you say it.”  That is truly the point of this assault on what most of us believe is our truer sense to heal the world, one body at a time, as massage practitioners.

There is a time in the practice of our profession when a transaction becomes part of what we do when we get someone on our massage table.  Whether it is for a monetary transaction, an emotional transaction, or a karmic sale that we complete, the sale of a massage therapy session takes place.

I recently had the pleasure of re-joining my alma mater’s faculty and am again doing what I love: teaching.  Specifically, teaching professional development curricula to budding massage therapist students, and I see the value in what I do as assisting clients that I will never see, never meet, and never touch.

One of the most important things that a massage therapy professional can achieve is not to “be professional”, be a good business person, or even be a “good” massage therapist.  I believe it is to accurately and compassionately convey the value of massage therapy based on their own beliefs.  When a practitioner can do that successfully, the sale of a massage therapy session is a matter of fact.

Educate the Client…

The word ‘education’ is a pretty soft word.  There is an understanding that information may or may not be transferred efficiently, effectively, or at all…or be accepted likewise.  There is a responsibility in the delivery, content, and testing of the educator…just as with sales: the introduction, listing the benefits/values of the product/service, and the close/delivery/follow-up.

When I refer to what a professional does, it is not so much as “represents” or “professes” the nature or benefits of massage, but more succinctly: what the massage therapist believes.  Of course, what a practitioner believes is not always what they are told are the benefits of massage…or should be.  Testing, trying, and being aware of benefits outside of the massage therapy session can become the crux of how massage therapy clients are educated.

When educating our clients, again, it is not just about the physical, emotional, or spiritual benefits of manipulation of their tissues – it can include (which is often overlooked) the VALUE of massage therapy.  But how do practitioners create value in massage therapy?

When it comes to running a massage business or practicing massage, it is a common misnomer and not-as-effective-choice to FIRST put a monetary value on the transaction.  “Am I charging too much? How can I get more clients…with a “special”?  Should I have a sliding scale?  Can I pass out business cards at this volunteer massage event?” are just a few of the questions that may come up where monetary value is concerned.  All valid questions, but at what point is the education of the client based on getting them on the table?

Is the transaction put at risk (in the long term) if the basis of the education is established FIRST in the monetary value of the massage session?  My answer is:  Yes.  The interest of a client who does not innately see an intrinsic value in the massage therapy session – based on the massage professional’s affinity for massage – will likely peter off into disinterest.

How do we get and keep the interest and the investment of the client in our practice?  How do we drive the client to see the value in massage therapy, beyond the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits?  I believe it is to educate them about our own beliefs and hopes for and to illustrate the functional unit of therapeutic massage:

  1. Stay up on the latest massage therapy information in your community (scientific and anecdotal),
  2. Keep informed about the most recent, global massage therapy theories, research, and practices,
  3. Immerse ourselves in our passion, our focus, and our profession – through our own continuing education, associations, and speaking our Vision for our practices, amongst ourselves and anyone who will listen – without promise of remuneration.

Educate our clients about all of these things, on a regular basis, about how WE see massage and value it – SHOW our motivation, CREATE some excitement.  People are attracted to passion, enthusiasm, and general happiness.  It is what they desire…to replace any degree of pain, disappointment, and lack of touch therapy somewhere in their own lives or histories.

…Sell the Service

If you have it to give, give it.  If you have it to sell to them in a recognized, trustworthy format – like on a menu of services – for goodness sake: do not undermine your client-education efforts by relegating the “sales” of massage to some disdainful, disgusting act that only applies to people who purvey automobiles.  Sell with pride – realize that they will accept either the blue pill or the red pill, and it is the “pill” that is the vehicle by which they will receive the value of your service.

I am soooooo excited to see student practitioners’ whose light bulbs go on: when they realize that what they are selling is not massage, but themselves.  I, too, need to revisit this thought process from time to time, and also realize:  we enliven each other’s practices by finding new ways to create value for massage therapy.  I find value in their enthusiasm and their stories of “why massage is important to me.”  When they can educate their client about “why massage is important to me,” then the light bulb of getting a client on the table AND “making a sale” turns on…and they gain a loyal client and a customer!

There’s Nothing Wrong With Groupon

You may have heard of it: Groupon – the trend-setter that spends as well as it sells.  If you’ve never heard of it, Groupon is a company that offers daily “Deals” to you as a consumer, through an email notice.  Your email offer will feature the Special du Jour from a business in the area of your choice when you signed up or updated your Groupon preferences.  When you get the offer, the business selling the product or service is likely offering a 50%-or-more discount on their product/service with a host of “fine print” exceptions and rules for using the coupon.

When Groupon first appeared on the consumer horizon, back in November 2008, it was an instant coup for local retailers to enter an agreement that was sure to “get [them] more business” – to this day, this is the mantra of Groupon’s contract representatives.  The popularity of Groupon is waning slightly – over 33 million consumers (reported by businessinsider.com Aug 31, 2011) receive email offers daily from this social media marketing giant…and over 500 other companies have followed suit, like: LivingSocial, TravelZoo, and BuyWithMe, to name a few.

Typically, the Groupon/Business contract involves the qualification of the business to support the volume of business that Groupon is promising – either the availability of product or service in the sales of a number; the availability of a Groupon contract can also be based on the type of service product offered from certain businesses.

Wikipedia uses the example of a massage service discount offered through Groupon – a startling use of an example to [independent] massage service providers, but an enticing example to consumers.

Let’s explore the implications of a group coupon marketing plan component, specifically, Groupon’s critically-challenged “Ponzi-Scheme” way of doing business in relation to the affect it has had and can have on businesses, consumers, and employees of the businesses as outlined in Wikipedia’s example.

Things that work.  Businesses get their names out to a promised minimum number of Groupon email subscribers.  Businesses get a fulfillment rate of about 90% on Groupon Deals that are sold in a matter of days…and they get a large check for their share of Groupon’s sales of their product/service. Some customers return, and it is a great way to advertise in a blast format.

Things that don’t work.  Groupon does not determine how a Business is planned, and they have not thought out the implications or scenarios and how it impacts a business who ends up relying on this type of email marketing completely – and if they have, they are not revealing their analysis.  It is a simple idea that is an easy sell…and very profitable for Groupon.

Let’s look at a sample process (over-simplified) of a Groupon/Business contract:

  1. A day spa salt glow & massage package normally retails for $140,
  2. The day spa wants to offer a Groupon to potential, non-descript & -targeted customers to “get more business” or, at least, their name out into the community, introducing their day spa name to tens of thousands of email subscribers,
  3. Groupon’s terms for the agreement to promote the day spa and sell its salt glow/massage Deal include establishing a reduced price their customer will pay for the Deal, usually starting at 50% off the retail price.  This brings the Groupon customer’s cost down to $70,
  4. After the Groupon customer’s cost is established, Groupon requires 50% commission on each salt glow/massage sold, which in this case is $35/Deal sold,
  5. The day spa also agrees to sell a certain amount of Deals, usually a minimum is required of “500,”
  6. So the deals are sold for $70 (half off the business’ competitive, retail rate) and Groupon keeps half as sales commission, leaving $35 for 500 services.  A tidy sum for the business of $17,500, all collected and paid in just a few days or weeks,
  7. Now, when Groupon pays the business after they’ve collected all their customers’ money, the day spa needs to facilitate all 500 of those services over the next 6 months,
  8. Assuming that a healthy profit percentage of 12% ($16.80) is made by the day spa from the regular, non-Groupon  $140 salt glow/massage, let’s look at the cost of providing a single salt glow/massage service:  $123.20,
  9. How does a business survive when they are virtually paying customers to come in?  Receiving $35 for a service that costs $123.50 to facilitate normally leaves the amount they paid their customer to come in to be $88.50 – that’s an $88.50 loss.

Oh, wait a second:  I forgot to mention that the spa will likely reduce the cost of providing that single salt glow/massage service, which means the quality of the products and service included in the facilitation of the salt glow/massage will be reduced.

Unfortunately, the ideal introduction of the service and environment of the day spa to a community of consumers on Groupon’s email list is lost because the integrity of that service has gone down by the nature of spas tendencies to reduce the quality of the products & service associated with the low/negative ROI from the Groupon-priced salt glow/massage.

For me, the most important component that insures an excellent service is provided is the technician.  When you have a happy technician, s/he will give top-of-the-line service.  When you have a technician that is forced by the nature of their employ to accept a marketing or business plan cost (to the marketing cost of that single, discounted service) attached to their rate of pay – a negative number in the case of the Groupon marketing plan – then you may have a less-happy technician.

When you have a less-happy technician, you have lesser-quality performance, which does not adhere to the integrity the business wants to project with this wave of Groupon customers coming in and experiencing a service the business would like them to come back and experience in the future.

This is the key that Groupon doesn’t know or won’t tell you: they don’t care whether or not you manage your day spa to off-set the steep cost of doing business with them.

Many businesses that have suffered or gone out of business due to Groupon based their entire marketing plan (and success!) on the fact that the group coupon customers will be loyal and stay with them.

Businesses that do not have the resources to integrate Groupon as a small percentage of their marketing plan or business plan will be consumed by the fact that they will have nothing but Groupon fulfillment for the next 6-months, precluding (at specified times, if the business is smart) any regular priced business.

Another mistake spa businesses may make is that they underestimate the potential loss of the little money they’ve already been paid because of consumer fraud – complaints about service/technician availability, timeliness of the use of the coupon, and adhering the “fine print” are often sources of complaints that when Groupon get involved are 95% resolved in favor of the Groupon customer and end up costing the business even more money.  This is evident in the online reviews that you may have perused in response to service received during a poorly-managed Groupon experience or time frame.

Groupon does not have loyalty to the business to adhere to any policies the business might have – they are loyal to their customers’ claims and are often worried about an unsubscribe rather than a fraudulent transaction at the business with which they’ve contracted.  At its peak, a Groupon customer’s average yearly spending habit was $160.  That’s a lot of dough to lose from a “good subscriber.”

It is in the same companies that Groupon doesn’t seem to work (ones that provide (primarily) one-on-one-based services) that the cost of doing business with Groupon is passed on to negatively affect their employees’ pay rates.  This leads to employee turnover and, in my opinion, loss of the ideal introduction and substantiation of the product/service that the business wants to convey to their newly-found customer…and have them keep coming back to purchase at regular pricing.

Bottom Line: it is the business that fears eradication or losing their business in “hard economic times” – I am really done with hearing that “we are STILL in a recession.”  [making a] Living is difficult. period – we all do what we need to in order to survive as businesses.  For most of us, handing our complete integrity (and marketing plan success) to Groupon on a platter is NOT a wise business decision, because what they do with it is only worth 25% and gives businesses a 0.1 to 1% customer return rate.

If you are considering using Groupon or a similar group coupon service to promote your business, please be sure you can handle it financially.  The benefits can be awesome for coupons that draw in locals for services in a spa or clinic or private practice, when the business is ready to add a Groupon into their ‘big picture’ business plan…not depend on it.

Remember: there is nothing wrong with Groupon.  The source of conflict, and sometimes suffering and demise, comes from the inability of the business owner to realize or overestimate the impact of the cost of a group coupon marketing plan and weigh it against the long-term effects to support their business growth.