Five Secrets To A Successful Massage Therapy Practice

You know, I don’t do massage therapy as intensely as I used to, but I still keep my hand in, excuse the pun. I do this around my coaching and consulting business simply because I love it. It gives me a feeling of connection and peace. Massage Therapy, after ten years, is still a passion.

And I want to share a handful of secret tips with you to about how to build on your own massage therapy practice. These are so simple, but really make the difference. And you need to really think about the story I am about to tell you. Don’t wait for a client to tell you, its better that it comes from me.

A couple of days ago I got a call from a competing massage therapy practice down the road asking if I could come and “work my magic” on four clients they had for the afternoon as the head massage therapist was ill. Fortunately I had two coaching sessions with two massage therapists in the morning and the rest of the day was mine.

So I said “sure, no problem, I’ll be there.”

It was arranged I would head off to this massage therapy clinic (who had five staff on board) at about 12 o’clock. I arrived with time to spare and began to chat with the receptionist as I waited for the first client to arrive.

She said “I’m glad you’re here, because it will make the boss happy to know after your massage therapy treatment the clients will come back.”

“What do you mean?” I asked a bit puzzled.

“Oh well” she started sheepishly, “we don’t have many repeats.”

“Do you mind if I ask how many people come back on average? Let’s say out of 100 clients how many out of the hundred would return?”

“Maybe 3 or 4.”

I was not surprised one bit, as shocking as that ratio was. Massage therapy clinics with a few staff (as a general rule) tend to rely on good exposure in a “lifestyle area” of the city to get clients. Whereas a one therapist clinic has from home has a higher ratio of repeat clients such as 40 or 50%.

So why is this?

I soon understood a few things that may have been putting clients off. And you won’t believe what they are. And they are all simple things.

The smell of oil in the massage room:

One of the massage rooms had a smell of rancid massage oil that did nothing less that hit you in the face as you walked in. The massage therapist who owned the establishment was very firm to keep the doors closed all the time regardless of whether a client was having a massage treatment or not. As a result the smell of oil built up to an overpowering amount.

The desk tops:

It’s easy if you running a heater or air-conditioning unit for dust and recycled massage oil to film itself over bench tops and surfaces. As I placed my watch down on the counter I was able to see the film of oil and dust over the glasses that the clients were offered water in, after the treatment.

The music:

As I worked my way into the clients trapezius, about 15 minutes in to the massage, the cd player stopped playing music. All the client was left with was a squeaking of the massage table from the movement of my hands and arms. I tried to gently press the play button again but it was stuck stubbornly on track 2 and I could not get it going. Of course I was unable to stop the massage to fix it or put another cd on, so I kept going, squeaky table and all.

Hearing people talking as they walked passed the room:

I was doing my best to keep the client in the deepest relaxed state as possible and it was abruptly halted by someone who’d stopped outside the massage room and had lost something. It was a staff member who was talking on the handsfree phone to a supplier about massage towels. It was loud and woke the client up out of his relaxation.

Not enough clean towels:

When I arrived at the clinic, before the massage took place, the receptionist told me “We only use one towel per client here.” I was confused, obviously she meant one towel change per client. When I asked her for clarification she stated that she meant one towel over the top of the client and the rest of the towels such as the one on the table, on the head rest and then one to wipe off oil had to be used for the four clients I was seeing.
I ignored this and helped myself to a complete set of fresh towels each time someone new came.

Contraindication cards:

Before my third client came I looked at his name on the computer and said to the receptionist “do you have any information on his injury?”

“What injury?” She asked perplexed, as I had never been to the clinic or met this gentlemen before.

“He has an past injury and I was wondering if you have any information about it on his card.”

“But there’s nothing in the system that he has an injury” she said franticly searching for more information on him.

When Steve came for the massage I asked him if he had any injuries and if so, what kind. He told me he’d had an operation three years ago due to tearing a tendon whilst surfing and did experience stiffness from time to time. I advised him that massage therapy was very good for the recovery of such an injury and showed him some gentle stretches he could do on it to ease the stiffness.

After Steve left I wrote down almost a page of information about his injury, dates, times, who his Dr was etc. I brought it out to reception and said “I think you will need to add this to his file.”

“How did you know he had an injury?”

I shrugged my shoulders and walked off to prepare the room for the final client.

After the massage treatments I’d done for the day I wrote down a list of my suggestions to the receptionist about how to improve the retention rate.

I suggested that the table be changed from top to bottom after each client and fresh towels be placed there for the next client. (You’d be amazed at how many therapists don’t actually do this.) I also suggested that if they were to continue to use massage oil, to open the doors to let the smell out. Either that or come and see me about Massage wax. (A beautiful, soft balm specifically made for massage. It feels similar to Cocoa butter.)

I also made the suggestion of having a fully working CD player, or cd to make sure the client experiences consistency in the relaxation they are feeling. My next suggestion was to place a “Quite Please. Massage Treatments In Progress” signs in the hallway to remind people to keep their voices down. My last suggestion was to keep ALL information about the client’s physical history on the cards or computer system. Don’t rely on intuition to do it for you.

So these are some of my secrets for a successful Massage Therapy Business. I know they are small and some people may feel they are not important. But think of it like this; if a client has not had an experience with you, how do you know what they are thinking? Don’t give them any reason to feel uncomfortable. Make sure your massage therapy practice is A1. Make sure it sparkles from top to bottom and leave no room for a potential complaint.

So remember: Fresh towels, no rancid smell in the room, keep the music going (because it keeps the client relaxed), no talking from anyone outside, and keep those cards up to date!

All these things will add up to a slick, professional experience the client will remember and want to come again for. Keep up the good work.

Amy Roberts


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