We all know we need to build our businesses, so for those of you who do not have a digital marketing plan, we bring you the expertise of marketing guru, Cory Fairchild.  He has helped build successful businesses in the health, fitness and educational industries. The biggest advantage of Cory’s program is that he is, himself, a very talented and successful therapist who understands the very nature of the MT business from the inside.

           A correctly conducted approach builds a successful business practice and has an impact on the client or patient’s psychological state which generates the brain’s healthy placebo response.  This reaction is an important first “stepping stone” to the emotion of physical healing.   As soon as you pull the client closer to you in trust, they will join their efforts with yours to address all needs of the body.

           We’re very happy to present Cory Fairchild’s first of three articles explaining how to approach business development in our industry!

Dr. Ross Turchaninov, Editor in Chief



by Cory Fairchild, CMMP, LMT

          If you think you need marketing to book more clients, you have already lost the game. In a world saturated with Facebook ads, social media influencers, email campaigns and search engine optimization, there is no shortage of ideas and suggestions on how to spend your money. What is missing entirely, however, is an actual guarantee that you’ll make that money back. Hire a marketing agency or ‘guru’ and ask them to write your guaranteed return on investment into the contract. They won’t. Why? They don’t have a clue if or how much sales will come from their services. Further, the practice of massage (especially clinical applications) has specific aspects that a general marketer will not understand.

          In order for your massage practice to survive in the 21st century, you will need to step away from general marketing “experts” and instead use modern business practices which are based on the mindset of the client. This three-part series will take you first through value techniques you can apply to every massage session, then on how to measure and scale your business and finally how to translate that to an effective online presence.


Asking For Money Isn’t Scary

          For many years, I had a deep aversion towards trying to sell anything. It felt forced and artificial to tell someone that they needed to buy from me because I figured that if they truly needed it, they would see the value and purchase it anyways. This philosophy was one I clung to strongly and was the primary reason why I was near broke during my early twenties instead of making $150 an hour.

          It wasn’t until I understood that few people would see that value on their own that the art of the sale became less about my own hang-ups and more about exposing the value in a way that made it so obvious that it became impossible to object to buying it. When I changed my outlook from feeling guilty about taking money from someone to a focus on demonstrating value, my business endeavors took a dramatic turn for the better.

          Since then, I have worked with hundreds of health and fitness businesses to establish or improve their business presence. Some have been large corporations, others I helped build from scratch and a number of these businesses have been massage therapists. I particularly enjoy working with LMTs since I have been licensed since 2012 and also hold the Certified Medical Massage Practitioner credential. As a therapist, you have incredible business potential that can be developed with the right approach.

          The approach I will outline comes from a mix of sources: sales, product management, marketing and customer success as well as my own experience. The Massage Mindset Framework you will learn in these articles is similar to those used in very large corporations but has been adapted to suit a massage therapy practice. There is no magic bullet or secret to this, but rather treating your business with the same level of awareness and deliberate action as you do with Medical Massage.

Main Part of the Massage Mindset Framework

          The above framework represents the psychology or mindset that clients go through during the sales lifecycle. A framework is a tool that you can use to plan the actions you need to take to grow your business. The goal is to take every client from first hearing about your brand to passionately referring you to their family and friends. In order to do this, you will learn to encourage key behaviors from your clients in order to both provide them with results and to encourage them to return. 

          For now, do not worry if some of this or new or does not make sense. As you start practicing using this in your daily massage practice, it will naturally start to click. Right now, I want you to do only a couple actions: 

  • Read what each phase is and the associated key behaviors
  • Write down what you do as a therapist to encourage those key behaviors in clients 
  • Find one way you can either improve or be more consistent to encourage those behaviors 

          For example, many clients will naturally be inclined to rush out of the room once they have fully dressed. As a therapist, I set the expectation for them to wait so I can discuss some concerning findings with them. I am often intentionally vague to pique curiosity. This action is critical in order for them to book again: clients who do not discuss self-care and next steps do not feel an urgency to book again soon. If you do not currently do this 100% of the time, it is a great opportunity to work on the Returning mindset for your clients. 

          Let’s discuss three initial stages of Massage Therapist Mindset Framework: Intrigue, Hope and Returning



          The Intrigue phase happens when a client first makes some form of contact with you. This doesn’t happen by accident. Even the client who just wants a relaxing Swedish massage and has no complaints had some underlying reason for wanting a massage. 

          As a therapist, you likely already do an intake evaluation. You might, for example, have a form or ask what brought the client in to see you that day. The client will answer with a primary complaint (or group of related complaints) and potentially some secondary reasons for seeing you. This primary complaint is known as a contact driver: something the client can no longer ignore and drives them to call you or schedule an appointment. The first critical step in the future success of working with this client or patient is the successful identification of the contact driver.

          For example, the client may complain of cervical pain from a recent motor bike outing as well as that his calf muscles feel tight. The tight calf muscles weren’t enough a problem by themselves to bring the client in, so you would listen intently to their complaint about the cervical pain. In the case of a woman who came for stress reduction massage, her contact driver can be her girlfriend that you already worked on. In this case, shortly mentioning of this person, how much you enjoyed working on her and how much progress you were able to achieve.

Build Hope

          Now that you understand the contact driver, you can use a consultative sales approach (the process of asking client a series of leading questions) to both discover more information to optimize your massage session and to also provide recommendations for further services or products by you. Many therapists focus only on the former during the intake, but it is critical for the growth of your business to lead the client to understand the need for all services you provide.  

          Once you have listened closely to the complaint, quickly make a judgement call about what recommendation you will make to the client. Perhaps it is a medical massage issue where multiple sessions are needed. Or it may be an upsell (CBD massage is particularly popular at the time of this writing and seems to have extremely high therapeutic and placebo effects) that helps address the problem. 

          Instead of providing the recommendation right away, you must lead the client to make their own conclusions through a series of questions during the initial interview or further treatments. For example, imagine a hairdresser comes in with a complaint of cervical pain: 

  • How intense is your neck pain? 
  • Do you feel this is more or less intense after a full day of working? 
  • Can you show me how you typically stand and hold your arms when cutting hair? 
  • How much relief do you expect from this massage session?  

          The answer to the latter allows the therapist to educate the client on Medical Massage protocols, set correct expectations for what can be achieved in a single session, and helps establish the need to return. Even stress reduction sessions can benefit from the approach. If you find a particular area of concern during the massage, you can lead the client to talk about why they think that area became a problem and discuss with them the need to resolve it in a manner that the problem does not come back again in the near future.  For example, the same hairdresser may be prompted to think about the impact of them lowering the client and dropping their elbows while cutting hair. 

          The key is that the client draws their own conclusions based on your guiding questions. This demonstrates the value of your services, which is the goal of the Hope phase. If you simply provide a recommendation without building the context for the client, they will not feel any sense of urgency and will be far less likely to upsell or re-book. It is of course, also critical that you do address the client’s contact driver in a manner that shows measurable progress to them. While you can and should be personable to clients, be cautious of wandering too far away in conversation (especially mid-session) from the contact driver.

Returning (Rebook Clients) 

          If client comes for a stress reduction massage session and you would like him to come monthly, you must have short review of how client feels after the session. For example, the client responded to your question: ‘How do you feel right now?’ By saying “My body feels more relaxed”. While explaining to the new client necessity of regular stress management massage sessions use word ‘relax’ or ‘relaxation’ in various forms or contents while formulating the simple message: Your life is going to be better with regular control of the stress level using massage therapy. Again, the expectation prior to the client getting off your table that they will stay put. If they are attempting to rush out to go home, they will not be as receptive to your recommendations as if they are relaxed and engaged with you.

          If the patient comes in for cervical pain and you mean to sell multiple sessions of Medical Massage to address it, you must record all initial symptoms, explain their nature and finally emphasize even the smallest improvements.

          Both of these examples represent the transition of Hope phase to Returning phase where client/patient sees the first value of your massage service and understands necessity to finish treatment (in case of Medical Massage) or come back monthly (in case of stress reduction massage). Failure to do so will render the sales technique ineffective. 

          On a similar note, minor issues that you address entirely within a session are not strong candidates to lead the client to further services. Articulate an issue that has weight. Keep in mind that you will typically lead the client through several questions prior to the recommendation. 

          In the first scenario of stress reduction massage, emphasize the negative impact of the stress on mental and physical performance. Be specific to the activities they enjoy doing. In the case of cervical pain, concentrate not on the pain the patient currently feels but rather on its further development. For example, emphasize the possibility of headache or temporomandibular dysfunction which may form secondarily to the chronic cervical pain.

          In most cases, you should pause between questions for the client to answer. Allow there to be a silence (even if briefly uncomfortable) after their answer as they may break it by explaining the situation further. Listen closely to the client and don’t jump ahead of yourself. For the client to understand the weight of your recommendation, it must appear to them as obvious as sunshine at midnight. If they have room for doubts, they will not be decisive about booking you again. 

          As you begin to apply this more methodically in your practice, you will find a natural rise in your client bookings. It isn’t a large change of process, but I commonly see this approach as the difference between therapists with a full schedule of booking ands ones who barely floats a practice. The reason is often that therapists jump too quickly to the recommendation without following the consultative sales process of leading with multiple questions. The best part of this is that it is an authentic model that does not require you to act as a salesperson. Modern lifestyle tends to leave a lot of dings on the body, so there is rarely a lack of genuine issues to address. 

          Practice this using the printable form here (Massage-ICP-form) with your clients until it becomes second nature to combine selling and healing. Here is example of forms usage (Massage-ICP-Example). Make sure to use the objections section so that you can learn to overcome these by improving your leading questions with the next client. In the next part of this article, we will learn how to generate stronger referrals, bring in new clients and make more money to do what you love as a therapist. 

Part II can be found here

[1] Adapted for Massage Therapists from Brant Cooper’s Value Stream

About the Author

          Cory has been promoting health and wellness since 2008. He holds a bachelor degree from NAU, is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and Certified Medical Massage Practitioner (CMMP) with a part time practice focusing on athletic performance.

           He has also worked nearly ten years in the product management space, driving growth for small and enterprise businesses through understanding the needs of their customers to build products that provide greater value.

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