Cory Fairchild, CMMP, LMT
In JMS’s 2020 Issue #1, we discussed the first three phases of the Mindset Framework™ (Intrigued, Hopeful, Returning) and introduced the concept of consultative sales. In this article (Part II) we will continue to focus on phase four of Mindset Framework™.
The experts you should listen to on how to run your business are not marketing gurus or found on Google or Facebook. Your own customers are instead the experts. Solve their problems and they will become passionate about your business, helping it grow rapidly through referrals. Without referrals, you will need to spend a great deal of time or money to bring in new customers, many of whom will not be long term clients.
In this second part of the series, I will teach you to identify your ideal customers and introduce an approach to solve their needs and created a desired client experience. By doing so, you will understand how to build Intrigue when a client first contacts you then demonstrate value to make them Hopeful and build the urgency for them to start Returning.
Referrals take little time and money to generate and have the greatest impact on your business. You can turn your existing clients into walking advertisements for your brand by tweaking what you are already doing. To do that you make clients passionate about you and your business. Passion is what causes crowds to line up outside of an Apple store every September for the new iPhone release.
Another example of passion is back when I worked for Square (the card reader). I attended a fundraiser for the dog rescues of Arizona. Someone asked me what I did for work and I mentioned Square, not thinking anything of it. Without my knowledge, this information spread like wildfire and by the end of the night I had more than a dozen rescue owners tell me their story of how Square saved them money and made taking adoption fees so much easier.
While I hadn’t done any of these things directly for the rescues, they were so passionate about the brand that it became a fast topic of conversation. This is what you want for your business — for the mention of it to light up a room with excitement and bring up stories about your impact on them. Interestingly, Square also does very little marketing compared to similar companies. It focuses on creating the best customer experience possible, solving problems and encouraging….referrals.
As your business opens again or as you plan for it to open in the future, this same framework for moving a customer along the journey towards passion can help you build an even more successful practice. I have seen this same transformation many times over in many different types of businesses and the results take minimal investment of time and money.
Returning Customers Is NOT Enough
Returning customers are part of a healthy business, but that is not the source of your brand advertising. As clients naturally fall off your appointment book, you need to find new clients. Would you rather have the same 100 clients every month or have to find 1,200 new clients every year? My experience is that few therapists want to find this many new clients each year.
Expanding on the Mindset Framework, we address this problem by adding the Passionate Phase and a timeline for action. A passionate client is different from a returning client. While passionate clients might book frequently, they are the true ambassadors of your brand. In my own businesses, these are sometimes even individuals I may not even remember working with, yet still send me new clients many years later.
Phases of the Mindset Framework™
Take some time to study the framework above. The added timeline demonstrates the urgency of each phase. Remember, a client who calls you and demonstrates Intrigue in your business is still two phases removed from being a passionate ambassador! As such, you only have about an hour from first point of contact to demonstrate the value of your service. Clients/patients must see that you understand their need to become hopeful enough to come to the first appointment. Appointments that fall through usually are due to a client not moving fully into the Hopeful Phase. Below are two examples: one where a therapist does not establish value and a second where the client moves to the Hopeful phase.
Brad has booked a massage with a local therapist named Ellie Smith. Ellie does not contact Brad at all before the appointment and Brad forgets to add it to his calendar. Brad misses the appointment and Ellie attempts to reschedule with Brad, but he has already mentally moved on from the idea of a massage.
John has booked a massage with a local therapist named Kyle Hamburg. Kyle sees the appointment come in and calls John 20 minutes later. They have a 10-minute discussion about John’s painful shoulder and agree on how to address it in the session. Kyle sends a calendar reminder and then a text on the day of the appointment. John not only comes to the appointment but is excited because the massage has shown it will likely help his shoulder.
The first appointment determines the likelihood of a client moving into the Returning Phase. Do you listen closely to their needs and lead them through the right consultative questions to the most appropriate treatment and modality? Do you address that need sufficiently and establish the further value they will get from showing up to the next appointment? If a therapist practices preventive massage therapy and a client does not attend a second appointment within a month, it will be very challenging to hold onto their business.
If therapist is very successful in practicing the clinical aspects of massage therapy, he or she can generate passionate clients in large numbers. For example, you decisively eliminated lower back pain in a client who was in pain for months. The memory of that pain is going to stay with the client and she is going to passionately promote your business to every friend, relative and even strangers who suffer from lower back pain.
Understand the ‘Ideal Client’ for Your Services
Since building passion in clients is so important, what steps can a therapist take to cultivate this? In this regard, the idiom to only work with your ideal client is completely true in business. It is, however, misunderstood even in corporations that generate hundreds of millions of dollars. The ideal client is someone who is a match for your product. When building an understanding of the ideal client, keep in mind that they very likely may not be anything like yourself. It is also important to remember that your favorite modality(ies) may not be the best fit for every client. Build the session around their needs.
I used to think that my ideal client was limited to athletes. As time went on, there were many recreational athletes that I did not enjoy working with at all. They would come in to fix an injury and then disregard all self-care and re-injure themselves within a month. I did not enjoy fixing the same problem when they did not learn from the mistake. In contrast, I did enjoy working with professional athletes who understood that their career depended on being healthy.
I also found myself working with clients who were not athletes at all. All these passionate clients have had one thing in common: they are goal-oriented and enjoy working with me to reach stable clinical outcomes. This realization grew my pool of potential clients by thousands.
There are goal-oriented individuals concentrated in many different walks of life. Instead of focusing purely on athletes, I now work with clients of a similar mindset such as executives, firemen, fitness competitors and career salespeople. The massage work is the same but results in larger tips and more passionate clients than recreational athletes.
This is also a reason I enjoy Medical Massage as it is a very active and goal-oriented modality. Instead of my ideal client being a 20-30 year-old athlete, I find my product equally resonates with an 80-year-old grandmother with frozen shoulder or a businessman with a type A personality who schedules his relaxation down to the microsecond. The common thread is not the demographic but rather their own behaviors and goals.
Not all clients in your current pool will move to the Passionate Phase, so you want work to fill your book as much as possible with ideal clients.
How to Find the ‘Ideal Client’
The process to find the ideal client is about active listening. Download the worksheet here to fill out as you start this journey. Even if you think you know your ideal client, this should be an exercise you perform at least a few times a year. You will be surprised at what you continue to learn and how it will improve your business each time.
Step One: The List
If you do not currently track client referrals, you should start doing so now. A simple spreadsheet is fine to start with (tab 2 in the worksheet above). Make a list of all the clients who have brought in new business for you in the past few months and reach out to them. Your goal is to do a short interview and listen to their experience. Use open ended questions and let them do the talking. In most cases, these clients will be happy to speak with you as you are making the call entirely about them.
- Call a client who referred her friend to you.
- Ask him how she is doing after the last Swedish Massage session, how much stress she holds right now after two weeks and whether she continues to feel good.
- If the stress has built up again, ask how long the stress-free period was.
- Be sure to ask questions using a tone that shows the client you are expressing genuine interest.
- At the end of conversation thank him for her friend referral. At this point do not try to sell next appointment!
- Finish conversation with: “See you on our next appointment (if it was already scheduled”) or say: “Please let me know when you need my services”
Step Two: Pain Points (use Symptoms Points explanation below)
As you listen to the client during the interview, look for key words that give you clues to the symptoms points (e.g., pain, areas of tension, numbness, ‘pins and needles’ sensation, muscle weakness, restriction of the range of motions) that brought them to their first appointment. Use your skill set from consultative selling to read between the lines on their answers.
Never trust the client who says: “I came for a relaxing massage”. In the majority of cases he or she had some mild to moderate issues which were the driving force for them making an appointment. Very frequently clients are not consciously aware of that, but their brain already sees a need for the outside help and that was real driving force for the call to make initial appointment. Another clue is fact that clients will often tell you the solution they have in mind (e.g. cupping or CBD massage). Again, be sure to dig in and understand the underlying why.
Once you have identified the original set of symptoms, write it in that column in your worksheet. As you continue interviews, you will begin to see patterns emerge. When you hear certain phrases or words repeated by clients, be sure to write these down in the column as well. You are going to use same exact words when talking with this client in the future. Using this psychological trick you are going to establish a strong rapport with the client and that is going to contribute to them being passionate about your brand.
Step Three: Impact
The next task during client’s interviews is to identify the impact of your brand to the client. This is often a combination of the massage itself and the experience. Seemingly simple details such as the cleanliness of your practice, lighting, ambience, music, friendliness of yourself and staff make a far larger factor in retaining clients than often realized. Corporate brands such as Elements focus heavily on a particular experience because they have listened to the needs of their ideal clients.
Keep doing interviews until you have a clear understanding of what needs these clients have in common. Listen closely and ask clarifying questions to understand your own impact with each client and write this down on the associated column in your worksheet.
Remember, these clients referred others to you for a reason. It is your job in these interviews to understand what about the services and experience you provide make them passionate. In 3-4 months, repeat this interview process with a new set of referring customers. Pay attention to what they enjoy about the experience so that you can match it to their needs. Below are two examples of how the experience can impact whether customers will refer your business to others.
Brad arrives at his first appointment having come directly from work. The office is small and dark. Tibetan drum music plays and instead of chairs, there are large sitting pillows. Sitting down on these in business attire is an extremely awkward experience and the music is equally uncomfortable. Brad is greeted by Ellie with a hug and a kiss on the cheek and is taken back to the massage room.
Note: It is a mistake to use cultural and visual images of another culture to establish initial rapport with new client. The therapist loses the effect of impact by trying to fit a new client into their personal system of beliefs. That can be introduced later if therapist feels need or would like to share with now regular client his or her thoughts and experiences. Your therapy can’t target minority of the clients who share with you same interests or spiritual experiences.
Brad arrives at his first appointment having come directly from work. The office is small and brightly lit. Upbeat, yet relaxing music plays and he takes a seat on a chair near a coffee table with magazines such as Forbes. Brad is greeted by Ellie with a firm handshake and eye contact and is taken back to the massage room.
While there is nothing wrong with the type of office in Example #1, it is a mismatch for Brad if he is an ideal client. Example #2 is far more tailored to the setting a businessperson is used to in the office at work. The massage is identical and excellent in both cases, but the experience in Example #1 means that Brad will not likely come back for more than a couple appointments. In another scenario he continues to come but he never becomes passionate client. He will not tell his co-workers about the therapist because he knows they will also feel uncomfortable in that setting and he doesn’t want co-workers thinking him odd or making any comments behind his back. In Example #2, Brad feels at ease in familiar and relaxed atmosphere and talks up his experience to everyone at the office.
The impact of your brand is also something experienced over time, which is why you have roughly only the 1st quarter (three months) to cement this with every new client. One great experience is not enough to move a client from the Returning Phase to the Passionate Phase. It takes repeated reinforcement with every contact you have with the client. Make sure to use the key phrases you have learned about and to celebrate all progress towards resolving the pain points that bring the client in each time.
Ease the Referral
As you better understand what makes your clients passionate about your brand, you can begin catering your business and experience towards generating referrals. This type of organic growth is a magnifying glass for all of your efforts. Just as you should lead a client to the value of the massage in each session, you should make the referral process as easy as possible for them.
A referral card left on the side table along with water and a mint will bring exponentially more money to your practice over time than a tip envelope. For example, a $20 tip on a $100 massage would take five sessions to bring as much value as a single $100 massage from their referral. As your weekly time slots become full, you will be able to increase your rates without your clients becoming concerned.
In the third and final article of this series, we will discuss the Engagement Phase and bringing your business fully into the 21st century.
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 both small service businesses and enterprise technology corporations through understanding the needs of their customers to build products that provide greater value.
Tags: 2020 Issue #2