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Building a successful alternative healthcare practice is one of the most rewarding things but it hasn't always been easy. Here are 5 hard-learned lessons that I wish I knew earlier on in my career.

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Marketing Before Starting A Massage Therapy Practice

1. Marketing can be labour-intensive and time-consuming

 You’d rather be treating clients, hiring practitioners, ensuring that the business is running profitably or some of the other 50 things you have to worry about every day as the owner of an alternative healthcare practice. There are definitely benefits of building your own business, but extra sleep isn’t one of them.

One of the critical steps in growing your clinic is building your client-base. When you’ve done all you can to leverage your walk-by traffic, word of mouth referrals, and local networking opportunities, you’ll need other tactics to expand your business.

Enter the world of online marketing. SEO, PPC, website design, content marketing, blogging, social media, Google maps, online reviews, email marketing… it’s a whole new world. And maybe a world you don’t have time for, or interest in learning. Maybe you’ve spoken to a few marketing agencies or digital marketing consultants. How do you know what’s going to work, or how long it will take? Is it worth the investment? Will people really book massages through Instagram ads? Should you invest in YouTube video ads? Will you ever rank at the top of Google or will you pay agency fees for years and end up empty-handed.

You could learn everything you need to know to do your own marketing (and you should know the basics of how it all works), but there are only so many hours in the day. You could cut your own hair, change your own car oil and do your own bookkeeping, too, if you wanted. But a wise entrepreneur invests their time where it has the most value and hires experts for the rest.


2. The real cost--and value--of acquiring new clients

Most new massage therapy clinic owners think like this:

"If I charge $100 for a massage and pay $50 for the cost of the therapist’s time, that leaves $10 to cover overhead and a $30 profit margin. So, if I have to pay $30 in marketing costs to make that booking, I’m not making any money.

Often this makes the clinic owner afraid to do any marketing. What if the marketing eats up all of the profits?

But in order to see the big picture, you need to calculate your customer lifetime value (CLV). Which is the total value that each of your customers, on average, represents to the business over the whole time that they are a client. Suppose that you charge $100 per treatment:

  • Some people will come for one treatment and never return. CLV = $100
  • Some people will come weekly forever. CLV = $5,200 per year
  • Most of your clients will be somewhere in between. Your CLV should be one of the key stats that you use to drive your business.

If the average client comes 10 times per year for 2 years, then their CLV is 

20 treatments X $100 = $2,000

Assuming you have a margin of $30 net revenue per treatment, then your average margin per client will be 

$30 X 20 treatments = $600

So even if you spent $250 acquiring a new client, you would still be making money. Luckily, you can acquire new clients for much, much less than $250. And you only pay to acquire a new client once, so long as your re-booking process is working well.


3. Opportunity cost

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -- Wayne Gretzky.

Another key concept in business is “opportunity cost”. What is the cost of having an empty treatment room? Even if it were to cost you all of your profit margin to get a new client, it’s better than having an empty appointment slot. An empty treatment bed can’t contribute to the cost of overhead. It can’t turn into a repeat client. It can’t refer new clients. So even if a new client isn’t profitable for you right away, you’ll know it’s better than the guaranteed loss you’ll have from a treatment room sitting idle.


4. You don’t have to hire an agency or consultant to get marketing services

Most marketers offer their services as a monthly retainer, where you pay the same fee every month, often for a 1 year contract. This is the easiest way to work because the fees are set out in advance. Usually marketers can’t guarantee any results, but the retainer ensures that the marketer gets paid, and you are the one taking the risk of the marketing not working out. If the marketing works well, you win and the marketer just gets their monthly fee. If the marketing flops, you lose and the marketer gets their monthly fee just the same.

Some marketers, in some industries, offer a “partnership” model, where the agency takes some of the risk involved in the marketing, and gets compensated in all or part according to the success of their campaigns. For the client this means that they pay less if the marketing doesn’t work, and share the profit if the marketing is a success. A key benefit of this approach is that it aligns everyone’s efforts with the profitability of the business. The client ends up paying more in the end, but they can afford to do so because successful marketing leads to a growing and profitable business.


5. Marketing doesn’t have to be a long-term investment

If you’ve been working with agencies or consultants, you may be surprised to learn how long most of today's marketing strategies can take to work. Can your clinic wait that long for new clients to come, all the while paying a monthly marketing fee?

It’s true that SEO takes time. SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and is the practice of building and shaping your online presence (website and incoming links) to help make search engines (like Google) want to recommend your website over your competitors’ websites when someone searches for a treatment.

Social media marketing (SMM) is also a long-term game since it takes time, good content, and consistent effort to build a following online. Whether you use a Facebook business page, an Instagram account, YouTube video blogging, or any other social media service, it takes time to build an audience.

Email marketing is a powerful, yet often overlooked, digital marketing tool. But there are laws against buying email lists and misuse of email services can get your email domain blocked. Email marketing is a critical part of any good rebooking system, but it’s hard to acquire new clients through email.

I wouldn't discourage someone from investing in any of these tactics. They can all work if done well over the long term, but most clinic owners we speak to are ready to grow their business now, not eventually. They plan to expand their marketing to other channels when they’ve grown their business to a certain point. But today they have bills to pay and they’re looking for marketing tactics that have a proven, short-term return on investment (ROI).

Who else wants new clients now, at a fixed cost, with no other marketing fees?

We run your advertising for you, you pay per booking only. No extra fees, no worries. Now accepting new clients in limited areas. See if our service is right for you, book your free service consultation now:

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Dan Wood

Break Digital Inc

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