Get Clients – and Retain Them

Now that many Americans are vaccinated and towns, states and cities are opening up, it’s time to focus on building up clientele.

As a massage therapist, you are your own brand—and building that brand is key when you need to get clients and build your business. Now that many Americans are vaccinated and towns, states and cities are opening up, it’s time to focus on building up clientele.

When I was a marketing professional, my job was to build brands and find persuasive ways to successfully present products and services to potential customers. Businesses that are most successful at building and retaining a clientele are those that have a strong core identity, deliver quality products or services that meet client expectations, and whose leaders take a long-term approach to sustainable growth rather than only attempting to maximize the speed of business growth.

As the markets relevant to their business change, successful businesses make adjustments in their business models, update their core identities, and find new ways to meet the changing needs of their potential clients. The same keys to success hold true for massage therapists and their practices.

Marketing to Get Clients

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of massage therapists have found that their old approaches to finding and retaining clientele don’t work as well as they used to. Many clients now have different concerns and priorities, and some have decided not to get massage therapy unless they feel it is safe to do so. This presents a huge opportunity for those massage professionals willing to embrace it.

Clients who already know and value what you do may be willing to return to their massage sessions even without any new safety precautions. They trust you. These are folks to retain, but building your business should also be a priority because you may want to replace others who have stopped getting massages for now.

All massage therapists have ethical responsibilities regarding provision of services, client safety, and following legal and medical guidelines. Regardless of client preferences, it is crucial that you not risk your professional credentials or business liability (and viability) by violating the ethics and guidelines that apply to your practice.

Now that many Americans are vaccinated and towns, states and cities are opening up more and more, its’ time to focus in on building up clientele.

Things to Know About COVID-19

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has a high rate of infection, affects multiple tissue types and organ systems, and leaves many people with long-term, potentially permanent health problems. More recent research suggests that younger people may be at increased risk of longer-term problems because they might develop a more serious infection over a longer period of time before their symptoms result in testing and treatment.

Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

With COVID-19, we know that its virions are transmitted primarily via exhaled droplets (usually much greater than 0.5 microns in size), and a variety of simple and accessible safety measures are available. Good hand hygiene — washing your hands often — helps minimize transfer of virions by touch.

Eye goggles minimize viral infection via mucus membranes around the eyes. Face shields provide a two-way barrier to reduce the transmission of exhaled droplets, and face masks (preferably those rated to filter particulates of 0.3 microns or less) also help minimize transmission of virions between people on both sides of the mask.

Additional PPE such as aprons, smocks and gloves are also available and provide additional layers of protection.

Disinfect Surfaces

Since virions can remain viable on various surfaces for hours or days, using EPA List N-approved cleaning products for shared surfaces is strongly recommended between each session.

Those who prefer to use products with essential oils should use Seventh Generation cleaning products, as they are EPA-approved for viruses like SARS-CoV-2, readily available, and easy to use at a reasonable price. There are no other cleaning products based on essential oils that currently meet the EPA standards for this type of infectious disease.

All linens (including blankets) need to be changed and laundered between every session. For some, this may require some adjustment to how they handle laundering. Non-permeable table covers can be used under linens (and over table heaters and extra padding), making it easier to disinfect everything between sessions. Special non-permeable face cradle covers or pillowcases can help contain exhaled virions while clients are prone, even if they move their mask down, and make it easier to sanitize the face cradle, too.

Cleanse the Air

Consider getting efficient air purifiers with HEPA filters rated capable of filtering particles down to 0.3 microns (or smaller) for each treatment room and every shared space, such as your reception area and hallways. They can help clear virions from the air, and some also have carbon filters and internal UV lights for additional cleaning power. Ideally, air filters should be capable of filtering all air in the room three to five times per hour.

Add Sanitizer and Masks

Remove or minimize nonessential items, including anything that collects dust. Use only covered garbage cans, provide hand sanitizer and masks in your entrance area, and add more sanitizer stations in session rooms—these are all simple and inexpensive ways to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Clean Floors

If you have the resources, you could also remove carpets and cover your floors with wood or tile surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected. To clean carpeted floors, make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter capable of filtering particles of 0.3 microns or smaller, and clean or replace the filter regularly.

Adjust Massage Sessions

Because the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases with the amount of time spent in a confined space with another person, some massage therapists have limited their session lengths to 60 minutes or less. Some states may impose limits, too; when Illinois first allowed massage businesses to reopen, sessions were limited to 30 minutes or less.

There are also concerns about bleeding and clotting risks associated with COVID-19 and the levels of pressure used in a massage, so some therapists have altered their service menus to eliminate techniques that are more risky for people with potential vascular complications. There are effective therapeutic methods that don’t require the use of firm or deep pressure, and a lot of successful massage therapists have built great practices around them.

Communicate New Policies

Once you implement the steps listed above, be sure to mention them in your social media, website and other advertising. Clients who already trust you will feel reassured that you are serious about providing a safe and comfortable environment for them to come enjoy massages in. It is also likely to result in more referrals, as some potential clients may be looking for a place to go that they feel is trustworthy.

It’s important to educate potential clients about all safety policies regarding what they should expect to see in place and what rules they will be expected to follow. If you make it absolutely clear that wearing a mask is required (no exceptions!), most people will show up with their own mask or be willing to wear one you provide to them.

Some massage businesses have recorded short client education videos and posted them on social media and their websites. New clients can be sent links to these videos along with intake forms to complete before they arrive.

Write out all of your COVID-19 safety policies and procedures in detail. Lay out the expectations for clients and for staff separately. There will be some items in common, but staff will need to understand and follow policies that don’t apply to clients. It’s critical that all staff members consistently follow all of the safety policies and use safety equipment correctly.

This will help reduce risks of disease transmission; plus, if clients notice staff members being sloppy about following advertised safety policies, they may post about it on social media and damage your practice’s reputation. However, if safety measures are followed and that is noticed, it can result in great reviews and business growth.

In some parts of the country, there may be skeptical or defiant attitudes about the pandemic and any safety measures you employ. For your safety and the safety of staff and other clients, it’s important you stick to your written policies no matter what excuses they give for not following them. Though there may be some who choose to stop patronizing your business, there are many who will value your work enough to follow your policies, and many more people who are increasingly concerned about potential infection.

When it’s your business, you always have the right to refuse entry or service to people who refuse to follow your safety policies—no one can claim a medical exception to this. If they are too sick to follow your policies, they are probably too sick to be getting a massage at all.

Get Clients by Spreading the Word

Once you have your policies written, get everyone following them consistently and correctly, and have clients coming back, consider reaching out to local health care providers, first responders and educators. Most of them have been under extraordinary stress since early 2020 and may be happy to find a massage business that has taken extra steps to guard their safety while they enjoy massage therapy. If they have good experiences, they can be great sources of referrals without you having to ask.

Targeted ads that highlight your safety measures in conjunction with your ambiance and services can also work very well. If you include a promotional offer, limit the redemption period to 4 to 6 weeks. You can see how it works and choose whether to renew or replace the offer.

Keep on Massaging

It is possible to (re)build your massage business during this pandemic. Realistically, it will be one to three years before the U.S. is likely to be back to “normal,” so I recommend adopting a long-term mindset.

It will be a great day when we can relax the extra safety measures and feel comfortable about it. If another infectious disease pandemic ever arises, many of the same policies and procedures will be helpful—so you’ll be ready for it.

About the Author:

Clients, Retain ⋆ Get Clients - and Retain Them

Jason Erickson, BCTMB, CPT, co-owns and practices at Eagan Massage Center. A former chronic pain patient, Jason is an internationally recognized continuing education provider teaching classes on pain science, dermoneuromodulation, sports massage, research literacy and more. His articles and podcast appearances are widely featured. For current information on his CE classes, visit healthartes.com. 


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