Marketing for Small Local Businesses

Hugh McLeod I was talking to a friend who runs a mobile massage business. She takes her table to you, does the work at your office or home or wherever. It’s great for people who maybe can’t leave the office, but could spare the extra hour within the day, or who could benefit from having a massage at home after a long day. Might be great for stay-at-home parents, too. We were talking about marketing, and what she’d done so far to get herself more business.

First, understand that the best clients for this kind of business are local-ish, have some discretionary money, and are hopefully shooting for being a repeat customer (that would work best for her business).

It’s not a simple transaction business. It requires loyalty. To that end, here are my ideas for marketing a business like hers.

Search and Listen

My first effort would be to find local prospects. I’d start with Google Blogsearch, putting in local town names, to see who’s blogging in the area. I’d use Twitter Search to find some more folks. I’d look around for other sources, like local online newspapers. You can even do some clever google work. Once I had a decent list, I’d start determining who, if any of them, are actually prospects. Just because they’re local doesn’t mean they fit the other criteria. Break the list down a bit more from there.


You need a home base. I’d recommend a blog, but even a static website is better than nothing. Then, I’d see whether or not you can get listings with any other local businesses, any local groups related to the field, possibly even the Chamber of Commerce.

Make your site a combination of explanations of your business and the value you provide, as well as a chance to get to know a bit more about you. Personalized businesses like this, especially a body works business like massage means that people want to know more about you, want to get a sense of who you are, and want to understand what matters to you.

If you’ve got a blog, consider doing video so that people can see even more about you. It’s a great way to add some promotional oomph.

From here, you might start reaching out into outposts. Facebook might be a tricky place to pick up business when starting. It’s not like a bunch of people will rush in and join the massage company fan page. That said, you can always try. Twitter might work better, insofar as people speak more openly there, there’s serendipity, there are more chances to find new people without “friending” first.

What do you do once you’re there?

I’d recommend talking about them. Them= whoever you’ve found at these outposts, the people you’ve found via these lists. As for WHAT to talk about, talk about what they’re into. Get to know them. It’s an important part of building relationships, to be there long ahead of the sale.


What might also work is an email newsletter, talking about other health and wellness tips, but also with a few subtle offerings from your organization. I mean subtle, too. Make it more about equipping them for success and much less about finding clients immediately. It will be a slower build, but you’ll have a better chance to build a community you can tap into when needed over time.


From here, you can work on conversions and sales. My friend who runs the massage business did a promotional event at a local arena. I think there’s an opportunity to do a few more gigs like that, even maybe calling around for corporations to offer two hour blocks of time for 10 minute chair massages (so 12 massages) at a rate of $300 (so close to the $150 an hour that a quality massage therapist gets). This is also a great lead generator for future business, so bring business cards.

Obviously, this step would be different for different types of businesses, but realizing that some kind of demo, promo, introductory offer is always a great way to seed future opportunities is the first step.

What Else?

I’ve given out a few steps, a few ideas, especially aiming towards social media and the like. What else would you tell someone looking to promote their massage therapy or similar business? How have you handled the challenge? What matters to you if you were the prospective client?

By the way, this kind of stuff is exactly what I cover in my new book, Social Media 101, should you be interested. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • tsmith426

    I think it would be worth targeting local businesses, as well as individuals. Massages might be something a company would be interested in offering their employees as a perk, and she might be able to contract with them for a regular gig. She should also network with anyone she knows who's in any kind of management position in a local company; they might be able to get her the foot-in-the-door she needs.

  • Patrick Allmond

    Don't worry about the search too much – most businesses are not mentioned enough on SM to warrant a non-stop frantic search.

    Your first priority for your small business should be to connect with people in your local area. People that can walk in your front door. These are the people you can directly connect with and provide great service to. These are the people that can give you immediate real world feedback on how good your product or service is. These are also the people that will become your biggest advocates in the virtual world.

    Always Always Always remember: SM is nothing magic. It is just using technology to facilitate the great customer service experience. The basics of good customer service (using the feedback loop for improvement) have not and will probably never change. Only use SM to support your real-world efforts.

  • colleenpence

    More of a micro idea, but once the Twitter strategy takes off your friend could partner with a local restaurant (or several types of local businesses) to create a combined tweetup. People attend for food, drink, massage (and maybe invite other businesses like manicurists, musicians, artists, etc.), entertainment and fun. All businesses participating get exposure to new/different audiences, show off their wares/services and get (hopefully) great word of mouth from the event(s). Twitter is great for warming up conversations between local businesses and potential customers/clients but cementing those fledgling relationships in person can be business gold.

  • Scott Ellis

    I know Facebook doesn't work well for everyone (Chris I've heard you comment as such) but might in this case. I'd connect with people you actually know in the town your're in. On FB people tend to connect with those they know so there is a good opportunity to network with people they know who are in and FROM that area (don't most of us have lot's of HS friends on FB)?

    FB is also a good place to “listen” since people tend to talk a lot about their personal lives, you might be able to more easily identify who is local, has discretionary income and fit's the other target criteria (office worker, stay at home, …).

    If you listen carefully enough you can also get a feeling for how people are doing, like if they are stressed out and a massage might hit the spot, so timing can be a factor in her favor as well. Garner a big enough local following and a fan page might be in order.

    That's off the cuff so hope it isn't too random.

  • Scott Sappington

    A happy customer will tell three people….. There is no better advertising like word of mouth. If she has business cards, hand them out to people with a promo like “25% off first massage”. This incentive will help people want a massage, and if they like her they will be a repeat customer. Leave a few more of her business cards with her happy customers, and tell them that they will get the same discount for every first massage she gives to someone they refer.

    When their friends see the “25% off” and hear their friends good report, they will be more willing to give her a call. Try it out!

  • Christopher Lynn

    This a great list Chris. I would also include marketing / direct sales to Hotel concierges. Attend the local concierge association meeting and become an affiliate/vendor member. Hotels receive a large number of requests for professional massage therapy.Conference services managers at hotels could also provide important recommendations to clients with large groups meeting at the hotel. Upscale and larger hotels would be the first place to start in this vertical channel.

  • Karen McGrath

    I know you're thinking bigger picture but advertising in the local gym, and sports facilities came to mind immediately. Definitely need a website. Massage is one of those businesses you need to project trust.

  • Ajay Goel

    How about reaching out to local businesses like salon and offering them free massage in exchange of displaying your business card on their reception desk. I would also drop fliers in immediate neighborhood as you said most of the clients for such businesses are local.

  • daledenham

    Promotional Products/Ad Specialties are very effective and they last a long time. A great way to reach targeted people is to provide logoed items to targeted clients or as a reminder after the first massage. Very inexpensive and very good cost per impression. A refrigerator write on / wipe off board is ideal. Many other great and inexpensive ideas.

  • Brian D. Shelton

    Reward referrals. Regardless of whether its an individual or corporation, offer incentives for referrals. Let the social (people) network help you market. Yes you can find people using searches, but it is most important to get the word-of-mouth power operating in your favor. Doing that is simple: 1) ASK for the referrals and 2) provide an amazing customer experience so that they are glad to help when you ask.

  • Brian Alkerton

    Corporations are definitely the way to go early. Once you have a base monthly revenue from those steady gigs, you have the freedom to experiment with other stuff.

    I'd make a point of targeting larger companies that have offices in the area – tsmith426 mentioned that it might be something companies would be interested in offering as a perk, but the fact is, most of them already do. Not all, but many corporate health plans include coverage for massage therapy up to a certain limit. If you can find out which companies those are, you can pitch management on going in once every month or two (or whatever their coverage supports) so you can provide massages, have it covered by the insurer, staff feel better, management gets better productivity/loyalty, and neither party pays out of pocket.

  • Joel Dahlin

    Great post. I am a web developer whom gets a lot of local business. I find networking and staying active in the community really helps spread the word. I make an effort to belong to groups, teams, organizations that I enjoy doing. Not only do I have fun being a part of them, but I continually meet new people to offer my services too. On top of that I make sure to do a good job and please my clients. Referrals are huge. Finally I give back to the community through donations and sponsorships. People notice all of this and often are willing to go with me even if my rates are higher than others.

  • Phil Woods

    I started a mobile bicycle repair business end-08 and went through the same thought process. Everything in the post is great. I would emphasize more energy and effort offline, especially early in the biz history. Charity runs and bike rides are perfect for massage peeps. Set up at the finish, offer free or low cost chair massage, and hand out lots of info.

    Referrals are 60%-70% of my business. Ask every customer repeatedly to tell their friends. When you get a referral customer, get the referrer's name, and then call them and offer a reward (“Mr. B; I just did a massage for your friend Mr. Z. I really appreciate the referral. I want to give you $20 off your next massage – how about next week?”).

    Make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. I highly recommend and online scheduling system. I use – for $40/month, I have multiple schedules for my mechanics, it stores every name, address, phone, email, etc for each appointment booked; shows service history, etc. This makes it easy to email contacts and say “Haven't seen you in 6 months” etc.

  • sterner

    I was helping my mom build up her service-oriented business. She's my mom, so of course I think she's great, but so does everyone else that meets her. And, more importantly, she knows her stuff inside out…

    My advice to her, because the growth of her business 100% depends on referrals, was to offer her clients each a couple cards that afford them a discount.

    *1st client comes in for homeopathic treatment > mom provides 3-5 cards with codes (super easy to just number every card you print)
    *Someone makes an appointment referencing the referral code found on their card > mom looks up the number (assigned to 1st client when she provided the card)
    *Both 1st client and new client get a discount

    Might seem slightly complex, but it works and it's actually easy once you get into the system.

  • Matt Ridings

    Chris, that's a high-trust business. You're opening your doors, your body, and your safety to that person. Nothing is more important than referrals and references in that type of business. Nothing. So I'd most definitely have an incentive program built for clients who refer you to others, and a list of clients who would be willing to be references that I'd also provide incentives for.

    Note that I'm not only referring to traditional. The diameter of our social circles is so much greater now via social media that it becomes a much higher volume platform for others to praise your business than it once was. It's no longer hoping that your client will tell their few friends that they have lunch with that week, it's that those clients access dozens if not hundreds of local “friends” on twitter, facebook, and the like. The social platforms become a great enabler at that point. A single moment of a client saying how much they loved the massage now is being broadcast as your “commercial”, but in a trusted way. This simply wasn't possible a few years ago.

    Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

  • sterner

    I think Phil and I were in an unknown submit race and he won!

  • ericgohs

    In addition to the great tips outlined here, I'd look for local events – maybe a social media conference – and connect with organizers and offer up chair massages at low/no charge to get some broad exposure.

    If you already have a small, but loyal client base, ask them for quotable reviews that you can include on your blog, FB page, etc. I would also set up a basic referral program where clients can earn credit for successful referrals. Put those loyalists to work for you doing something they may already be doing.

    Finally, if you have a small ad budget, test out both paid ads on Google and Facebook. Facebook has some terrific targeting capabilities to real

  • Kathy Snavely

    When you have such a personal business, it's important to take a more personal approach in reaching potential customers. Using blacktop and online research, find out who the competition is and what their “niche” is, if they have one. If she's mobile, she's likely looking for folks of a middle to higher income bracket. Come up with a twist for her business that sets her apart from the competition. And network face-to-face in groups your target market populates. Use those personal meetings to drive people to your social media presence and give them an offer they can't refuse. Example: most of the influencers in my community attend the American Heart Association Ball; make sure you donate something for the auction, packaged uniquely, circulate and print up a special card to pass up (with the AHA's permission) to the folks there. Offer a 30 minute sampler massage, demonstrating different techniques you can use and donate a portion of your fee from these appointments (made within two weeks of the affair) back to the AHA.

  • Peter A. Mello

    All great ideas.

    I'd also recommend she make sure that her Google Local Business Listing is complete, up to date and that she ask some of her regulars to provide testimonials there. This is a free, much under utilized service for local marketing. She can set up coupons or special offers right here that people will find when they search for massage and other keywords.

    Her regular customers might also be on Facebook so she might invite them to become a fan of her company page and then consider a small investment in FB advertising which can be very precisely targeted and relatively inexpensive. This works best when you already have at least a handful of fans because they might show up in the ads on their friends pages.

    There's no better way of getting attention than running contests and giving free stuff away. Do a monthly/weekly drawing of FB fans or blog commenters or Twitter followers for a free massage. This is a small price to pay to capture some good data to mine for future customers.

    These are just a few ideas that we have used successfully for clients. As you well know, with so much free and inexpensive digital marketing tools at her disposal today, she is only limited by her creativity.

    Thanks for all that you share here and elsewhere on the Interwebs.

    Fair Winds, Peter

  • Sprite

    Chris … the thing I would need to know is their location. Not all locations have equal access to people aware of FaceBook or Twitter. God, forbid, but it's true. So assuming this person is in a city area, social media is helpful, but I would not rely solely on it, I WOULD however have it linked on ALL my physical interaction, newsletters (but am not such a big fan of newsletters – I glance over those w/ a glossed eye) — promotions attract more — brief “how I can help you's are good also), emails, flyers, local posters & ads.

    In this type of business I would also do footwork. Leave business cards and promotional flyers at any business that would allow it. Especially beauty salons and nail salons that do not have massage therapist, as well as any corporations, hospitals, clinics. Even offer a free mini massage to an exclusive restaurant owner & people that own businesses so they can get an idea of what your friend is about. They're busy, with little free time but will always be in need of a good massage that will come to them. She needs to get out on the streets that she wants to pull business from as well as leave those people with information that links them to Facebook and Twitter. (maybe people who live in cities don't have to put in the extra elbow grease to make it work, but those of use in low tech areas are just as successful with a little extra work *smiles*)

    When aiming at the busy person, you want to make sure you reach them. Promotional offers left at busy offices. Want working parents? Promotional offers left on Wholefoods & grocery store posting boards, the post office, PTA nights, give promotional offers for school give aways. You get where I'm going with this? Link up with local radio for a special, but LOOK and ask yourself who and where do I want to draw my business from & then go introduce yourself and offer a special. Make their name KNOWN so when people hear “massage” they think “her business”…

    I know, I know … I'm supposed to only think about nail polish & manicures. Every once in a while I slip. *grins*

  • Diane Vautier

    Here are a few points I'd also consider for a small mobile massage business.
    1. Do the local SEO stuff once they have a blog/website
    2. Since massage is by nature built on repeat business and referrals, I'd consider some sort of loyalty program. This could be as simple as something like a coffee punch card. Or maybe its just stamping the back of a business card with “referred by _____” and give to clients who can then add their name and pass the card along to others. When the referred client calls and mentions the referrer, or shows the card they (the new client and referrer) get a reward like a discount or extra 15 minutes massage.

    Just a few quick ideas.


  • Virtuallyjm

    How about Foursquare? When the customer builds number of visits, invoke larger discounts, etc.

  • Steve Koss

    Excellent Chris in helping rebuild small biz America.

    In my observation, an item missed is ‘better commerce’ for paradigm shift to Think Local :: Sell Global™ using ecommerce (products and services) with a city emarketplace (disclosure: partner in such an endeavor) as a great equalizer for small biz. Global can be across the street, or in across the country, or across oceans. Social media/tech needs to be integrated (blog, newsletters, etc.) with an ecommerce platform.

    Here is an example of Yamasaki Nursery using social media/tech (Facebook & blog ) with Auburn Marketplace to drive new revenues and market, brand a city at the same time.


  • Phil Woods

    lol. I wanted to be the first comment. When I started typing, I was… sucks being slow.

  • Cristian Gonzales

    A lot of great ideas have been mentioned, and when it comes to promotions/marketing, there's so many different options…but one of the easiest things I feel is effective is putting your social media links all over the place. Put it on your menus, flyers you pass out to customers in the city (you'd be surprised how effective this can be), anything & everything involved with your business. Also, engage your business in lifestyle conversation. If you're a beauty salon, participate in conversations on Twitter and blogs that talk about beauty. If you're a restaurant, converse on food conversations going on in Twitter, blogs, etc. It's important to be part of a larger conversation—people will begin to associate you as part of the lifestyle they want to live in, or already live in.

  • sterner

    Dude you won! Congrats man…I haven't been up against that kind of competition in a while : )

  • Justin Lukasavige

    I don't like advertising at all as some have mentioned, but it'd give her a return. There are plenty of other marketing opportunities that will work far better for far less money.

    Referrals are key. Plastering your name out there doesn't work in the service industry unless you need a plumber at 2am and you find one in the phone book that advertises 24 hour emergency service.

    Get not only your clients to talk about you, but everyone who know what you do. Strategic partners are key.

    Do something newsworthy like give free massages to athletes competing in a charity run. It's not a guarantee of coverage, but you're giving back in your special way and maybe it will get picked up.

  • Chris Eh Young

    If she lives in a place that is not social media savvy, this is a great opportunity to be an innovator and leader in the community. She needs to do the regular offline networking but offer specials to those who join her social media groups (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.). Start an online and offline referral plan for new and referring customers. Increase the referral discount for every new client you bring in. The odds of getting someone “connected” into your group increases with every member you add. The social media aspect allows the customer easier access to larger WOM channels giving the business an opportunity to reach a much larger audience.

  • Carolyn Gardner

    You already offered some amazing suggestions. I have a few more to add, being a small, local business owner.

    First, I think your friend should look into socializing with other women who are entreprenuers, such as herself. She will not only find a local group of small business owners, but a new source of business and a referral network. I belong to a group in Miami that only allows women who own their own businesses to belong. The reason behind a WOMEN's group, (Women of Miami Entrprenuial Network) is that women conduct business differently then men. There are certainly numerous groups who are mixed, but it's great to be amoung other business owners who are in your shoes! Try and search your local area.
    Typically, there is no charge to be a member of these groups.

    Secondly, I would reach out to the various up-scale Hotels/Resorts. Introduce yourself to the concierge. See if they will recommend your services to their clients. Offer some type of “tip” to the concierge for each client you are referred.

    Third, attend some of the local Chamber mixers, B2B events or better yet, go on their websites. All the members are typically listed! You have an option to pick and choose who you think could offer you the most business. Joining the Chamber is an investment, but it does lend you along with your business credibility.

    Lastly, if there is a local festival taking place in town, an art fair or such, see about getting a booth. These events bring out locals. You could offer a “free” 5 minute massage! Leave them wanting more, along with your business card or professional marketing piece. The marketing flyer should clearly state who you are and the various services your business provides.

    Best of luck!!!

  • Mary_Pat_Whaley

    1. Do a radio interview or talk show taking callers' questions about the benefits of massage.
    2. Visit pharmacies and introduce yourself to pharmacists and leave brochures.
    3. Place brochures with the Welcome Wagon or Newcomers Club with a discount coupon
    4. Join the Chamber of Commerce and attend meetings. Give coupons for massages as door prizes every so often.
    5. Join a business leads organization.
    6. Call schools and volunteer to talk about massage as a career.
    7. Call local employers and offer to come on site to talk about workstation wellness: breathing, stretching, meditation.
    8. Visit the home health equipment stores and leave brochures.
    9. Specialize in difficult conditions and advertise that you do. Connect with the healthcare providers that work with that problem – if you specialize in TMJ, speak to dentists and oral surgeons. If you specialize in pre-natal massage, connect with the midwives, dualas and obstetricians.
    10. Volunteer places where you will come into contact with healthcare professionals who will refer patients to you once they get to know you.
    11. Offer to be “on tap” for the local TV station to provide sound bites on relaxation, stress, chronic pain.
    12. Send out a press release to the newspaper every time you attend a meeting, speak, write, or do anything notable.
    13. Let people schedule time with you online through your website.
    14. Put a magnetic sign on your vehicle with your service, emphasizing the “I come to you” aspect of your practice.
    15.Talk to the local physician practice managers group.
    16. Ask satisfied patients to log on to your website, your Facebook fan page, or a service rating site and leave a review of your services.
    17. Let local (nice) hotels know you are available provide massages to their guests.
    18. Visit the local chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, accupuncturists, etc. and invite them to use your services with an introductory coupon.
    19. See if you can arrange to give chair massages Saturdays at the local health food stores, nutrition stores, or high-end grocery stores to introduce people to your business.
    20. Many people who would pay for massages are very uncertain about the idea of taking off their clothing and being touched. Offer a special first-time fully clothed massage for those who want to try it but are intimidated.
    21. Visit local beauty shops and nail salons – offer free or deeply discounted massages to technicians there so they can recommend you to their clients.
    22. Visit gyms, health clubs, yoga centers, martial arts studios, etc and again, offer massages to owners and trainers so they will feel comfortable referring you to their clients.
    23. Visit physical therapy practices and do the same as above. You want your word-of-mouth to come from people who already have clients spending their disposable income on personal services.
    24. Visit nursing homes, retirement communities, and rehab facilities. Many people might not be eligible for insurance-covered massage, but may be glad to pay out of pocket. Don't forget to evaluate becoming eligible to file insurance for patients, but remember that you will never get your full fee and the payment will always come 30+ days after you provide the service.
    25. Offer holiday discounts for regular clients and discounts to existing clients who refer new clients to you.

  • AJ Bombers

    Chris, this is where I was going as well with this one. So much top of the mind awareness to be gained when taking that position, nice one.

  • Chris Eh Young

    There is a great position in being first. Innovators command respect in their industry. “If you're not first, you're last.” Ricky Bobby

  • Jiah Kim

    Thank you for the tips! They will be very helpful because I just started to help a local business to build online presence.

  • Jaky Astik

    Local businesses should start with their friends and relatives. They spread kind of a good word. Like in India, there are communities. People have sub casts. They're a group. When someone decides to start a business, he invites them for the ceremony and all. Against which, they receive support of the community members who either become customers or refers their contacts to that business.

  • Xurxo Vidal

    Hi Chris,

    You've given out a lot of great advice here on how to tap into social media and beyond to promote your friend's local massage business.

    One other potentially lucrative and targeted way to get her name/site in front of potential clients would be through a local PPC campaign through Google AdWords, Yahoo or Bing.

    She'd be able to target down to the city level and reach people who are actively searching for mobile massage services in her target market. And she'd quickly be able to see how much interest there is for her services from people looking on the search engines.

    With the print version of the Yellow Pages going the way of the dinosaur because of people turning to the search engines for info on local businesses, she might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

    You can find some more info on Local PPC on my company's site:

  • Lucretia (GeekMommy) Pruitt

    Old school:
    - Track referrals – find out what your best method of return actually is. The old method of giving out different referral codes to track where advertising dollars and energy are best spent is still solid.
    - Partner with other small business people for in-kind trade. Have a hairdresser who could use that break at work? A massage in trade for a haircut or other salon service would reap more than just that reward – especially if s/he talks about it with his/her clientele.

    It's an interesting case study – but the REAL question is: how much of your friend's efforts should actually be focused on new media advertising & networking?

    Honestly? The target market for a mobile massage is likely to skew older rather than younger. We know, and have known for years, how to market to those demographics. Unless she's trying to build a clientele from the digital native population, right now, her efforts are better spent using methods that have a better chance of providing a solid ROI. Time, after all, is money in her case – and spending the time online when it is unlikely to have as solid a return? Not the best bet.

    My 2 cents.

    • Dean Mignola

      I agree with Lucretia, as a local marketing consultant and coach I deal with this type of small local business all the time. What works best is to focus on the offline world to start relationships (BNI, chamber, health fairs, health groups, etc.). Then you can connect with them online through Facebook, newsletter, etc. to build on that relationship. Start by focusing on getting to know the other person and their problems… educate rather than sell… make them an irresistable offer once you gain their trust (free 10 minute massage). This will get you clients now… which is when you need them… isn’t it?

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  • Chuck Smith

    I would suggest she find the local “movers and shakers” and try to work with them. In a lot of towns (and since I live in Massachusetts I'm referring to the small clusters of towns) have some people who are ultra-networkers. They know everyone and make connections all the time. If she knows some local realtors, life insurance agents, or attorneys, they are usually connected to a lot of people and love to make connections to others.

    And, join your local Chamber of Commerce. If it's run well, there are tons of opportunities to network and most will offer some low-cost advertising opportunities.

    Good luck!

  • Zainul Franciscus

    How about utilizing location based social network to promote your presence. You can provide constant update to Foursquare about your location. Offer discounts for majors. Another option would be to update your business in Google Map.

  • Tommyismyname

    The facebook approach wouldn't be so horrible if you were to pull in the info that you were to put into the newsletter and update with that on a more regular basis.

    Use the types of people you find on twitter to create a short list of commonalities and run a paid ad campaign on facebook to target people who are in high stress situations to bring them in there. Have a custom landing page designed for when the get to your fan page to have a small questionnaire that could act as a lead gen form (obviously asking if it would be ok to be contacted) and go from there.

  • rallanreed

    At every potential personal interaction, as the business cards are handed out, the permission to share information should begin. Ask if the recipient would be interested in being alerted to deals and specials. The exchange of e-mails could bring in several more first timers who could end up being longer term clients.

  • Suzanne Vara

    At first glance I agree with a lot of the suggestions of the others who have commented but thinking further there is more to think about before throwing out some thoughts.

    A few questions that come to mind is what is the age demo for her service area (presuming that she has designated what is the most cost and time effective areas for her to do business in – ie 20 miles from her home). How long does it take to go from the furthest point and back? How many clients does she wish to have each week? In thinking about the demographics, how many of those in her service area have the expendable income AND the expendable time? Income is a factor but time is also something that needs to be considered here. yes it is at your house or work but how many of us want to get a massage in our business suit? Here are some ideas that could be considered as they hit different age demos:

    New Mom – sell this in a package as the new mom gets x massages for x price. Make this more of a gift pack that can be purchased by a friend. We know that after the birth of a baby gifts are bottles, diapers, clothes, more diapers, etc but what about some relaxation for the mom? The creative and message here is to talk about new moms and relaxation methods as the calmer the mom is, the calmer the baby. Focus on the benefits for both the mother and baby. Mothers care about their babies only in the first weeks. If the mom wants to continue and become a client then regular rates apply.

    Gift Packs in General – do a gift pack for mothers' day, birthday, fathers' day, after surgery, etc. 4 massages for x price. Make it 3 or 4 as 1 will not convince someone that they need to continue. Make it a weekly with 4 as now the person has put it into their weekly schedule and there is more of a chance to continue after the gift pack has run out.

    Bachelorette Parties. These ladies spend money and gather before the party so there is opportunity for at least to have the bride to be get a massage as she needs to be ready for a night of good ole partying.

    Bride – day before the wedding as gift from the bridal party.

    Corporate – securing some business accounts that are once a week or month she goes in – approach this as the employee appreciation or to start possibly to have this at the company picnic as a one time deal which would grow as she got to talk face to face with the owners in a relaxed atmosphere.

    Discount Programs – I am not a fan here for long term loyalty or discount programs her business. She will still have time and gas that will be at her expense. Sure if there are a select few long standing clients that she has to give them a freebie on their birthday is great and a nice gesture. But to go in and have referral programs is telling that she may be hurting for business. Her current loyal clients give them a perk here and there but for anyone new, they pay regular rates. Incentive in this way looks desperate.

    I focused heavily on gift packs here as busy people are not as apt to seek a massage for themselves as they would for a friend that they think would need it.

    Offline efforts have to be focused and time permitting. She cannot be attending every luncheon, event etc as this takes away from her massage and travel time. Leaving brochures at other salons – may work for maybe a few clients but that is asking the salon folks to do her marketing for her and talk it up. Not many will be willing do do that as what is in it for them? a free massage- cannot do that as she needs to make money. Best is to go where her audience is: if they are a bunch of working families but are out on the weekend, then marketing efforts shift to the weekend. If it is an area where there are stay at home moms/dads, then look at where they are going during the week. Get to know their schedule and fit into it.

    Online – blog. discuss the benefits of relaxation, relaxation methods, foods for relaxation, stretching methods for between massages and biggest BIGGEST of all is to write about people in the local community doing it right. Small shop that sells healthy food, candles, um vendors at the farmers market – this will get awareness to her as the person she is writing about will tell everyone. This we know!

    Those are my thoughts with limited information.

    Chris, if she is looking for some more targeted ideas or more info from what I discussed here, please feel free to give her my phone number and I can talk to her to get more info be able to get her pointed in the right direction.


    • Lydiaspirko

      I really enjoyed your comments and suggestions for marketing in the Massage Therapy business. As my roomate and I went to the same school and graduated together and are now looking to expand our marketing and would greatly appreciate it if you would send us any information and ideas that would be helpful to the growth of our business.

      • Suzanne Vara


        I would love to share and/or expand upon my ideas above. I was unable to find your contact information so, feel free to reach me via email at suzanne@kherize5 dot com so we can connect and talk further.

        This is surely an exciting time for both you and your roommate. So glad that you reached out and we are fortunate to have CB to write about small businesses and the people behind them.


  • Irene Diamond, RT

    Chris- some of your suggestions are right on the money, and some of the comments from your readers are great too!

    I not only own a Massage & Wellness Center in San Francisco, I'm also a business-growth coach for MTs. This blog post will be very helpful to my list, so I'm sending them a link to your site, so they can get over here to read these marketing ideas too!

    One point I want to emphasize is to remember therapists are NOT selling a commodity- if they are, they will have to compete on price alone and so many chair gigs are a dollar a minute and new therapists are charging $35-50 just to get hands-on practice. Instead, therapists must be able to first differentiate themselves to justify their rates and set themselves apart.

  • Erika Glem

    Chris, I would also add look into local networking groups. I am in a service business and it is all about trust. If you ask your local business owners about free networking groups you may find out that there may be one or more in your town or surrounding area. I would also create a postcard, rack card, or brochure and actually go to all of the local businesses and ask to speak to the people in charge. In either of these suggestions make sure your 30 second speech is easy to understand.

  • annejaa

    Internet marketing is the activity of both advertising and selling goods and services online. This type of business is constantly growing in popularity, with millions of people now buying things on the internet.Advertising is just one part of a larger marketing effort to effectively promote your business and use an integrated approach that combines advertising with public relations,direct mail,special events,trade shows,newsletters,brochures and other marketing materials.
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  • Jeff Greenhouse

    If you've ever seen Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (especially the original British series), he really shows off the power of actual physical promotion. He always finds creative ways for the restaurants he is helping to get visible attention in their community.

    Your example of a mobile massage business could be a very good one if she had a friend with a pickup truck or a flat trailer behind it load up her massage table, some signage (“FREE Massage”) and a lot of flyers to hand out. Then drive out to a busy part of town (ideally an office canyon), park and start giving out 5 minute samples.

    Hyperlocal businesses have physical options that nationally or globally focused ones tend to completely forget about (or really can't take advantage of). In the rush to be “modern” and “digital”, they shouldn't forget about this advantage.

  • melaniekissell

    I think this type of business could definitely benefit by going to and crafting an offer!

  • Chris Brogan

    Really good one. Not sure how I missed it. : )

  • John Guthro

    I have been helping small town businesses since 1988, the early adopters to Web 2.0 are difficult to find when some of these businesses are just getting websites. THanks for writing this.