How to Compete with Massage Envy

Brian works for a national massage spa franchise. The owner recently told him that going out on his own was a dumb idea because national massage spas were gobbling up all the business.

Five years ago, I might have agreed with the massage spa owner because my business was not all it could be due to, in part, massage spas.

However, my income drop was ultimately about me not adapting to the massage spa competition quick enough. Now the opposite is true. Massage spas actually help my business because I’ve learned to do 2 things: 1. I copy the things they do well, and 2. I capitalize on the things they don’t do well.

Do what massage spas do well. Capitalize on what they don't do well. Click To Tweet

The Juggernaut 

When Massage Envy and Hand & Stone moved into my area, my private practice took a hit. I knew that some of my clients had switched from me to the massage spas. One in particular, Antonio, had been with me a long time.

The future seemed a little scary. Massage spas seemed like they owned massage because of their massive advertising.

The Awakening

After being talked through a little self-defeatism by my wife, Lisa, I started to ask myself questions, like: Why did Antonio switch to a massage spa? What could I do to get him back?

For the next year I got to know the massage spas business model very well, and my questions were answered.

Do #1: Prompt Response Time

Massage spas kick butt when it comes to appointment turnaround. Typically, you can get an appointment on the same day you call. Though I was not, and did not want to be, an on-demand therapist, I realized that I needed to tighten up the whole scheduling process.

In fact, over the years, I had remembered Antonio complaining about how hard it was to get an appointment with me.

When I did these things, I saw an uptick with booked appointments:

  1. answered my business line whenever I could,
  2. checked my voicemail more frequently,
  3. took care of appointments as they came in rather than in one chunk (like at the end of the day),
  4. offered a texting option for old and new clients.

Do #2: Track New Business and Client Retention Numbers

Everything about massage spas is numbers. Numbers don’t lie. They tell you the truth about the health of your business. If I had paid closer attention to my “new clients” and “client retention” numbers instead of relying on my Spidey senses, I would have been able to react faster than I did after the massage spas moved into town.

Do #3: Offer an Intro Massage Price

One local massage spa did Groupons a while back. Potential clients poured through their doors. Though most did not become members, some did.

So, I did an experiment with Groupon, Amazon Local and LivingSocial. And 15% to 20% of the customers I saw turned out to be repeat business. Hmm..a hundred people walk through my door and 15 to 20 become new clients. Not bad.

A special introductory massage price works the same way. You offer a lower price than your normal rate to get clients through the door. Massage spas, such as Massage Envy and Hand & Stone, offer intro specials.

For me, the intro massage special has worked great. It draws people in and since my intro rate is higher than what my massage would be priced through Groupon, the basement bargain shoppers usually stay away.

A great bonus to an intro rate massage is that anyone who comes in—no matter if she becomes a return client or not—has the potential of spreading the word about my business. This, by far, has been my greatest no-cost advertising.

Massage Spa Weakness

Though massage spas do a lot of business things right, they don’t (and can’t) do one thing better than you. They can’t make the massage experience as caring and personal as you can.

DON’T Make Efficiency Your Number One Goal

If you’ve ever worked in a massage spa, you know that things move fast. For instance, if the massage is 50 minutes, you may only have 10 minutes to get one client out of the room and the next one in.

That’s not too relaxing for you or the client—but that’s the business model massage spas use because efficiency equals profitability.

Efficiency has its drawbacks though. For one, massage spas have a hard time keeping MTs because they burn them out. That means the client may not get his favorite MT when he comes in for his next massage.

Efficiency also means that a front desk person is in charge of sales, scheduling and collecting money. But who is going to be more invested in making sure that a client’s experience is top-notch, a front desk person who probably doesn’t know a whole lot about massage or an MT whose livelihood depends on it?

Care Better Than They Do

Once I got this, I started to tweak what I did at my office so that there was a crystal clear distinction between how I took care of a client and how a massage spa took care of a client.

This is standard in my massage practice:

  1. I allot 30 minutes for a new client intake and 15 minutes between each massage.
  2. From intake to end of session, I focus on caring for the client.

I’ve seen massage intakes from 2 major massage spas. It was immediately apparent that on both intakes quite a few of the questions were designed to find the sales barriers that the front desk needed to overcome in order to sell the client a membership.

My client intake form was/is/always will be client-centric. You can download it here:  Massage-Intake-Form-Download.docx (421 downloads) Feel free to use it (or parts of it) for your business.

  1. I follow up.

With new clients and anyone in a pain situation, I do a post-session follow-up via text or phone call. This is where going the extra mile can pay off big in terms of getting a client out of pain and building therapeutic rapport.

It is a huge differentiator between what we do and what spas do. Massage spas don’t want MTs who work for them to follow up with clients. They need to keep all client-therapist interactions in the spa for lots of reasons.

Gobble Up Their Clients

This is a perfect time to have a massage practice. The massage spas have done the heavy lifting in terms of making people aware of massage through their extensive advertising. In addition, there are clients to be had who are not fans of the massage spa experience.

Here’s what I learned from massage spas:

  1. Respond to clients promptly.
  2. Track new business and client retention numbers.
  3. Offer an intro massage.

You have a natural advantage over massage spas in the care department. Use it. Don’t rush your clients. Do follow-ups. Let your care and concern come through in your intake, interactions and advertising. And you will see that “care” can sell.

P.S. Antonio is back. Oh yeah! You better believe I’m answering his texts promptly and making sure that he knows that he’s appreciated:-)

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