10 ways to market your practice without spending a dime

Many massage therapists cringe when it comes to the topic of marketing. There are so many methods of marketing, how do you decide which ones will benefit your business? Will you net a return on your marketing investment or will it be a waste of your hard earned money? While there are endless ways to market your business, some are expensive and others are free of charge. Here are ten effective ways to market your practice that won't cost you a dime.

List your business information on the web

In addition to adding your business information to any professional organizations you belong to, here are some reputable Web sites to list your business information free of charge:

Work with your competition:

Establish a business relationship with a few of your fellow local massage therapists, by calling and asking them to trade treatments with you, or to have coffee together. Offer to send all potential clients that you cannot accommodate (usually those last minute calls for a desperately needed massage) to this massage therapist and in return ask them to do the same.

Radio advertising:

Call your local radio station and offer to send them some massage gift certificates to give away to callers in exchange for their announcing your business name, address and telephone number. People love to call in and win something for free. Either way, you get free radio advertising, and if the winners redeem their massage gift certificate, you get the opportunity to make them a regular client.

Email openings to clients:

Collect email addresses of clients. Whenever you have a slow time, email your entire list and say, "I have four appointments on Wednesday and Thursday that are free and I'll give $10 off to the first 4 clients who reserve them."

Advertise with your signature line:

Most e-mail programs allow users to create small files of text that automatically appear at the bottom of every outgoing e-mail message. This is called a Signature file. Create a catchy phrase such as, Massage Company Name. We Keep Clients for Life . Include your Web site address, mailing address, and telephone #. You can also promote massage gift certificates here.

Cross-Link web sites:

If you have a business Web site, you can attract more traffic by adding a "recommended resources" page to your Web site. Then, search your surrounding area for businesses that also have Web sites AND a "resources" page and ask them to cross-line sites. Ideal businesses to cross-link with are those that attract tourists, such as the chamber of commerce, bed and breakfasts/inns, restaurants and retail stores.

Client referrals:

Display a sign in your treatment room, with your business cards next to it, that says, "If you enjoyed your massage today, please let someone you care about know by giving them my business card" . Adhere a "Referred by: ______________" sticker to back of the business card so you can track the referral and send a thank you.

Do a joint venture:

Team up with a business professional who has a similar customer base to do a joint venture. Use your customer list to send a letter to your clients endorsing the other businesses' products or services. In return, have the other business do the same for you. An endorsement letter is like a good testimonial. This will generate new customers for both businesses. (Okay, this one will cost .37 cents per client but it's worth it)

Increasing gift certificate sales:

Increase massage gift certificate sales by placing signage everywhere possible within your office; the reception area, the bathroom, and each treatment room. Remind your clients that there are many occasions to buy massage gift certificates; the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, baby and bridal showers, and just because. As you close out each client, ask them if they need a massage gift certificate for anyone special.

Enlist a Hair Stylist/Barber

Give your hair stylist/barber a free massage in exchange for displaying your business cards or massage gift certificates on their styling mirror. Offer the hairstylist/barber $10-$15 toward their next massage for each referral or massage gift certificate sale you receive. About the author: Colleen Steigerwald Holloway is a business consultant, workshop facilitator, and the author of Success Beyond Work.