Your brand is your most important asset because it differentiates you from all your competition. Taking the time to establish your brand is one of the most important investments that you make in your massage practice.
We get bombarded with thousands of advertising messages every day, from people and companies vying for our attention. Branding your massage practice helps you to cut through the noise and stand out in your target market.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but with a strategic plan and consistent effort, you can build a brand for your massage practice that is recognizable in your community and your niche.
A brand is more than just a logo
Your brand is not just your business name, logo or tagline, although these are things associated with your brand. It is the core values and beliefs that you consistently exhibit in your business. It is also your promise to your clients.
Any core underlying philosophy that comes through in all of your work and communications, should be reflected by your brand. Communicate this in a way that shows a passion for what you do.
For example, the Massage Business Savvy brand expresses the core belief that with the right training, mindset and determination, any massage therapist can build a thriving, enjoyable and profitable massage practice. We strive to create and communicate accurate and useful information that massage therapists can apply and benefit from quickly.
A brand is something that lasts for years; often for the life of the business. And it is difficult to radically change after it has been solidly established, however it will grow and evolve over time.
Brand identity is how a business wants to be perceived my it’s target market. The logo is part of this, as are other factors such as: business name, tagline, color scheme and typeface, etc.
Brand image is the inverse of this, meaning it is how the business is actually perceived by the target market. Your brand image is your practice’s personality. It develops over time through consistent client interactions, and is built on how your customer’s perceived their experiences with you. Keep this maxim in mind: Perception is reality. Find ways to get feedback about how your brand message is being perceived.
A brand as an opportunity to differentiate your practice
Anyone can give a massage. Your clients aren’t just paying for the massage, they’re coming to your business to experience you. Your brand is you. Be unique by being yourself, and stand out.
It says why your practice is different and better. Why should someone chose you over another practice? Positioning is one of the most important elements of branding. Position your practice as the place to go, for your niche.
A strong branding strategy will help you to establish your practice quicker within your target market and your niche. If you choose to specialize in a certain niche, sports massage for athletes for example, narrowing your brand to appeal to this clientele will build your client base faster.
Your website and marketing collateral should reflect your brand, and any marketing campaigns should be geared towards attracting this market. Then when an athlete is faced with the decision to go to either a generic (undifferentiated) massage therapist or you, The Sports MT, who do you think he or she will choose? Soon you will become known as the place to go for sports massage.
Many of the most successful day spas can charge premium rates because of they have successfully created a brand of status. Even if the quality of massage is no better.
Increase connection with your people
Effective brands increase connection with their target market because they are not trying to appeal to everyone. Brand yourself as someone who understands the unique problems associated with your chosen target market. You have the right skillset to provide solutions for your clients’ problems.
Also, your brand should represent qualities that are important to your target market. This could includes things like: integrity, experience, skilled treatments, empathy, consideration, pleasant personality, caring, etc.
Here are some things to ask yourself when defining your brand:
- What is the personality of your practice?
- How would you describe your style?
- What’s the tone or voice in your communications with your clients and prospects?
When you focus your brand on serving one target market, you focus all your marketing communications so they feel you are speaking directly to them.
Your brand tells your story
Your prospects’ first impression will be influenced by your brand. What message do you want to convey?
Let your clients and prospects know who you are by designing a brand that tells your story. Be yourself, genuine, and transparent. This makes it something you can easily commit to. Keep harmony between your personal brand and how you brand your practice.
Your brand is not only who you are now, but also who you are strive to be. It is your standards. Defining this identity well can keep you on track to reach your personal and business goals. If you don’t have clearly defined standards then it’s hard to know if you’re on course.
It is also conveyed by everything you do. If you have employees, or if you decide to in the future, make sure they are a good fit with your brand.
Build recognition and trust
A strong brand is built on trust. Massage therapy requires a lot of trust on the part of the potential client. And taking the time and effort to establish trust could make or break your practice. Spend some time upfront thinking about how you can build trust with your clients. A reputation of trust is a key characteristic for a successful business.
With trust in the relationship, clients will be more forgiving of occasional mistakes. They are also likely to spend more with a brand that they trust, I certainly would. I trust that my favorite natural food store has healthier products and I will gladly pay more because I value clean food. If you look at businesses that you frequent, I’ll bet that you associate trust with their brand.
Brand equity adds value to your services. Think of all of the expensive products out there that can only charge as much as they do because of the
brand, not necessarily the super slick engineering, design, or materials. What qualities do you want associated with your practice?
People perceive that something is less risky after they’ve become familiar with it. Don’t just guess what your clients think of you. Get actual feedback. They will be impressed that you care about quality service and are making the effort to continuously improve.
Small massage practices have a huge advantage over large massage chains. As a small business owner you can create an emotional connection with your clients, whereas the large chain will remain a faceless corporation. In fact larger corporations often work very hard to look like a smaller company who can maintain a personal connection with their customers. This builds your “know, like and trust” factor, and turns prospects into clients.
Here 8 steps to start building your brand:
Know your target market
What do they want and need? What problems or frustrations do they have that you can solve?
A good way to learn more about your target market’s problems is to increase your understanding of their lifestyle. Actually being a member of this group is a huge advantage. Commonality builds bonds. You can learn about the problems and opportunities by reading leading blogs and publications for your target market. Visit relevant forums or other places where they hang out and converse.
Learn their lingo. For example, if you want to offer your services to companies through their HR department, you would emphasize massage benefits by using phrases like: employee appreciation, non-monetary incentive, employee wellness, etc. If you want to appeal to athletes, you would use words like: speed recovery, increase performance, and relieve muscle tension.
Build a profile of what your ideal client looks like. Create a couple of these personas. This will help you stay focused on them in your branding process and marketing communications. You can then target all your efforts to meet their needs.
Look at 10 clients that you really enjoy working with, and evaluate what makes them your favorites. Were they respectful? Fun to work with? Do they come see you frequently? Pay on time or give great reviews? What do they have in common? Is the majority female or male? Same age group or geographic location? Do they have the same social status or education level? Or how about the same beliefs and values? Maybe a lot of them have a specific need that is your specialty.
Define your position
Establish yourself and your practice, as the place to go. Establish authority in your field. People want to do business with the best, and since you can’t be everything to everyone, picking a niche is best. That doesn’t mean you have to only work with one type of people or do one style of massage. But rather you focus 80% of your marketing efforts on this group, and soon you will be the leader in this niche.
Find ways to boost your credibility in your niche. Sticking with the athlete & sports massage example, you could try to score some work with local teams and then ask for endorsements or testimonials. You can also increase credibility through additional certifications that verify a relevant skillset and dedication to this target market.
Be consistent in your branding. If you have been practicing for a while and already have some clients, ask them about why they keep coming back to you. It may be a different reason than you think.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I become the ‘go-to authority’ in my niche?
- How can I stand out?
- What do I offer that is unique?
- What best traits do I have?
Create a solution
Now that you know who your audience is and what they need, determine how can you add value to their life. You will be successful by delivering more value than your competition.
Understand that competition isn’t just other massage therapists (direct competition), but also anyone else who can meet your client’s need in any way. If the need is to relieve stress, then other channels to meet that need (indirect competition) could include a yoga class, exercise, alcohol or pharmaceuticals, meditation class, etc.
Competition can be a good thing. It drives us to continuously improve our products and services.
Don’t stop at positioning yourself as better than the alternative solutions. Position you brand as the only solution to your prospects’ problems. Do this through clearly communicating the specific benefits you offer.
Promote yourself, using permission marketing
Develop a marketing campaign that is about giving value to your people, so that it is welcomed. Don’t pester people and don’t be boring. Be new, interesting, & exciting. Do what’s needed to increase visibility, attract more people and grow a following of adoring fans.
Let people know how you can benefit them in a way that they want to be benefitted, not in how you think they should appreciate any benefits. Promote other people and business that you work with, or want to work with.
Engage your customers by communicating with them frequently and on a consistent basis. You should always have a promotional campaign in motion at any given time. Use campaigns that increase your practice’s visibility. Do this daily to build momentum.
Differentiate from your competition by over-delivering
Be brave and go against the grain. Instead of trying to copy what a big massage chain does, deliver the personal connection that they can’t. Do the opposite of what a massage mill does.
Strive to exceed expectations. Identify ways that you can over-deliver. Just meeting expectations is no longer enough. That’s just the minimum to get by. People don’t call up their friends to talk about how their expectations were met. But they become raving fans when someone exceeds all their expectations. Give more value than anyone else in your niche.
Be creative in how you over-deliver. Avoid going over their allotted massage time by more than a few minutes, because this sends the wrong message. It devalues your time and makes your prices seem arbitrary. Instead, you could enhance their overall experience with you in small ways that don’t take much time or expense, yet differentiate your practice:
- Improve the treatment room aesthetics
- Relaxed intake time to allow client to express needs, and perform physical assessment if needed
- Treatment that actually addresses client-stated needs and preferences
- Use high quality sheets, well padded table, choice of quality oil/lotion
- Time to relax with after-treatment refreshments like tea and fresh oranges
Create a brand image and generate emotion
People make decisions based on emotion. If they feel like something will meet their needs and make them feel better, then they will want that product or service.
Look at what advertising does, whether it’s for pharmaceuticals, the latest smart phone, cold medication, or a university. They focus on getting you to relate with how this product can make you feel better rather than just list all of the benefits of the product. They play music and show images to create certain feelings in the viewer, then show images of the product, or images of happy people using the product, to make you associate positive feelings with their product or service.
What message or image do you want associated with your practice? Relaxed and down-to-earth? artistic free spirit? medical professional and formal? empathetic and caring? elite and exclusive? high energy? generalist or micro-niche? trustworthy and dependable? Be true to yourself and be consistent with your brand throughout all of your communication and interactions with people.
Get a great logo
If you’re not very creative or artistic, get a professional to do it. There are lots of designers on Fiverr or other websites that can do it for a reasonable price. Place your logo everywhere. A logo is a symbol of your brand. As such, it should depict the characteristics of your brand through artistic techniques.
Keep in mind how your logo will look on the various types of medium where you plan on displaying it: website, business cards, spa products, signage, etc. There are 5 types of logos: symbol (Apple), word mark (Facebook), letter mark (GE), combination mark (AT&T), and emblem (Starbucks).
Use a consistent color palette, that carries over from your website, and social media, to office, to marketing collateral.
Come up with a tagline or slogan
Make it short, memorable, and descriptive, conveying the essence of your brand. It should also succinctly reflect your mission. Lots of memorable slogans have a rhythm to them: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”. Avoid generalities or hyperbole like, “The Best…”. Make it funny if you can. Keep it simple. Brainstorm 30 taglines that fit your brand and go with the best one.
Branding is an important step in creating a successful massage practice. I encourage you to take some time to think about how your brand would be perceived today, and what message you would really like your brand to convey. Go through the 8 steps and write down what you want your brand to stand for, and your strategy to achieve this.
I’ll be on writing more on this in the future because it is such an integral component of a successful marketing strategy. Now I’d love to hear how you’ve branded your massage business and what other questions you have about branding your practice.