Many believe that starting a massage practice from scratch can require a commitment of about three to five years before steady profits roll in. The typical mantra of a massage therapist can go something like this: “If I help people, they will come.” Marketing used to seem like a foreign notion reserved for corporate suits forcing themselves on the unsuspecting public. In the June 2005 issue of Massage Today, Colleen (Steigerwald) Holloway, LMT shared a marketing gem in the article “Practice Management 101: Better Than Word-of-Mouth Marketing”.

In this article, Holloway points out the deficiency of word-of-mouth advertising. She reminds us that “People who have a bad experience with a service will tell between six to 10 people. Bad news travels quickly, and people love to complain and receive sympathy… Conversely, people who have a good experience with a service will tell only one or two people, and often only when it happens to come up in conversation.”

A viable solution to the inequality of word-of-mouth referrals is a joint marketing venture (JMV). A JMV is a partnership with another service-oriented business. The two businesses endorse each other with testimonial letters to their customers. This is such an effective way to reach new people because they are getting a recommendation from someone they already know and trust. The best news of all, is that a JMV is easy, effective and very inexpensive.

Holloway describes three simple steps to getting your new marketing plan underway. The first step is to find your JMV partner. The best way to find a partner is to make a list of your current clients who own a small service-oriented business with an established clientele. Out of that list, chose your most satisfied and loyal clients. If you don’t have appropriate clientele to choose from, approach your relatives, neighbors and friends that own a business. Once a partner is chosen, and they agree to enter a JMV with you, you can move on to Step Two.

In Holloway’s article, a clear guide is given for the next step, which is writing the endorsement letter. In the first paragraph of this letter, Holloway says to explain the problem you need to be solved. This could be anything from recurring low back pain (if your partner is a chiropractor), a challenge in figuring out taxes (if your partner is an accountant), to a catastrophe involving a toilet (if your partner is a plumber). In the next paragraph, Holloway says to write a strong testament attributing your partner’s service as the solution to your problem. The testament could be “Jo’s Plumbing Service came to my rescue right away. They quickly fixed my toilet, offered great suggestions to prevent the problem from recurring and they even helped me clean my flooded home.” In the final paragraph, offer a call to action. This is an incentive for the reader to contact the business being endorsed. The example of a call to action given by Holloway in this article is “Dr. Jones is such a terrific chiropractor that when I told him I was going to spread the word about him to all of my clients, he offered to give each of my clients a free initial examination. That’s a $60 value! … Call him today at (555) 555-1212, and tell him I sent you.”

The final step that Holloway gives is to implement your joint marketing venture. Have your partner write an equally persuasive endorsement letter praising you and your massage practice, including a compelling call to action offer. Agree on an equal amount of clients for you and your partner to send the respective letters out to, and you are well on your way to expanding your practice.

When implementing a joint marketing venture, a business owner has nothing to lose. The investment is only the cost of stationary and stamps. Holloway shows that marketing does not have to be contrived and uncomfortable. While you may still believe that “If I help them, they will come,” you also now know that you can accelerate this process and have your phone ringing right away with even more new clients interested in your services. With this simple and effective way to network and educate people about the benefits of massage, you will find it isn’t necessary to wait five years before developing a steady stream of new clients.