After taking an intensive seminar with one of the most successful and respected Masters of acupuncture in the U.S., my passion for nourishing my own healing practice has skyrocketed. Besides the many clinical pearls taught, Dr. Richard Teh-Fu Tan, OMD, L.Ac. revealed his brilliant marketing strategy to all of his eager students. Applicable to massage therapists as well as acupuncturists, Dr. Tan shared the “secret” to building a healing practice…and his advice is too good and too simple to not share with you.

Surrounded by hundreds of other health practitioners competing for business in a sagging economy, many massage therapy (and acupuncture) sole proprietors engage in all kinds of time-consuming, costly marketing strategies. Between advertising in the yellow pages, strategizing to boost a google ranking, erecting eye-catching signage and printing and distributing all kinds of marketing materials, promoting a massage therapy business can be costly. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the hundreds of monthly dollars spent on these efforts will be fruitful.

According to Dr. Tan, the “secret” to success is practice. Practitioners must practice to build a practice. Yes, combining all of the most popularly known marketing techniques may bring in a few new clients. However, the results from assorted marketing techniques are dwarfed compared to the potential client surge that results from practicing. Working on lots of people will accomplish the following:

  • Enhance skills
  • Build confidence
  • Encourage satisfied recipients to return and refer

Because therapists works closely (physically) with their clients and the client can easily feel vulnerable during a session, receiving massage therapy involves a considerable amount of trust. As such, it is hard for many individuals to seek the services of and trust a total stranger for massage therapy. However, once a person has experienced a particularly therapeutic or bliss-inducing massage – and trusts the intentions and skills of a practitioner – he or she will be motivated to seek that therapist out for another session.

Although the logic to practice is obvious, many in the healing profession are faced with the quandary: How can I practice if I don’t have any clients? An idea for practicing massage therapy to build a practice involves the following steps:

  • Keep your eyes and ears open at social events (a bar, a party or any type of gathering).
  • When someone appears to be suffering from a tight neck and shoulders, seize the opportunity.
  • Explain that you are a massage therapist and you may be able to help right then and there.
  • Have them sit down and work your magic.
  • It should only take a few minutes for the affected muscles to respond and relax.
  • Upon the muscular shift, wish the recipient well and suggest he or she consider a full massage for more extensive relief.
  • If the short, free massage was any good, that person will be grateful, request your card and think of you first the next time he or she is tight.

While approaching a stranger and offering help may feel awkward at first (and may not be well-received every single time), this simple, straight-forward approach is bound to build a massage therapy practice. In fact, this strategy could snowball faster than most people realize. For example, a person receiving a chair massage at a party could draw a crowd – and a line – for onlookers hoping for a free neck and shoulder massage. Although it may seem counterintuitive to do this without compensation, this is a surefire way to grow your practice through practicing. If the idea of “giving your services away for free” feels uncomfortable, rationalize that your effort is equivalent to (but more productive than) paying to market your business.

Of course, make sure to have plenty of business cards on hand – and send a telepathic thank you out to Dr. Tan in San Diego for the boost in your business that this ridiculously simple process can yield.