From the perspective of an independent massage therapist, having a big franchise like Massage Envy in your neighborhood may seem impossible to compete with.

The trick? Focus on your strengths and differentiate your practice.

Here are five common challenges that franchise’s present and ways to overcome them.

Challenge: Massage franchises provide convenience and a predictable experience.

Response: First time clients will always look for a place that makes them feel secure and safe – and minimizes the anxiety of seeing a massage therapist, reflexologist or bodyworker for the first time.

This confidence can be created by having a professional website that presents visitors with client reviews, quality photographs that set accurate expectations for what you and your working environment looks like, clearly written descriptions of what your business is about, and a service menu showing current pricing and descriptions for your services.

Provide clear expectations online and you’ll remove much of the mystery and anxiety people feel when looking for a massage or bodywork provider.

Challenge: Franchises have a lot of money for marketing and advertising.

**Answer: **Be more personal and strategic with your limited marketing budget.

The bond a client and their massage therapist create is a crucial component of long-term success.

People massage people. Businesses don’t massage people.

The personal relationship you form with a client breeds loyalty and trust. This means you have a huge advantage over any large “faceless” business entities when it comes to your marketing efforts.

Your clients will be much more likely to open emails that come from you and to refer friends and family. They trust you with their bodies, and they’ll trust that you can help others too.

Targeted email marketing increases return visits, referrals, gift certificate purchases and boosts overall appointments scheduled. Auto-pilot your email marketing strategy so you never forget a client’s birthday, referral request and more. You can also create a monthly or quarterly newsletter to stay “top of mind.”

Consider social media as a cost-effective marketing tool. It’s much less expensive than traditional advertising (like newspaper ads or billboards) and offers you the opportunity to reach your audience where they are present the most: on their smartphones. MassageBook even offers a Facebook integration tool which allows clients to schedule appointments directly from a business Facebook page.

Challenge: Franchises are located in convenient, high-traffic locations. Places where I can’t afford rent.

Answer: Most bodyworkers underestimate how much a good location can help a practice grow more rapidly, but you don’t need to be in a strip mall to do well.

Think more about what types of people will walk or drive by your practice, and how much signage you can have to stand out. A small practice of one or two can comfortably fit into a smaller, more affordable space next to a complementary business.

Look for a location next to or near a personal trainer, yoga studio, health store or other complementary business, make sure it’s always clean and professional looking, is quiet, and that you’ll have control over the temperature settings.

Challenge: Franchises offer memberships and can undercut my prices.

Answer: Franchise pricing is no longer that different than what most local massage therapists are charging. Consider selling multiple sessions together (Series) as an alternative to a membership if a client expresses a desire to visit regularly.

Something everyone who’s received a fair amount of massage knows: Every massage therapist is different.

How do you differentiate yourself? What modalities or types of issues are you the “best” at helping with? By focusing on a specialty, you’re suddenly not competing with more generic franchise massages or other therapists.

Modalities that focus on specific issues – like clinical massage, neuromuscular massage, lymphatic massage, TMJ massage and others set you apart from the crowd. You’ll be a much more appealing solution provider and have less competition if you focus.

Challenge: Franchises offer a variety of services.

Answer: Educate your clients on the services you offer and why you offer them. If you’re a specialist, be sure to communicate this clearly on your marketing and website.

Additionally, your clients can rely on a continuity of care that they cannot receive from franchisees. Again, your relationship is your strongest asset, and it will help keep your retention and referral rates high.

What other challenges do massage franchises present to your business? Let’s talk about how MassageBook can help you compete more effectively. Join us on Facebook!