There will always be other massage therapists vying for your same customers. That’s business, and that’s inevitable. While you may not have any control (initially) over new massage therapists coming into town or established ones never wanting to retire, what you do have control over is how you market yourself and compete. It doesn’t matter if there are two or ten massage therapy practices within a mile of your location, what matters is how you present yourself and the level of service you provide. Here’s how to compete (and win) when you’re not the only massage therapy business in town:

Make Your Customers Feel Special

Assuming all other things are equal, make your customers feel like a trip to your studio is the highlight of their week. Greet them by name with a smile, learn about their families and their interests, keep track of birthdays and provide small gifts like a luxurious chocolate or special discount. Most of all, provide excellent customer service by remembering to thank them for their business at every opportunity. Treat every customer like a VIP and they will come back for more.

Set Yourself Apart

Do all the other massage studios in the area just keep regular business hours? Offer late evening appointments a couple of times a week to attract patrons who work a 9 to 5 job. Research the weaknesses of other massage studios and do what you can to fill that void. One great way to find out what people don’t like about other businesses is to simply ask them. Another is to go to online review sites and take note of both the compliments and complaints along with customer suggestions.

Create Your Own Niche

Specializing in a select group of customers shows you are not only creative but also a caring business owner. Pick a well-defined group and develop an action plan to draw them in. Special deals on massages for pregnant women and senior citizens target potentially untapped markets. Create some fliers and distribute them at locations where those two groups congregate, such as doctor’s offices, Lamaze classes, and senior centers.

Focus on the Experience

A massage is an intimate experience that is a luxury for most people. If your massage rooms have glaring overhead lights, plain walls, and standard tables, it’s time for an upgrade. Create an atmosphere that takes your customers out of their everyday world and into a land of soft music, dim lights, and candles. A massage should be an hour out of a customer’s schedule that is, in fact, a mini vacation. Educate your staff on ways to make the experience special, including how to read cues on when a customer wants to talk or just relax into the moment. Buy upgraded linens, quality lotions, and make sure all your staff is properly attired. It all comes together to create an experience that sets your studio apart from the others in the market.

Give Back to the Community

Adopt a charity, whether it’s local or global, and make a point that a certain portion of your profits is earmarked for that cause. Create attractive signage that shows your commitment to the charity and never turn down an opportunity for a photo op when presenting a check. When all else is equal in the business world, customers like businesses that show compassion for others. Let your passion for the cause be one of the reasons your business stands out from your competitors.

Fill the Hole in the Market

You’ll have to do some market research to find the hole, but once you do all you need to do is come up with a way to provide whatever it is that’s missing from all the other massage studios in town. Maybe it’s a half-hour rate or a special massage procedure that’s not available in your market. It might be something as simple as proclaiming a discount for a type of massage on a certain days. “Swedish Saturdays” with 20 percent off all Swedish massages may be the impetus that puts your studio over the top. Have some simple questionnaires printed up and available for your guests as they wait for an appointment. Ask what they want and your guests will deliver. Then all you have to do is fill the hole.

Convince People to Change

One of the hardest things to do is convince a competitor’s happy customer that you are a better option than their current massage studio. To do that, you first must lure them in the door. Discounts are one way to do that; another is to create a presence by offering free 5-minute massages at local health fairs. Once you get them in, it’s important to set the hook by offering a quality massage experience that isn’t available anywhere else in your community.

It’s important to remember that you are in control of your business and its growth. Keep an eye on your competitors, but remember winning is in your control. Strive to offer your clients the best experience possible and everything else will fall into place.