At MassageBook, it is our primary mission to solve the everyday problems of running a small business that independent massage therapists face. One of these persistent and nagging issues is that of competition. We hear it all the time: “Big-box massage franchises like Massage Envy have national ad budgets, marketing teams, and franchise security. How does a one-person practice compete?” And the answer is simple: you don’t.

Before you pump your first at your screen, we don’t mean that you can’t compete, but rather, you should alleviate any pressure you have put on yourself to need to compete with Big Box Massage. Sure, there may be a location nearby, and they may be taking market share on TV or billboards, but the fact is that you will never have the budget or time they do. Instead, you should focus on providing the services you can and want to. There is no other massage therapist like you because there’s no other person like you. That, right there, is your marketable trait.

So now that you have breathed a sigh of relief, let’s talk about making the most of what is available to you. First of all, especially as a one-person or small practice, efficiency is key. Your time is best spent working on clients, not finding them.

Automating the ways in which you drive business is essential to growth. The number one way that you can do this is by creating a massage membership program.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait! Don’t those silly big-box franchises you just told me not to compete with have membership programs?”

And you’d be right. They do. But just because you’re not competing with them does not mean you can’t learn from them.

Why membership programs work

In general, membership and subscription services work because they provide repeat business and reliable income. This business model is everywhere—from streaming to pet toys, to clothing and personal hygiene goods—because it works.

How membership models affect the massage industry as a whole

For better or worse, the massage industry attracts a certain type of entrepreneur: someone who is a self-starter and does not want to be tied to a 9-to-5 or desk. That said, it can scare off others who crave a little more stability. Similarly, skilled professionals who might otherwise like to go into business for themselves, or join a small but effective independent practice, crave the stability provided by a franchise. Ultimately, equally-yoked competition makes us all better at our jobs.

In addition to attracting more people to the profession for the right reasons, memberships could also have a ripple effect on the reputation of massage as healthcare. For years, massage therapy has been consistently overlooked as a part of a holistic healthcare plan and as a meaningful alternative to drug therapy. This is despite the overwhelming majority (70%) of massage clientele expressing that it should be considered a form of healthcare.

The benefits of a massage membership program go well beyond generating more stabilized, predictable income. Let’s discuss:

1. Stay top-of-mind of with your clients

For most massage therapists, relationship building is the cornerstone of success. Your clients need to trust you in order to continue regular visits and to refer family and friends. However, we all have clients that tend to fall off the radar. Life happens! Maybe they got a new job or had a baby. Suddenly, their appointments are scheduled farther and farther apart. By creating a massage membership program, your client has an automatic reminder to carve out time for a monthly visit.

2. Create better habits for your clients

It’s easier for clients to create better habits when they’re coming back to see you much more frequently. Having dedicated time for a massage each month allows them to relieve stress and anxiety, manage injury prevention, put more emphasis on their self-care, and focus on making healthy choices for their bodies.

According to AMTA, 46% of people who got a massage in 2018 were over the age of 44. For this demographic, good health and wellness habits can set them up for more longevity and mobility in later years.

3. Build better engagement with your clients

Clients want to feel that we, as massage therapists, care and have an interest in their well-being. They want to feel that we have a vision for their individual holistic healthcare. These feelings are tied not only to our skills as service providers but our ability to build relationships. You might give an excellent deep tissue massage, but if your client feels that you don’t care about him or her, they’re not as likely to come back.

To that end, a massage membership takes the pressure off of trying to convince a client to return. Their membership is their incentive. Instead, you can deepen your understanding of their needs and provide the best recommendations for products and services moving forward.

4. Craft a comprehensive wellness plan for your clients

Similarly, building better engagement with your client means that you are also able to craft a comprehensive, long-term plan for their massage therapy. You won’t have to constantly adjust their treatment like you would if they come in on a loose schedule or if they only come in when they have a new, acute issue.

5. Stabilize your schedule

In 2020, many massage therapists were reminded what it was like to have “feast or famine” schedules, even if it had been years since experiencing such sharp declines and unpredictability. As a small business owner, an independent massage therapist often wears countless hats anyway, so having a more stable schedule prevents professional burnout and allows for better work-life balance.

6. And yes, increase your predictable monthly income

The regularly scheduled membership payments that you receive each month help you grow your consistent and predictable income. This is typically the first benefit of massage memberships people think of, but there’s a reason we placed it last. Building engagement with your clients and having their best interests at the forefront of your business model will ultimately separate you from Big Box Massage. It is your greatest asset and superpower. That said, you’ll love how building your predictable income through a membership program gives you the peace of mind that comes from knowing when and how much you’re getting paid each month.

If you are wanting to start a membership program for your massage therapy practice, you may want to consider investing in software that will automate the management of it for you.

MassageBook’s all-in-one membership management software has completely streamlined the day-to-day tasks needed to effectively create and manage a massage membership program. This incredibly simple yet powerful tool was developed to give independent massage therapists all they need to meet the growing needs and challenges of operating a small business, so if you need an extra hand running yours, we invite you to learn more about our massage membership management software now!