Should You Use Groupon For Your Massage Business?
Mar 19, 2019
Many massage business owners question whether Groupon can help their massage business. Although a large number of massage therapists have not had success, there are those who have been able to use Groupon in a way that helped to build their business.
The most common mistakes I see massage business owners make is they don't use Groupon strategically and end up on this never-ending loop of being stuck on running Groupon deals.
Massage therapist Cath Cox has had success using Groupon and has written many "how to" guides. She was gracious to write an article about how she has used Groupon to build her massage business.
Few things spark debate among massage therapists like Groupon. On one hand, it’s an easily accessible online marketing tool with no up-front cost. On the other, the service provided to Groupon customers is extremely discounted. It’s a love-hate relationship that gets more negative press than good.
When I started my practice, I resisted Groupon because I had heard terrible things about using it. But after three months and not getting the number of clients I needed to sustain my practice, I had nothing to lose. So reluctantly, I took the plunge.
I had some prior background working for small businesses (including the massage franchises and spas I wanted to get out of), which served me well. I can say with absolute certainty that using Groupon can grow your massage business, provided you know how to use it. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about these common perceptions with the intention of giving you a different perspective on how using Groupon can work for you.
Many Groupon customers are bargain shoppers. Some have legitimate budgetary restraints but benefit from getting massage consistently. Some don’t really value our work and refuse to pay full price. And others are looking for an occasional indulgence or affordable gift.
There are also Groupon customers who want to find a massage therapist they jive with. However, they don’t want to spend too much to try someone new in case their expectations aren’t met. Auditioning massage therapists can get very expensive. Since it’s such a personal service, it can take a while to find the right provider.
The demographic of Groupon users is quite similar to those who get the most massage. According to a 2016 article (1): 77% of Groupon subscribers are women; 68% are age 18-34; 49% are single; 50% have a bachelor’s degree and 30% have a master’s; and nearly 70% earn over $50K per year. Surprised?
Sadly, the nature of the massage industry is to get a lot of one-time customers. Because massage therapy is such a highly personal service, there’s a laundry list of needs that have to be met to truly be a good fit for each client. Massage style, personality, location and business hours are a few. But clients want something else from us: they want to feel special and appreciated.
I’m not going to tell you that you’ll retain every Groupon customer. Far from it. It’s likely upwards of 80% will not return after they’ve redeemed their voucher. That’s not much different than clients who come to you from other marketing sources or referrals. What’s important is to focus on those who do return and make an effort to treat every new client like they’ll be your next weekly regular.
Be on time. Smile when they arrive. Put your best foot forward in every interaction you have. Make them the center of attention for the entire time they’re there. Do your best work. Ask questions about their preferences to let them know you want them to have the best experience possible. Thank them for coming. And of course, ask them if they want to rebook! It’s also extremely effective to have discounted packages, memberships or loyalty programs to create an incentive to visit frequently. If you’re depending on Groupon for more than a year, there’s something much deeper that’s preventing you from getting to the next level.
The general industry time frame for building a sustainable massage practice is anywhere from three to seven years. When you’re first starting out, you have lots of time and few clients. When you aren’t working in your practice, you aren’t earning money from it.
Isn’t it better to be making something than nothing? I’m not suggesting that anyone’s time or skills are less valuable than anyone else. I believe that when starting out, it’s more important to have clients on your table as often as possible than it is to hold out for only full paying clients. In the short term, you’ll make more money overall seeing more people for a little less than fewer people paying more.
A business goes through stages, just like a child. It’s frowned upon in most circles to have a kindergartner in diapers or a middle school kid wearing cowboy boots with a ballerina skirt. As a child matures, what was once necessary or acceptable changes. Keeping them tied to those things as they grow doesn’t let them evolve. Groupon is a great launching pad or occasional booster, but not a lifetime tool.
If you have plenty of time to grow your practice, this isn’t an issue. But for those therapists who need the earnings from their business to pay their bills sooner than later, the hare beats the tortoise early in the race. Once you’re established, you can move away from this strategy.
Groupon gives its merchants massive exposure that is tough to match. Pair that with a pay-as-you-earn system rather than prepaying and hoping for results, and the benefits are impossible to ignore. Getting seen by the number of people that are looking for massage on Groupon is simply impossible using social media, networking or even Google (although Google has more users, they may not be using the right keywords in their search to find your practice or your website may be too far down the list). So even though you’d keep the total sales from your own deal instead of a split with Groupon, you won’t actually make more money. Not even close.
Here’s how this common problem happens: Groupon is a business. The goal of any business is to make money in exchange for a product or service. The more money a business makes, the more successful it is because it then has options like expanding to another location, employing people in the community and offering investment opportunities. So Groupon trains their sales force to set up campaigns to sell the most vouchers. That’s what can overwhelm a sole practitioner. But there’s a solution.
You can adjust your monthly maximum voucher sales at any time by contacting your sales rep and asking them to lower it (or increase it if you aren’t seeing as many clients as you’d like). Groupon would much rather have you slow sales down than stop them all together. This also allows you to adjust your Groupon sales according to the seasons or around life events. I don’t know of another marketing tool that has so much flexibility.
So why are these “myths” so pervasive? It’s because Groupon reps aren’t business experts. They’re salespeople doing the job they were trained for. Being successful with it takes a thoughtful strategy that includes what your goals are, who you want to work with and how you plan to convert these new clients into returning customers. Be clear on what you want to accomplish before you contact them and don’t be afraid to refuse parts of the deal that you aren’t comfortable with.
Ask questions so you know exactly how everything you agree to will affect your business. In the end, they make more money working with you than without you, so will most likely be willing to negotiate. Used wisely, a Groupon deal will grow your practice faster and easier than any other marketing tool available. It sure has been that way for me!
Guest author: Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999 and is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System™. Her mission is to heal the world by inspiring independent massage therapists to build thriving practices of their own so they can work authentically for as long as they desire. She currently provides Ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage exclusively in her private practice. She is inspired by those who live their truth regardless of its popularity, novelty or acceptability. You can learn more about her at times unconventional, yet successful business journey at cathcox.com.