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Bodywork Buddy Blog

Bodywork Buddy: business management software for the solo therapist that keeps you organized and makes tax time a breeze.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Series: How to Set Your Massage Referral Program On Fire / Part 1

Remember my post a few weeks ago about the best thing I ever did for my massage business?  Implementing a referral program really got the word of mouth advertising working for me.  I thought we could detail how to really get referrals working in your favor.  So this post is the first in a 10 part series on how to set your massage referral program on fire.  Every Monday for the next 9 weeks, I will have another post in this series.  Each week, work to implement ideas from the series and see what kind of difference you have in your massage business in 10 weeks!

massage referralsNo matter what the business, the number-one source of  new clients is through referrals.
Experts say that clients received via referral cost less to convert, are more likely to become regulars, and are more likely to refer you even more business! As a result, no massage therapist who is serious about growing their business can afford to overlook this lucrative source of new clients.

In this series, I’m going to cover ten tips that will have your referral program skyrocketing. Even if you just implement one or two of these suggestions, you’ll experience an almost immediate increase in the number of clients heading your way.

Ready to get started? 

Referral Fire Starter Tip #1: Ask!

It’s disappointing how many massage therapists tell me they don’t regularly receive referrals from their existing clients.  But when I dig a little deeper, the reason becomes clear: Most times, they’re not asking for referrals!

You might believe that if people are happy with your massages, they’ll naturally tell others. While this is sometimes true, it’s not necessarily so. There are three main reasons people don’t refer friends and acquaintances, even when they’re thrilled with the service or product they received:

  1. Laziness. Most of us are lazy. We don’t go out of our way to do something unless there’s something in it for us.
  2. They forget. Out of sight, out of mind. Once they leave your massage studio, they forget about you – unless there’s something that brings you to top-of-mind again.  (Which is why you should be keeping in touch with them in between their massage sessions.)
  3. No one asked them to! It sounds crazy, but just asking someone to refer you can increase the amount of referrals you receive. All you have to do is ask.
While asking for referrals doesn’t have to be complicated, there are some guidelines that will make your request more likely to be successful:

  1. Ask at the right time. Right after your client has received a great massage is the perfect time to ask for a referral. The experience is fresh in their minds, and they’re more likely to have a strong positive emotion.  You can imagine that asking for a referral from someone who hasn't gotten a massage in months is probably not going to have the same impact.
  2. Ask when you’re having personal contact. When your client is in front of you or on the phone with you, or when you’re wrapping up a series of personal email exchanges is a great time to ask. That personal interaction increases the chances of a positive response.
  3. Ask specifically. “Do you know anyone else who might be interested in our services?” is a great question, but even better is, “Who do you know who might also be stressed out and could use some relaxation?” is better.
Asking may seem uncomfortable at first, but practice makes perfect. Do it enough times, and it will become a natural part of your interaction with your clients– with fantastic effects.

Have you been asking your clients for referrals?  Did you notice an increase in your business once you started asking?

Stay tuned for next Monday's post for tip #2.  And if you're not already, subscribe to this blog via email or RSS feed so you're sure to see the rest of the series!

Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 13 years.


  1. I actually just told a client (who got a new job) to keep me a secret from her co-workers! At her last job, word got out about me, and they were fighting over the "good" appointment times ;)

    1. ha! That's when you know you've been doing something right ;-)

  2. OK so my question is- What does a therapist ask for? an email address? a phone #? an actual address?
    I just asked a client for referrals and got phone #'s.
    As a LMT, Cold Calling a client's referral is WEIRD! I'm not sure if it's just the fact of it being a cold call, or if it's calling a clients referral (whom may or may not want to be contacted about my services.)
    of the 3 names and #s she gave me- I left 2 messages on Voice Mail, and spoke directly to one person.
    On my voice mails I said who I was, with what business, and who the person was who gave me their info. I left it open ended for them to call me back if they were interested in more information. But even that felt pushy!
    The one I spoke to in person- I gave the same info , and we chattd about how much her friend (my client) comes in, and I got some quick info on how often she (the referral) got massage etc. I gave prices, and info about our website so she could visit it on her own time. I also told her to talk more to my client about services, and such.
    As it was a cold call- I really didn't want to seem too pushy by asking her to make an appt. then and there.
    When speaking with my client to get these referrals- I reminded her to talk to the people she gave me their info and bug them to make an appt so that she could get her "referral bonus" when they came to see me.

    SO from here- what would be proper protocal? Should I call any of them a second time? Should I leave it as is? Should I have asked the one I spoke to in person for other contact info such as email?

    Learning as I go!

    1. great questions, Justine! Next Monday's post (9-24-12) actually details to NOT email unless you already have a relationship with the person.
      I'm not crazy about cold calling either. I prefer to get a mailing address and send them a postcard with an offer, or have a referral page on my website where clients can send it to their friends - and they can then signup for my newsletters & offers from there. (Totally ok to email them if they've SIGNED UP to receive emails from you!) If you do a monthly e-newsletter, you can include details of your referral program in there and make it easy for clients to forward that info on to their friends.

  3. I'm also learning as I go. I don't currently do a newsletter but have when I'm offering a special or just got certified in a new modality sent an email to let clients know but I just send it once. If I don't hear from them, I don't bug them. Also wanting to start a referral program. So will subscribe to this as well! Would also like any advice or tips on how to go about sending a regular newsletter and what you put in it.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the comment. What a great idea for a blog post - topics to put in newsletters. Look for it soon. Thanks!

  4. I give 6 of my business cards to a client and have thier name on all of them...I tell my client..when I get 3 of these back w/your name of back you get a free massage...

  5. I give my clients $5 off each referral. I had one client get $25 off already :)

    1. Nice! 5 new clients is definitely worth a $25 credit in my book!

  6. i work in a Spa. how do i get new referrals? i have giving out referral cards to clients, only 1 person came in. i need 12 new referrals a month to become commissioned; i am hourly now. i don't have a problem with re-booking only referrals. any ideas. keep in my mind, i work at a Spa.