Ditch the Discount! Why Discounts are Hurting your Massage Business (and what you should do instead)!

Ditch the Discount! Why Discounts are Hurting your Massage Business (and what you should do instead)!

“Need more clients? Easy!… Just do a discount!”

That’s the well-intentioned advice that many therapists receive when they’re trying to grow their business. And it’s not totally wrong! You'll WILL get more clients if you give low-priced treatments and discounts.

But...it can actually be a huge mistake and end up hurting your business far more than helping it! Read on to see why that’s the case – and to find out what you could be doing instead.

Why discounts are bad for business

Imagine this scenario - You’re struggling to get clients through the door, so, you put out a Groupon offer, or boost a Facebook post giving a special discount.

The first thing that happens is that it works really well!

It brings in a surge of clients! You find that your books are full for a few weeks and it feels great - “I’ve got loads of clients! My business is working!”

But then what happens? ...

You flop down, exhausted at the end of a manically busy few weeks, and you realise two things:

1) You’ve hardly made any money. When you add up the time you spent massaging, PLUS the admin, washing, accounts and all the other behind-the scenes jobs you had to do to serve those clients; your hourly rate works out as pittance. You could have got more working in a spa (or Aldi)!

2) Out of all those clients only a couple rebooked. The rest have said “I’ll call you - I don’t know my schedule right now.” Leaving you feeling like a failure and a rubbish therapist. You gave them your heart and soul. They had a wonderful treatment. Why don’t they want to come back?

You’ll be pleased to know, it’s not you or your massage.

The problem is the DISCOUNT. Here’s why:

1) Discounts attract the wrong type of clients

Discounts often attract clients who are looking for the cheapest option. Those clients saw your offer and quickly booked in. But they don’t want to come back and pay your usual prices. They want another cheap massage – so they’ll go down the road, to the next therapist who’s doing a discount.

They are less likely to become loyal, long-term clients. These are the people who’ll jump ship when a better offer comes along. You don’t want them as clients. It’s bad for business.

A client who comes in solely for a discount is less likely to commit to a treatment plan or recommend you to their friends (unless they’re passing on “Hey! Go there to get a cheap massage!” which is the WORST kind of recommendation!)

2. Discounts devalue your treatments

When you frequently offer discounts, it can devalue your true price. Clients start to think that your normal prices are inflated and they’ll just hang on for your next offer instead of booking in at the full price. You’re actually training your clients to expect (and wait for) discounts.

If they see you giving “20% off” every few weeks , they’ll start to see THAT as your normal price and they’ll think that “20% off” is what your treatments are actually worth.

You end up getting flooded with clients paying the lower price and getting far less who will pay the higher price (and who can blame them? We all like to get a bargain if we can!)

A good example of this is Holland & Barratt – When was the last time you paid full price for a product at H&B? They always have some discount going at any given moment. You start to see their full price as something you’d NEVER have to, or want to pay.

3. Discounts dilute your brand

Before we dive into this one – let’s get clear on what I mean by “brand”. Think of it like this - your brand is your reputation—it's how client perceive you and what they think of when they hear your name. It's not just about your massages; it's also about the quality of the whole experience you offer. It's what sets you apart from other therapists and keeps clients coming back.

So a strong brand means having a clear message and identity that clients recognise. If you pride yourself on the skill of your massages, the depth and breadth of your training, the quality of the products you use and the lovely comfort of your treatment space – then this should come across in your marketing – and will be the basis of your brand.

Are you a premium service provider offering high quality treatments or are you “cheap and cheerful”? (I don’t recommend “cheap and cheerful” for a massage therapist by the way – more on this in another post!). I’m hoping that you’ve opted for the first one and that you think of yourself as a premium service provider.

So far, so good. But here’s the thing - when you keep offering discounts, you “dilute” your brand. Even if you don’t mean to, you give out the message that you are of the Cheap and Cheerful variety.

Once you’re “cheap” in the eyes of the client, you’re always going to be that. It’s not something you can easily move away from.

Use Promotions instead of Discounts

It's important for you to know - discounts aren't intrinsically bad; it's more about HOW you offer them. If you get it right, you CAN put on offers that bring in the right sort of clients, AND are in keeping with your brand.

The best way to do this is to think in terms of offering Promotions rather than Discounts. A discount will make the PRICE the main focus, whereas a promotion is all about the VALUE of what you’re offering This is a big psychological difference for your clients.

When you want to bring more clients in, try increasing the value of what the client gets instead of reducing the cost.

Here are 6 easy ways to do it:

1) Exclusive Packages
Create an exclusive package that is more than “just” a massage. You could combine a mix of modalities, add more time to your usual treatments or throw in a gift to take home. This immediately appears more valuable than a simple price cut.

2) Keep it exclusive
Make any offers limited to a short time only. Use terms like "Limited-Time Offer" or "Special Edition" to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. This encourages clients to buy without expecting continuous discounts.

3) Loyalty programmes
Offer special deals to your regular clients. This could be in the form of a free session after a certain number of visits, access to exclusive treatment combos, a monthly free gift or extra time added to their treatment.

4) Recommend a Friend
Instead of a direct discount, offer a small bonus or extra treatment time to current clients who send new clients your way. This rewards that client’s loyalty AND encourages them to recommend you to more people.

5) Free Gift with the Treatment
Give clients an incentive to buy a treatment by offering them a free gift (ie an oil blend, a meditation download, a massage ball or similar.)

6) Gift voucher instead of Discount
A great way to offer a discount is to position it as a "contribution". Instead of saying, "Here's £10 off this treatment" you say, "I’m giving you £10 towards this treatment." You can give them this “discount” in the form of a gift voucher which will make it feel like you're giving them something extra rather than just cutting the price.

So there you have it! I hope you can see that while discounts might seem like a quick fix to boost your business, they can actually undermine your success if you don’t use them strategically.

Instead of trying to be the cheapest option available, aim to add more value to what you’re offering.

Get creative with your offers and you’ll find it naturally leads to more of the right sort of clients without you having to slash your prices. An added bonus is that these “promotions” make clients feel special and valued AND keep your services looking high-end. Win-win!

About the Author

Business mentor for massage therapists, Nikki Wolf has over 20 years in the industry; including teaching, owning a massage school, and managing spas. Nikki is on a mission to demystify marketing for therapists and empower them to build their own thriving businesses. When she isn't massaging or mentoring, she’ll be walking on the beach with her dog, Storm. Find out more about mentoring at Orchid Massage Academy.


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