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Building your Business - The Power of the Written Word

I think we would all agree that the best way to get new customers is through word of mouth. Those conversations your clients have while out there living in their own landscape are the best business endorsements. But there are many situations in which you might need the written word to help tell your story. So we will explore how to approach that blank sheet of paper lying before you, and help you build a road map for creating the best possible description of your services.

This is an exercise that provides more merit than the obvious end product of creating a definition of your business. The way you define something helps shape it and make it a reality both in your mind and in the minds of those who read it—it’s a powerful tool on many levels.

Your written definition may appear in many places, but its most likely use is in your brochure and, if you have one, on your website. My feeling is that websites are no longer merely for the technological elite but have become mainstream. The Internet is where the curious now go for current information, research and entertainment, and all three of these have merged in this evolving medium. But regardless of whether you want to soar into cyberspace, you still need a way to inform people of your business, and this would most likely take the form of a brochure.

Putting together a printed piece can be a daunting process: You must decide on your message, prioritize what you want to communicate and try to convey it in the simplest, most direct and effective way. You may face similar challenges even if you are just updating literature you already use.

There are many challenges in making this piece interesting and inviting to read. But for me, there are two major starting points and processes in this writing exercise: knowing who your target audience is and understanding their needs.

Who are you talking to?

The first process is to decide who your target market is—who do you want to reach with your well-chosen words? Holding the concept of these theoretical consumers in your head allows you to craft your message through their perception. Empathizing with and understanding the audience you’re trying to reach will determine the language and the content of your brochure; everything flows from these decisions.

Ask yourself: “Who is my target audience?” Are you primarily focusing on clients who have had massages or on those who are new to the experience? These are very different markets. You certainly need to address them both, but do consider which one will comprise your primary audience.

The big difference between these two groups is what you are marketing. With a person who is familiar with massage, you want to emphasize just what makes your service unique and distinguish it in some way from other similar providers. Your point of differentiation could be the mix of services you offer, your particular expertise, the environment you conduct the service in, or perhaps even location or price.

But if you want to focus on those who have never experienced massage therapy, there is good and bad news. The good news is that there are a lot more of them. Current AMTA data reveals that only 59 percent of those with a household income of $75,000 per year have not had a massage in the past year. (The U.S. Bureau of the Census puts the median household income at $48,201.) That means you have a larger pool of people to pull from and market to. The bad news is that you have to convince these people of the benefits of massage since they have never had one.

An important issue in addressing either of these groups is your vocabulary. When speaking to novice clients, you must use the simplest of language and explain any terminology that might be new to them. They may not know what “deep tissue” is, for example.

You also need to empathize with your audience. Massage therapy can be quite foreign to the novice; you might need to convince them of its efficacy and describe for them just what to expect in order to alleviate their concerns. Draping, privacy and an overview of the process may be touched on in your copy to eliminate any of the barriers they may have erected to the experience and benefits of massage. If you are addressing this on your website, this information could be detailed in the FAQ section. You might even want to highlight those which apply to first-time customers. What might potential patrons want to know?

What are Their Concerns?

The second process I like to use when writing a descriptive piece is to pose three questions to keep me focused on what needs to be said. You need your website or brochure to answer each of these three questions clearly and directly. I call them the “Three Golden Questions.”

The first question is, “Why should I care?” In marketing terms, it’s setting up the problem. Every product or service theoretically was developed to solve a problem, and massage therapy is no different. The problems your services address determine the philosophy and mission of your business. Think of them as your reason for being. The solutions your service provides can be quite specific, like helping resolve sports injuries with sports massage, even focusing on a particular sport, such as running. Or they can be more general, like stress reduction. And I have yet to meet anyone who could not benefit from this at various times in his or her life.

The second golden question you need to address is the most important section of your brochure or website: “What are the benefits your service delivers?” I call it the WIIFM or, “What’s In It For Me?” No written piece has any worth at all if it cannot take the reader’s perspective and answer this question clearly and concisely. It is in essence the deliverables.

Now you have set up the problem that needs resolution, be it tennis elbow or general stress relief, and hopefully you have clearly articulated the benefits your service provides to your clients. There remains one more question that your piece should address: “Why should I believe you?”

Your written piece or website must show your credibility and professional credentials. It may take many different forms. It could list the professional organizations you belong to, like AMTA. It could detail the number of years you have been in business. It could focus on you as the service provider or your business. “Voted Best Spa on the North Shore,” is also a credential I’ve seen on a brochure.

Another angle you could use to establish credibility is to come at it from the customer’s perspective and offer testimonials. Let your customers sell your services. A compilation of different quotes or even case studies can be a powerful tool because you are removing yourself and giving voice to the clients you serve. You can pull out some quotes from loyal, satisfied customers to use in your brochure and put the unedited versions up on your website. In essence, this last segment is a statement of your confidence and credibility.

Never underestimate the power of the written word. Put it to use for your business. First decide who exactly your audience is and then answer for them the three golden questions: Why should I care? What’s in it for me? Why should I believe you?

So don’t let that blank sheet of paper or computer screen intimidate you. Tell your story clearly, concisely and creatively. This road map should help you throughout the process!

Some Examples of "WIIFM": What's in it for me?

When writing about your services, be sure to pepper your description with lots of benefits your services provide. Include both direct and indirect benefits.

Direct benefits are specific, tangible deliverables. To lend credibility to the following statements, you may want to provide the research citations that back these up:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Increases circulation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Relaxes muscles

Indirect benefits are those that may not even occur to potential clients. Some examples are:

  • Relieves stress
  • Provides nurturing
  • Makes you feel pampered
  • Focuses on your health
  • Allows you to relax, refresh and take time for yourself

Take the time to make your own personal list of direct and indirect benefits. Then, emphasize those benefits your business best provides, what makes you special! Use this as a checklist whenever describing your business, in writing or conversation.

Jean Bailey has 27 years of corporate marketing and advertising experience and has held key positions with several Fortune 500 companies. She teaches marketing and sales for a Chicago-based massage therapy school and lectures and consults on marketing and communication for other health-related businesses. Jean is also a certified reflexologist and maintains a small private practice.

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