The message consumers are fairly consistently sending is that they want to do business with people they trust, and they don’t want a hard sell. In today’s age of social media, making a connection with your clients and potential clients is getting easier. You have a multitude of ways to engage them and build relationships, whether it’s creating a Facebook page or tweeting short snippets of information via Twitter. And, of course, you can—and should—have a website for your practice.
One of the great benefits of many of the social media platforms is the ability to quickly connect and post short items of interest to your clients. But what if you want to cover an issue in a little more depth? Although it’s true that you can be more detailed in the information you put on your website, you also want to be careful to keep this space clean and uncluttered.
Enter: A blog
Now, for those thinking they’d never be interested in having a blog for their business or don’t know how to get started, we can help. Despite what the word blog might conjure, there are some solid benefits to adding a blog to your marketing tools. And, it’s pretty easy to get started.
Anatomy of a blog. In the simplest terms, a blog is an ongoing chronicle of information. Most blogs focus on a particular subject, particularly if they’re business-oriented, while others, such as personal blogs, may cover a full range of topics.
Though blog content differs, there are a few features that are consistent across most blogs:
Main content area. This is where your blog posts appear,usually in chronological order starting from the newest material.
Archives. Usually appearing in the sidebar, most blogs are archived by month, giving readers a way to easily go back and find older content.
Comments. Another great feature of a blog is the ability for readers to comment on blog posts, creating a truly interactive experience. You can also respond to comments, so answering questions or providing additional information isn’t a problem, either.
Links. Sometimes called a “blogroll,” many blogs have a list of links to other websites or blogs that appear in the sidebar. This is a great way to provide your readers with additional resources.
Educate and connect. If they aren’t already, these two words should be well-known to anybody who hopes to market their practice or services. Whether you’re a sole-practitioner or an employee in a spa or other work setting, one of your goals is consistent: to create loyal clients. Today, educating and connecting with consumers is one of the better ways to accomplish this goal. And a blog can be an incredibly effective way to do both of these things.
Reinforce your brand. You can’t be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t try. That doesn’t mean you have to define your focus so narrowly as to miss out on opportunities, but chances are you have a massage demographic that interests and inspires you more than others— and that’s where you should spend the most energy building a visible brand. For example, do most of your clients come to you for relaxation or pain relief? Are a majority of your clients prenatal and postpartum women? Or, do you work with a lot of athletes?
Having a blog gives you a way to more fully explain the benefits of massage therapy, as well as your practice. In this space, you can build and continually reinforce your brand—or, what makes your practice, your practice, and what separates you from your competition.
Value add. Everybody wants something for nothing, and not just because of a struggling economy. Now, that doesn’t mean giving away your services for free or discounting your massage therapy sessions so deeply that you don’t make a profit. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with charging what you believe your massage therapy services are worth because most consumers expect—and are willing—to pay more for high-quality products and services.
What you do have to offer that can be invaluable when building professional relationships with consumers is information about—and your passion for—the massage therapy profession. And a blog can be a great place to share what you know, and give clients and potential clients information that can complement their experience with your practice and deepen their loyalty. Amy Porterfield, a social media strategy consultant, writes on Socialmediaexaminer.com: “Offer as much free value as possible, and keep your sales messages as low-key as possible to keep the focus on the content. This strategy will build trust with your target audience and keep your readers coming back for more.”
Educate and connect. A blog gives you a multitude of ways to educate and connect with consumers, and, unlike with Facebook and other social media tools, you can really make this space your own. Consider this space an extension of your website and practice, a place to give your clients and potential clients additional resources and information.
For example, if your practice focuses on prenatal and postpartum massage therapy, you might use your blog to talk to readers about any research you know of that is relevant to this audience (think, for instance, about what we know about massage therapy and relaxation). Here, too, you might discuss the different modalities you offer, as well as the benefits each of the modalities gives clients and potential clients. Or, you might post about some common contraindications.
You don’t need to limit yourself to only massage-specific topics, either. You might also include information on how to get better sleep when pregnant, for example. The options are endless, really. When brainstorming topics for blog posts, think about starting from these basic questions: What do massage therapy clients in this demographic want to know and need to know? What makes me and my practice different?
“The more you can make your posts interesting to your target audience, they’ll consider your site the ‘go-to source’ for quality info and keep coming back for more,” Porterfield explains. And that’s the value of a blog as a marketing tool—educating and connecting with clients in ways that make you a trusted source of information.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that although your blog is about your practice, the real opportunity is to connect and build relationships with your clients and potential clients, so obvious marketing should be limited. Find subtle ways to weave marketing messages into content and features that work to inform visitors about massage therapy.
Value add. Although not massage therapists, chances are that your clients are interested in some of the same things you are. Whether they come to you for relieving stress, dealing with a sports-related injury or chronic pain management, you might safely assume that many clients you see are looking for ways to maintain their health and well-being.
And here’s an easy entry point for giving your clients and potential clients something for nothing.
If you have a lot of clients who deal with low back and neck pain, for example, you might post information on additional ways to find relief.
Or, if your clients mainly come to you seeking stress relief, can you give your visitors information about relaxation? Again, think outside the box of massage therapy. Are there tea recipes you know that might help with relaxation? Can you demonstrate some self-massage techniques that stressed clients might use?
Now is a good time to talk to any potential contributors, as well. If you have a yoga studio you can team up with, or a health care professional who you trade referrals with, ask if they’d mind contributing to your blog whenever possible. Do you know a yoga instructor, for example, who might be able to talk to readers about some basic yoga positions? How about some stretches your clients could do if they work at a desk all day? Adding other voices to your content has two distinct advantages: 1. You get some variety and provide your clients with a perspective other than your own and 2. You’ll potentially be exposing your name and practice to some of the contributor’s loyal clientele.
Don’t forget that having a blog lets you be creative with how you deliver the information, too. You might demonstrate self-massage techniques by posting a video, for example. Or, post photos throughout a blog post to engage readers and provide visual cues for the content. Additionally, leading blog posts with a photo can be a great way to draw readers in.
When thinking of ways you can add value for your clients and potential clients, don’t be afraid to share what you know—and what you learn—about your core demographic.If you read studies, share links. If you learn a modality that will help, talk about it, or demonstrate it when possible.
There are a variety of blogging platforms available, so finding one to suit your needs shouldn’t be a problem. Also, if you have a company that oversees your website, ask if they have any blogging features that can be added. For many of the blogging platforms, basic technical knowledge is all that is going to be needed, as most are fairly intuitive. If you want to customize your blog, having some knowledge of HTML and CSS will be helpful.
Following is some basic information about a few blogging platforms:
Wordpress. This blogging platform is easy, flexible and costs nothing to get started. In about 10 minutes, you can have a blog up and running. Choose from more than 100 themes to give your blog just the right look (you can customize, too), and easily upload photos and embed videos. Sidebar widgets for Flickr and Twitter (to name two) make staying in touch with your clients across multiple social media channels simple. There’s also an integrated stats system so you know how many visitors you’re getting.
This blogging tool also allows you to create pages, which can really help you make your online blogging presence easy to navigate. For example, you can create an “About” page where you give visitors your basic bio. You might also create a page for your practice outlining your mission, office hours and rates. In these ways, your blog can do double duty.
Blogger. Now owned by Google, Blogger is hailed as one of the most user-friendly blogging platforms out there. What you gain in ease of use, however, you lose in flexibility and choice. There are fewer templates to choose from on Blogger than other free blogging platforms, so if you are someone who likes to have a wide variety of options,Blogger might not be the best choice.
You still can edit individual sections, like the header and sidebar, and a fairly large range of font and color options are available so you don’t feel as though there’s no opportunity to customize.
Typepad. User-friendly interface and ease of use are two advantages to Typepad. This blogging platform does give your blog a search engine friendly URL, so you’ll likely have better search engine rankings. Similar to Wordpress, 100s of themes are available, as well as a variety of site layouts, so you do have some control over the look and feel of your blog. Embedding videos and uploading photos isn’t difficult.
The one drawback is there’s a price: $8.95 per month is the cheapest package for one domain, your choice of design and personal support.
Movable Type. This platform is a little more complicated, so probably not for beginner bloggers. Self-described as a “single, unified solution for building websites and blogs,” Movable Type does give you the power to build and design a website and then add a blog, functioning as more of a content management system.
Having the power and flexibility to integrate your online resources can be a plus, but you’re going to need to be a little tech savvy to take full advantage of what Moveable Type has to offer.
There are several companies out there that for a very reasonable price can get you up and running (with a blog, website or a combination of both), so if you’re initially uncomfortable, hiring some help may be worth the cost. Most of the above blogging platforms will have online forums and FAQ sections that can help you navigate your way, along with individual customer support.
Beware—A Few Common Blogging Mistakes
Not understanding your audience. Starting a blog, particularly if it's for your practice, is more for your clients and potential clients than for you—and you need to continually remind yourself of this fact. When writing or brainstorming ideas for posts, try starting from your readers' perspective. What would someone who isn't a massage therapist want to know about the subject you're writing about? Why is the topic important to clients? If readers can't put the information you present into a context that is valuable to them, you've probably lost them.
Bad writing. With the immediacy that online tools have brought, some of the formality seen in print text is lost. And that's not always a bad thing. Your blog should be conversational—have a tone that is clearly your own—but that doesn't mean readers won't notice simple mistakes. They will, and it'll reflect on how they think of you and your practice (even in small ways). Many, if not all, of these blogging platforms have spelling and grammar checks, so make sure you use these tools. Also, do the necessary research if you're writing on topics you aren't sure about, and share the resources you use whenever possible. Lastly, before hitting publish, read over the post to catch those last minute errors. Or, better yet, have a trusted friend read it over. A second set of eyes can be invaluable.
Not engaging readers. You probably aren't going to get a slew of comments when you first start blogging, but even if you get one or two, take the time to respond. Doing so will help you build strong, trusting relationships with your readers—and today, that can be the difference between getting a client and not getting a client. You might also engage readers by asking questions in your posts, inviting readers to respond with their own experience or interests. Remember, a blog is more about connecting with prospective clients, humanizing your practice and sharing your expertise than talking solely about you and your services. Creating compelling posts that build trust and give your visitors the information they need will lead to loyal, engaged readers—and, quite possibly, clients.