Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2012

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best practices BUSINESS SIDE | Q & ART | TABLE LESSONS | SAVVY SELF-CARE Defining (and Dealing With) Your Competition By Laura Allen When you hear the word competition, what comes to mind? The massage therapist or day spa down the street? True enough, they may be our competitors, but we also need to think outside the box. In reality, there are a lot of other places that people can spend their money—and their time—that may not have anything to do with massage at all. LUXURY OR NECESSITY? I personally consider receiving massage a medical necessity and a priority. To some people, massage is an occasional luxury. During troubled economic times, pampering (and yes, even health care) sometimes falls by the wayside in favor of car and mortgage payments. My own locale has taken a hard hit from the recession, and has an unemployment rate of almost 15 percent (one of the highest rates in our state). In spite of that, my business hasn't suffered—but some of my clients have. Other small business owners, who have traditionally had weekly or biweekly appointments with me, cut back on their frequency of visits and let me know it was strictly a financial decision. Realistically, even for clients who consider massage a part of their medical treatment or wellness plan, there are plenty of other things that can take precedence. For one thing, the majority of health insurance doesn't cover massage, although therapists who work in a medical or chiropractic office may be able to bill major medical insurance. Copayments and medical costs in general are going up and benefits are going down, and many people are electing for deductibles as high as $10,000 or more in an effort to keep their premiums affordable. The average teacher in my state pays more than $500 per month for health coverage; people who don't belong to a group and have to pay individual rates often pay even more. It's estimated that 25–30 percent of Americans have no health insurance at all. A major sickness or injury can be a financial catastrophe. Those who can't afford health insurance are in all likelihood among the group that doesn't consider massage a necessity. For those who view massage as a luxury, there are lots of other things that might fall into that same category—a trip to the salon, a dinner out, a concert, or a vacation. Even a family trip to the movies these days is expensive, and can easily top $100 with food and drink. What's a massage therapist to do? How can we keep our market share of discretionary money when people are struggling financially, and how can we change the mindset of those who think massage is just a luxury? COMPARING APPLES TO ORANGES We do not, of course, claim that massage is the be-all and end-all substitute for regular medical care. However, we've all had clients tell us they've been able to cut down on visits to the doctor or the amount of pain medication they're taking with the help of massage therapy. Comparatively speaking, massage is usually more affordable than 32 massage & bodywork september/october 2012

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