Harnessing the Internet

How a website can enhance your practice
Jessica Foster
March 31, 2010
By
One of the questions we are often asked by massage therapists is “Do I really need a website for my massage therapy practice?” The simple answer is “Yes, you do.”

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Clients can have the option to book appointments through your website.
Operating a website has become an essential part of any small business, and the health-care industry is no different. Every health-care practice, including massage therapy, should have a website. Plain and simple, more and more people use the Internet as their sole resource to do all of their research and to find businesses they wish to work with.

In addition, in today’s business environment, your primary competitors will likely already have a website. Having one of your own will protect your practice’s growth. To illustrate, here is a real-life example:

A few days ago, ending a busy work day, my husband and I decided to order in dinner from a restaurant we like. We went online to find their menu and make our choices. I tried hard to find the restaurant’s website, but couldn’t.  I concluded that they did not have an online presence. Now at this point we could have searched the house to find the telephone book and then looked up the restaurant but the issue for us was convenience. Instead, we ended up ordering our dinner from a competing restaurant that had a website with the ability to take delivery orders.

The same is true for a lot of your clients and potential clients; they use the Internet every day – at work, at home and on their cellphones. If your practice is not readily available to them online, you will be missing out on opportunities to increase your clientele and revenues.

What a website can do for your practice
A website will play several very important roles in your practice. At the most basic level, a website provides clients and potential clients with your clinic’s contact information, its hours of operation, a menu of the services you offer and directions on how to get to your location. This is not only convenient for your clients, but it also saves you time by reducing the number of repetitive telephone calls you receive asking for this basic information about your practice.

A website can also lessen many of the necessary tasks that you perform on a regular basis as part of the service you provide your clients – answering frequently asked questions, explaining the policies of your practice, distributing new client intake forms and other related work. By making this information readily accessible on your website, you create a welcoming and convenient experience for your clients and allow them to access this information when they want it, while freeing you up to do what you do best – treat your clients.

Today’s websites can do much more for you and your practice. They can help you manage your booking schedules and provide your clients with the ability to request appointments with you online 24 hours a day. Websites can also provide you with a means to allow your clients to purchase gift certificates online. Your site can promote, take credit card payments and deliver the gift certificates to the recipient. These are major conveniences for your clients, huge time-savers for you and  revenue boosters for your practice.

These value-added website features are not only about saving you time and money; they are also about fulfilling modern-day customer expectations.

Your massage therapy practice today
Let’s back up a step and take a look at how a typical massage practice operates today without a website.

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Your website can offer valuable information for prospective clients.
Most massage therapy practices do not have a dedicated receptionist; they rely on an answering machine to take messages for them while they are in treatment sessions with their clients. When someone calls, they are told to “Please leave a message.” Then the therapist will spend their free time returning the calls. Getting in touch with clients can take up a lot of your valuable time!

Sure, regular and loyal clients are used to the fact that often the telephone doesn’t get answered and they expect to get a return call, but . . . why not give your clients another option?

What if your clients didn’t have to call at all? What if you had your appointment calendar available to them on your website? They could access it at their convenience, compare it to their schedule and request an appointment with you online at a time that worked for the both of you.

Would this be a more positive experience for them?

They could then request an appointment with you whenever they are inspired to do so (day, night or on a holiday), they know immediately when you are available, so they can match your openings with their own busy schedule – instant gratification!
With this in place, do you think your regular clients would become more regular? Think about impulse buying.

Would existing clients find it more convenient to refer their friends to your website for information? Word of mouth is very powerful advertising and a website name or address is very easy to pass along.

Another thing to consider is your potential clients’ experience with your voice mail. How many times have you heard your telephone ring when you were busy treating a client, only to find that when you checked your voice mail it was a hang-up? Was this a good experience for the client or potential client? Was it a new client who was looking for a massage therapist, and when they got your answering machine did they simply move on to the next therapist? How many more new clients would you acquire if your answering machine message and/or Yellow Pages ad gave them the option to visit your website to select an appointment time?

Remember, a website with online booking is a value-added service for your clients (existing and potential). It enhances their experience with your practice and shows them that you respect their valuable time.

Obtaining a website for your practice
Acquiring a website, managing it and updating it can be as simple or as difficult as you want to make it. Just as you would “shop” before making a decision on a treatment facility or massage table for your practice, you should shop before acquiring a website provider.

One of the biggest mistakes therapists (and others) make when acquiring a website is to have a friend or a friend-of-a-friend create it. This friend may have the know-how to develop a website and may do it for a low price. However,  in most cases they are not in the website business – it is a sideline for them. They will likely not be around for you down the road when you need them.

Recognize that not all websites are created equal. Cost-effective website solutions for massage therapists do exist and you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to obtain a professional website.

It pays to do your research!

Before you go off to find a service provider, you need to understand what you should be looking for. What do you want in a website?

First, you will want to continue to reinforce your brand on your website. Use the colours and logo that identify the practice in your website design – the ones you are using on your business cards and letterhead.

Next, plan your website content – identify the information you want to present to people about your practice. This will help you understand what services you should look for from a website provider.

A well-planned massage therapy website should include:

1. Educational content that educates your clients and potential clients:
  • a description of massage therapy
  • a list of its benefits
  • a suggestion of who can benefit from massage therapy
  • answers to frequently asked questions
  • modality descriptions.

2. Marketing content that promotes you and your services:
  • your hours of operation
  • offered treatments
  • treatment rates
  • directions to your practice
  • contact information
  • your qualifications
  • client testimonials.

3. Value-added content that enhances your client
  • services (and saves you time):
  • downloadable client intake form
  • online appointment scheduling.

4. Product sales that make it easy for people to buy from you:
online gift certificate purchasing and electronic delivery.

Acquiring website content is not a trivial task. Copyright laws prevent you from simply going out and copying what someone else has on their site or taking it from a book. You will need to create your own content or look for a website solution that includes relevant massage therapy content. This will save you hours and hours of research and writing time.

Once you know what you want, you can start looking for a solution. Here are some things to consider in your search for a service provider:

Ideally, try and partner with a service provider that will take care of all of the technical aspects of putting your practice online – website creation, hosting, domain name acquisition, e-mail accounts, e-commerce, etc.

We mentioned earlier the importance of website content. It is also important to keep that content fresh and up to date. With this in mind, look for solutions that will allow you to make simple website page edits and changes yourself – at no cost.

If the website provider needs to make all your content changes for you, this will cost you money every time changes are required.

As much as you can, look for a one-stop solution. Value-added website functions such as appointment scheduling and gift certificate sales are important revenue building features of a website. Ideally, find a service provider that can deliver them all – this will save you from having to deal with more than one supplier.

Using your website to manage your practice
Whether you are a sole practitioner, a clinic partner or a spa employee in the massage therapy field, practice management will be a big part of determining your success. Massage therapists often communicate their wish to reduce or eliminate repetitive management tasks so that they can concentrate on treating their clients, which in turn generates more revenue. Introducing practice management software into your practice will do this for you.

All successful businesses pay a great deal of attention to managing and modernizing their practices. Modern massage therapy websites offer practice management tools that will help you streamline the management of your practice. These modern websites provide you with a “practice in a box” if you will – a public area to market your services to your clients and a secure private area for you to manage your practice.

A practice in a box
For less than the price of a cup of coffee per day, massage therapists can have a comprehensive integrated massage therapy website that includes: appointment scheduling, client record-keeping, treatment charting (SOAP notes), treatment invoicing, online gift certificate sales and management, financial revenue tracking, and reporting and automated client communications. 
Let’s look at each of these practice management functions in a little more detail.

Client records
Massage therapists’ main source of revenue is generated from client services, not product sales. As a result, you need to develop a professional and hopefully lasting relationship with your clients. The professional services you offer your clients easily afford you the opportunity to obtain all the information required to maintain a healthy business relationship with them.

Some of the data you will want to include in your client records:
  • contact information – mailing address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.
  • general knowledge – birth date, occupation
  • medical information  – completed intake form, record of treatment consent
  • treatment information – appointment history, treatment charts (SOAP Notes)
  • payment history – copies of historical invoices, outstanding balances, redemption of treatment packages.
Your clients are the most important asset of your practice. Collect and maintain current contact information about your clients whenever possible.

Here is an example of a practice where services are not well managed, thus leaving the client feeling as though they are not valued as a practice member:

Recently, I requested a copy of my last treatment invoice from my dentist because I had lost mine and needed to claim the treatment with my employer benefits insurance carrier. After calling the office I was left with the impression that this was a major imposition. They had to locate the invoice, copy it and send it to me via fax or regular post . . .

With a practice management system in place it would have been a very simple matter of looking it up in my client record and e-mailing it to me instantly.

Bottom line, it wasn’t a great “client experience” for me.

Appointment scheduling
Earlier in this article we discussed the importance of providing your clients with the ability to request appointments with you online. This is only part of the equation. A booking system needs to support other functions to assist you in maintaining a healthy appointment book. The benefits and related elements of a scheduling system are:
  • Your appointment availability is accessible to your clients on your website anytime.
  • Appointment requests are reserved for the client until you confirm or deny them, which means there is no chance of double bookings.
  • Confirmation notifications are automatically sent to your clients immediately upon you accepting the appointment.
  • Appointment cancellation notices are automatically sent when you cancel an appointment.
  • Appointment reminders are automatically sent prior to the appointment to reduce costly no-shows.
  • You can easily book appointments for clients while they are at your clinic.
  • You can block out personal time during your
  • regular working hours to accommodate your own non-business schedule.
Keep in mind that with online appointment booking, you don’t lose control of your calendar – your clients are simply requesting appointments with you, and you still need to confirm them.

Financial record keeping
Managing your practice effectively includes the all-important but sometimes daunting financial record keeping. Maintaining good financial records will save you and your accountant time and effort. When you save your accountant time, you are saving money. Proper financial record keeping will also help you to understand your business strengths and weaknesses at a glance. Your practice management system should include automated tracking of revenue including the following:
  • record of client payments
  • evidence of how payments were made (cash, credit card, cheque, etc.)
  • practice-wide balances – daily, this month, last month, year-to-date
  • tax collections – remember, this is not your income and needs to be remitted
  • tips, which need to be recorded for CRA
  • treatment packages usage
  • record of gift certificates sales and redemption.

Financial recording
Just like any other business, massage therapists need to understand the financial health of their practice. A good financial record-keeping and reporting system will make this easy. It will let you identify at a glance:
  • how your revenue is realized from day to day, month to month, etc.
  • which of your clients are your biggest revenue contributors, and help you identify those to target for more frequent visits
  • which services are generating the most revenue and those that may need more promotion or need to be dropped from your practice
  • who, in a multi-therapist clinic, receives credit (gets paid) for treatments.
If you want to be in a position to look after the health of your clients, your practice needs to be around so you can care for them – looking after the business health of your practice is mandatory in order for you to succeed.

The bottom line
Many massage therapists in Canada, and elsewhere, are simply unaware that integrated, cost-effective practice management solutions do exist and they are easily implemented.

While the purpose of this article is to provide information relevant to technology in modern massage therapy business practices, it is helpful to reflect upon the following:

Technology implementation should make you money, not cost you money – Your local real estate agent didn’t put up a website with sophisticated residential property search tools and mortgage calculators just to help you. They make money from it. It costs them little to run and they reap huge rewards from it. You can too!

You do not need an advanced information technology degree or a webmaster certificate to use an integrated massage therapy practice management solution.

The benefit of a website and practice management system is indeed multi-faceted. A main factor in choosing a system or choosing to utilize a system is that it must be easy to use. It should not require any programming skills, knowledge of the Internet or be only a partial system requiring development or expensive add-ons.

Finally, your practice management system should enable a host of benefits to you and your clients that far outweigh any nominal cost to implement and maintain it. Sole practitioners, clinics and spas can all benefit immensely from the implementation of a robust web-based practice management system.


MindZplay Solutions is a leading provider of massage therapy websites and practice management solutions. To learn more about our solutions for Massage Therapists, visit www.massagemanedger.co m or call toll free 1-888-373-6982.

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