Growing Your Business Strong in Any Economyby Angie Patrick
Reprinted with permission from the March, 2009 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at www.massagetoday.com
This time of year reminds me that some things old and once thought dead can have the breath of life infused and be reborn into something new and wonderful. When I drive the path to the office everyday, I see the cherry trees, once barren and lifeless just a month ago now full of life and blossom. The bright white flowers make me realize that in all things there is a hidden life and beauty if you want to take the time and effort required to nurture it.
Do you sometimes feel your practice has become barren and lifeless? Do you long for the miracle of rebirth into a streamlined and profitable business, but do not know how to tend the soil to make your practice blossom? Let's draw an analogy between the growth of a beautiful cherry tree and the growth of your business, and see if you are doing all you can to nurture and care for your business to make it grow.
One of the most important things you can do for your new tree sapling is to properly prepare the soil or foundation for its growth, just as it is important to plan and properly prepare for the foundation of your business. The proper soil amendments will provide the tree with all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get off to a strong start. This is the type of planning and preparation required for the successful future growth of the tree. The same planning can be done for the successful future growth of your business. Amendments for your practice might include some printed marketing collateral such as business cards, pamphlets, postcards, gift certificates, and incentive cards to help you brand your practice and provide literature for your clients to tell them about the services you can provide. Perhaps it might include the development of a Web site, a larger listing in the Yellow Pages, and an e-mail newsletter with new and exciting facts about your practice and communication with the reader about the health benefits of your services. Maybe you add in professional grade equipment and supplies that speak to the professional you are, as well as the level of professional you are growing to be.
So once you have your soil tended, and your tree planted, caring for the growth does not stop there. You have to make sure you continue to give the tree the proper attention; water and fertilize the root system in order to enable the tree to dig deeply into the soil and remain firmly planted, even when the thunder storms roll in and the strong winds blow. The same can be said for caring for your business. You must have a plan for building a steady stream of clients, and care for their needs fully so your practice grows strong. In these uncertain economic times, a solid practice with regular clients is worth its weight in gold. This type of loyalty from clients is cultivated, and not given freely. Remember, the economy impacts everyone, and everyone is cutting back. Make sure you have established yourself, your knowledge, and your service so favorably with your clients that your services are not one of the things they cut back. Offer them incentives like booking four appointments and get the fifth free. Perhaps offer a free Visa Gift card for $25 when you get a new client as a referral from an existing client. Maybe even offer a dinner for two with any couples massage booked. A gift card for someplace like T.G.I. Fridays or Chili's for $30. These are ways you can ingrain yourself into the good graces of your clients by offering the unexpected, all the while providing quality and professional service.
Our tree is growing and its branches are growing strong. But in every tree's life some pruning is needed in order to make sure the dead wood is removed so the core of the tree remains strong and healthy, and to be certain the tree is growing in the manner you wish it to. Again, your business may also need to be pruned and trimmed from time to time. Take the time to examine your business and see if there are ways you can utilize your advertising budget better, or provide better or stronger content in your newsletters. Take a look at the client list and call them. Clear out any unusable entries and e-mail addresses and keep your database up to date. Look at the results of some of your previous promotional campaigns and see if they were effective. If they were, expand on that idea and push another promotion. If it was ineffective, cut it from future marketing plans and create something new to spruce your message up a bit.
So now, we have a thriving and beautiful tree. It can bend with the wind and survive the winter's bitter cold. It has grown strong, with roots well-established and branches pruned for core growth efficiency. Your practice will also thrive, with roots firmly established in the community you serve, and surplus expenses and database upkeep trimmed to keep the core of the business strong and able to withstand the turbulent tides of our economy. When you take the time to plan and nurture the growth of your garden or your business, you will be rewarded with both beauty and stability, and the security of knowing that your progeny has grown strong and can withstand life's little storms.
Now go out and GROW!