Is Groupon Right for your Massage Therapy Practice?
I run a massage practice with my wife in Portland Maine called Anchor Wellness. We just recently ran a three month Groupon campaign that we’ve had good success with. We’ve seen people get burned with Groupon, so I want to share what we did to make it successful in the hopes it will help you navigate your campaign.
Working with Groupon is like playing with fire. If you’re not ready or you don’t have specific goals or checks in place it can be detrimental to your business. When used mindfully, Groupon can be the fire your business needs to help attract full-paying clients to your practice.
Although the amount of clients who rebooked with us were few, We’ve used Groupon successfully to attract clients by getting good Google reviews, which helped with SEO (search engine optimization) putting us on the top of the Google search listing. This took time, so remember that you are building your practice brick by brick, client by client. We ran our campaign for about three months before we cut it. We found that we were having a hard time getting our regular clients in.
Be prepared for a steady stream of clients coming your way
The last thing you want to do is fill your schedule up in such a way that your regular, full paying clients can’t get on your table because Groupon folks are taking over your appointment slots. You also don’t want to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the Groupon customer who can’t make an appointment because you’re booked up. Make sure you have the space in your schedule for new clients. Expect your phone to start ringing off the hook once the campaign is up and running. Dig deep and ask yourself before you go full steam ahead. Are you ready for the wave of calls? Do you have enough supplies like sheets, pillows, hot towels, intake forms ect? If you answer yes try to nail down exactly how many new clients you can take and on which days of the week. Plan your campaign during a time when you won’t be going on vacation thus limiting your availability. You will be answering your phone regularly. How are your phone skills? Do you have a way of booking your client when you answer the phone?
Get a Good Website
We use Squarespace. It’s intuitive, easy and relatively inexpensive when you factor in the cost of a web designer that your don’t have to pay. If web design is your thing, or you have a person in mind to make your website then go with that. Look at other websites that are doing what you want to do. Make notes of what you like or don’t like about it. Take the time to make your website easy to use and “search engine optimized”. This will help clients find you more easily. There are so many resources out there to help you with this.
Get Online Booking
Groupon clients are computer savvy, so why not use that to your advantage? Online booking will make it easier for your Groupon clients to book with you. If you don’t have online booking your clients will call, you’ll be too busy to answer the phone and you’re left with having to get back to all of these clients looking to book with you. When you have online booking you can direct your clients to your website making it so they won’t have to leave a message. This certainly won’t cut all of your phone calls, but will significantly drop the amount of phone interactions giving you more time to do other things like take clients ect.
Most booking software allows you to block yourself in any way you want so you can limit your time accordingly. Make sure that you set good boundaries. Use the wisdom of the tortoise, not the hare: this is an endurance game, not a sprint. Don’t take clients when it’s your time off. You will probably make this mistake at the beginning as we have.
Integrate your website with online booking
Take the time to make sure that your website and your online booking site work seamlessly. Take a good look at how other sites operate on this front and take notes on what you like and don’t like. We use Squarespace for our website and Booker for our online site. We find Squarespace to be really intuitive to use and it integrates really well with Booker.
Make sure your online presence is up to snuff.
The goal here is to make sure people can find you by searching your business, read and/or write reviews, and even find you when they search for the service you offer when they search in your area. This can be a wonderful lead generator if you list on top four listing in a Google search.
Make sure that you have an updated Google+ account for your business and that your business is verified. Take the time to add pictures of your space, inside and out so that clients know what to expect.
Negotiate carefully with Groupon
Make sure to be aware of the fine print when you’re working with the Groupon salesperson. Also be prepared for Groupon to be a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to giving you what you want. For instance Groupon writes a description of your business and you have very little control over what they say. We really didn’t like the wording they used, and they weren’t about to change it until I was ready to walk away. I’ve personally found Groupon to not be very upfront when it comes to letting you know all the intricacies of how they work. Some things that I wished I knew before I started my campaign are:
• Groupon can extend your client’s voucher for up to 21 days after expiration, even if their voucher is expired, at their discretion
• Groupon will automatically set your limit as a monthly limit, meaning that the amount of maximum treatments you give resets every month. Be careful that the limit that Groupon has is the limit you set. We told our representative that we wanted to sell a maximum of 40 vouchers, only to find out that they limited it to 40 per month! A big difference!
• You can pause your campaign at any time however you do not personally have control over the relative timing of when this happens. You have to speak with your representative to pause your campaign but if your representative is on vacation or is not available your campaign you will have to wait to be paused.
• You will not be able to see who gives you a review unless they leave a comment. Groupon is not transparent in giving you the feedback that most of your clients give you. Frankly the review system in Groupon is a waste of time. Encourage your clients to leave Google reviews
Create a Service that’s Different
When creating the service that you’ll be offering think about how you might be able to be a little different that other folks. Have you taken a training in another modality that you would love to try out? Run a Groupon campaign featuring this new modality. It may be hard to transition your current clientele to this new modality so Groupon can be a good way to let people know about this new service you offer.
Have a system in place for accounting
It may be helpful to talk to an accountant about how you will process each Groupon transaction. Make sure that you track all of the money going to Groupon an expense. We count ours as a marketing expense. What’s important is that you have a consistent way in which you track all of your financial transactions to make it easy for taxes at the end of the year or quarterly.
Don’t tell anyone that you’re running a Groupon
Groupon does a good job getting clients to you, and you’re paying them good money for that service. It may feel strange to charge one person $20 for a service and turn around and sell it for $100 to the next person. Some clients who find out about your Groupon may even be upset that they paid full price. Don’t make it easy for them to find out. Don’t post on social media that you’re running a Groupon. Let Groupon do all the work to drive clients to you.
Give Outstanding Service
Don’t make the mistake of treating Groupon clients “less than” your full paying clients. Look at this exchange as an opportunity to let yourself shine! Give your best treatment and be personable. More people are likely to tell their friends/family/strangers about a bad experience over an excellent experience. Make them feel like they just got a great deal when they walk out your door.
We’ve had colleagues who have offered more discounts to their Groupon clients to lure them back in. We didn’t go this route with our practice. We want our Groupon clients to know that they got a $100 service for $20 (or whatever the difference is).
Get Google Reviews
Asking for Google reviews is awkward, but Google reviews are what people are looking at when they’re deciding to take a risk with you. Get awkward and ask your clients to review you. Show them how to do it if need be. Make sure not to let them make a review on your WiFi. If too many people give reviews from the same server it sends a red flag to Google.
Make sure that your Google business page is verified. It may take a few weeks or a couple of months to get verified so you may want to make sure this is in place before you start your campaign. Without a verified account you won’t be able to claim your business on Google and start adding information. Google wants to make sure that you are indeed the business owner so they send you a postcard as part of the process.
Facebook Reviews, Yelp Reviews, Trip Advisor Reviews are all well and good, but right now Google is king, so direct your clients to make Google reviews. If your client likes your work they’ll be happy to leave a review. If you work with other folks ask your client to mention you by name.
Dont Be Shady
I’ve seen some businesses jack up their $60 service to $100 on Groupon to make it look like they’re offering more of a discount than they actually are. This just leaves a bad taste in my mouth! Once I called a Groupon business to inquire about their service and they tried to get me not to purchase the Groupon, but give me the discount anyway so they don’t have to pay Groupon. I discourage you from doing this. It’s just not right. In my opinion Groupon can pretty shady to work with, but don’t stoop to their level. If a client asks you if they can book with you but they haven’t purchased the Groupon yet just get them on the books and have them bring in the voucher. Some businesses require you to give the voucher number before a client can book the service. I find that it takes more time trying to get the silly voucher number from your client, emailing or calling back and forth that it ends up being more hassle. There were a few times that we’ve had clients not show up and we didn’t have any voucher number to redeem, and that was annoying. You might consider making it a policy of capturing the voucher number in that case. For us we didn’t have enough no-shows to warrant such a policy
Capture your clients names and emails for frequent business newsletter
We have a section on our intake form that asks “would you like to receive promotional information?” If our clients checks ‘yes’ then we send them a newsletter, usually seasonal telling our clients about new services, changes, classes ect. This is a great opportunity to tell your clients what you’re up to and keeps your business in their radar. We have found Mailchimp to be a great resource for creating newsletters. We send out newsletters every season. We like to send out seasonal treatmentake and new services. This is a great space to be creative.
We think we covered all we had to cover! For more information check out this great EBook called: “Using Online Social Buying Platforms to Promote Your Business: A Massage Therapist’s Success Story” by Susan Epperly, B.A., L.M.T., L.M.T.I.
Thanks and Good Luck!
contact me for any questions