Over the past few months, I have been approached by colleagues in the Wellness industry concerned about difficulty finding clients, low bookings, and entire workshops falling flat. “My classes are under-enrolling…why?” “This $150 workshop that always does well had no takers, what gives?” And my personal favorite “How do I stop someone from stealing all my clients? Someone must be doing it, because no one has scheduled with me!”
When I suggest my worried colleagues consider the ramifications of the recession, the response I most commonly get is “Wait, do you really think it has to do with THAT?” In a word, YES! (In a phrase, get your head out of your…)
Depending on where you live, unemployment is currently at about 10%. I hope this isn’t a surprise, as the jobless rate has been above 9% for all but 2 of the last 26 months. If you think that the Wellness industry is immune to the bust, well hold on to your mala beads, ‘cuz it ain’t. Let me break down some numbers for you. Most wellness practices (which includes you, if you charge $60+ and expect to see your client regularly) seek clients with a disposable income-which Skip Van Meter claims to be a household earning at least $150,000.00/year in the 2009 book “Acupuncture is Like Noodles”. According to the US Census, that was roughly 8.2% of the population from 2005-2009. If you’re service is only within reach of less than 10% of people that is already a tough sell, but I am sure you can see why a 10% unemployment rate on top of that means that there is no way that your wellness practice is getting out unscathed.
This week, CNN published an article about how 64% of Americans are unprepared to deal with an emergency expense of $1000. How much do you charge for a session, class or workshop? Now, divide that by how much you spent on your last single bag of groceries. As Sean Jacobs, Founder of Hawthorne and Kensington Yoga & Reiki Studios in Philadelphia said to me this week “Nobody needs us. We’re whipped cream.” Whipped cream indeed, and in an economy where people aren’t even ordering desert. Yes, the service you provide-and you-are great. But in the grand scheme of serious things in a person’s life, you don’t hold much (if any) rank. Sorry if it makes your ego hurt, but its true.
So, what to do to sustain your practice while your client’s wallets take a hit? Keep in simple. Take out the chichi extras they told you in school would “add so much value” to your service. If your clients can’t afford them, they’re worthless. Let’s explore 10 ways to simplify your practice so you can pass some savings down to your clients while keeping service quality 100%.:
- Find a more affordable space, or consider sharing space with another practitioner or practitioners.
- Cut out the expensive incense, candles, even tea. When buying “extras” like these, ask yourself if it is something your client wouldn’t mind paying for (since they are).
- Make a list of your expendables (things you use up) including TP, tissues, laundry detergent, cleaning products, lotions, etc. Price compare, consider switching brands, or find a website you can buy multiple needed items to save on shipping.
- What about offering an option for shorter sessions at a lower price? It’s a way to meet your client’s financial needs, and keep business.
- Consider shortening your intake or wrap-up procedures to open up more appointment slots on your schedule. If you are doing 15 minutes of intake on your client every week before a massage or reiki session, it’s excessive. You’re not their therapist.
- Be consistent. People with fewer resources are much more discriminate spenders. They want to KNOW what they are getting for those dollars. Be there, every day or week, giving the same great service the same great way. You’ll become part of their schedule and their budget
- If you do a workshop, do it to introduce yourself to new clients. Since you are essentially promoting yourself, make it free or very low cost to attend. Showcase what your service can provide, and give free samples/examples.
- Ask every client where they heard about you, and include it on the intake form. Evaluate which methods of marketing work for you and which don’t -for example, if most of your business is word of mouth, a refer-a-friend program may work better for you than an ad in the paper and cost you a lot less.
- Barter for services you need. If you have a client, friend or colleague who are photographers, for example, trade with them for new headshots.
- Think about changing your pricing structure to “sliding scale”. A sliding scale allows your clients to pay according to what they can afford. Sliding scale tips-1. Do not ask for income verification/pay stubs, its humiliating, use it as a practice in building trust and 2.Set the bottom of the scale at a price that is still somewhat profitable for your practice -it’s not a Robin Hood thing. (check out this book for more info on how to do sliding scale right)
Now I know some of you have read this far and are horrified at these suggestions, the word “devaluing” possibly flashing in your mind’s eye. If that’s the case, then I ask…what is it exactly that you DO, and why do you need a $3000 fountain or $40 incense to make it work? If your practice/modality/method is truly effective, it’s easy to look beyond splashy items and treat your client no matter what the environment. The idea that something must be high in dollar value to be high in value is nothing but an elitist Jedi mind trick. Chujiro Hayashi, the second initiate of Reiki in my (and most American practitioner’s) lineage, had a large clinic where two practitioners (usually students) treated a client for short amounts of time on…tatami mats. A far cry from a massage table.
I hear practitioners make the argument that if it’s not a “Zen Spa” type of setting, they just can’t work, it isn’t good enough for their clients, etc. And when I hear this, all I can think of is that noise Snooki makes (which you can listen to here) so please, do not expect sympathy from me. YOU make your space, not the STUFF in it.
Your clients are making choices, not because they want to, but because they have to. And if you aren’t willing to consider the entirety of their commitments and priorities, you may find yourself in the same boat as them.
Here is a great example of an affordable, sustainable and consistent wellness practicethat works:
Community Acupuncture Network-This is a lovely, 10 year old network of independently owned and operated Acupuncture centers where clients pay just $15-40/treatment. How? Practitioners take just 10 minutes to “needle” their clients, allowing them to relax (and often nap) while they treat other clients. Since they can treat more clients in less time, they maximize what they can earn while passing along the savings to the client. Well over 100 locations throughout the US, Canada and abroad.