By Debranne Pattillo, Equinology CEO

Diversity. It’s a simple way to expand any existing massage and bodywork service. If you work on horses, you know the riders need sessions also. If you work on people, they have horses and dogs. If they are receiving sessions, their animals are extensions of their family to include in your practice.

To be successful in any bodywork field, you can’t wait for people to come to you, go out and get them. Allow yourself to be seen as much as possible in the public eye. Individuals who are self-starters are most successful in this profession.

Once established, your best advertising is your existing clients. Most owners will ask someone’s opinion about a service person rather than rely on ads and claims whether it is for health care or home repair or anything for that matter.

Treat your existing clients well by acknowledging referrals, showing genuine interest in their animal and do a great job every time you see them, and they will recommend you to their friends. If you own a horse or dog, your animal will be the best advertisement as his performance or behavior improves with your sessions.

If you are new to the bodywork field, it may seem daunting to make a career out of this, but you do need to make an effort to promote and grow your business. You need to do whatever it takes to get through that barn door and then let your work speak for itself. If you are in the canine profession, schedule some sessions at dog shows and trial so you can be seen working. Some people can grow a viable business in a few months’ time; others may find it takes up to two years if they actively pursue their dream.

Here are a few suggestions for those of you that need direction or need to grow an existing clientele:

Social media:
Take a course in utilizing social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Set these up and take advantage of free webinars outlining out to use them for things such as creating “look alike audiences.” Social media is constantly evolving so learn to move with it especially for the next tangible platform.

Online advertising:

Use the internet, social media, targeting and the keyword search to your advantage:
Create a simple page where the consumer can view your training and techniques. Most people will “google” you especially if they do not have a chance to watch you in action. Keep the web page simple and enhance it with photos. Link your site to other sites that have valuable client education. Most insurance plans offer a free website design and hosting.

Utilize free advertising:

Spend at least one hour a week searching the horse and dog community and chamber of commerce internet sites. List your name anywhere they have free classified ads on line.

Let the local community know you are here:
If living in a state where animal body work is allowed; take the time to write a short letter of introduction to veterinarians, trainers, barns, and owners in your areas. This short letter should require no more than one minute to read. Don’t ask them for favors or to refer you, just let them know you are in the area. Inform them that if a request for bodywork is made for a horse or dog which is still under the primary veterinarian care that you will contact the veterinarian to make sure bodywork is appropriate at that time for the particular animal. Include your resume and a few brochures with the letter. Refrain from overwhelming them with a ton of information or loads of brochures. If they want more, they will ask for them.

Online help for small businesses is free and has business tools for you to use:

SCORE: Counselors to America’s small business
SBA: Small business administration
The Small Business Journal: Loads of business tools and ideas
Business Know-How: Small business and home business advice and ideas

Support your local clubs and organizations:
Local riding clubs, agility trails, dog and horse shows, therapeutic riding programs and organizations are the backbone of your business. Sponsor local amateur events such as schooling shows, dog trials and classes, recognized shows, and other local teams. Offer to purchase tee shirts for their team. Here they will usually use your logo.

Keep your advertising local:
If you belong to a club, that’s where your ad should be. If your riding organization is having a fundraiser, offer a free session for a raffle or prize. Put on demonstrations for your chapter, 4-H, or local pony/dog club. Sponsor classes in shows, place banners on arena walls, and display brochures at feed stores, tack stores, shelters and local county websites.

Attend a course or workshop on marketing:
These courses should include topics such as targeting your market, making the connection by building people skills, the latest in legislation, accounting and role playing in your profession.

Join an organization that supports your profession:
It is true; there is safety as well as comfort in numbers. You look stronger when you have an organization behind you. Some organizations also offer educational pamphlets to distribute. There are times when they will have a booth at an event where members can promote themselves as well as many other benefits including liability insurance. Visit the International Equine Body Worker Association (IEBWA) if you are interested in becoming a member of this particular organization which is recommended by Equinology. IEBWA is not an alumni organization and is open to individuals having completed a 320+ hour program.

Keep those business cards on hand:
Have plenty of cards to put up and hand out at barns, tack shops, and feed stores. Keep them simple. Cluttered cards are confusing and unattractive. Remember to include your full name, phone number, and e-mail number. If you are a graduate of a program, include your title, the school and certification level. Include a card in any correspondence even if you know they already have one. The person may save it to give to someone they know.

Always have a few flyers with you anywhere you travel:
Flyers work well in place of business cards. Plaster them everywhere. Again, keep them simple. List some of the benefits of sports massage and testimonials from satisfied customers as well as the pertinent information. Remember to ask permission before you post anything.

Try direct mailing using local address and contact lists:
Don’t plan to place an ad in a large publication and have customers flock to you. These display ads tend to get lost in all the information. Direct mailing via postal service or smaller email programs are the best method of advertising. You may only get a 5% response, but that’s all you need for a few new customers. Word of mouth takes over from here.

Don’t forget the discounts!
Offer discounts for multiple horses at large barns or multiple dogs at one location. If someone is having more than one horse or dog done, knock off $5-10. Over the years you will develop an association with key trainers, breeders, and owners. Make sure you show your appreciation by giving the trainer or the barn/kennel owner a discount or throw in a free session after you’ve done some of their client’s horses and dogs.

Keep your pricing consistent and realistic:
Do not price yourself too low. It belittles the profession and shows a lack of confidence in the service you’re providing. Once you’ve set a price, do not nickel and dime the customer with increases. Set it and stick with it. This way you’re not explaining yourself to the customers as to why the increase was necessary; it’s unprofessional. If for some reason you find a need to increase, notify the customer by mail with a new price list or hand them an updated brochure at the current session. Explain that although the current session price is the same, you will need to increase at the next session.

Communicate with your clientele; schedule ahead of time:

The consumer likes to know what is happening. Emails or postcards are great for notifying customers that you’ll be in their area or that their horse or dog is due for his regular session. Remember to include your phone number.

Offer demonstrations whenever possible:
Demonstrations are great tools to educate the general public on the subject of equine and canine body work. Most horse and dog owners have no clue what bodywork sessions entail and just imagine you are planning to “rub down” their critter.

Another consideration for demos is to have a few other professionals work with you. If you have a chiropractor, dentist, vet, farrier, groomer, trainer or any other health care provider you like working with, invite them to do a short demo to as part of yours. You will find this quite helpful if you have been trying to tactfully suggest their services. Now your client or new participant can make their own choices as well as evaluate the existing care provided by their current professional.

If you are using other horses and dogs than your own for any part of the demo, please remember to obtain specific permission. If the horse or dog is for sale, the owner will not appreciate you pointing out any issues!