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There are two different discussions going on right now on the ABMP and Massage Mag LinkedIn groups regarding Groupon. If you don’t know what Groupon is, check it out at www.groupon.com.

I’m not here to advocate the use of Groupon or steer you away from it.  I just know that services like this are being used by therapist with varying results. Therefore, I felt it important to open up the discussion so we can all learn more about this promotional concept from those that have used it.

Allow me to weigh in first with some input based on my observations of some of the experiences our clients and prospective clients are having:

A)     “My phone is ringing off the hook!” (This is what we are hearing from prospective clients calling looking for a solution to deal with their crazy call volume).

It seems that the response you can get from running a Groupon promotion can be very high (200 to 1200 Groupons sold in a day). Which means: That once your Groupon (coupon) is posted you can expect a flood of calls coming in. Not being prepared to absorb the increased call volume can create a problem.

B)      “All I am doing is discounted appointments!”

The other issue that I see happening is if you do not limit the times when someone can us their Groupon, you can end up giving $18 one hour massage (a $60 massage offered at $30 and then the 40% Groupon fee taken out) until  you fade off into the sunset.

Offering the ability to allow clients to schedule online and then having the criteria that all Groupons must be scheduled by the client online, can resolve ‘A’. Limiting their ability to only schedule on certain times on certain days can resolve ‘B’. We have a client that only allows two appointments per shift for 9 out of his 16 therapists to be scheduled with a Groupon. The calendars for these 9 therapists have Groupon appointments booked almost to the end of the year.

That's all I know. So please share your Groupon experience if you have one. Hopefully the folks on LinkedIn that have shared their experiences there will jump in here.

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A typical run with Groupon for massage is not going to bring you many new regulars or people who rebook at the normal rate.  I have been in the profession 12 years when I did mine and got 100% positive feedback, yet only got about 5% returning clients from the 70 vouchers I sold.  One must realize that a few use Groupon to find a massage therapist who they will use regularly, and most are just using it to get a discounted massage once in awhile.  

If Groupon would flash the fine print of "ONE PER PERSON" at checkout it would help avoid the issue with people buying several for themselves.  They could easily do this and help us massage therapists avoid pissing off customers, however Groupon is unlikely to do this.  I would run another Groupon because my experience was pretty good with it, but I fear the same people will just buy my Groupon even though it says "NEW CLIENTS ONLY" in the fine print.  Nobody reads that stuff.  They just see massage for a great price that they can't find elsewhere and figure they can get endless half price massages this way. 

Also it is important that you begin looking into some other ways to get clients.  With 6 stylists at the place you're working, you could likely get some of those clients to become yours by offering some sample 15 min chair or table massages to them.  Do you have a sign somewhere offering an introductory massage rate that those clients can see?  Don't give up on being a massage therapist.  Go get a massage to remind yourself why you started doing massage and how much you can help people with pain, stress, and tension.  Don't let some bad apple clients ruin your career!  



Ginger said:

I had THE worst experience with Groupon. I should say am having the worst experience. I work at a full service salon we opened in January and ran the Groupon starting in March to drum up new business. The ladies who do hair had some pretty good response mixed in with some crappy people.One woman said it was illegal to charger tax. They sold over 350 between 6 stylists and where able to keep up with the demand since they all work mostly full time.They have some who are already repeat clients although not as many as they would like. I am the only therapist so I put a cap at 80. 30 of those were 90min and the rest 60min. My very first 2 clients were husband and wife and wanted a couples massage which of course they couldn't get.(Side Bar I had so many people call for couples massage even though there were other Groupon deals that offered couples so I have ended up doing several couples back to back mostly at the 90min option) The couple was rude and didn't even say thank you and walked out without a tip. So it all started on the wrong foot and never got better. I have had  a several people who were nice said they loved the massage and tipped but none have returned. Most of them have walked out without tipping .I do ask them if they use groupon often and most say they use it all the time. At least 6 people that I know of are not even from my town so they wont be coming back no matter what.  Several have said they only get a massage once or twice a year so if they come back it wont be for a long time. However the worst of the worst are the people who bought multiple groupons not as gifts but for themselves. One woman talked through the entire massage about how amazing it was then said she simply had to rebook for 2 weeks out and when she showed up she had another groupon. I told her I would honor it but she was really only supposed to purchase one for herself as it states on her paper. She hasn't come back and when she handed me the money at the end it didn't even cover the tax.Another man who absolutely LOVED his massage said it was the best he ever had, asked if I would honor another groupon I told him no but if he re-booked by a certain time I would honor the groupon rate. I've never heard from him again. I can only assume he had already bought the groupon but I don't really know.  Another woman who is actually already a longtime client of the owner bought 8 groupons 4 for herself and 4 for her daughter and became angry when the owner told her that was not acceptable .I honored 2 of them and then I found out she had all the others. The owner was so angry she actually called her up when she tried to book again and told her no. I have not had a single groupon client re-book at my regular rate and I don't expect anyone to at this point even though I have offered them all another discount on their next service. I am so discouraged I am pretty sure I am done with massage therapy. I have spent so much effort on trying to cultivate these groupons that I haven't done much to get any other clients so I have nothing and I figure it's a sign that this field is not for me. These groupon people have me hating my job and I wish I had never done it. It was not worth it not in the least.

I often wonder how many professions give free samples of their work. Do surgeons, do roofers, do dentists? What is it about massage therapy that 'free' is often used to get clients?

We are a giving kind of folk. :-)

People have so many objections to receiving massage; sometimes a "free" one is helpful to create the understanding of how useful massage can be.

Having said that, I will not do Groupon because it's clear from people's stories that you will end up with the wrong kind of clients from it.  One of my massage therapists tried it, and it took her a long time to get out from under it.

Best thing I've heard all day...do you see a therapist give away free sessions?  Doctors?  Hair stylists?  Nope...enough people know what massage does, Groupon is for cheapskates...I don't think people value what they can have for nothing...at least that's been my experience, and massage is just too damn hard on our bodies to 'give away"

Like Ginger the groupon place I worked for had 'regular's' that only bought groupons, and then bought several for themselves...drove me nuts...we'd honor them, but I resented it throughout the session...hard to give my all to those greedy folks...and other groups that would come in together, and only when we ran groupons...but that business owner just loved getting the huge check from groupon at the beginning, and I'm sure ran the next groupon to pay the workers after she'd spent the first check!

One woman even bought several for another practitioner/renter within our office expecting us to honor them!  No no no...Horrible.

Kudos Eileen.

It's practically a giveaway when an employer makes a residual income at the higher % from massage services cuz the lower rate is paid to the MT, nearly free service.

Eileen Violet said:

Best thing I've heard all day...do you see a therapist give away free sessions?  Doctors?  Hair stylists?  Nope...enough people know what massage does, Groupon is for cheapskates...I don't think people value what they can have for nothing...at least that's been my experience, and massage is just too damn hard on our bodies to 'give away"

With all due respect, I encourage those of you who are skeptical to re-look at using these daily deals.

They are a terrific vehicle to have as a client generator tool because YOU can negotiate EVERYTHING.
We just did another Groupon (after a year or 2) and got an 80/20 split in our favor with them paying processing fees. I called all the terms, from the fact that it was only available to new clients or those whom we hadn't seen for a while. It states only 1 session per person, unless purchased for gifts, AND to keep out the tourists from using them, (which are so prevalent in San Francisco) we have a 72 hours needed to book prior to the session.

Our current offer is for $100 worth of services for $65 and $50 worth of services for $30. As you can tell that's not Groupon's usual 50% off offer, and it's because I negotiated it. (You can and should do the same thing!)

The reason these deals are good it to get people in your door without paying advertizing costs up-front.
We have a 75% (if not higher) return visit rate PLUS we have had a large number of the groupon redeemers become members of our on-going club.

If you work for a business who has offered a deal, your goal is to turn those deal clients into regular clients who request you when they come back.

(This reminds me of when I started my business 25 yrs ago, ppl said "the yellow pages didn't work" and was "a waste of money" for small practices like ours... umm... no, it worked great for me. Even though it was a huge financial investment for an entire year (!), our ROI made it well worth the investment, and it was due to how we created our ad and how we handled the calls once the ad got the phone to ring.)

Again, my suggestion is not to blame the medium for not working, b/c it clearly works for us and many other businesses, and instead look at how you can re-structure your offer to be more effective.

(as a last bit of proof from a recent new client showing that the deal sites can get you regular clients -- I'm uploading an image of our intake form filled in by a new groupon client just this past week. Notice she works for YELP which is very telling, because she has access to ALLLLL the reviews and insider knowledge of us and all the other local therapy businesses.

AND, having been 'wowed' by her first session with us, she is now one of our Diamond Club members. (My point being she was not just looking for the 'cheapest deal' she was truly looking for a place she liked that she could come on a regular basis.)

Hope this gives you a little insight and different perspective.
Good luck to you!

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