Whose Responsibility Is Marketing?

Felicia Brown

Recently I was involved in an online discussion about marketing. A service provider was complaining that she was being forced to call past clients of the business on her own time to try and get them to come in for free introductory services with her. She was unhappy with this since she was only compensated when she saw paying clients.  

I don’t think anyone should be forced to do unpaid marketing or work of any kind by his or her employer; it’s possibly unlawful and most definitely unproductive if the one doing the marketing is not a willing participant or feels like s/he is being taken advantage of . However, I believe the service provider was actually failing to see the bigger picture.

So what’s the bigger picture? As a longtime massage therapist and former spa owner, I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to market the business they work in, particularly if they will be on the receiving end of the revenue when clients come in. It helps to provide job security for the individual as well as revenue generation (hopefully) for both the employee and the business, which is good for everyone. As a business and marketing coach, I share this idea often and especially with those who say they want to be busy or successful but then complain about how the business owner doesn’t do enough to bring in new business or how hard it is to grow a clientele.

As an independent contractor and new massage therapist, I did tons of free marketing at the suggestion of my first boss, including cold calling his database of old clients and asking them to come in to see me for discounted services. I was not paid for this (nor was I forced to do it), but I did reap the benefits when the clients booked with me and sometimes became my regulars. I also worked many free events and promoted myself all over the place, all at no cost to the businesses where I worked. However, I gained many new and regular clients and increased my overall income from being a part of these unpaid endeavors. Learning to do this kind of promotion through someone else’s business is probably what helped me to have confidence to do it on my own when I later opened my own practice and day spa.

The bottom line to service providers: Do you really want to get more clients? Are you willing to do what it takes to put yourself out there, to give of your time and gifts in order to be the success you want to be? If so, then find a way to look at requests like this as an opportunity instead of an obligation and find other ways to promote yourself and the business. If not, then consider other employment options or learn to be happy with the amount of clients and income you get from where you presently work. Either way, I also suggest discussing your concerns about requests like this with your employer or manager, who may not be aware of your viewpoint or feel that s/he is imposing on you. By working together, you will both be more likely to succeed.

5 Responses to “Whose Responsibility Is Marketing?”

  1. Nancy Griffin Says:

    Visit Nancy Griffin

    Great points, Felicia. It is the spa owner/managers responsibility to help the therapists see the bigger picture rather than force them to participate without explanation. just like everyone must be involved in selling retail, everyone must be concerned with getting new clients through the door and encouraging repeat business. It reminds me of the old adage “If you are not in the marketing business, you are not in business.”

  2. Alyssa Goodwin Says:

    Visit Alyssa Goodwin

    So many massage therapists are being taken advantage of by their employers. When they are asked to “hit the phones” for marketing and not compensated for it it is not legal. They must be paid minimum wage. What’s to prevent the owner from making them do the phone calls and then after a few days firing the massage therapist? Where is their money for their time? Everyone should be promoting themselves, yes, but as a spa owner there should be in place a clear, concise marketing plan that is controlled by the owner, not the therapists. I don’t like this idea and I think that it might just turn the massage therapist into their “go to” person to do other tasks that are not in the scope of what they were hired to do. Working together is a better strategy! Just don’t get taken advantage of! :-)

  3. Mikki Says:

    Visit Mikki

    Hi Felicia,

    So wonderful to read your blog about marketing. Not only will doing some self promotion through your employer drive business and increase client flow, but if one is an independent contractor, marketing must be documented by the contractor should he/she be audited. Beyond the legality of the matter however, is the bigger picture of each person seizing the “opportunity” to assist the business where they are employed. I am a therapist and an owner, so I have seen “both sides now” as Judy Collins sings. If more therapist could see the bigger picture of how EVERYONE benefits when the therapist markets/promotes themselves, more spas/massage facilities would be successful…

    FYI: Felicia, you sound like the IDEAL staff member!!

  4. Felicia Brown Says:

    Visit Felicia Brown

    Thanks for all your comments, everyone (and thanks for the compliment Mikki!) One thing I want to add that I did not put in this post but will elaborate on in a future column is my definition of marketing. So here it is…

    Essentially I believe that everything related to your business that “touches” a client is marketing. That is to say that everyone who interacts with clients in a business is constantly conveying messages to them that encourage them to come back again and again or not to come back at all.

    Example: When the receptionist does not thank me for my business or ask me to rebook after an appointment, even though I had a great service provider and session, I may get the impression that my business is not valued.

    That receptionist, by not inviting me back and expressing the collective appreciation for my visit, presence, dollars, etc., is in effect “anti-marketing.” So it is vital for her to understand how her actions are a part of marketing and how it is her responsibility to make all her marketing “touches” and interactions with clients positive.

    I do agree with Alyssa that no one should be taken advantage of or forced to work illegally as I mentioned in the article. But anyone who does not see these marketing “touches – at least the ones in their control – as a part of their job and responsibility (regardless of the business model, their position, or employee vs. independent contractor status) probably needs to find a new job or career path.

    Look for a future column on some other examples of marketing “touches”, “anti-marketing” and how to become more aware of all the ways we are impacting our clients’ decisions to do more (or less) business with us:-)


  5. Michelle Says:

    Visit Michelle

    I have to disagree a bit here Felicia. I do agree that as a massage therapist client retention is part of my job, however I disagree with free marketing. People go to school for marketing, if they don’t want to hire someone with that education than we should we receive at least minimum wage for our attempts. This brand of thinking where we become the marketers, giving out free chair massages, sitting around for hours to pass out business cards, etc, has created lower paying jobs for us (as we only get paid for paying clients, which is usually a whopping 40% at best), taken away jobs from marketers, and started something that is in fact illegal.

    I have run my own business for 4 years, I know all about marketing, though I was very lucky in the beginning to have started my business before I graduated. A move disrupted my business and caused me to have to take a part time position at a spa until things were settled down again. The business seemed set up fine, pay was typical, workplace was safe. The manager mentioned that they really needed someone that would be willing to promote when they didn’t have clients. I assured her I had no problems staying in between clients (for instance if I had a client at 10 and again at 1), to pass out business cards, and get the name around, which I don’t have a problem with. Take note, I signed a W2 upon starting.

    What she didn’t tell me was that they didn’t have nearly the busy business that she had assured me. I came in for my first scheduled shift of 5 hours to find that I had 0 clients. They tried to push free chair massages, which I never do and for one simple reason, if a client is getting something for free they aren’t going to pay for it. Would you? I did these in the beginning of my business and gained absolutely nothing except for sore arms from itchy shirts, and exhausted with nothing to show for it. I’m not sure about you but I surely didn’t go to school for 1000 hours and incur thousands in debt to volunteer. Instead I talk to clients, I make then feel like that by not getting worked on by me they miss out.

    Since then I have had 5 clients, I’m honestly uncaring of how many clients I have gotten as this is still just a stipend. Unless they have a client for me (or I’m there to get my workout in anyhow) I do not go in. The other therapist who started the same time as me continues to go in every time even with out clients and has had no more clients than me. He’s frustrated, you can tell, and because of this they now expect it from everyone. For instance I am “scheduled” today with no clients and yet they want me to continue to come in anyhow.

    My teacher gave me strong advice when I was graduating and it was this: if a company is unwilling to pay you, but expects you to market heavily do not work for them. If they hired without business ready for you, why did they hire? To be their little free marketer. You are still disposable. Most therapists use a 1099 making you more disposable! Unfortunately its this type of thinking, and the therapists that are following it, that are ruining this career path. If we all banded together and expected fair wages they would have to cave (at least in states that require certification). I did not go to school for sales, I went to school for a trade, but my position has turned into a commission only sales spot.

    Some chiropractors have jumped on this switching to minimum wage between clients and switching our position to clerical so that we are still working, but still getting paid. Regardless if this makes you an ideal worker, because of course it does, who doesn’t want someone who will work for free. If you brought this to labor and industry though they would have a fit. Under 1099 laws a company can not tell you what to do with the time you are not receiving pay for. Under W2 a company must pay at least minimum wage if you are at work, whether they have work for you or not, if they expect you to come in, expect to get paid or get in a nice lawsuit.

    So before spreading these tales of “The good worker” think who you are hurting….your fellow massage therapists. And in its wake you are opening the doors for the uneducated (who shouldn’t be working on clients) to take very low paying positions (because they are the only ones with nothing to lose) and set back massage therapy and any chances it may have had at being taken seriously. I have seen these therapists, trust me, the educated therapists move on to a position that doesn’t treat them this way, but it doesn’t matter because the spas are talking, reassuring each other that we will market for free under a 35% commission. That to reduce costs by sending home sheets for us to wash. In the end, with the one client in a 5 hour shift we don’t even average minimum wage. I am in it help the clients as much as possible, but this still pays my bills and last I checked I made well over minimum wage with a HS diploma.

    So before encouraging this think of who you are hurting.

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