I see questions about Groupon pop up on fb groups all the time. I try to always answer and decided it would be easier if I just wrote a blog I could copy and paste to answer some of the basics about my experience.
From what I have seen and understood from other massage peeps Groupon is very hit or miss. "Discounting so steeply is ruining our industry" is one comment, "the clients are all deal seekers and never come back," "they don't tip", "they are rude, mean, and snotty". While, I agree discounting is not always the way to go. Sometimes you just don't have the capital up front to advertise yourself to the people who need you in their life.
We lead such digital and unconnected lives that referrals work but aren't normally the 1st thing clients bring up to their friends and family. Unless there is a special injury or conversation started around it.
There are many forms of advertising your gifts to the world, but most cost alot of money. Money I didn't have. Money I didn't know how to come up with, money I couldn't or wouldn't beg, borrow or steal. Advertisers have thousands of clients attention every day and can set their price and there is nothing the little guy can do about it. They require money upfront before you see anyone come in your door, and you pay that money with no guarantee that you'll even get a client out of it.
When I 1st started Wandering Hummingbird it was a side gig. I had just graduated. I had tried to work for other people (which didn't work because of my schedule requirements and getting sick). I was working full time at my corporate 9 to 5 job. I had worked 3 years to get to the L& D department. I was looking at having to go back into to sales to make ends meet.
It all started with a name, then a massage license, then a business license and then a space. I tried doing mobile massage through Soothe and Zeel. Which is how I found out I don't really enjoy lugging my table around for anything less than 100$. I also met one of the most influential people of my massage life. After trying to run a business out of the front room in my apartment. Which thinking back was not a great idea lol. We have a dog, the bf loves playing video games, and the food smells. All not good for business. A space needed to be found. So off to google and craigslist. What I found was right up the road. It was small. It was affordable, and defiantly within the realm of supporting on just a few full paying massages a month.
How to get clients? Website check, business cards check, invite friends, family and anyone I could to get a free or 50% off massage check, google posting check,....hmmm what else yelp?
I had been a Groupon customer myself various times due to low income and a lust for experiences. In fact my 1st massage ever was a deal on Groupon for 3 hrs of massage in Houston 2 hours away from where I lived. In fact after my 1st 1 hr appointment because of the super long drive I decided to combine two 60 min sessions into one 2 hour. My 2nd massage ever was a two hr stripping Thai massage. Omgoodness I was pooping alot for a week. When I moved to Issaquah near Seattle I decide to try all the things Seattle had to offer. I started seeing an acupuncturist. For 99$ I got three sessions. She only made $50 off of the three hrs of work but she now has a dedicated client for life! She is amazing I no longer go to the doctor anymore, just her.
I tried many things and continue trying things through Groupon because I appreciate the exposure it gives to things I would never have even thought to google.
In light of my experience with using Groupon for acupuncture. massage, plays, and other cool things. along with the fact that there was no financial commitment up front needed to advertise my business to over 100,000 people per email, I choose to do it. The split was 50/50 which I have since found out can be negotiated especially if you have done a Groupon campaign with them before with success. I am now at a 70 /30 split with some of my higher ticket options. Although I do not have an active Groupon campaign now and I do not take Groupons myself, I do not hesitate to use it to start one of my new hires off with a full schedule and the opportunity to gather a personal clientele base.
Groupon worked with me over the phone and had very strict local guidelines about cost and advertising. Being new I went with it 39$=60min, and 59$=90min. I had to have more than 200 vouchers available to be eligible to go on the email newsletter. Which I was told was the best way to get the most people to see me. SO I did. I had no idea the magnitude of that many vouchers. I was going in blind trusting that Groupon would help. They posted the deal, it sold amazingly well. So well I ran way over my voucher limit and instead of being turned off Groupon just kept adding more and more. It got out of control. 356 Vouchers later and I was panicking seeing the next how ever many months it would take to finish all of this massage time, I did the math 356 vouchers times a minimum of 60 min each was holy shit 21,360 minutes of massage supposed to be done in 3 months to be within the expiration date. At best working 20 days a month, 4 hours a day I could have them done about 5 months. Did I say I was panicking yet well I was. I tried calling, I tried emailing to turn off the flood gate but I was informed I had to talk to my specific representative who I couldn't ever reach because our schedules didn't mesh. Finally I was able to pause the campaign and she extended the redemption time to 6 months for all the vouchers I had sold.
I needed to the money to pay bills. I wanted the money to fund a trip to Hawaii and to learn Lomi lomi. I started doing the massages, working my way out of the hole booking here and there and how ever many I could.They pay out every too weeks, when there is money to be payed out. They only give you a certain percentage of what has been sold just in case of returns. It was easy at 1st I booked 1 massage after work a day, then 2, then 3 working my body up to the desired full time capacity. With no set schedule due to working around my day job I was booked out a month.
Being a travel addict I put everything on hold and traveled to Iceland and England for 2 weeks. over that 2 weeks so many life changing things occurred one of which I find extremely relevant. The whole trip I had been asking in my mind, to people and to the universe what do I do. DO i stay in the security, do I make the jump, what is the right answer. I had so many bills, so much debt and didn't know the 1st thing about running a business. All I knew was how to sell and how to give wonderful touch.
I met Sandy when he picked me up from the bus stop in Bournemouth. He was my air b and b host for the night. The night of summer solstice. He is an old Motown musician who had traveled the world and the USA in his glory days playing and learn music with the greats even the greats who taught Elvis. About 5'5" in his 70's at least and with a great British accent I was enchanted. After he made me a lovely dinner explaining that his misses was out for the night care-giving down-syndrome children, we settled in to visit. after divulging the fact that I liked to smoke weed in every country I visited and lamenting I hadn't found any. He surprised me with a announcement that he had been given some earlier that day by a kid at the pub and asked if I would like to share it with him. So the scene is set. In his area of the house. A sitting room with art from all over, one very fine piece of 2 African noble children by apparently a famous painter, all his many instruments around, we smoked, we laughed, we chated, he played music on his guitar, on the record player and the night lived on. It was magical. The stories this man shared were just the tip of a wonderful rich well lived life. At one point during the night he stopped playing his instrument looked at me and said with out prompt. "I don't know what to tell you in answer to your question girly but I've always done everything that interested me and I've led a grand life." That is when I knew I needed to go out on my own. That I need to do what interested me what I yearned for. After many other wonderful experience that trip I came back to Seattle and went back to work.
After two weeks back at work I got sick. Really sick. Like couldn't sit at a computer sick. I went to go home and one of my coworkers asked me to rub his shoulders for 5 min. I told him no I will get you sick. He said he would take the risk. 3 hours later I'm still at work and have been massaging everyone in the office and I feel great. The next day I called out sick and went to a friends house. She helped me see that the day job was no longer who I was anymore. I put in my 2 weeks notice the next business day. I opened up my schedule and them my job let me leave early. They loved me so much they said I would always have a job with them if ever I needed one.
I quit my job and went into massage full time.
I wanted to learn Lomi. I was stuck on it. I stopped took a breath and with the money from the vouchers flew away to learn what my heart had been yearning for. I had wanted to go to Hawaii for as long as I can remember. I had almost taken a job there so many times. In fact the person on Oahu that I stayed with took a job that I had originally email the district manager about. How I found my Lomi teacher and the details of that trip will have to wait for another blog. It was life changing. I went to Hawaii for a 18 days.
When I came back to Issaquah I continued to book my time whenever I was available and my clients needed. I got burnt out and sick. Searching for help I found a business coach that told me to set my dream schedule and not to work outside of it. So I could have whats called work life balance lol. I never had that at my old job and it was the lesson I needed to learn.
Over the next couple months booking everyone became a terrible chore. Deciding to switch to online booking only was easy finding one that I liked harder. I tried Mind and body wayyyyy tooo expensive. Then I found Clincsense. I hate paperwork and thinking about having to store my clients intake forms and soap notes made me want to give up all together. Luckily they store all of that for me. Omg I am so glad I made the move to online booking. Holy shit it saved my 4 hrs of work a day. Trying to text or call back everyone trying to schedule while massaging full time. It was so much easier to just add one more to my schedule while I was in direct control. I found myself doing 10 hr days because well I could just squeeze 1 more, ok 2 more in a day. Not good you guys not good. I had all sorts of difficulties including scheduling mishaps, over booking, and not enough time for lunch or breaks, all that quit as soon as I went online. I set my schedule, people could book at their leisure, I has 30 minutes between every client, and a nice lunch break.
As I was performing the Groupons I knew I still had to make more money, because well I already spent through the upfront money Groupon gave me and needed to keep paying the bills. So I took a trick from someone I had found through Groupon. In Kirkland, shout out to Bonnie and started offering packages. They were cheap, dirt cheap 150 dollars for 180 minutes. An excellent deal and I was was getting better and better at my craft as I massaged through the hundreds of bodies. They say 20% of Groupons purchased are never used. They also say people are 70% more likely to get a massage if they have already payed for it. Armed with this and a sales background. I was off and package selling. Now yet again just like Groupon you are selling your time ahead. You are going in to debit to these people. It's like a credit card that you don't see the every growing balance. You have to plan ahead. It would work best if you could sell the Groupons and package putting the money aside to pay yourself for every massage you did after you actually performed them. This is where accountant would help but I did'n't have an accountant helping and I needed to pay the bills now! So, I sold my time, shortly I upped my package price to 180$ for 180min. Making a dollar a minute, which is decent and better then working for someone else in my book and way better than the 18$/hr I was making with Groupon. I still hadn't put aside any money for taxes which anyone will tell you is a bad idea. You need to put aside 20% of all income for taxes unless your working for someone else that does it for you. Luckily I had put aside a bunch at my previous 9 to 5 that I ended up getting back 150$ instead of my normal 3000$ at tax time and didn't have to pay in phew.
I had been self employed for 8 months, payed all my bills, supported me and my bf in a very expensive town, while he wasn't working and still got to travel to Hawaii and learn my dream massage techniques. I was booked out for months 3 monthish and was selling packages 33% of the time. My goal with every Groupon member was to give them such an amazing massage they wanted to take the deal. 180$/180min. I wanted them to not want to go back on Groupon and find someone else. I wanted to be cheap enough to keep people coming back. I had massive monetary responsibilities of thousands a month. So I sold more packages, used the Groupon as reviews, put myself on yelp and kept striving to get my wonderful massage into the lives of the people who needed it.
There were some tough times in the midst of all this. I had bad reviews due to wait time. People who tried to use 2 Groupons instead of the 1 per new client like the fine print says, that also turned into bad reviews and harassing emails. That is why asking for reviews from your happy people is so important, because 1 or 2 bad reviews mixed with fourteen 5 star glowing reviews will show the truth. There were the no tippers. The mean deal seekers. I created many boundaries from the experiences I had. Such as a cancellation policy. 39$ or redemption of their voucher. Time limit of being late. 10 min without notifying me and I call you leave a message pack up and leave either charging you or redeeming your voucher. Holding credit card information. And many more along the journey.
Then I found out about the World Massage Championship from my mentor. I wanted to go. I needed to go. I didn't have savings, and I couldn't borrow. So back to Groupon. Along with selling more packages, I renegotiated my rates with Groupon to get a 70/30 split on some higher end more expensive services. I was off and selling. I made it to the championship on that money and was gone for 2 weeks. Without Groupon I would not have become the Bronze Freestyle medalist at 2017 World Massage Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark. That is my experience with Groupon.
I used it to get started. I used it to get reviews. I split my profits with them so I could have the money upfront and accomplish what I needed. Every client that comes in has cost you something, time, energy, or money. Yes, most of the customers from Groupon are looking for deals. Yes, some don't tip, yes some are nasty, but you know with any form of advertising there are downsides. There were so many wonderful people I met through Groupon. Some of which I still share their self care lives with. Treating Groupon customers like full paying clients, giving them everything you have and just trying to understand what they need will go along way to making them devoted to you. They are humans traveling along a journey that you don't know anything about. The only thing you do know is that the brief interaction with you can be an awesome piece of shining light in what may be a hard journey or just ok and not worth them seeking out again. We are valuable! I always encourage charging what you're worth. Sometimes though, you need exposure and more exposure than you can get from just having a website, being on yelp , google, Facebook and any where else you can post your wares for free.
I am currently not on Groupon but I use their services on and off to launch new hummingbirds, and to purchase experiences and research where I live myself. While I don't depend on them for my clients anymore. The clients I received and the reviews that I gathered from those I did have made me a sought after commodity in our local area and helped me be able to charge the 100$ an hour I am worth.
It'll take alot of work, long hours but you can use anything to your advantage. Set your boundaries, your hours, know what you're getting into and always consider your well being 1st. You can not pour from an empty teapot. Please don't be afraid to get full paying clients any way you can. Make deals for referrals, 39$ payed straight to you instead of 39$ to Groupon after their 1st massage. I hope this helps someone. I do not recommend Groupon as your only source of client acquisition. Be creative. Ask for ideas. Listen. Don't give up before you start. You are amazing!
If you would like to brainstorm more join me in person by booking LMT trade time here or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/awesomebeingsofmassage/
Elise Wandering Hummingbird LMT
Bronze medalist 2017 World Massage Championship
"Love and Light, we all think we are right"