Marketing Your Practice. Keeping it "Legit"

Whilst reviewing some threads on LinkedIn, and speaking with our Junior Therapist, the question kept coming up about being solicited for services outwith your scope of practice.
The type of services which tend to be on the more seedier side of things, and as I was talking about how after more than two years of operating our massage clinic, we have had at the most maybe FIVE calls or emails of this nature, I wondered why given everyone elses experience with this, our numbers were thankfully so low.

Why when I read  forums for therapists, particularly newer therapists, do the same issues seem to come up?People plagued by calls, emails or text messages seeking these other types of services.

Marketing / Web Presense

I thought about the classes we had regarding business when I attended Advanced Massage Therapeutics, and one of the things that Charlie made sure that we understood, is that people who solicit those types of services, will latch on to the slightest comment, word or image that could be construed as suggestive.

I've noticed here in the UK that many Therapists websites do have a disclaimer advising that they do not offer "sexual services" etc, and unfortunately this is to the detriment of their practice.
When webcrawlers, and search engine tools are used to pick up words from your site, if someone searches this type of thing, and includes your area, simply because these words are used on your webpage will drag your website into the search results.

My first piece of advise is Don't draw attention to the fact that you "don't do" these types of things. The best thing to do is to promote the work that you do perform, and the professionalism of your clinic or practice. By avoiding these key words being included on your site, you will prevent your website being pulled up when people perform searches for this stuff.

My next piece of advice, if you havent already done so, is look at what you call yourself.
Are you a Massage Therapist, or are you a Massuese / Masseure?

As our profession becomes more recognized in Health Care communities, we want to make sure that we are labelling ourselves correctly.
Massage Therapist is far more professional than the others above, which have become very outdated in the last 10-15 years.
These titles are now also adopted by less legitimate business who like to operate under the guise of "Massage Therapy" and as they are not involved in the Industry, they tend not to know any better, so we need to make sure we use a proper title to distinguish ourselves.

The next thing to look at is where you may be advertising online, here in the UK I see a lot of therapists who advertise on GumTree, which is the UK equivalent of Craigslist. It's nice to be able to advertise for free, but unfortunately GumTree enforces the disclaimers I mentioned in my first point. Which when linked to your business, just highlights these key words that people are looking for. When you start out, it can be difficult to afford online ads, but even if you only run them for a week or so at a time, or only as you can afford them, it is worth every penny to try and advertise on sites that wont enforce this disclaimer, and also don't risk you being advertised with the less legitimate businesses.

Phone numbers, Email addresses and Business names.

When it comes to contact numbers,  it's so easy to pick up a "pay as you go" mobile and use this for your business calls, but mobile numbers being the only form of contact can often give the wrong impression.
There is a service from CloudNumbers which allows you to purchase landline numbers which will be forwarded to your mobile number. Having a landline number as your contact number gives a more professional appearance, and will make it less likely that you will receive creepy calls or text messages.

Email addresses, try to use a standard email address for your domain, i.e contact@ or mail@domaindotcom etc.
If you do not have your own domain, try to create a gmail account but with a more professional name:

MassageByMe@, BusinessNameMassage@, BusinessNameTherapies@ etc

A lot of those looking for sexual type services often look for personable therapists, if you keep your forms of contact standardised, this can reduce the number of emails you receive.
BunnyFooFoo69@ for example would not be a great contact email address for a Massage Therapist.

And finally, as above, the Business Name you use is very important.
If you decide to use a name which ties into another culture, please make sure you have a verified translation of the name, if need be, contact a school or college language teacher and have them verify the translation and your understanding of the words used. You know those people who have chinese symbols tattooed on them, and they find out later it's an item from a fast food menu?
Yeh, don't let your clinic fall victim to that.

When these calls or emails do come in? 

I think including all of the things I've outlined above, one of the main reasons I have managed to avoid having these types of issues, is my ability to suss these clients out on the phone.
There are things that they will say, or questions they will ask which make it very apparent what they mean without them coming out and saying it.

They will tend to use terms such as "naturalist" or "sensual" massage. These are big red flags.
You might find that they'll ask about what types of lubrication you use, now this isnt always a red flag, but the fact they use the word lubrication makes me ask more questions and when they ask you about the Oils, Creams or lotions you use you can ask if their concerns are related to allergies, or the feel/texture of the product.

Finally, the one that always comes up from those that I have had, is the question of draping. Someone looking for services not provided by a proper Massage Therapist, will normally ask about being covered by Towels or sheets. They may often mention they don't like being covered by a towel or sheet, or have some excuse as to why they want the massage without proper draping.
Be firm, and make sure that they are aware that a towel/flat sheet will be used when performing the massage, for the safety and comfort of both the client and the therapist and that you will not bend this rule.

I find by this point in the phone conversation they have worked out that you are not the type of therapist that they are looking for, and they wont call again, or try to visit your clinic.

Don't get frustrated if it does happen, but be confident knowing that you are prepared and can handle it.
Unfortuantely it is a hazard of the profession, but by following my advice above, I hope that this will reduce the number of times you have to deal with this type of thing, and that you can put a stop to this type of thing before it ever walks through your clinic door.