Avoiding the client bookings roller coaster
Is this a familiar scenario for you?
You’ve got this great place you work at. Maybe you work solo, maybe you’re in a clinic with lots of other therapists, or maybe you do onsite work. Doesn’t matter. But you like it and it works for you.
Some weeks it can be really slow. So you do whatever you feel you need to in order to ‘drum up’ business. Maybe that’s call some previous clients to see if they want to come in. Maybe it’s work on posting to your blog, or in a newsletter you send out to clients. Maybe it’s looking for events to attend so you can hand out business cards and meet people. Whatever it might be, you do it, and your schedule slowly starts to fill up!
Great! That’s what you wanted! Now that your schedule is full, you stop sending that newsletter. You stop attending networking events. You stop calling clients to check on them and ask them to rebook.
Then your schedule starts to get quiet again. The rush of people is now dwindling and you need to start thinking about drumming up business again. So now we’re back at the beginning again, restarting our client outreach and marketing.
Why? Why does it make any sense at all to do things this way? Wouldn’t it make more sense to always be thinking about keeping things busy? About getting clients to rebook, finding new clients, and the marketing and client outreach you need to do to make that happen?
Now, of course you can’t predict the future. No one can. So there will be times that you’ll have a quiet day or week because that’s just normal and natural. Personally I’ve always found the summer to be more quiet, because everyone is on vacation, or enjoying the beautiful weather, or just in relaxation mode, and not really thinking about starting new projects (or booking appointments). Or sometimes you’ll need to step away from your business for a bit to handle a family crisis (although, if you automate some of your marketing, your business will continue on without you in some ways. More on that in a bit). Or sometimes you’ll have a major client have to stop coming to see you because they’re moving, or seriously ill, or some other factor totally beyond your control that creates a big hole in your schedule.
Life happens! I’m not saying you’re never going to have slower times in your business.
What I am saying is the slow times can be more manageable. Instead of weeks where you’ve barely got enough bookings to pay your bills, instead you’ll have weeks where you’ve got some openings in your schedule but will be completely fine if they don’t fill. Instead of the roller coaster of feast or famine, you’ll have a schedule that is more even keeled.
But how do you do that? Well, I probably don’t have to tell you this but: you need a marketing plan and you need to stick to it. Even when your schedule is really busy. Consistency is the key to getting things done. By consistency I really do mean schedule it in. So every Monday at 11am you do it (or whatever time works for you). And remember, the more you do something, the easier it gets. So as you do your marketing you’re going to find it gets easier to do over time.
So does this mean you need to pay for cheesy ads you don’t like, or cold call people, or stand on a street corner feeling super uncomfortable and hand out business cards? Oh hell no! I’m not about to tell you you have to do a bunch of marketing that feels really wrong or out-of-place for you. I wouldn't do things like that, so I'm not about to tell all of you to do them.
What you need to do is find methods that feel workable for you. That doesn’t mean they won’t be out of your comfort zone at first! But they shouldn’t feel dishonest or gross. No one wants that.
So what might be workable for you? Well, you need to draw upon your strengths and use those to your advantage when coming up with a marketing plan.
For example, if you’re a good writer and have decent computer skills, a weekly newsletter and blog is a great match for you. Send out the newsletter to current and recent past clients (so as to be within the anti spam laws - you don’t want to be sending to someone you haven’t seen in years). Repost the content onto your blog. Mention the newsletter and blog on any social media you use. Show them to your friends and colleagues. Anything you can do to get the word out.
Or another idea: If you really love the idea of creating videos, you could start a YouTube channel with weekly videos targeted at current and potential clients. They could be about anything you think folks would get value from: self care tips, exercises for injury prevention, showing runners how to tie a heel lock (many don’t know how!), a quick demo of a simple baby massage… whatever makes sense for the kinds of clients you see. They don’t have to be long videos, and you don’t need to buy a ton of expensive equipment to make them work. You can then promote your videos anywhere that works for you, just like the example above. A newsletter, your website, social media, and so on.
Or if you’re the kind of person who really loves to talk to people, loves meeting new people, and is pretty comfortable in front of a crowd, you could book regular talks at places your potential clients would hang out. Lots of possibilities here, from yoga studios and running shops to offices and mom and baby classes. Anywhere you can think of that might be interested in having you in as a guest speaker. Hand out useful information at the talk along with a business card. Give a link to your website with extra information they might want to read. Take down the number of anyone who would like a followup call so you can answer further questions and book them in for an appointment.
Three ideas off the top of my head, and I’m sure many of you can think of more. The key is to find a plan that works for you and stick to it year-round, not just when you feel like it or when business is slow. Be consistent and you’ll start to see results.
One more thing before I wrap up: I mentioned earlier about automation and how it can help keep your business going when things are busy (unexpectedly or expected, doesn’t matter).
I do feel that it’s important not to automate things TOO much. People do want to feel like they’re communicating with a human being, not a robot, after all.
However, you can plan ahead for those busy end-of-the-year months when you’re too busy giving treatments and keeping up on your charts and laundry to be worrying about your marketing.
If you’re doing an email newsletter, you can write several in advance and schedule them to go out during that busy time, without you having to do anything more. Any email newsletter solution you might use should have that as an option (and if it doesn’t, you really should switch to something that does).
The same goes for blog posts and even YouTube videos. There are ways to schedule these things so they’re ready to go out even when you’re super busy and don’t have time for them. The key is to make sure they’re ready in advance of your busy season.
The other option, of course, is to let everyone know you’ll be taking a break during your busiest time. So for example, you could take a break from your major marketing stuff (your newsletter, blog, giving talks, or whatever it might be) for the month of December. Just make sure you have it in your schedule to get right back to it in January!
So there you have it. Choose some marketing methods that draw upon your strengths and start doing them consistently on a regular, predicable schedule. Plan for the busy times by automating or taking a planned vacation. And remember, it’s your business and you want to be in it for the long haul. So in order to make that happen, you need to do the work, and marketing, while it might not be your favourite thing (and I hear that!) is part of that work.