I originally wrote and posted this blog to my MySpace page in January of 2007. However, an unsettling experience with a chiropractor I thought I was going to be networking with last month reminded me of the ignorance that persists regarding this subject; even from other healthcare providers. Therefore, I have decided to repost it to other forums this year.
As a male MT, I currently have something that is virtually unheard of in our industry; namely, a predominately male client base. This is unusual because typically we have a more difficult time selling men on the idea of coming to us for bodywork. I personally attribute this to three major factors:
1. Massage being packaged and sold as a "sensual luxury" with no medicinal or clinical value.
2. Massage being packaged and sold as a "feminine" activity in regards to practitioners and clientele.
3. Sex industry workers hiding behind the word Massage as a euphemism for what they're REALLY doing (I wonder what the AMA would do if hookers started calling themselves Board Certified Physicians).
Not to say that it has been easier for me to sell to men. In fact, the main reason why I currently have so many of them is because I inherited them from my prior massage job; which happened to be in a Day Spa for Men.
Ironically, the reason why I believe so many of them followed me to my own practice was because the work I perform is NOT what is typically performed or expected in a Day Spa. That is because my massage education was more of a clinical nature; which is more about assessments, corrections, and working specific problem muscles. Not the pampering, feel-good, beautifying type of work you typically see in spa ads.
That was actually one of the things that drew me to that job. I initially sought work with a chiropractor or comparable healthcare setting. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in some spa where the only experience I would gain would be in performing wraps & scrubs and "pushing beauty creme". The reason why I had difficulty finding the clinical types of positions, however, was because most of them required me to work weekdays; which would have conflicted with my full-time Database Manager job. Since the DBM position is what paid the bulk of my bills, I'm sure you know which one took priority.
Fortunately, the spa allowed me to work weekends-only; which turned out to be the busiest days. Furthermore, I knew that since I'd be working on men, the demands would be greater due to our physical size and musculature. Translated: Men are more difficult to work on. For that reason, men are great experience. Because it takes more than a cutesy lotion rub to correct male musculoskeletal dysfunction; especially on big guys who work hard. Which meant I would be able to finally apply the clinical techniques I learned in school to a practical setting.
I actually made those realizations while still in MT school. It was actually my practice work on male friends for homework that I think prepared me the most for my job as a MT. Because most of the students in MT schools are predominately female, I think a lot of students leave there with a false sense of professional reality. I know some females who spent their entire programs dodging the males in their classes and only worked on their female classmates. But as soon as they had to work on men in student clinic or in the industry, they couldn't handle it. The demands and expectations are totally different. If you're going to work on men - especially the athletic ones - you'd better be prepared to WORK. Because most men don't come back if they don't see results from their sessions.
And very rarely do "lotion rubs" result in noticeable results!
But despite all of that, it is still a tough sell FOR men TO men. I also learned that before I got out of school. Do you have any idea how hard it was to simply find male friends to perform homework assignments on?
Fortunately, there was one other male in my class and I eventually started working with one in another class. But aside from that, it was hard to get experience working on men. Eventually, I found a few friends with issues who would allow me to work on them; which was the type of practice I preferred. I didn't need experience "rubbing" or "feeling" on people. I needed to get experience WORKING on people. And to this day, I am eternally grateful to the few who did not give me the run-around or come up with constant excuses. Because had it not been for them, I probably would have graduated MT school with certification but no REAL COMPREHENSION of dealing with specific muscular issues and imbalances.
That's like someone graduating with a degree in Computer Science yet clueless as to how to turn on a computer. Guess how long they will keep a job? Probably about as long as it took for some MT graduates I know to leave the industry and run back to working the drive-thru!
Of course, it didn't really matter because clients weren’t exactly lining up to see me in student clinic. At least, not at first. Eventually, I ended up getting a few regulars who liked the results of my work and returned. But at first, it was a hard sell. But I didn't take it personally. A few months earlier, I worked the front desk at the student clinic and was able to witness the clear bias against male MT's. The females were constantly booked but the males always had difficulty. I personally took calls from people who claimed to be in desperate need of bodywork. However, as soon as I mentioned that the therapist was a male, they quickly changed their tune. And it wasn't just the males who had a problem with us. A number of females did, too. But I'm going to save that one for a future blog.
One thing those experiences taught me, though, was that I'd just have to be better and work harder than the next MT. My mentor is a man and he's been very successful in this industry. In fact, he's been at it for 14 years. However, he told me years ago not to expect too many male clients. As a businessman, I have a problem accepting that. The reason why is because I know that in order to be successful, I am going need to be able to reach all types of clients. Besides, I enjoy dealing with a variety of people. That's one of the things that make what I do so interesting. It's great getting to interact with an array of client types.
It also keeps things from becoming boring!
As a business major, I knew that before striking out on my own, I needed to conduct some "marketing research" in order to learn how to better reach men; specifically the types of men who would benefit the most from the work I do. I didn't focus so much on women because I didn't expect them to be as hard of a sell. Man, was I wrong – LOL! But then again, as I said before, I'll save that topic for another blog.
I still remember one of my first "experiments". While working out at my gym in the mornings before going to the DBM job, one of the young bodybuilders caught my attention. He was one of the SERIOUS guys who come to the gym like he's going to a job. No standing around and socializing for him! He came in, hit it hard, and was out the door and on his way. Considering that I've been going to the gym for almost 20 years, I quickly recognized him as the "real deal" and not one of those dudes there for the "Hey baby" workout.
At first, I started off just picking up moves from his workouts to incorporate into my own. It was later that I found myself subconsciously assessing his gait and postural patterns. It wasn't hard because I saw him there so often; whether I came in the morning or evening. While doing so, I noticed something off; but I wasn't quite sure of what. So I decided to make contact with him and offer him some complimentary sessions in exchange for his opinions and attitudes. I went to the level of putting together a marketing letter (and being careful NOT to use the word "massage" because I know what some people think when you throw that word out at them). I wanted to put things in his court and let him contact me on his time. After all, since it was his assistance I was after, the last thing I wanted to do was come off as pushy.
We finally got around to having a brief conversation about it one morning and it was clear that he was NOT interested. He was cool about it and I respected his feelings. Nevertheless, I was still interested in learning WHY he was so quick to dismiss my offer; which was one of the things I wished to learn from. However, I didn't force the issue because I preferred to keep a line of communication open between us. Eventually, during a later conversation, he finally said what was really on his mind. It came out when he suggested that I "really should market to women" and that "most men want to be massaged by a female".
Keep in mind that throughout our interactions, I tried my best to stay away from the "M" word. But it was clear that once I said it to him, it was in the forefront of his mind. When I first spoke to him, I came at him with concepts such as "gait patterns", "postural distortions", "musculoskeletal imbalances", and "performance enhancement". At NO POINT did I say to him, "Come by my 'spa' so I can give you a 'seaweed wrap' and an 'avocado masque'" - LOL. After all, this guy was a serious, hardcore JOCK. I'm talking at least 6' 2" and 240 lbs. of SOLID muscle! I came at him strictly from the viewpoint of how I can help him maintain his body, reduce his risk for injuries, and increase his performance; things that I would assume a jock would be interested in.
Interestingly, when I first mentioned what I dealt with, he asked if I were a "physician" or a "chiropractor". The idea of me being a massage professional NEVER entered the picture. So apparently there was something in my pitch that let him know that I was some sort of healthcare provider. But as soon as I had to reveal that I was a MT, it was clear that the stereotypical images of a massage came to his mind. Why else would he suggest that I market my services to women?
Do you think he would have made the same suggestion had I been a man "physician" or a "chiropractor"? Moreover, would he have been so quick to turn down complimentary work had I been a man in the aforementioned two professions?
I wasn't offended by his suggestion, though, because I could tell that he was being sincere. In fact, the tone and context of his words suggest that he meant it to be encouraging. In fact, I appreciated his attitude; which was a far cry from some of the male jerks I’ve come across since the day I decided to go to MT school. Nevertheless, it was still clear to me that he definitely had a different perception of what a MT does. Because otherwise, he would have realized that my work is more beneficial to a big guy like him who works his muscles hard than to some bored socialite looking for something to do in between lunch at the club and shopping with the girls.
Now THOSE are prime candidates for the "seaweed wrap" and the "avocado masque" - LOL! Easy money...but not part of MY business model.
While still in school, a friend of mine told me something that I've found to be true: "Men who won't let you work on them are men who aren't in enough pain yet". And it's true! I have a MT friend who has told me about some male professional athletes he has worked on who were in so much pain they didn't even give him time to leave the room before they had stripped down and practically jumped on his table. From what I've heard, some serious pro jocks will do that in a minute. Nothing sexual...but it freaks out most female - and some less secure male - MT's. Those guys are the ones who know what it's like to be in CHRONIC pain and know that professionals like me are adept at finding and working that pain out. They also know there's NOTHING sexy about a CLINICAL MT working their muscles. In fact, most of the work we do is painful because of the state the muscles are usually in by the time we get to them.
That's why the freaks looking for sex typically stay away from MT's like us. Clinical work typically turns off sexual urges QUICK! Freaks usually prefer those nice, soft, lotion-rubbing MT's.
I often wonder if the men who refuse to patronize a male MT also have same problems with male Physicians, male Chiropractors, or male Physical Therapists. Unlike the physician, I don't ask you to disrobe and then perform rectal, testicular or hernia exams on you (Which most men usually accept without question or hesitation because the man asking for it is a DOCTOR). As for Chiropractors and PT's...Guess who we often work in conjunction with? When your Chiropractor finally realizes that adjusting you over and over is NOT taking care of the problem and that the problems are actually in your muscles, guess who they are going to refer you to?
On some levels, I understand why some guys don't want other men working on them. After all, massage is so often portrayed on TV as "warm", "sensual", "pampering", and "nurturing". I've even attended some classes where the instructors were off on that trip. However, what you have to understand is that all of us are NOT working from that frame of reference. All therapists operate in different ways and it usually depends on our focus. My focus is on CLINICAL work; which leaves very little time for "nurturing" or "pampering". To tell the truth, I wouldn’t want that type of work from another man, either. For what a GOOD MT costs, I'd expect to get my muscles worked; especially the ones I'm having problems with. I'd be pissed if I paid $80-100 an hour for some dude who spent the entire session "rubbing on me".
In fact, for that kind of money, a woman had better "put it down", too!
But before ruling us ALL out, I implore you to find out what we are about first. Granted - There are some men who I don't want working on me, either. I'm in this business and I know there are some skanky ones who are looking for "something extra". However, if you read over some of my previous blogs, you'll have a pretty good idea of how to weed them out. Those dudes typically don't know Tibialis Anterior from Splenius Capitus. A few minutes of conversation with them and you'll pretty much figure out the muscles they're REALLY interested in working on. And if any of you has run across any of those types, please be sure to report them. The less of those freaks we have running around the better. They make working in this business even rougher for me; so I have NO LOVE for them!
Speaking as a male MT, this business is hard enough for us without additional drama. In other words, having potential clients who think I may be looking for "something extra" is BAD for my business. Which is why it behooves me to better understand and reach out to potential client types that others don't seem to be interested in.
Frankly, I see male clients as a large, untapped market. I don't know about you, but I've NEVER seen a Massage Ad that spoke to me; as a man. Most are for spas and clearly marketed to women. The big chain spa here in Atlanta runs a commercial that depicts their place as a big beauty parlor. I only saw TWO men in their commercial (it took me a while to spot the other one). One is the man who bought his woman a Gift Certificate there and was seen from behind receiving a big hug for doing so. The other (who was harder to spot), was receiving a "couples massage" with his woman on the next table.
Did I see any men MT's? Did I see any men receiving the type of work that I know I need; as a physically active man? Absolutely NOT!
So tell me again why should I - as a man - want to spend my money there?
As I said before, I'm not looking for certain types of clients. That is, I'm not trying to have a practice with all-men or all-women or all-blacks or all-whites or all-straight or all-gay clients. I'm usually suspicious of therapists who work like that because I'm not sure of their actual motives; especially if all of their clients look & think like them. I'm the type of therapist who is looking for clients who need and appreciate the type of work I perform. And those are the clients I hope to work with to the point that they trust me enough to refer my business to their friends and family members.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC - A division of 180 RPM Enterprises, Inc.