John Howell knows a thing or two about managing stress. Over the years he worked as a merchant marine, hospital admissions director and bank manager — the kind of jobs that wear you out. Eventually, John asked himself whether the stress was worth it, and if it wasn’t, what came next?
The short answer: massage therapy. “I heard the wonderful stories about how much you can help people, and it was like bells went off in my head,” John says. In 2011, he started using Thumbtack, and seven years later Relaax massage services in Plano, Texas has been hired more than 150 times on Thumbtack. Here’s how he finds new customers and stays organized with Thumbtack.
What percentage of your work is from Thumbtack today?
If you look at all of my appointments on a month-to-month basis, I would say maybe 30 to 40 percent are from Thumbtack. But as far as new clients go, that number is closer to 75 to 80 percent.
Do you use Instant Match?
I loved it the minute I heard about it. My biggest issue with Thumbtack was that it was time consuming. I spent a lot of time reading every request I could, only to find out the customer wanted a female therapist or something else that made me a bad fit.
With Instant Match, I spend was less time sorting through quotes and more time actually working. And it didn’t take much to get things rolling.
How many customers do you work with in a week?
My work is different than almost any other therapist. My minimum is 90 minutes and I do a lot of two or three hour sessions. I do a unique combination of Swedish and Thai massage, aromatherapy, guided meditation and stretching. Three customers a day is the most I will do.
Do you have advice for staying competitive in a crowded market?
I offer a substantial discount on the first session customers book through Thumbtack. There are a lot of massage therapists in Dallas so even though my work is special, until you experience it that may not mean a whole lot. I find that offering a substantial discount on the first session attracts a lot of people.
Any tips for asking for reviews?
If you go back to the original request for the client after you’ve done the appointment, there’s a button you can click that says “Request a Review.” I also have my own letter I email clients. That letter says, roughly: “When you have time, please click this link. I’d appreciate you commenting about your session.” I’m very low-key about it because if you push a customer too much they might mention that in the review.
What do you love about owning your own business?
I come from a long line of small business owners. My grandfather was a farmer and both of my parents were self-employed (it’s kind of in my DNA) and it’s definitely the right fit for me. I’m something of a perfectionist. I want everything about my services to be of the highest caliber and that’s much easier to do when you’re the boss and you have absolute control.
What does it take to be a Top Pro?
I like to under promise and over deliver. Always give the customer more than they asked for and even more than they might have expected. Otherwise, display genuine empathy and a desire to help the client and meet them where they are.