Barry Hatfield joins Allissa to talk about where his massage practice is going and how he came to make his website a valuable, personable tool for recruiting new clients.
Barry is a massage therapist and business owner in Hudson, Ohio. You can learn more about him and find all his blog posts here.
This episode is sponsored by Artichoke. MBB listeners can try free for 30 days and save 20% off published rate for 1 year by going to massagebusinessblueprint.com/artichoke.
Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Artichoke, the simplest way to manage your business of one or your team of up to 10 people. Whether you’re looking for online scheduling, website, one-touch payment processing, customizable appointment reminders, or gift cards, or awesome client notes, it’s all possible with Artichoke. Best of all, Artichoke works on any device, and it’s simple to set up and get started. Massage Business Blueprint listeners can try free for 30 days and save 20% off the published rate for one year by going to massagebusinessblueprint.com/artichoke.
Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines, and I am here today with our guest, Barry Hatfield from Ohio. Barry, hello. Good morning.
Barry Hatfield Hello.
AH We’re recording this bright and shiny in the morning, hence my slight Kathleen Turner voice and lack of sufficient coffee-ing; so this is going to be a super fun podcast. I’m going to jump in with a little bit about Barry and then let him tell us a little bit about himself and his career. Barry is a licensed massage therapist with a solo practice in Hudson, Ohio, which is an adorable and beautiful town that I got to visit over the summer. He has a client-oriented blog to answer massage related questions. He writes blog posts for other sites as well and has written two articles for ABMP’s Massage and Bodywork magazine, and we’re having him here today to talk about the value of having a real personable website. But first, we’re going to find out a little bit more about Barry and his career in massage and just a little more about Barry in general. So we’re going to start in with just our regular questions, which we like to ask all of our deep-dive guests. First, tell us how did you get into massage, and how long ago was that?
BH Well, I got into massage about 8 years ago. I used to be a completely different career. I used to be a computer programmer, and I got downsized out of that job, and I needed to go back to school for something, because computers changed so fast. I was looking around and I was trying to get another computer job, and the more I thought about it, I wanted to do something more meaningful. I just had too many projects where I worked on something, when I got done with it, it was eh; it didn’t really do a whole lot for the company or customers or anybody; so I wanted to do something more meaningful. So I was looking into medical, and I came across massage, and I started checking it out and really liked that idea that I could really help somebody in just an hour’s time.
AH All right. Since you stepped out of massage school, what has the evolution of your career been like?
BH I just started off basically — there was a young lady who went to my school who had been in practice for a few years and was leaving town, and I was able to take over her practice. So I jumped right into solo practice right out of massage school, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
AH Have you worked any other jobs concurrently, or have you been all in on your own hoping for full-time practice since you started that?
BH It’s just been just my massage business ever since — that I started into it.
AH Tell me what your business is like now. And, yes, I know that you’ve taken a bunch of classes in the past year, too, that have kind of changed and evolved your practice, and I am inviting you to talk about what your practice was like before those classes, about those classes, and what your practice is turning into now, because I think that’s a really important and big deal, and tell us about that.
BH Well, I started off just doing basic massage, and when I went to massage school, I decided I wanted to be really good at it. If I was going to do this, I wanted to be as good as I could. I worked really hard at studying and learning, because I didn’t know anything from anatomy or medical terminology or anything like that. So I had to work really hard to understand what they were talking about. I thought if I want to do this, I want to be really, really good, and so I worked at it, and I got really good.
But as I looked around, there was a number of places, not only in my town but in the towns around me — we’re kind of in between Cleveland and Akron in Ohio — and there’s a lot of places to go and get a massage. And so I was good, but I needed something more. And also, I had some people coming in who were coming in regularly, and they would come in and say, “Oh, my neck is really bad.” And I’d work on them, and their neck would get better, and they’d come back in again and say, “Oh my neck is really bad.” I thought we just weren’t making any progress; so I wanted to learn something more that was going to be longer lasting and help them a lot more than what I did. And so I looked into some things, and I found some classes on neural reset therapy. I took those classes and put them to use right away and decided — it changed the focus of my practice from kind of a general massage to pain relief. Because what this neural reset therapy does is it uses your brain and your nervous system to tell your muscles to go back to normal. So they reset the muscles back to normal instead of just massaging them and they feel better. Even people with long-term pain, like from a car accident or a fall or something, can get a lot of relief using this. So I decided instead of just being another massage therapist, I wanted to focus on pain relief, and that’s really boosted my business these last couple of years.
AH So how has the work been for you as you’ve integrated this into your practice — and we’ll talk about your website and how you use it to attract clients — but as you’ve started to integrate this, how has your practice changed? Are your numbers up? How are your reviews? Tell me what’s changed about your practice in the past year or two that’s made a difference.
BH Yeah. Everything’s better. First of all, my business has grown quite a bit. Last year, I grew 16 percent from the year before. I have more loyal clients, because once they get this done and they know how effective it is, they will not go anywhere else. I get more referrals as people will just be talking and someone says, Oh I have a stiff neck, and someone says, I know exactly who you need to go see. So I get a lot more referrals that way.
AH You’re measuring the numbers; so you know you got a 16 percent increase last year from the year before so that’s amazing. Just that you’ve measured that puts you ahead of most people who haven’t been measuring their growth. And for a long time I was one of those people; so I feel that. You’ve noticed a difference. I think also with — growth is — you’ve been in this for 8 years now, is that right?
AH Growth is slow — growth can be slow for massage businesses starting up, and they can be especially slow for male massage therapists. And I know that NRT is a technique you can do without people taking their clothes off, and that can be really helpful, but we’ll talk a little bit more about the clothing thing — because you’ve got a really great blog post on that — in a minute.
But let’s jump to our last question before we start diving into our actual topic about your website. What is your fantasy job/location/training? What’s your “if I win the lottery” plan for your career?
BH Yeah. I thought about this. Well, I’d like to do a couple things. One is do some more travel. I live here in northeast Ohio, which I like; it’s my home; I like it here. But it gets kind of cold; so I’d like to be able to go somewhere warmer every once in a while, especially in the winter months. And I have a great family but they’re kind of scattered. So what I’d like to do is to be able to teach this neural reset therapy in classes, but also to go to people and follow up and say — and help them develop it and get better at it, because I just believe in it so strongly, and I think everyone should be taking this class and using it. So I’d really like to come and visit you and say Hey. What are you doing? What are you having a problem with? Let’s get you better at this. And just be there for a couple days, and get people really moving and really making progress using it. I just think that would be a lot of fun to do.
AH That would be crazy fun to do. That’s awesome. Let’s take a break and talk about our halftime sponsor.
Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Artichoke, the simplest way to manage your business of one or your team of up to 10 people. Whether you’re looking for online scheduling, website, one-touch payment processing, customizable appointment reminders, gift cards, or awesome client notes, it’s all possible with Artichoke. Best of all, Artichoke works on any device, and it’s simple to set up and get started. Massage Business Blueprint listeners can try free for 30 days and save 20% off the published rate for one year by going to massagebusinessblueprint.com/artichoke.
AH All right. So let’s talk about the value of a personable website with our guest Barry Hatfield. Barry and I were having a conversation about websites, and he had the epiphany that he’d gotten a few new clients in the past week, and when asked where they came from, it was always doing a Google search, seeing that he has good Google reviews, and then really poking around his website. So, Barry, tell me about the evolution of your website and what you’ve come to realize in the past, probably, 6 months to a year about how it’s being used by potential clients.
BH Yeah. It started off — I guess the very first thing I did was I started a free one with ABMP just to kind of get my foot in the door and understanding what I wanted it to have and say, and since it was free, I could play around with it and try it. Then I moved on to having my own website that I pay for and host myself and everything. When I talk to people about massage, you get the same kind of questions for one thing, and you get the same kind of questions from the public and the same kind of misconceptions. Because I think a lot of the people, their main information about massage comes from TV and movies, and you know how accurate TV and movies are in portraying real life. Right? They’re there to entertain; they don’t really care if they’re giving you an accurate picture. So I started answering questions that people have. And then when my clients — I would notice this is the fourth person this week who’s asked me this same question, and so I started answering those questions in blogs, in blog posts just because it was such a common thing that people were saying — were asking me these things and I thought Hmmm. I just talked about this. I bet a lot of people have this question, too. And then as I thought about it — because I was new to massage, I hadn’t been getting massages my whole life; I hadn’t gotten a massage until I looked into going to massage school. I started thinking about the things that I had questions about, and I had a couple of friends I started talking to and said, “What kind of questions do you have about massage?” Because there are questions that people ask and there are questions that people don’t ask, because they’re kind of embarrassed; they don’t really know is that something we should talk about. I don’t want to talk about this, but I really have a question about it. I started writing blogs about that, too, just to try to answer every single question I could think of. Because if you understand before you walk in the door, you’re going to feel much more comfortable, and you’re get a much better massage, because you know what to expect. So that’s how I started off. And so I started with my website; I started with writing a blog. And then I have in my frequently asked questions part, I have a lot of — I answer those questions and I point to my blog here’s the answer for. So instead of just a paragraph, I have a whole blog post about it.
AH What are the most popular blog posts you’ve got?
BH Well the one that gets read every single day — I see it on my results when I look at it is — I wrote a blog post on clothing, and I call it Massage? But I don’t want to take my clothes off. And I said Don’t. I don’t care. I just want to give you a massage. I want you to feel comfortable. I just walk though that whole process: Here’s what I think about — if I walk in and someone’s on the table wearing “this”, this is what I think: I don’t care. And if they are wearing “this”, this is what I think. And the answer is I don’t care. I just want you to feel comfortable enough to let me give you a massage. So I just try to walk through the questions that people have and just try to make them comfortable. Well, why do people take their clothes off? Well, it helps a little bit. What if I don’t want to? Okay, then don’t. There are ways to work with clothes on. What if I have body issues? I even put in some things about what not to wear: don’t wear a space suit and Star Wars imperial trooper uniform…
AH [laughs] And I think — it’s a really big deal. I think after we go through massage school, we’re so used to taking our clothes off and not caring about bodies, that we forget that that’s not everyone’s normal feeling; that’s not everyone’s normal state of being, and our job can be weird in that we meet someone and five minutes later we ask them to take their clothes off. And there’s two sides to this. There’s people who feel very uncomfortable taking their clothes off, and there’s people who want to do it, but feel like they’re being rude. The number of people I’ve talked to who — especially men — who have not taken their undergarment off for massage because they felt like it was rude. And meanwhile, of course I can work the hip and the glutes and all sorts of stuff through clothing, but sometimes it’s better, if they’ve got a hip or glute issue, to be able to work directly on the skin. And I realized that, much later in my career, that they just needed to know it was okay. They were doing it out of a sense of propriety and not because of nervousness; they just wanted to be polite. At some point somebody told them, no, you should definitely leave your underwear on during a massage. So it kind of goes both ways. People need permission to keep it on and feel comfortable, and they need permission to take their clothes off and be okay with that and know that you’re okay with that too. It’s very much a double-sided coin: I love your Massage? But I don’t want to take my clothes off blog post, and I’ll totally put a link to it in the podcast notes. And I think when reading through it, because I re-read it when I was prepping for this podcast, where I can read that post and then get a really good idea of who you are.
And I say this personally, because we got to know each other online, but also because you mentioned when we were having a conversation that — and I’m going to quote you directly — “The people who spend some time on my website get an understanding of how I work and my sense of humor. I’ve noticed that with them I feel immediately comfortable and they seem to as well.” And here’s the kicker: “I feel like we already knew each other even though we just met.” So to have a client feel like they already know you before they even walk in the door is priceless, and that gets over the hump that some people might feel being nervous about getting massage, and it especially helps people feel more comfortable with a male massage therapist, because that can be a bit of a hurdle — it’s not always, but it can be, and I think that that’s — I don’t know. That’s just priceless. I don’t want to babble on about that. What else? Is there any other blog post you want to mention as being super popular and super helpful for any reason?
BH Well a couple of fun ones that I did that were also still helpful — I try to — I have a sense of humor and I try to use it. One thing I did was I did an interview with my massage table. So talked to my massage table and asked it questions and wrote down the answers and wrote it so it sounds like a conversation when you read that. So that’s in my blog: An interview with my massage table; that was kind of fun. I did — I channeled my inner Yoda and wrote one by Get a massage, you should. No. Go ahead.
AH I was just going to — so many people are afraid to be fun, and you can absolutely be fun without being inappropriate or unprofessional. It’s good stuff. The Yoda one is just fun. It’s some good thoughts and it’s put into a fun format, and it doesn’t have to be — your stuff is very smart, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science. And I think that’s part of what I’ve loved about watching your blog evolve, and it’s inspired me in a lot of ways, is you make it fun without making it too intense. Not every blog post needs to be an examination of five different studies on pain science. It just needs to be some information about massage and some information about your massage that make people feel more comfortable coming in.
BH Yeah. One of the things — going back to what you were saying earlier was — I do have some challenges being a male massage therapist, especially in this past year where there’s been all these accusations against men doing things. I developed my website to say, Okay. If you’re reading this, then you should get the idea that I’m a professional, that I’m here to do my job, that I know what I’m talking about, and this is how I’m going to treat you. And so that really really has helped overall in my business is that people if they read it — if they read my website, if they read my blog and they get the idea that yeah, this guy does know what he’s talking about. I’m not an expert on anatomy and on and on and on, but I do know what I’m talking about with massage, and I do know what I’m talking about with business, and how do I treat you as a customer.
AH Yeah. And that’s a really — it’s a nice kind of quiet confidence that just shows that you’re comfortable with the work that you do and that’s really confidence-instilling for the client too. I think it’s a really big deal.
BH Yeah. One thing you mentioned — massage is such a personal thing. So if you just moved to town and you want to get a massage, and so you don’t really know anyone to refer you to; so you’re going off a website; so how do you know who to go see? Can I trust this person? Because not only — when you do a massage, you’re going to be touching people in areas that hardly anybody in their life touches them. Not many people let you touch their leg. And you have to prove to whoever it is — who wants to come in to see you that you’re going to do what you’re going to do, you’re going to do your massage, and you’re going to be professional about it, but you can also have fun doing your job.
AH And you do. And you pull that off very well. I don’t pull it off as well as you do, but you definitely inspire me to get different topics covered. There’s one more bit that I want to touch on. You mentioned to me that you noticed you don’t get a lot of the problems that other massage therapists complain about. And we see lots of complaints from massage therapists in various forums, where I know we both participate. What are some of the things that you see people complain about regarding their massage business that don’t happen to you.
BH Well, I don’t get many no shows. Someone makes the time to look into me and read my website and check around a little bit, then they can see they’re going to get something valuable for their time. So if they’ve made that effort into doing that, then they’re going to show up when they make an appointment. I get very few no shows. I get very few people who just complain about things. I work really hard at making people feel comfortable. If you do only what you want, but you’re not giving people the service that they are looking for, they’ll just go somewhere else.
AH And I think it’s a certain mindfulness, too, in the information you give out. I see people complain that they get a call or a text from clients at 9:30/10:00 at night. You know what? If you have your office hours on your website, really clear in multiple places, and you have your link to online scheduling really clear and obvious in multiple places, you’re not going to get those calls. Or if you do occasionally — because some people are just never going to read your website; they’re just going to see the number and call you — you can ignore them, because you feel comfortable ignoring them, because why– you don’t need to answer calls that come in at 9:30 or 10:00 at night. Or you have clients that come in and are aggravated because you don’t take checks or you only take cash, but if you have that written all over your website, if you have that in your first “what to expect from your massage” blog post, and you have that in your email confirmation, you’re not going to get people who don’t know this — very randomly, very rarely — because you’ve put that information out. So there’s a mindfulness element to if you really think through what the information people are looking for and what they need, and you supply that in a couple of different ways and you reinforce that, no one’s ever going to be confused about what they get at your office. It’s very clear from your website, from your service menu that I’m not going to go into your office and get a salt scrub. So if I walk in and say, Can we add a salt scrub to my massage today? and you say, No. I don’t do that. That’s not a surprise to me. I’m not going to complain about that. I’m not going to complain that there wasn’t a locker room and a fancy robe for me at your place. And that’s a really big deal, and I think you’ve really mastered that.
BH One of the things I did in the past couple years was I asked a couple of people to do some Google reviews for me. That’s been huge for my business; it’s really helped a lot, because these are not just testimonials on my website where people say, oh, you can type in whatever you want there. These are real people who’ve taken the time and added a Google review for my business. And so I check every once in a while. So for my city, I have the most Google reviews and the best Google reviews in my city. I don’t say that to say I’m bragging about it, but when people see that, I get popped way up in Google for that. So that gets people to my website to start with. Once they’re on my website, then I can start saying Okay. This is what you’re going to get. This is what you should expect. This is who I am. This is how I’m going to treat you. Okay? That’s when people actually do that instead of just calling and saying Hey, do you do couple’s massage? No, I don’t. Do you do salt scrubs? Nope. I don’t do that. People look on my website and they say Okay. He answered my question about this, and I didn’t even ask it. He answered this question. He answered this question. So I know what I’m walking into. That’s a really big benefit that I’ve seen. And when people do that, it does feel like — that I know them, and I can use some of my sense of humor to start with, and we can talk about some things. I don’t talk during the massage, but just to get to know them a little bit to start off with, that’s really really important; so they feel comfortable. Once they feel comfortable, then they can really relax and get the massage that they need.
AH That’s brilliant. And I’m so in awe of your ability to use your website and your Google reviews and all of that to really attract the clients who are perfect for you. And thanks, Barry. Thanks for teaching us all this stuff today, and thanks for showing us what you’ve done. We really appreciate it.
BH Well, I started off with a blog that — because I learned a lot from you. So I want to say thank you and some other people who helped with that and kind of got me going, and, once I got going, I just ran in my own direction. [laughs] But I want to say thanks to you for what you’ve done the last couple years, and now this business blueprint thing is really helping a lot of people. So I appreciate that.
AH Yeah. You know what? We had a really good team there at the beginning, too, with Kelli Wise doing all sorts of stuff through her Massage Therapy World, and I think we all learned a whole bunch about effective websites back when content marketing was becoming a thing. It’s been a really fun ride. [laughs] I really love it, and I’m so grateful.
And I’m so grateful to everyone who has listened to this podcast today. You can find out more about Barry at — Barry, what’s your website address?
AH Thank you. I couldn’t flip screens fast enough to find it. [laughs] Hudsonmassagetherapy.com. We’re also going to have some links and a little more information about Barry and some links to some of these amazing and popular blog posts that he’s written in our podcast notes. Thank you, everyone, for listening. You can find out more about Massage Business Blueprint at massagebusinessblueprint.com. We’ve got all sort of resources for you there, all sorts of information, and we hope that you check it out. If you have any questions or suggestions for podcast topics, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again, Barry, for joining us. It has been a delight. I cannot wait to share this with people.
BH Thanks for having me.
AH And, everyone, have a really wonderful day.