Many expectant parents browse the Internet in their search for childbirth classes or birth-related services. Fortunately, the many website-building tools available make it easy for childbirth educators, doulas and other birth professionals to build their own website and provide instant information to potential clients. However, a poorly designed or incomplete site may hurt your chances of attracting clients. Often, basic information is omitted from websites that could make the difference in helping you generate more business. Here are some tips that we have learned along the way.
1. Include a brief summary of what you offer on your home page. Make it easy for prospective clients to understand your basic services immediately and provide links to additional information on other pages (like an “about me” page, “class description” page or “class schedule” page).
2. Describe (briefly) what makes you or your services unique. When writing this section, think about your personality, your experience and your passion. Be honest about your experience and specific about what you offer, how much it costs and why prospective clients should choose your services over others. You don’t have to go into great detail (such as sharing your 10 page birth story), but you should include information that you are comfortable making public, which can help prospective clients get to know you better.
3. Put the geographical area you serve and your contact information in multiple places on your site. The omission of location is common on many of the websites we have seen, which makes it difficult for prospective clients to know if you are nearby. It is very important for you to provide a quick, convenient and easily accessible way for clients to contact you. You don’t need to put your home address and phone number, but do include the region you serve, have a “contact me” form or set up an email address just for your business that you check regularly.
4. Be prompt in returning phone call and emails concerning your services. Though this isn’t a website design issue, we have found that there are many birth professionals (us included on occasion) who get busy and end up waiting days or even a week or more to get back to prospective clients who contact them. In the meantime, most prospective clients will have continued their search and may have moved on. It can sometimes help to draft a standard email response for general inquiries that you can send out quickly. It also helps to keep track of clients using an app, spreadsheet or notepad, so you can be sure no one has slipped through the cracks.
5. Your design matters. Be sure your formatting is consistent; use the same font and font color throughout the body (main text) of your site. Make sure your font is not too large or too small. Use font colors that are easy to read with your background. Avoid fonts that are too ornamental and may be difficult to read.
6. Proof-read regularly! It is easy for errors to occur when you type, but it can give the wrong impression. Pay special attention to the accuracy of important content like the start dates of classes, course fees, your email address or phone number. Be sure to update this information on a regular basis as well. A class date from 2011 or a disconnected phone number will surely affect your business.
With a little planning you can easily create an amazing website that will make it easier to market yourself, help you attract clients, and be easy to maintain and update.
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At one point or another everyone is at risk of burnout. Those that work in a high stress or high demand job are at highest risk and let’s face it: birth professionals fall into that category. Birth is unpredictable, highly emotional and can be long and complicated. It is normal for birth professionals to have periods of time when they question the work they do, the value of their services or feel like they are stretched too thin. For some, a different path or line of work is a better choice, but for many, burnout can be minimized or avoided with some of the following adjustments.
A network of support - You will feel so much better if you can vent, talk about a difficult experience or get advice from other birth professionals. A little venting goes a long way. Be sure to listen when your fellow colleagues need that support as well, and share your positive stories too!
A more equal exchange of value - A long, difficult birth or difficult clients where you only profit a small amount after expenses is not an equal exchange of energy/value. What profit amount would feel more equal and make these difficult situations less draining? Would earning more (or bartering for more services) help balance out the tremendous amount of time, energy and heart that you put into your job?
Time to process, let go of or heal from a difficult situation - Sometime a birth professional needs to take some time away from their work to heal, soul search or even seek counseling. You will likely return to the services you offer with a better attitude and perspective. For some this may only be a week or two; for others it may be months or years.
Only bite off what you can chew - It is important to recognize your limits and say “no” occasionally. Yes, it would be ideal if every woman who wants a doula could have one at no or low cost, but it is not possible for you to be the one to do it all, nor is it going to benefit the women who hire you if you are burnt out, exhausted or disillusioned. Decide on the number of clients per month that work best for your situation (maybe 25 per month or maybe one every 2 or 3 months) and then stick with your limit. And be sure that there is an even exchange of value for most of the clients that you take on.
Manage your time efficiently - When possible, carve out work time that is strictly for your birth services and then use the rest of your time for your other responsibilities (spouse, children, other work, etc.). Schedule classes, appointments, or phone calls for this time. Only return clients emails/texts/calls during this time. Your clients won’t mind if you reply to them with recommendations for pediatricians in the morning instead of at 11 pm when they send you their request. Setting up time management boundaries will have you feeling less stretched and more focused on your family or other responsibilities (rather than constantly feeling like you “work, work, work”).
Resources at your fingertips - Make and keep an updated list of resources for common topics you encounter with clients and a list of contact information for professionals you recommend. Plumtree Baby has online resources with links to our references. Having resources at your fingertips will save you a lot of time searching for the same information over and over again.
Stay organized - There are some easy ways to manage client information and paperwork. Find an online tool for client management that is easy to use and helps keep track of your schedule, manage clients, accept payments, etc. If you are keeping medical records, be sure to use a HIPPA compliant app. Spend time updating your records each week during your designated work hours.
We hope this article helps you realize you are not alone and this happens to everyone at some point or another. You can avoid future burn out or get through it if you are in the thick of it now, and become an even better birth professional.
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Plumtree Baby, LLC
Whether you are a new birth professional or just going through a dry spell, it never hurts to evaluate your marketing strategies and try something new to attract clients. There are many ways to reach expectant couples, but here are a few tips we have learned over the years:
1. Word of mouth. One of your best advertising resources is your current friends, students and clients. Encourage them to tell others about you, and give each of your clients a stack of your business cards and/or brochures to give to their expectant friends.
2. Network with care providers and other birth professionals. It will serve your business well to deliberately reach out to area care providers and other birth professionals, and earn their respect as a peer. This may take some time, but if a local doctor or midwife begins to see a noticeable difference between your prepared clients and those who are unprepared, you may soon have that provider sending you referrals. Other birth professionals can send clients your way if they are too busy, in another part of town or taking time off.
3. Be an amazing doula. Your client is always your first priority, but as best you can, take advantage of opportunities to talk with and get to know your clients care providers. Introduce yourself, be respectful, and show them what an asset you are to the birth team.
4. Be easy to find. List yourself on national directories, local networking sites or make your own web site (an easy thing to do with many of the free hosting sites). Be sure to keep your current schedule posted and be prompt about replying to phone calls or emails. After you have established a relationship with one or more local providers, ask if you can leave fliers, brochures and/or business cards at their offices for patients. You can try to do this before establishing a trusting relationship, but some providers may not be willing to refer to someone they don’t know. Try to balance what you know (does this provider encourage their patients to use a doula?) to determine the most appropriate method and timing for approaching him or her.
5. Think local. Place posters, fliers and other marketing media in the local public places where pregnant women may happen upon them: fitness centers, grocery stores, libraries, community centers, day cares, or even restaurants.
What other marketing strategies have worked for you?
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Plumtree Baby, LLC