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Websites for Birth Businesses

I thought I might spend a bit of time this week talking about marketing skills.  So marketing 101 – there are two ways to get a customer/client.  You can either make someone you meet want what you have to sell.  Or you can help someone who wants the product you sell find you.  I am sure there are a myriad of theories that go into how to do each of those best, but that is as far as we will get into marketing theory.

Instead, lets chat about your website.  Why?  A website is an inexpensive way to help the people who want what you have to offer, find you. For the most part, websites are easy to maintain and offer a very low effort way for the general public to find out about you.  But just having a webpage doesn’t mean the visitors to your site are going to choose your services.

How do you get them to want to hire you?  You need to understand that your website, should you choose to have one, is your first interview with potential clients. Your website should answer all their basic questions, build their trust in you as a professional and give them a reason to call or email you.

Remember, the people who are going to find your website are already interested in the services you have to offer. Think about how the internet works – how does an expectant mother find your website?  She probably does a search for doulas in your state or city, or she follows a link from a list of childbirth education websites.  She is not clicking the link to find out what a doula is or why she should have one.  She is clicking the link to find out why she should hire you.

What does she want to know?  Basically, she wants to know these things:

  1. What services do you offer?
  2. What areas do you serve?
  3. How experienced are you?
  4. Are you available when I am due?
  5. How much do your services cost?

Working on the Natural Childbirth Directory, I see a lot of websites.  I can share with you the most common mistakes people make and how to correct them easily.

1.  What services do you offer? You would be amazed how many times I get submissions for websites who incorrectly list the services they offer.  For example, they tell me they offer childbirth education services without ever listing anywhere on their website this service is available. The most common problem is listing childbirth education as one of your “doula” services. This is confusing for readers who will think they cannot hire you for education unless they hire you as their doula.   The fix is easy.  Make a list of all the services you offer, and separate out the list so readers can easily tell what they if they hire you for different roles.

2. What areas do you serve? If your website does not say what regions you serve, including the state and/or country, you are losing business.  Why?  Because readers cannot find you in a search for doulas in your area if you don’t include your area on your website.  You basically make your website invisible to search engines. You are also likely to lose business from link services as well, because readers are less likely to contact you if they are not sure of where you work. Once again, the fix is easy.  Be sure to add your service area at the top of your main web page.

3. How experienced are you? Readers of your website want to know what types of training you have had.  This helps them determine what skills you have, and what philosophy of birth you have.  Telling potential customers you are new to paid doula work is not a bad thing, but be sure to share about the training you have had and previous experiences. Remember that other skills may help families choose you. So if you are also a massage therapist, have a background with herbs or aromatherapy, trained in photography or any other wonderful skill list it.

4. Are you available when I am due? You might not want to go through the work of keeping a calendar on your website, but you could list information about where you are in the scheduling process.  For example, you might keep a list of all classes you will be teaching for the next six months, when they start and end and when enrollment closes. Or you might post something like, “Now accepting clients for March, 2011 and beyond.”

5. How much do your services cost? Have you ever been at a restaurant that does not list its prices on the menu? It immediately makes you anticipate a very expensive meal. It is the same with birth services, if you don’t list it your readers will assume you are very expensive.  They don’t know by reading that your fees are negotiable or sliding scale or that you offer discounts unless you tell them. You have a fee, be open about it.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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