During your doula training, you were probably filled with an excited, nervous, passionate energy, dying to get out there and support lots of women and men throughout their journey to parenthood.
However, that excitement can soon turn into disappointment if you’re one of the many doulas who struggles to find clients, or as many clients as you’d hoped.
The doula movement is strong and growing at a fast rate, as more women seek to become empowered and in control of their birth experiences.
So why aren’t you getting more births?
There could be a variety of reasons for this, which I will outline in another article, however here are 5 ways which can help you book more clients – FAST!
The great thing about this?
Most of these things are FREE.
#1: Participate In Pregnancy And Parenting Social Media Groups and Pages
This is a big one – and repeat after me – I AM NOT MY OWN CUSTOMER. Got it? Good!
Got it? Good!
It is much easier to become a successful business owner if you can get inside the head of your customer.
You need to understand how a client thinks and feels, what her biggest concerns, fears, frustrations and desires are, so you can turn those things into benefits of using your service – address her needs and wants.
You can try asking pregnant women around you when you find them, but you can also do this easily on a much bigger scale, by hanging out in pregnancy and parenting social media pages or groups.
Not only will you get to understand what potential customers want and need from a doula (or their birth experience in general), but also their objections, which are very valuable to hear. You then turn these around into positives in your marketing. An example of this is the common concern that a doula will take over the role of the father.
You also become a familiar face by participating in social media groups and pages. It builds trust. And trust me – they’re more likely to hire someone they know and have seen replying or interacting in their own community. I'd often see it in the BellyBelly forums (which are now closed) – members who were doulas would often attend other members births.
This may mean you might have to hang out in communities that you otherwise wouldn’t frequent.
But you want more clients right?
It’s just another form of promotion, only free – and you’re not blatantly doing the sales pitch which makes you more likeable.
It's a great opportunity to contribute to discussions to help inform and educate others too.
You need to go where your clients go.
Just a note before you go crazy joining social groups or forums – make sure you read the forum rules and guidelines, as most do not allow self promotion and posting business details everywhere (this is spamming). So make sure you have the green light to post links freely if you want to promote.
It pays to contribute, as long as they are genuine, thoughtful posts, or people will see right through your spammy motives.
#2: Volunteer To Help In Childbirth Classes / Information Sessions
Here’s one which will put you in the immediate grasp of your target market!
When I was starting out well over a decade ago, I volunteered at birth information sessions run by a local organisation.
In the sessions, they discussed doulas and the importance of them.
There were always eager couples at the end, wanting to know more and to speak to an actual doula.
It didn’t cost me a thing, and put me in the place I needed to be to get some clients!
I was also allowed to have my brochures on the information table which was great.
#3: Ask To Be A Guest Speaker In Birth Classes
This is another good one, which costs you nothing but your time.
It gives you the chance to introduce yourself as a doula and to talk about what a doula does.
Being a guest speaker will give you a very good opportunity to hand out your brochures to pregnant women.
No matter if it's an independent birth education class or in a hospital, it helps to spread the word on what a doula does, and might just get you a few clients.
Hopefully they won’t want to snap you up at once, or you might ending up having a very busy couple of months!
#4: How’s Your Website Looking? Or Not….
We all know that a website is crucial for many businesses. If you have a great word of mouth referral network, or have a community that is actively seeking natural birthing options and knows of you, it might not be that big of a deal.
But for the majority of doulas, especially when starting out fresh, they may end up scratching their heads wondering where to find pregnant women.
On the other side of the fence, a client may be scratching her head trying to find a local doula with good information on her website before calling her. People like to do their research these days, and just a name and a number will no longer do. They want to get a feel of you, be convinced by what your website tells them and feel confident calling you, before they do.
A website can be the difference between success and… not much success. There is good news – you can turn this around fast and websites cost a fraction of what they used to. Some are so easy to use and set up that you could do it yourself.
At the very least a Facebook page is a good start, as long as you are active on it and promote it – I see lots of doulas with Facebook pages that just sit there and look barren instead of a hive of activity.
#5: How Are You Marketing Yourself?
This is another issue I see a great deal in the doula world – poorly written marketing materials, too much talking about yourself (remember a time having a conversation with someone who just talked about themselves all the time? Easy to zone out, huh?), vague information, poor grammar, or just a poor understanding of marketing or advertising in general.
The big question you need to answer for your client is: what is the big benefit for me? What do I get out of it?
You could be forgiven for thinking that you have to ‘sell’ yourself so people will choose you as their doula. But the majority wont be sold on your personal experiences (unless you specialise in something like twins, VBAC etc) or your journey to becoming a doula. Consumers these days want to know what's in it for them! Again, repeat after me – I AM NOT MY OWN CUSTOMER.
You need to be in the mind of a mainstream consumer who will likely know little about what you do, doesn’t know the jargon that you do, but wants to be wowed by the things they can look forward to by hiring you. If you don’t know what your customer really wants, needs, thinks and feels (don’t assume you just know, because your experience is not theirs), then you wont have many of them.
Also, when you don’t market yourself effectively, those all important, precious advertising dollars are wasted. You may run a campaign, get very little or no results and then decide it was the biggest waste of your money, so you wont be back… only, it was the way you wrote your ad that let you down. Your adverts are only as good as the written words on them.
The BellyBelly Marketplace is a great spot for listing your services as a doula – not just because BellyBelly has around 2 million monthly visitors, but also because BellyBelly links any references to finding a doula (in the articles), to the Marketplace.
By striking while the iron is hot – when they have just read about doulas and want to find out more – this will help boost enquiries.
However, if you don’t write an appealing advert addressing the above, your response will be limited. Why should they choose you?
Improving Your Doula Business
Many business owners go into business with little or no start-up money, business knowledge or education… then try to run on a shoestring budget.
This can put you in a difficult and unpleasant place.
If you don’t want to spend any money on personal growth or your business, then how do you expect people wanting to spend money on you?
Spend some time learning about business, through mentors, books or education, so you can make a real living from what you love doing.