Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Your Birth Business Part 4B

Advertising and marketing. Marketing and advertising. Aren't they the same?

In the book, Creating and Marketing Your Birth Related Business, the differences between these two important terms are identified. However, once your have declared your target market, it is then time to advertise your business.

Take websites for example...

Some business owners believe that if they have a website, everyone will flock to it. While that may be true, first the web visitor must know that the website is there! How do you let people you and your website exist? Simply put, it takes alot of hard work.

Meta tags are HTML elements. Meta tags may contain information about what the page is about (keywords and description), who wrote the page, when they wrote it and much more. Many search engines use this information when indexing pages. They are hidden from the view of the visitor but are located on the creative side of the web page.

Spiders are actually a program which gathers webpages to allow them to be indexed by search engines. They crawl through the internet by following links on a webpage.

Traffic Counters can tell you who is visiting, where they are from, and what pages they are looking at. Some counters rank the pages of your website by "most popular", showing you what topics your visitors are the most interested in!

Reciprocal links are similar to an agreement between two websites to provide links to each others sites. It can provide visitors with links to other sites of a similar topic. Search engines take the amount of incoming links into consideration when ranking your site.

Advertisers are companies that purchase advertising space on a website in the hopes of driving more business to their website. An affiliate (such as Google Adsense) is a marketing program which enables webmaster to place banner ads on the website and received a referal fee or commisson when customers click on the link to visit the merchants website. Why don't some websites (such as www.thebirthfacts.com) have advertisers or affiliates? First, websites such as this want the visitor to stay on the website and in these two cases, for educational purposes. The creator of both Birthsource and Birthfacts (me!) does not want the visitor to be distracted by other websites.

Most important, content!

Content may be, for the birth related business website, the most important item bringing visitors to the site. If the content is stagnant (is not frequently updated), is not relevant, or is just boring (lack of graphics, photos etc), then visitors may not visit or if they do, they may not return. Begun in 1999, www.birthsource.com now has over 1400 different articles and pieces of information for the visitor. Whether the visitor is an expectant parent or birth professional, there is something for everyone who visits there. The sister website, www.thebirthfacts.com, is an evidence-based website with links directly to research, searchable by topic. No opinions or commentary here, www.thebirthfacts.com is dedicated to the individual who wants just the facts for decision-making.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Your Birth Business Part 4A ~ Advertising & Marketing

Thanks to Jan Tedder of Hug Your Baby for creating this exciting video, promoting Creating & Marketing Your Birth Related Business! (Note: if you are viewing this on Facebook, go to the Childbirth Today Blog. The video will be there!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Your Birth Business Part 3 ~ Your Target

When building the foundation of your business plan, you will no doubt begin to consider to whom your services or products will appeal. As a birth specialist, you may begin by stating that expectant mothers are your main customers or target market. You may be a doula or childbirth educator or lactation consultant and, yes, you would be correct in your definition of your target market.

As the honing of your business plan continues, your target market may expand to include newborns or even the expectant partner. Sibling classes, support person's classes or products (such as books) designed with these persons in mind may be added to your plan.

Like Perinatal Education Associates, Inc. that began in 1999 with an informational website for expectant parents and then morphed into a multi-target company today, your target market may change over time. Before making such a change, go back to your business plan, specifically the mission and vision statement to see if those items still fit or if they need modification. Gradually expanding a target market is not a bad thing, it is just something that takes time, and careful consideration.

Ideally, we could look into a crystal ball and see if expanding a target market is going to be good for the company. However, trustworthy crystal balls are very hard to come by so a projected estimate of sales is the next best thing. Say for example you are a childbirth educator and wish to teach childbirth classes. Your community has an estimated 5000 births/year. The hospitals in your area account for only 33% of expectant parents coming to their childbirth classes. Is it safe to assume that the other 67% could be in YOUR classes? Probably not. When looking at the projected estimate in this case, you must look at other childbirth educators in your community, desire to attend classes, convenience of classes, etc. A good guess might land you 25% of the 67%. This number would still keep you busy!

You will still have to be innovative and in your marketing plan, show your target why they want to attend your classes vs. other classes. What do you offer that no one else does?

Marketing and advertising. What is the difference? Find out in Part 4.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Your Birth Business Part 2: The Dreaded Budget

Not your favorite topic? Many people share your feelings!

So take out one piece of paper and write down all of the things you will need to start or maintain your business. If you are a doula, all of the tools of the trade, any books that you want to either have for YOU on hand or in your lending library, videos....if you are a childbirth educator, add to the doula list charts, models and perhaps a nursing text or two. For any birth professional, add the cost of continuing education workshops that you need to maintain your certification(s) or licenses.

Then comes the marketing items ~ business cards, postcards, brochures, websites - oh for websites you need a computer. If you have a computer you'll need a printer, with ink and paper. Perhaps envelopes.... But if you call people, you'll need a phone. If you travel, your car will need gas....

Do you see how the list grows?

If you are just beginning, you will need to add all of these things up (estimated costs) and this becomes how much you will need for start up capitol. It may be somewhere in the $500 - $1000 range depending on your professional needs. That sounds like a lot but to begin a small business that is relatively low.

Now, go back to your list and prioritize your items by using different colors of highlighter marker. Select a color for each of the following: items I need now, items I will need in 2 months, items I can wait for 4 months, items that can wait until I have been in business for 6 months. This will incrementally reduce your initial investment and make you feel better!

With the holidays nearly here, don't forget to list some professional items on gift wish lists!

For more tips on creating your business budget, read Creating And Marketing Your Birth Related Business.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Your Birth Business Part 1

When I was speaking at conferences this fall about my new book, Creating and Marketing Your Birth Related Business, one thread seemed to resonate with nearly all attendees - creating a business seems overwhelming!

What I want to do in the next few blogs is take you step by step through some of the most difficult parts of becoming a business. The first part is the business plan.

Although there are many parts to a business plan, two of the most important parts is writing the mission/vision statement AND the budget. Part 1 will focus on the mission and vision statement:

Think of your mission/vision statements as the very foundations on which your business will be built. Obviously like a structural building, the foundation must be strong, clear and precise. So should your mission/vision statement.

A mission statement usually dictates how people are to respond in given situations. It is the guide in difficult or challenging times. A mission statement is a brief description of a company's fundamental purpose. A mission statement answers the question, "Why do we exist?" The mission statement articulates the company's purpose both for those in the organization and for the public. (Do the Non-birth Friend Test: show your mission statement to a non-birth friend, perhaps a male friend. If they don't understand it, start again!)

A vision statement photograph in words of your company's future, it provides the inspiration for both your daily operations and your strategic decisions.
A vision statement could be two or three sentences that answer three questions:

1. Who are our clients/customers?

2. What do we sell or provide?

3. Why would a client/customer find value in a business relationship with me/us?

Take two sheets of paper. Write Mission Statement at the top of one page, and Vision Statement at the top of the other. Take notes daily on these pages, related to Mission and Vision. At the end of this week, on November 13, you may have enough information and thoughts to create wonderful Mission and Vision Statements.

Here are some non-birth related Mission Statements:

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream: "To make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment."

Joe Boxer: "JOE BOXER is dedicated to bringing new and creative ideas to the market place, both in our product offerings as well as our marketing events. We will continue to develop our unique brand positioning, to maintain and grow our solid brand recognition, and to adhere to high quality design standards. Because everyone wants to have fun everyday, JOE BOXER will continue to offer something for everyone with fun always in mind."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Do you have 4 1/2 minutes?

I know your life is busy. But it is Wednesday and I am glad my friend CS posted this video.

Take time ....only 4 1/2 minutes. Sit back, turn down the lights. Become enveloped in the miracle of birth....