Monday, May 14, 2012

Doulas: What Market Should You Really Be Targeting?

Peace on Earth begins with birth.  I truly believe this.  This is why I am a doula.  This is why I have a non profit find-a-doula site to help families find the right doula for them.  I think it's important that women who are looking for our services find them easily.  I don't market myself though, so much as spread awareness of doula care.  For doulas who wish to make a living only doulaing, advertising is essential.

I've been hearing a lot about marketing in the birth professional world.  There's always some ad somewhere about marketing your birth business.  I hear a lot about target markets as well.  So let's be honest here,  you don't market to the person you know would want your product, you market to the people who has the persuasive power over the person who wants your product.  As doulas we forget the influence the family members and peers have on first time mother's decisions on her pregnancy and childbirth care.  Women who had discussed having a doula with their families described to me how their family reacted to their wishes, "Why would you want one of those?" Many a time women have said to me: "Oh , I wanted a doula, but my sister/friend told me I wouldn't need one, she'd come with me instead."  This extends through much of their pregnancy choices, how many doulas have heard: "I want a home birth but my family doesn't think it's a good idea so..."

 How do we influence the "influencers"?  Simple: Doulas need to be normalized.  We need to be seen by others, not just women during the part of their lives that our society often wraps in secrecy.   The more comfortable and aware of doula care our communities are the more likely they are to support women in their doula choice.  If our society is able to recognize that doulas provide a service worth paying for, then maybe, just maybe, our communities will begin to believe that how a woman gives birth is important.

Another aspect of normalizing doula care is by being honest with ourselves and our clients about the care we provide.  We are not a magic pill, and though the research points to a doula being present lowering the risks of interventions significantly, hiring us does not guarantee an intervention free birth.  It does however guarantee that we will be there, supporting the family through whatever may come.  We are the hand to hold, the reassuring voice in times of doubt and the gentle reminder to ask questions.  We also need to realize that not every woman needs a doula to have an empowering birth.  In fact I believe very few women need a doula.  If there's anything I've learned through this career, it's that women are strong and capable of amazing things. I drive along side her and offer sips of water while she runs the marathon and I am in awe of her.  The truth is, I know she could have done it without me and I hope that I did a good enough job supporting her that she knows that too. 

The less wrapped in mystery (or mysticism for that matter) we are, the more seriously we will be taken as a profession.  The more seriously we are taken, the more opportunity we have to positively impact new families one birth at a time.  It's time to think outside of the belly and into our communities and government.  Marketing need not just be about finding a client, it can be about changing the world.