One way that doulas commonly want to use to market themselves is to get a booth at a fair or expo. Sometimes these can be a success, sometimes they are a BIG waste of time and money. If you are considering getting a booth at a fair or expo, you’ll want to carefully consider whether this is a good fit for you. Some factors to consider:
What is the anticipated number of attendees? If the book costs $400 and they anticipate 25 attendees, that’s very different from an event where the booth costs $25 and they anticipate 400 attendees.
What are the demographics of the attendees? The event organizers should know this. If they don’t know who their target demographic is, they’re not going to put on a great event. I’d rather be at a smaller event with pregnant women from my area than a national event for women of all ages. It’s not just about sheer size, it’s about WHO those people are.
Will you be able to book at the show? Some shows don’t allow on-site sales, which makes it harder to be profitable. Some do, which is a plus.
What is the total cost? Sometimes organizers sell you on a booth that costs $XXX but neglect to tell you that electricity and internet access are quite pricey add ons to that cost. Each one could be $50 a day! Ask lots of questions and make darn sure you know *exactly* what’s included. You also need to consider the cost of setting up your booth (both the one time cost of the materials and any one time expenses like candy to give away.) I *always* figure I will spend an unexpected $50 or so as I start putting things together.
How many clients would you need to book in order to break even? It the answer is “more than I can realistically do in the next nine months” – take a pass.
Are there intangible benefits to being at the show? For example, our first show with my husband’s software business we barely sold enough to break even, BUT we met two influential bloggers who later starting using his software – and singing the praises on their blogs. One has hundreds of thousands of users. When he blogged about it 6 months later – sales BOOMED. So if you can use the expo to connect and network with others in the same industry, it might be worth it even if you don’t make as many sales. But for me, if there are ways to connect with influential locals without the expense of a booth, I’d take it.
Some people think “Oh, I won’t get a booth. I’ll just show up in my doula T-shirt and walk around with flyers and hand them to people. Then I won’t have to pay!” Please don’t do this. It’s an excellent way to get on the bad side of the event organizers and all the professionals who paid to be there. Not a good plan.
So if you’ve decided to go for it, here are some tips to make the most of your booth:
Make it visually interesting with large photos, or a flower bouquet or something. Don’t put stuff on the front of the table, people stand in front of it. Think vertical ON or BEHIND the table instead. (If you did your homework, you know if you have something behind you to hang stuff on!) You can get large, nice looking table easels at craft stores, and have photos or graphics (that you have permission to use!) printed on foam board.
Have a “gimmick” to get their attention. Candy is a common one because it works, but something to get them to ask questions and engage with you might be better. People like free stuff, so if you can think of something to give away that will help you stand out, it might be worth the investment. Got any labor support tools that might catch the eye?
Stand near your booth. Consider moving the table to the back of your booth and standing in front of it if the space allows for that. Don’t sit, don’t play on your phone. Smile as people walk by. Ask a question if someone makes eye contact.
Collect the names and info of people you speak with. Follow up the next week with an email. Give out your card. You could thank them for coming by, and offer a small bonus if they book (with a payment!) within the next two weeks.
Be ready to book right then. Have a few copies of your contract on hand, ready to go on a clipboard. Have a credit card reader for your smart phone. I use (and love) Square Reader. (affiliate link – will get us each up to $1K in free processing over 6 months.) When you have a client ready to book, you need to be ready to seal the deal. People who know what they want (you!) don’t like to be put off.
Expo booth marketing can be a great way to get your name out there, but it takes careful planning and consideration to make it work.