Deborah Gilboa, AskDoctorG.com
AskDoctorG.com of Pittsburgh is an interactive platform for parents, offering seminars, interviews, articles and conversations to answer any parenting question, with the purpose of raising a generation of respectful, responsible, resilient children to adulthood.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: As a family physician, I’ve learned that most children’s health issues are radically affected by parenting. My “Ah ha” moment came when I saw an 11-year-old boy with a chronic cough. His cough was caused by his ¾ pack cigarette/day habit. His mother did not want to be buying him cigarettes, but felt she had no choice. In the course of one visit I was able to give her the tools and the confidence to help her son quit smoking, rather than continue to support his deadly habit.
Ideal customer: Large groups of parents who come together for any shared purpose on a regular basis.
First customer: My first check for a parenting seminar came from Ft. Jackson, an Army base in South Carolina. I ignored my own rule about refusing unpaid speaking engagements that required travel and volunteered to speak at a social media summit at Harrisburg University. Though I wasn’t sure how it would be useful to my platform, I believed strongly in the purpose of the panel to which I was invited — “The Power of Unplugging” — about putting boundaries around social media use for individuals and families. The developer of this summit remembered my name and mission, and when he was contacted by Ft. Jackson to see if he knew a speaker who could talk to parents about responsible use of technology, he recommended me. This opportunity not only paid very well, it has led to an ongoing relationship and several referrals.
Measuring Success: I do it in reach and income. By “reach” I refer to the number of parents, and others interested in the raising of children, following me on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, as well as subscribers to my website and readers of my Parenting Q&A blog. In addition to landing a military speaking engagement, I’m writing this on the plane on my way home from my first paid corporate seminar, at Sears Holdings, Parent Hard at Work. Over 50 parents who work at Sears in Chicago attended, and I was livestreamed to the Parent Worksite Education groups in their New York and LA offices as well. Another early success is my position as a regular contributor to Huffington Post Parents. Further, I have responded daily to HARO queries which has led to quotes listing my name and website in publications and internet periodicals including Parents, Parenting, USA Today Kids Health, MSNBC and Yahoo.
Biggest Struggle: To create a website that is professional, yet accessible. I need the credibility of a professional looking site so that human resource leaders and military commanders will understand the “expert” value I can bring to their employees. And yet, parents need to feel that they have come to a warm, safe place where their concerns will be met with empathy as well as resources. I have worked closely with my site designer, and do monthly focus groups with parents to make sure they feel welcome and supported. I’ve created videos on YouTube to be helpful to parents but also to show that I’m a real person. I use social media to show my more personal side and to give parents who feel intimidated by the site other points of connection with my business.
Surprise!: The difficulty of communicating with contractors. When I have a vision of something that I want for the business, it is so clear to me that I’m certain it must be clear to the person working with me as well. Whether it is a logo designer or photographer, website designer or PR person, I have had to learn to be more patient and clearly express what I need to bring my message to parents.
Promoting Business: My “store” is clearly my website. I put out a large chunk of capital completely overhauling the site. Since the launch of the new site in December, I have doubled the number of paid speaking engagements on the calendar, as well as increasing the number of periodicals that want to interview me for articles, which boosts my credibility and visibility.
What I wish I would’ve known: If I could go back in time and caution my business-self a year ago, I would say: “Move slowly when committing to ongoing relationships as a brand, as it’s hard to know what that entity may want from you or what your company will need” and “This will cost more than you think.”
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: I spend that can’t-sleep-for-worrying time thinking about the money that I am spending on ongoing expenses and wondering what else I could be doing to raise my income to match and exceed it, as well as whether I should be leaner in my expenses or if that would be cutting off my business nose to spite my face!
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: I’ve actually reduced my clinical hours so that I can give this my best shot. In the moments when I wonder if I am squandering our money on this venture, my husband reminds me that each parent I talk to becomes strengthened in their goals to raise kids they can respect and admire.
Moving Forward: To average one paid speaking engagement per month. To meet this goal I am creating and improving a leads list, hiring a PR intern from a local university marketing program, and creating videos to showcase my topics and skills. I am networking at live events and submitting to at least 3 “Calls for Speakers” each month. I’ve improved my marketing materials and added information about my seminars to every bio I submit when I guest post or write for another site.
Pricing: I suggest women do three things. Research comparable services and keep track of their pricing. Aim a little higher than you think you’re worth (as women tend to undervalue their work) and leave room for flexibility in your quote. If you do end up giving a discount, mark it as a discount on your invoice.
A Few Good Tips: 1) Advice is more easily heard when it comes paired with admiration. So find something you truly admire about your listener and express it. 2) It is possible to share both expertise and humility. 3) Own your knowledge. Deprecating your own expertise leads your audience to feel frustrated and misled.