Partners in Pregnancy

1. Circuit Interview (14 October, 2014)

Liz Earle started to train as a midwife in the UK’s NHS (National Health Service), but quit the profession when she noticed that the reality of modern midwifery was overwhelmingly negative, concerned with minimizing risk, rather than taking a qualitative and positive attitude, offering pregnant women options that could deliver the best quality of birth.

Liz trained in hypnobirthing, and is now trying to build a small social enterprise (a for-profit business run like a non-profit), which can let her have a much more positive impact on parents.

It emerged that the crux of Liz’s business challenge is trying too many ideas (she has at least seven offerings), but not enough time to do them all. I am proposing she develop her single product idea (all the other offerings are service), which has the most potential to scale and to deliver the kind of cashflow she needs to see sustained growth and to have the maximum possible impact in the world.

1.1 Overview (MP3 | 16 minutes | Download: 27MB)

1.2 The Brand (MP3 | 41 minutes | Download: 66MB)

1.3 Products and Services (MP3 | 27 minutes | Download: 43MB)

1.4 Market (MP3 | 17 minutes | Download: 28MB)

1.5 Problem (MP3 | 24 minutes | Download: 38MB)

1.6 Propositions (MP3 | 39 minutes | Download: 18MB)

2. Circuit Review (21 October, 2014)

2.1 General Direction (MP3 | 12 minutes | Download: 5MB)

Here’s a summary of my analysis of the PiP Circuit, with the reasoning why I am proposing they focus on the only online product option.

Essentially, this fledgling business has multiple potential business streams (i.e. Circuits). The service ones all share the same limitations. The product option is far more appealing, not only in terms of profit  (and what that may make possible for the business), but also for getting this vital information to as many new mums-to-be as possible.

Circuit Breakdown

  1. Brand
    • Origin story is powerful (walking out on midwifery training for reasons of conscience); puts the rights of pregnant women first; that should connect with the WHY of the target audience.
    • Name: “Partners in Pregnancy” is appropriate to everything they want to offer.
    • There’s clearly passion there, a strong desire to make a real difference (not just to make a profit), which I think people will connect with, if the story is told boldly.
    • The brand stands for women’s right to have “your birth, your way,” championing natural / home births wherever possible, and also taking a stand that giving birth does not need to be scary or distressing (in most cases).
    • It stands against the default (NHS) approach that is overwhelmingly concerned with minimising risk (to the NHS), and is only partially concerned with the potential to make birthing a positive experience. The outcome is that mothers are rushed through an industrialised birthing factory, have pain relief pushed on them (even if they don’t need it), and sent into theatre for C-sections far too frequently. All these factors can have long-term detrimental impact on the mother and on the baby.
    • What would maxing the WHY look like? Giving tens or hundreds of thousands of women access to the support they really need in order to prepare for great births.
    • The global proposition = “You Deserve Your Birth, Your Way”
    • The immediate goal seems to be for Liz Earle to be able to work on developing PiP full-time. Longer-term, it would be to reach many times more women than she can do now.
  2. Products & Services
    • This is where the Circuit breaks down. We have too many P&S. It’s clear to me that the “Online Antenatal Classes” are definitely the way to go, for the simple reason that digital products have natural strengths over services:
      • Digital products are not limited by the usual service limit: hourly rate x # people x # hours.
      • Most services are limited by geography. DP are not. (In fact, we might think about rolling this model out to other countries.)
      • Record once, sell many times over, means that there’s no real limit to the number of times an hour’s work can be consumed, or can benefit a customer.
      • Marginal cost-of-sale means that gross profits are almost 100 percent.
      • Also, sales funnels can be entirely online, which means they’re scalable too.
      • Bottom line… We could get one, a hundred, or a thousand new customers per day.
    • Just sticking with the “Online Antenatal Classes” for now. These offer:
      • Access to ALL the pregnancy, birth preparation, birthing, and post-natal advice you need – provided by independent professionals.
      • So that you can make fully-informed choices about what’s BEST for YOU and best for your baby, not just what’s best for the National Health Service’s statistics.
    • Trustmarks are somewhat limited. We can show qualifications, and probably have some great testimonials.
    • Note: the product does not have a name yet.
  3. Proposition
    • There are multiple benefits of the “Online Antenatal Classes”
      • Affordable (could be delivered for under £50, compared to £145-£300 for NCT courses)
      • Universally accessible. Doesn’t matter if you’re housebound in the inner city, or in a remote cottage on the Isle of Lewis. If you’ve got Internet, you can get the course.
      • Universally available. NHS classes tend to book up early. There’s no limit to availability with online courses. And you don’t have to wait for one starting near you. You can join instantly on any day.
      • No travel required (which may be an issue with most courses that are delivered in the third trimester).
      • Accessible 24/7, i.e. when YOU need support or advice.
      • Available for a FULL 12 months (possibly), not just in the last 12 weeks. That means you can get informed and start making your choices and preparations earlier. Plus, you get plenty of support after your birth.
      • No time limit. You can get dozens (even hundreds) of hours of recorded videos from multiple professionals (not just one midwife or community health worker), plus with professionally-staffed forums you can ask as many questions as YOU need to, without embarrassment. Most NHS or NCT classes are limited to 7-20 hours, and that may not be enough time for you to get the answers to all your questions that you really need in order to be confident you’ve made fully-informed choices.
      • If we could do live video chat rooms, available 24/7, that would be an incredible comfort and benefit to anyone who needs support NOW.
    • The product’s uniqueness is that it offers far more information and guidance than any other provider, all from professionals, that’s completely unbiased, so that women get ALL the information they need, WHEN they need it, so that they can be 100% sure they’re ready for the birth they want, their way (i.e. the promised outcome).
    • Scarcity does not apply. Urgency is an effect of the natural timing of pregnancy. But we would aim to enrol customers as early as possible.
    • The sell should not need much conversation or Q&A. A free taster of material would give a good idea, backed up with as much social proof as we can muster.
    • This would be a long-term, rolling promotion (making SEO and organic-social appealing).
  4. Problem we solve
    • Overall problem: “How can I know I’ve got all the information and support I need to plan the right birth for me and for my baby?”
    • Additional problem factors:
      • NHS classes fill up quickly.
      • They’re limited to a few hours, so you may not get all your questions answered.
      • There may not be one starting near you.
      • It may be a hassle to attend.
      • There may be a charge for NHS classes. NCT classes cost a lot more.
      • You may not get on with the individual presenting the classes (look up reviews of NHS classes, which are generally a lot more negative than I expected).
    • The problem is not persistent (outside the pregnancy period) and is very unlikely to be frequent, as most mothers approaching their second or subsequent births should already feel informed.
    • There are many potential negative consequences if the problem (of lack of timely information) is not addressed. However, there is a lack of education around these consequences. While we do not want to be too negative (or scare-mongering), we ought to outline the consequences of making the wrong decisions as part of the pre-sale education process. It’s natural pre-sale (free) content as it helps to define the need.
  5. Market
    • The market is large and easily distinguished (focusing on first-time mothers):
      • There are about 750,000 live births in the UK each year. It is likely that over 150,000 of these are first births.
    • The market is overwhelmingly at Step Two: They know that NHS classes exist, and possibly NCT classes.
    • Liz finds that the majority of customers who are interested in positive birthing are white, middle class, and fairly well educated. They’re probably not young mums, so over 20?
    • There is a shift of thinking required to convince them of the benefits of our offering:
      • It may be that lack of availability of physical classes is enough.
      • However, we need to distinguish this offering from other online courses too.
      • The main difference should be the solid focus on providing ALL the information mums-to-be need, without sugar coating, and 100% honest. That’s our edge, and we should keep it sharp!
      • The precursor or matching worldview to our offering is, “I deserve my birth, my way… (Not the way the medical establishment wants me to do it)”
      • I’m sure we can find plenty of horror stories to taint the default NHS route.
    • Do they congregate online?
      • There are a LOT of pregnancy groups and pages on Facebook.
      • e.g. Pregnancy Corner has over 1.1 million likes.
      • There are also plenty of alternative health and healthy living groups.
      • There should be plenty of scope for affiliate marketing, maybe also “guerillaffiliates“?
      • Plus, EVERY mum-to-be is given the “Emma’s Diary” book as part of their “bounty pack” by midwives. We can advertise in here for a few £thousand.

3. Campaign Design

This is turning out to be a fascinating campaign. (I’m beginning to wonder if every potential business campaign is truly fascinating, if you take the time to dig beneath the surface and get into the heart of what they want to achieve.)

Clearly, after the Circuit Review, the Product option (online antenatal classes) was the right proposition to take to market first, because it’s a digital/information product, so can therefore be sold an unlimited number of times, in theory. The strategy should be for that product to generate working capital, which can then be used to develop other areas of the PiP business.

Problem of No Product

Our challenge, then, is to take a brand new product to market. The product doesn’t exist in any form today, and it will eventually be significant in size. That means it will require a significant amount of work (i.e. investment) to complete.

That fact introduces restrictions, but fortunately there is one good proven model that we can draw on…

“J-I-T” Product Building Tactic

The first model is “Just-in-time”, which I used for the original Pro Web Design Course. This means that you go to market with an offer for an information product that doesn’t exist yet, and enter into a special trade.

Take the case of the PWDC. I started with a simple sales letter, saying I was about to start a six-month programme, and that I was looking for a restricted group of (in this case, 20) members for my “Foundation Group”.

Those early-bird or foundation members would not get instant access to an existing product. That’s the downside. And whenever we have a downside, we need to flip the perceived negative into a positive.

In this case, as with PWDC, the positive spin is that “you can be part of the group that we build the product around.” So you could get one-to-one interaction, which future participants won’t get.

In fact, this approach also benefits the product maker, because it lets them both design and tailor the material thanks to getting significant real-time input from a group of highly engaged real users. So it’s a win-win.

Vox Pop Styling

I thought that, particularly if we weren’t going to produce a lot of content up-front, that it might make sense to go against the default high-production-value video product that we’re used to seeing from Internet marketers, and instead to go with the YouTube-style “vox pop” approach.

We’re now living in a world where everyone can be not only a publisher, but a video publisher, thanks to carrying fully-featured audio-video recording devices literally in our pockets, and the ability to publish our videos with a few taps so that they can be seen by everyone in the online world, via YouTube, Facebook, and countless other channels.

This is just one example of how we’re moving away from top-down models to bottom-up models that empower individuals. So we don’t have to copy the way that media conglomerates produce and distribute content.

My idea is that we can go for a more interactive, sharing type of model, where members can post questions that get answered by a panel of experts using cheap (or free) webinar channels, and which can then be retrospectively sliced into short instructive videos on the various topics, which build over time into a comprehensive library of broad expert advice.

A quick domain search revealed that was available, so we snapped that up. (“Antenatal” is the British equivalent of “Prenatal” in American English.)

We also decided that, if we do go multinational over time, there should be different sites for different territories. One of the main reasons is that certain terminology differs, but also the way that medical and legal systems work would make some content redundant. It would also be easier to use a single currency. If we do have multiple sites, much of the content might be repurposed across several of them, but other content will require localised (or localized) versions :-)

Route to Market

So that J-I-T model informs the actual proposition. The next question is how actually to fund the development. The project will need some cash up-front to cover basic investment in hosting, web design, and the time that the founding experts will need to invest.

The first option I considered was a classic product launch, modeled on Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula”. I won’t reveal too much of Jeff’s proprietary IP here, but I would encourage to visit and enter your email to get Jeff’s pre-sales video sequence, where he explains the fundamentals far better than I could.

In brief, the PLF tactic centres on what Jeff Walker calls the “sideways sales letter”. Instead of presenting a long sales letter (which is vertical), you break the steps down and present them in a follow-up sequence, usually consisting of three videos, which entice prospects to enter their email address, join your list, and thereby receive the sequence (and of course more content over time if they don’t buy).

This is a proven tactic, but it can have its drawbacks. One is that you have to promise enough value up-front to get people ready to trade their email address. That requires an obvious, easily communicated problem or opportunity.

Now, the PLF sales page (as it currently stands) is using the following appeal, which is strong (and also honest)…

Do You Know The One Critical Strategy Behind The Most Successful Product Launches?

Does that apply to the proposition? We might find a simple appeal like that, and discussed ideas like, “The (three) things the NHS doesn’t want you to know about childbirth”, which is admittedly rather a confrontational angle.

Then I realised there was a potentially simpler route to market, which we could try before going down the conventional product launch route, which is…


Partners in Pregnancy is a self-proclaimed “social enterprise”, which means that its primary purpose is social good, and that surplus profits will always be channeled to further that mission.

With that in mind, and also considering the fact that ANTV is a campaign that people could get passionate about, I wondered if we could try crowdfunding first. We also have something to offer (in the form of early-bird / foundation membership), which might make a useful offer to give supporters.

I reviewed a few of the bigger platforms, including Start Some Good and Kickstarter, but selected IndieGoGo as the best fit. (Kickstarter is positioned to fund creative projects, and Start Some Good just felt a bit low-end for us, while IndieGoGo seemed to be both great for a social project and big and professional enough to get good exposure.)

Turning to the actual campaign design, the crowdfunding channel gives us a fixed structure to work within, simplifying many of the choices we might otherwise have to make.

  1. Reaching people: We can drive prospects to the campaign page, through social media, email, etc., but IndieGoGo also makes it easy for people to browse interesting projects to fund, which is a bonus.
  2. The Campaign page: This is the home of the “reason-why” story, usually including a video, which will take people from whatever their starting awareness step is (0-3) through framing the problem, explaining why the existing solutions are unsatisfactory, and presenting as an ideal solution, in other words taking them right through to Step 4 or even 5.
  3. Perks: These are the bonuses or bribes you offer people who pledge to fund the campaign. It’s good to have a range of perks that enable people to pledge anything they can afford, from small “tip” amounts to much larger bids.

There are several advantages to trying the crowdfunding route:

  • Less management for us. All the bidding and money handling is done for you, in return for around a 5% fee. (A lot less than, setting up the sales page, video hosting, payment processing, etc. for a new launch.)
  • There’s little up-front cost, although it’s still important to invest good time into your offer!
  • Because of that it’s really a no-lose option. We could raise tens of thousands, or very little, and all it really costs is our time to design the crowdfunding campaign, which is never time lost, as we should be able to repurpose some of the work in future alternative campaigns if needed.
  • There’s a ready-made channel that can reach new audience of people willing to fund social projects.
  • Plus we get some kudos from being featured on a recognised platform.

Next Step: Script the “Reason Why” Story Video » (Coming soon)

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