How to automate your online booking system for small business

I love writing Guest Blogs. Sharing tips about how to make technology work for you, and your business is something I enjoy immensely. In 2018,  I wrote up a little something for Angela Henderson , from Finlee and Me, and Angela Henderson Consulting.

The blog is syndicated below:


As a business coach working with women in business, automating my online booking system was a major step forward in automating my business. I’m super excited to have Stephanie from Rocking Rose to share her knowledge about automating online booking systems for small business.

Take it away Stephanie…

This blog is about the mechanics, and some of the things to consider when setting up an online calendar booking system for professional services businesses, and specifically looking at what happens when someone comes into the first stage of your sales funnel.

In order to get the most of the tips and steps in this article, you will need to have done the below already:

  • You are crystal clear on your business purpose
  • You know your target market inside out. You know their habits, where they hang out IRL as well as on social channels. You speak their language
  • Your main content and messaging are done and ready to be pushed out into the world
  • You have already done some work around your credibility and branding and perhaps you have dabbled in social media

Assuming all the above – let’s chat about how you would automate so that someone who is just coming into your sales funnel doesn’t fall off the radar.

Learn How to Automate Your Online Booking System for Small Business

Grab a pen and paper, and list down the first few steps of your current sales funnel.

Maybe it looks something like this :

  1. 15 Min Free Phone Call /Discovery discussion
  2. Book in for Small package / Workshop
  3. CTA at workshop for bigger package / coaching

We can automate at several points just with the first step in the 15 min call booking and subsequent processes. So let’s look at the communication flow when someone uses a booking system to pick a time to speak to you.

Remember that the idea is to facilitate an easy flow of information, not to overwhelm your prospect with a daily spammy automated email – or make them feel like just a number being herded down your funnel.

So the first rule is to absolutely not put them in your list, unless they have explicitly said yes (and saying no is an option that doesn’t prevent them from booking with you).

Booking

There are a number of excellent calendar booking systems and tools to choose from, most of which will easily interface with your Google or Microsoft 365 calendar so that you can block out times when you are not available.

Some examples are Calendly,  Acuity Scheduling, SimplyBook.me as well as YouCanBook.me

The first automation step is to implement the calendar booking tool of your choice on your website.

Things to consider when choosing your calendar booking tool:

  • Does it interface easily with your current CMS or web platform
  • Does it interface with your calendar easily
  • If you’re planning on taking payments, does it offer easy implementation from a range of payment providers?
  • Does it interface ( or integrate ) to your CRM
  • Can you insert bookings into your video software such as Zoom or Appear.in
  • Does it have the ability to integrate with Zapier or a similar integration connector tool?

Booking Rules

Booking rules are how your booking system knows when you allow someone in, and when to show you as ‘Not Available’.

Tip – if you can, make sure to use the ‘random’ setting in your booking system so that it randomly blocks out time for you as unavailable.

Whilst you don’t want to be completely unavailable for weeks on end, on the other end of the spectrum you also don’t want to be fully available all day long (it’s not a good look).

If you prefer to work on sales on specific days, capture those rules into the booking set up so that you don’t get booked at a time when you are doing other work.

Confirmation Emails and Texts

Once the person has made a booking, your booking system should have a template for the booking confirmation which is sent immediately.

Make sure you enable and edit this template, do not use the default.

‘Your appointment is confirmed’ wording. It will sound robotic – and people can spot the template a mile off. You want to engage this person from the get-go.

Use your own language, and style and tone in your content. Change the subject, and if you can update the template colours to match your branding.

Appointment & Booking Reminders

Use the 24-hour reminder in your tool, to prompt the person and remind them of your booking with them. Again, don’t use the default wording.

In your own words, note that you are looking forward to speaking with them, be sure to give them a chance to make a ‘graceful exit’ with a rescheduling option.

It’s far better than being stood up (even virtually) even if it sounds counter-intuitive to offer this option.

After the Booking Has Taken Place

Use the automation template to send a follow-up email at a set point after your call. (1 day, 2 days, 3 hours – think about what makes sense for the booking type, and your business).

Dig into your process a little and decide if you’re going to use the email follow-up to do one of the below:

  1. Give them a CTA or a link to a specific resource that you always talk about in your discovery calls
  2. Ask them for some feedback, if your first point of contact was a freebie of some sort

Try not to cram too much disparate and unrelated information into this email (i.e. don’t make it a ‘covering all bases’ type of email – because those look terrible) – you want one actionable step, perhaps it’s a subscription to your newsletter list, or perhaps it’s giving you a review on Facebook.

If you do find yourself trying to do too many things in the follow-up email then consider setting up specific and different appointment types that trigger different templated follow-ups. Each follow-up then has the specific wording, information, and CTA, with relevant links for the type of appointment you offer.

Payment Integration

If you charge for your bookings, or you want to take a deposit before securing an appointment  – consider implementing an integrated payment platform.

Stripe and Square are two excellent options that easily integrate to a large majority of calendar booking tools and systems.

Consider the experience of your prospect if you take deposits, and insist on a bank transfer, or you have to email them your bank details to get a payment or issue an invoice manually.

The best way to automate is to consider at each step what the purpose is of the automation and to do so in such a way that you don’t lose the human touch of your brand and business.

I hope you found this article helpful and that you too will be able to automate your online booking system for small business soon, as life will be so much easier for not only yourself but for your clients.

 


You can find the original publication of this article at Angela Henderson Consulting : https://www.angelahenderson.com.au/how-to-automate-your-online-booking-system-for-small-business/

 

Angela started her consulting business because she kept getting asked in different platforms/forums for her business advice. Seeing a need for advice based on first hand experience , she took the plunge and began helping entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can find out more about Angela and her services at : https://www.angelahenderson.com.au 


How to add a user to your Google Analytics Account

One of my biggest bug-bears is sharing logins where it isn’t necessary.

In that spirit – here’s a quick HOW TO add users to your Google Analytics account (such as your marketing person, or your web developer for example)

Why would you add them as users and not simply just share your login ?

There are 2 reasons

  1. Google allows you to add users , and grant them varying degrees of access (security management) – at no cost.
  2. It’s a security risk every time you share passwords with anyone – so whenever possible, you should use the option to add a user when it is available.

Adding a user places the control back in your hands. As the account owner, you can revoke, or adjust the login settings and permissions of that user at any time.

If you’ve shared the main account login however, the other person has the ability to “go rogue” , which happens less often than we think, but often enough that most people have a war story or 2.

What is required ?

A google email address. The other person only needs a google email address. Note this is NOT a GMAIL specifically , as any email address that is associated with a google account will work, including the G-Suite tools – or a Youtube login.

Here’s how

Login to your account, find the “View” or “website” that you are tracking , and then click on the Cog titled “Admin”on the bottom left of the screen to enter the Admin Settings

Then select Account User Management from the first column of options displayed on the screen under the Account heading (and beneath the big blue +Create Account button)

 

Click on the Big Blue plus button on the right of the next screen, and then select Add Users

 

 

 

Enter the email address (associated with a Google Account) for the user, and tick the boxes to apply the permissions you want to give them. And finally click on the blue ADD button to save and add them. Ensure you have ticked the NOTIFY option so that they get an email informing them of their access and details of their permissions.

 

If there are any errors, you will see a message confirming what to fix or change, otherwise the update will be saved and you will see the new user in the list of users once the screen closes.

Happy updating!

If you need assistance with any Google Account products for your business, staff or managing outside vendors and service providers  – you know where to find us! Reach out and lets have a secure and confidential discussion

 


Google Adwords Express : an experiment in effectiveness

A few weeks back I kicked off an Adwords Express account for Rocking Rose. This was an experiment, specifically a Google Adwords Express experiment.

I had been hearing some chatter about Google Account Managers , and opinion was split between "their job is to get your money" and "They add value to your campaign and can really help you" amongst my marketing guru friends.

So I wanted to see for myself what the experience was like.

I opened the account, and initial thoughts were along the lines of it being a highly simplified and guided experience. As long as you know

  • Exactly What you're selling
  • Exactly what action you want people to take after viewing your ad ( ie sign up for a workshop)
  • Exactly Who you're going to target
  • Your Keyword research is done and ready to go

If you have no idea what you're advertising for, or if the content on your website is iffy and not already SEO optimised, then you'll struggle to put together a coherent and compelling advert.

Here's how it went down with me.

I put together a first draft of the ad following the guidelines and prompts of Google. My first problem in this process is that of all the million possible "Product or Service" options - I could not add in anything that remotely matched my service offering. I bumbled my way through several options, and eventually settled on the closest 'least-worst' option. Not a great start.

I think and write in full sentences, albeit succinct ones when the urge to be specific strikes me. So, the next step was really difficult, given the limited characters available for the sub title and details - but I managed.

I picked the audience, tinkered with the budget and then saved a draft ad to come back to later on.

Google Ad words team makes contact

Within 48 hours of saving the first draft , I had a very keen Adwords "account manager" on the trail. Several hounding and aggressive phone calls later we finally connected.

Right off the bat, I was not impressed. He had done cursory perfunctory research on my company and website - and was talking to me about IT Support, and IT Services, and I repeated myself several times using the words 'Technology, coaching and Coaching in the Technology space" . I eventually had to be supremely blunt with him and say outright "I do not do IT Support Services, I teach people" about 4 times before he eventually "got it".

Following on from that disastrous conversation he seemed completely unfazed by any of my "objections". I found him quite pushy and incredibly offensive in his behaviour. I know from experience that this is exactly how outbound sales call centre agents end up, when they are in a perversely incentivised environment. So for the sake of the experiment, I pushed on. But let it be noted Google , your outbound call centre is offending people .... just saying ....

The next big curveball

I got busy in my business right at that point, and had back to back client and prospect face to face meetings for a good couple of weeks lined up. I was also still very undecided on whether I would be advertising for my services in general (still not liking this idea entirely) - or something specific, such as a particular workshop coming up in the future.

My "account manager" hounded me through this time, once leaving 6 missed calls within the space of an hour on my mobile phone. At that point I sent a very strongly worded email telling him his 'persistence' was not appreciated, he could tell his manager that the 'special deal only available now' bullsh*t was exactly that, that I knew exactly how 'fake pressure' sales tactics worked and I did not appreciate them being used on me. I told him to go away for 14 days , and call me back with a better attitude.

14 days later - he called.

And we proceeded to place an Ad.

What I wanted to Advertise

I wanted to advertise for an upcoming series of workshops - primarily focussing on my most popular one - the Half day Mailchimp workshop. I have keywords and service details ready. It was not to be.

The Ad that go placed - with the 'expert guidance' of my account manager

Product or Service : Computer Training School ( I kid you not, this is what the 'expert' insisted we use.)

Related Search Terms :computer training school, it courses, computer learning, and computer training courses.

I gritted my teeth through that and only breathed a sigh of relief when he said he would manually add in the mailchimp related search terms for me from his end once the ad was live.

Additional Search Phrases : A whole bunch related to learning how to use computers , IT training courses , online training courses ,colleges for IT and computer schools - and then my account manager added in those specific search phrases related to workshops, training and learning mailchimp

Screen shot of google adwords search phrases which dd not match the actual service being offeredCustomising the Search Phrases

Right off the bat, before the ad was even live I removed everything to do with online courses - and a fairly large whack of the IT ones. I knew that people searching on those terms were almost 100% not going to be looking for help on how to use mailchimp. I also removed the phrases with 'College' , or 'IT school'. My account manager told me those were the most searched terms ( and hey presto conveniently enough also the most expensive in terms of bidding).

That may be true, but again - people looking to learn IT at a college are not going to be interested in a course learning how to use Mailchimp. Seems so obvious to me, I'm amazed a Google Ad's Account Manager didn't get it.

How is the Ad tracking now ?

I have since disabled a further 20 odd search terms. All of them related to learning IT or IT colleges or schools. These terms are in fact driving a fair whack of traffic through my website to the registration page for the various workshops that I run. there is a catch - not one single sign up. Can't say I was expecting anything different. When your search terms don't match your offering - well ... then ... (can you see me rolling my eyes over here ? )

To be fair - my sign-up page is pretty sparse and utilitarian. I did suggest to my "account manager" that perhaps given the goal of the ad, I should put up a new and separate landing page - with pretty pictures and much better content explaining the course material - he suggested it would not be necessary. I strongly suspect his motivation was more related to getting the ad live as soon as possible, rather than any achievement of my goals in relation to the ad spend. Yes, I know, I sound horrendously cynical.

The analytics saga

About 48 hours in, when I checked my Adwords express dashboard I was prompted to connect to Google Analytics - and I clicked, mistakenly thinking it would link ( through my google account duh!) to my existing Analytics account . It didn't. It created a brand new account , with a brand new tracking code which I am instructed needs to be added to the specific page I want tracked. So that's popped itself onto my to do list in the URGENT quadrant as well.

What the roadmap looks like from here

After installing this code - I'm going to run the ad for a week from 'live date'.  Then I'll turn it off, pull out all the analytics and take a deep dive into the data. You can expect another blog, maybe 2 once I'm done with my verdict on the usefulness of a Google Ad "Account Manager".

The verdict

Thus far, my experience with the Google "Account Managers" is not a good one, I'm $82 in to my ad spend for the month, with zero results. And for things that I would expect an "expert" on Adwords to be able to handle.

Watch this space for further updates once I pull the ad down and do my ROI analysis and experiment write up.


Uber me baby, Uber me

Uber

Nemesis of taxi Drivers everywhere.

The Ultimate Disruptor in transport.

*except for Self driving electric vehicles of course. ;-)

We recently began using Uber in earnest. Mostly for business related trips, up to the airport, the train station or to see a client where I don't have my car for the day. For those times when it's just not useful to drive and park your car at the airport for a gajillion dollars.

I loathe taxi's. Mostly I have had some really sh^&*y experiences, here in Melbourne, in Singapore and in the good old US of A. I cannot say that I remember anything that is pleasant, even in the most uneventful of taxi rides. And it's not the drivers necessarily that are the problem (although I have met some real special ones along the way).

I hate the fact that I have to have local currency on me, just in case the taxi can't process credit cards. Or, as happened to me in Singapore, they didn't take Visa cards, and my Master Card (from South Africa) is a Debit Card, which is blocked for international use anyway ( because the Saffer Government is hell-bent on not joining the global economy, and thinks that my money is their  money... but that's another post)

Oh yes, back to my story about loathing taxi's and my Singapore experience.

In Singapore, the taxi stops, I ask them if they take credit cards, they say yes. I double check, "It's a VISA card ? "

Yes, yes says the driver impatiently. I climb in.

Upon arrival at Fuji Building, and lo and behold, the card won't process. His machine doesn't take VISA cards. And now I am stuck, because well you know, in between the international long-haul flight, landing, showering and coming down to the meeting, I haven't actually had any time to draw actual cash at an actual ATM.

*note to self - make a habit of drawing cash at the airport before exiting*

So, there I was stuck on the side of the road with an irate driver in Singapore, and rapidly approaching the point of being late for my meeting. I was saved, but again, that's a story for another post.

That has never happened to me with Uber. Never. This app payment story is priceless.I don't need cash or special open for banking cards. And the driver knows he's going to get paid, because Uber handles all of that already. No risk to me, and no risk to them.

Also - as a side benefit, I have met the most interesting people using UberX to go to and from my various networking events and meetings.

Here are some highlights ;

- The Civil Engineer  who works flexible hours for his main employer, and drives for Uber for a couple of hours in the evening.
- The Brickie who drives for UberX on rainy days and any other day when inclement weather won't allow him to ply his trade.
- The semi-retired Writer, who also has a room he rents out with AirBnB, and does 2 toastmasters meetings a week to boot. Talk about embracing the digital age!
- The IT Student,  who quite frankly drives better than any taxi driver I have come across and told me all about his plans to uplift his coountry once he goes back and starts his offshore IT development business in Pakistan. Ambitious youth, aah I remember it so fondly !

So I say, Uber me baby, Uber me.

At least until something freaky happens, and then I'm out.

Then I'll be saying : Bring on those self-driving cars.