I’ve talked with quite a few sole proprietors who wish they could afford to automate portions of their business. Finding inexpensive tools that allow automatic appointment booking and payments online is difficult for many of these small business owners.
BookFresh, formerly HourTown, hopes to help the 22.1 million Americans who claim sole proprietorship with a time-saving solution that allows customers to book and pay for appointments online. Smaller businesses lacking the resources to build their own website can have BookFresh create and optimize a “mini-website” to draw attention to empty time slots. Plans to announce a partnership with Webs.com, one of the largest free website providers, will make that possible.
HOW IT WORKS
Creating a BookFresh profile is relatively easy thanks to drop down menus and wizards that allow business owners to enter services and corresponding prices. From there you can install the “Book Now” button, a widget that consists of a line of code you can insert in your website or even in your Craigslist ad.
When customers use the “Book Now” button, BookFresh asks you to confirm the appointment time and then it sends a confirmation email to the customer. Unclaimed appointments are “advertised” along with basic business services by a mini business website BookFresh optimizes for both Google and Yahoo.
Basic profiles are free and limited to a listing of three services and three bookings per month through the widget tool. “Business” account subscriptions are free for an introductory 30-day period, during which time businesses can book an unlimited number of appointments, allow customers to pay via PayPal, list an unlimited number of services, send automated reminders, sync calendars and even allow clients to recommend you on Facebook.
Free accounts with BookFresh don’t make a lot of sense for anyone looking to grow a business, which means paying at least $19.95 per month for more functional, flexible tools.
A FUNCTIONAL BUSINESS TOOL
BookFresh offers basic reception functions for small businesses who can’t afford to hire an extra body. Rather than directing new customers to a cell phone voicemail, you’re allowing customers to take immediate action by booking an appointment directly from your company’s website, Facebook, Craigslist, MySpace or a host of other similar web pages.
Having the ability to place a “Book Now” button in a free Craigslist ad alone offers plenty of additional exposure and potential bookings.
THE DOWNSIDE TO “PAY FIRST”
Recent economic conditions have taught many of us the hard lesson about living on credit. More and more customers without the cash aren’t buying services, or are just gun shy about paying first. It’s convenient for businesses to receive tips and payment through PayPal, but I can see some customers preferring invoice or PayPal options like those offered by BookFresh’s competitor Book’d.
Plans with Book’d are a little more expensive, though, and don’t offer the same level of service. BookFresh’s upcoming partnership with Webs.com also means a more versatile website, rather than just an online booking calendar, which is what Book’d offers.
Both have introductory offers, so take them for a spin and see which one you like best. Just remember, though, you get what you pay for. Nothing can take the place of a well-designed, functional website with proper optimization.
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