Monday, March 31, 2008

Service Providers: Turn Your Website into a Marketing Tool that Makes Browsers Into Buyers

If you are a sole proprietor or owner of a small business that provides services, rather than products, there's a great article in the NYT today about Internet tools for you.

The article mentions three online calendar tools—HourTown, BookingAngel and Genbook—that ennable you to add the "book an appointment" feature to your website.

According to the Reiki provider featured in the story, adding that service to her website gave her a competitive edge over other similar providers in her area. The results? She's more than doubled her number of clients since offering online booking and creating a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign.

I've seen the same idea in action. Scovare Expeditions, a client of mine (I consulted to launch its e-newsletter campaign and to write and format its e-newsletters), had a static website for its first 18 months of operation. For the first season in business, Scovare booked by phone its charter sailboat excursions along the Portland, Oregon waterfront. By the second season, however, owner Captain Shane St. Clair saw how his website was underutilized.

"There were hundreds of people visiting the website and reading about our charters," he said, "but only a handful of people picked up the phone to book a cruise or learn more."

So Captain St. Clair added a "Pay Now" function to his website with PayPal, encouraging browsers to instantly book cruise packages. Then he followed up by phone or email to arrange date and time for the customer's cruise.

What Captain St. Clair realized is the competitive power of the Internet. By empowering customers to order, reserve, book, and/or pay online, service providers shorten the distance that the customer has to travel to retain your service. While they are looking at your service, considering your service and showing interest, you give them the opportunity to simply, instantly make the connection.

Not only do you convert more browsers into buyers that way, you make your website a much more powerful marketing tool. When it can turn a mere visit into a sale, your website becomes your 24-hour/7-days-a-week sales rep. Now all your marketing efforts—ads on Craigslist, gift certificates on eBay, PPC ads, online coupons in local directories—all become exponentially more powerful.

If your website is currently functioning more like an online brochure than a sales rep, it's time to take it to the next level. If you don't, your competitors will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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