How to Use Venmo for your Business in 2019

Today, service professionals need the ability to process payments as a part of their everyday operations. Today, more than 50% of consumers use mobile payment methods to complete purchases rather than using cash, checks, and other payment methods.

Mobile payment has grown into an industry, valued at more than $220 billion annually. That means that being able to accept credit cards on your phone or ipad/tablet is not just a useful business tool – it’s a necessity. You need a mobile payment processing service that is fast, secure, reliable as well as convenient for both you and your clients.

Working With a Leader in Service Business Mobile Payments

Venmo is one of the leading mobile payment platforms. It is owned and operated by PayPal. It is an innovative mobile payment service that gives users the ability to make payment transactions wherever, whenever. It has made the money transfer process between individuals easy, social, and fun! In the first quarter of 2018 alone, Venmo facilitated more than $12 billion in transactions worldwide.

But in the rapidly advancing information age, breaking ground in service business and being the best are not the same thing. While Venmo is responsible for opening up a whole new avenue to commerce that did not exist before, the market is now demanding more features, faster service, and better results.

Meeting the Demands of Mobile Commerce

It’s a predictable phenomenon; when a company like Venmo comes out with a new product that is a game changer, a product that does things no product has ever done before, it opens up new possibilities. Those new possibilities inspire others to innovate and one-up the original. And generally speaking, they do it lightning fast.

As users adopt the new technology and become familiar with the new capabilities it offers, they quickly discover ways to improve on it. You probably have this experience every day. In your service business you use a product to deliver your service and quickly start thinking of enhancements that would delight your clients even more. You imagine how much more productive you could be if it were streamlined, better integrated, had more features, or more user-friendly.

Once a game-changing innovation like Venmo reaches that point, the race to improve the technology, and to take it to the next level, is on. Too often the original innovator like Venmo is slow to improve, and they are left behind. That’s where other worthy competitors come in.

Enter the PocketSuite Service Business App

PocketSuite is a new mobile payment service provider with an edge that Venmo can’t match. They have taken the underlying technology of mobile payments and taken it up several notches. PocketSuite is an all-in-one business app for your mobile phone or ipad/tablet that is more powerful, more responsive, and has far more features than Venmo. It is designed to help save service businesses time and make them more money.

With PocketSuite, it doesn’t matter where you are, where you’re going, or how quickly you have to be there. It is a comprehensive business application that gives you access to online booking, allowing your clients to schedule appointments from your website or Facebook and Instagram pages. PocketSuite is leaving Venmo in the dust. But that’s just the start.

PocketSuite Does for Your Service Business What Venmo Won’t

The team behind Pocketsuite listened to Venmo users to find out what they needed that Venmo was not providing. In so doing, they came up with a comprehensive list of mobile business features that service professionals need to compete with marketplaces and larger companies. Here’s what they came up with.

Client Notes

PocketSuite allows you to add important notes on any client. This makes it possible for you to remember all those client preferences that make a huge difference to clients. Remember those little unique idiosyncrasies about each client like preferred pronouns, nicknames, weird delivery instructions, things they like and dislike, special discounts, or their birthdays and anniversaries. Venmo doesn’t do that – not even close.

In a service business, these little details are incredibly important. Forgetting them can mean less sticky client relationships and lower client retention. This powerful feature gives you the ability to make your client feel special. It makes a world of difference.

E-Contract Signing

With Venmo, you can’t send contracts or forms to the client as proof of the terms of your payment agreement. Instead, you have to use a separate application, like PocketSuite. (wink wink)

It really is a no brainer. With an app like Venmo, you should be able to accept payment and send all the requisite forms to the client in one (maximum two) tap(s).. But with Venmo, you just can’t do that. Venmo forces you to log into a second program to send forms and contracts. Of course, any time you do that, you run the risk of causing confusion, creating friction in the transaction, and losing the client. There’s so much that could get lost in translation – so much of that could affect your bottom line. Why take the risk?

With PocketSuite, unlike Venmo, you get all of this in one place. Plus, you have your client notes and other important info and services all in one accesible place.

Text Automation

With Venmo, you can’t automate follow-up texts – with PocketSuite you can. PocketSuite allows you to automate important follow-up texts to your customers. Why would you want to leave them in the dark when you can keep them in the loop throughout your process? This is where Venmo really drops the ball.

Suppose, for example, it takes you a week to deliver a service. Until now, the norm with Venmo has been to simply to keep users in the dark about where your funds are until you reach the next stage. Today, mobile users want more and they deserve more. They want to know that you are working on their product, service, or project. They want to be able to plan around delivery times and milestones. Give them that ability with automated text reminders & updates.

Multi-Service Lists

With Venmo you can’t list multiple services for sale, but with PocketSuite you can. PocketSuite is exactly what the name implies- an entire service business suite right in your pocket- complete and ready to go at the tap of a button. PocketSuite lets you list your entire product inventory and service list, all in one place. Why would you want to make potential clients toggle back and forth between your website and Venmo’s payment service? When your clients are trying to fulfill a need, they want a ready solution available to them. PocketSuite gives you that toolset all upfront.

Invoice Sharing

Everyone with even a little business experience knows that invoices can be a pain to deal with. Why not automate as much of the invoice process as possible? Unlike Venmo, PocketSuite lets you do exactly that. Now, you can send invoices automatically.

Full Brand Packaging

Now, your customers can find everything you provide and everything you do all in one easy to use interface- one that’s conveniently accessible via SMS. With PocketSuite, unlike Venmo, you can bundle and add any service that you wish to sell. Choose which one and how many you want to include in a package? Just fill out the remaining details and your PocketSuite client service package is launched and ready to go. It really is as easy as that.

Instant Payments and Payouts

Say goodbye to delays that Venmo makes unavoidable. Take charges and give refunds instantly. Simply tap the “Charge” button to complete payment transaction with any credit card that has a Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, or Discover card logo. Your client gets the benefit of knowing where they are in the payment transfer process and the risk of disputes/chargebacks is drastically reduced. Venmo doesn’t do that.

My reaction when I receive an Instant Payout

We’re all grateful to Venmo for creating such a powerful mobile payment processing technology. But now, it’s time to take mobile payments to the next level. It’s time to transform your mobile digital payment asset into a full-service business suite right in the palm of your hand.

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2019, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!

Sources:

https://pocketsuite.io

https://www.intelligenthq.com/the-3-biggest-benefits-of-implementing-mobile-payment-in-your-business/

Why a Booking Widget is Critical for your Service Business in 2019

Do you have a website where you promote your service business? Do you want your customers to book their appointment through your website? Is it even possible?

You can bet your tax return that it is!

This is what a booking widget is for. A booking widget (like PocketSuite’s own booking widget) is a plugin used for websites. When embedded on a website, your customers can just click and they will be redirected to your booking page where your availability and schedule is shown.

Is it free? Yes and No.

You need to have an appointment app subscription in order to get a booking widget plugin. The booking widget plugins differ for each scheduling app, and so are the ways and methods of utilizing them for your business and setting them up.

Before picking a booking widget, check first if you can easily set it up on your own.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Booking Widget

There are a lot of questions to ask yourself when it comes to choosing a booking widget. The problem is choosing the right booking widget that will work with your service business. Before adding a booking widget to your website, you should consider these things first.

  • The type of service business you have
  • The features of the booking widget
  • The compatibility of the booking widget with your service business website
  • Ease of use
  • Number of access points for staff or logins available
  • Flexibility to customize

To help you make a decision, we searched for the top booking widgets on online. Considering features and ease of use, here are the top 10 booking widgets that we found.

Squareup

Squareup is a booking widget that you can add to any website. It works with Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, and Weebly. This booking widget makes booking easier for people who need to schedule their dental checkup or for house cleaning. This booking widget is easy to use. Once you’ve added it on your service business website, your customers can simply click on it if they want to make an appointment. All available schedules will be shown on the booking page. An indicator shows if the date and time are available.

Features

  • It comes with a personalized ‘book now’ button
  • Easy to use even for elderly folks and non-tech savvy individuals
  • Provides options like highlighting the names of your service business staff (for customers to choose from)
  • Sends out automated reminders to customers with upcoming bookings
  • You can personalize the calendar

Mindbody

This booking widget is easy to add to any website and is easy to use. Mindbody also allows widget customization so you can change the calendar’s color or the font. The limiting aspect of this booking widget is that it only allows one booking at a time. If two of your customers booked at the same time, chances are, it will not work or they will get an error.

Features

  • It allows your client to choose their preferred staff from your service business
  • It has neat options for listing staff names (alphabetically or by availability)
  • The booking interval option can be turned on for this booking widget

Bookly

Bookly is a booking widget with full features. It’s basically like having an appointment app on your website. However, this booking widget is not cheap. It is a good widget app choice to use if your website’s platform is WordPress.

Features

  • A booking widget that sends SMS notifications automatically
  • Processes payments
  • It syncs with Google calendar
  • Your clients can book multiple appointments at once
  • It is available in 10 languages (translation-ready)

Launch27

Launch 27 allows your customer to choose their schedule when booking an appointment with you. This booking widget can be embedded as a booking form to your service business site. You can also add a link to the Launch27 booking page if there is not enough room on your service business website to fit the booking form.

Features

  • Easy to use
  • Minimal design to make booking easier even for non-tech savvy folks
  • It sends automatic reminders to booked customers

Jobber

If you are running a service business where your staff is always on the go, you should check out Jobber. Service business providers that do home service (technicians, cleaning) can use Jobber on their phone to check their next job order.

Features

  • Integrated with other apps like payment apps or any marketing tools
  • Easy to use
  • Send out automated reminders to both staff and clients

BirchPress

BirchPress is a popular WordPress plugin and booking widget that offers professional booking management assistance. This booking widget can be embedded on the WordPress platform. Once a customer books a service on your website, you can add an option to collect payment via PayPal or credit card.

Features

  • Customers can book appointments easily
  • It syncs with Google Calendar and Outlook
  • You can choose to have a customized email notification sent to your clients regarding their booking
  • This booking widget also has a reminder feature about your upcoming schedule

Booki

If your service business deals with reservations and appointments in order to run smoothly, you could check out Booki. Booki is a booking widget that can be used by service business providers in the industry of hospitality, resorts, driving lessons, hair stylists, and more.

Features:

  • Unlimited booking options
  • This booking widget syncs with Google calendar
  • Sends automated confirmation for every booking
  • Comes with different calendar modes
  • Can process payments
  • Sends a reminder for each appointment (customized or automated)

Bookeo

Bookeo is a booking widget that you can integrate with your service business to make scheduling of appointments easier. Your customers can just click on the ‘book now’ button and they will get directed to the Bookeo calendar page. When integrated, your page URL or domain name won’t be affected hence your customers can still see your website’s name and not the Bookeo booking widget URL. Note: You cannot use Bookeo appointment app on your service business website if you have a Bookeo booking widget or vice versa.

Features:

  • Customizable booking widget on your website (you can even change the color and font size)
  • Customizable calendar page for booking (only shows what you want to show like available dates for the day, week, or month)
  • Customizable booking page
  • Easy to use for service business customers

Bookme

For a streamlined and easy to use booking page, you can try Bookme. Bookme is a booking widget that works across different platforms. By clicking on Bookme, your customers can check if there are available booking slots that they can reserve. For example: Say you are a cleaning service business provider. Your customers can easily check your availability and book right onto your schedule. Presto!

Features

  • Available appointment dates are made visible while taken dates are greyed out (to avoid double booking)
  • Provides access to multiple service business staff members, if needed
  • Sends out a customized email notification
  • The appearance of the ‘book now’ button for this booking widget is customizable

PocketSuite

The PocketSuite booking widget allows service business websites to have a customized ‘book now’ button. With a customized booking widget, your clients or new leads can easily pick an appointment. With PocketSuite, your customers won’t have to call anymore to make their bookings. A click of their mouse or a tap on their phone can easily lead them to your booking page where they can schedule an appointment, register for a class, or purchase a package from you.

Features

  • Allows multiple booking widgets in a single service business page
  • This booking widget allows you to have customized online forms and e-contracts
  • It provides a unique booking widget code that you can place on your email or your service business Facebook page, Instagram page, or website
  • Can process payments
  • Compatible with different hosting platforms like Wix, Weebly, WordPress, Webs, GoDaddy, and Squarespace
  • Overall has the most features for the best price.

When it comes to a booking widget, there are at least 100 options out there. Before you pick a booking widget, make sure to learn more about the features.

There are booking widgets that are specifically designed for a particular service business only. So make sure you check out one of our recommended ones first!

Ready to accept payments from customers with your brand spankin’ new booking widget? Great, now it’s time for a victory dance!

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2019, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!

Scheduling Apps For Your Business

Do you own a service business? Do you find it difficult to manage your calendar or to check your daily schedules and appointments?

If you haven’t experienced these dreadful side effects of growth, then I promise you these ailments are just around the corner for you as you continue to grow!

With great foibles come great lessons – and here’s a no brainer: you should start using a scheduling app for your small business.

This article will help you manage your calendar so you won’t have to worry about canceling or rescheduling an appointment again. Time for a pre-emptive pre-victory dance! (Yes, I just made this up, and I’m making it a thing now).

How do we look at each scheduling app?

We compared each scheduling app based on price, features, reviews, and cons.

We also check their relevance for small business owners and how it can help them manage their schedules successfully.

We also checked how it can help you as a small business owner. I mean, that’s the whole point, right?

Here are the top 10 scheduling apps for small business that you can check. Strap on your seatbelt, we’ve got some categorizing and comparing to do!

What are Scheduling Apps

A scheduling app is a tool that is used by business owners or professionals. It is used by people and service business owners that rely on appointments.

With a scheduling app, service business owners can plan and manage a schedule with ease.

Here are the advantages of using a scheduling app:

  • You can set parameters
  • It prevents overbooking/double booking
  • It makes payment processes easier
  • It provides access to clients everywhere

Without further ado, we spent hours refining a top 10 list for your beautiful eyes, so here it is… the Top 10 scheduling apps for your small business!

Square Up

Square was created by the founder of Twitter – Jack Dorsey. This scheduling app is easy to use. Clients can use Square Up to book their appointment via their mobile phone.

Price: There is a 2.75% per transaction fee for individual accounts. For a small business account, the basic package starts at $50. There is also a transaction fee of 3.5% plus $0.15 for every transaction.

Features: This scheduling app allows you to accept payments online. It also allows you to set discounts or gift rewards. Small businesses can view client history with this scheduling app. This scheduling app syncs with Google calendar.

Reviews on the web: Individual users highly recommend this scheduling app for its cheap price. Small business users find their packages a bit expensive.

Possible cons: This scheduling app has limited customer support according to users.

Google Calendar

If you want a basic scheduling app for your small business, you can use Google calendar.

Price: It is free. Just sign up for a Google account.

Features: You can add events, make multiple Google calendars under one account, share your calendar with this scheduling app. You can also set reminders. Google calendar also works with premium scheduling apps.

Reviews on the web: This scheduling app is free, but has limited flexibility & features. It also doesn’t integrate payment processing. So your clients can’t pay you from a google calendar invite. Also, clients can’t see your Google calendar online. Unless you give them access to your full Google calendar, which creates some privacy issues (for you). You don’t want clients seeing personal appointments on your business calendar.

Possible cons: You have to subscribe to a premium scheduling app that is compatible with Google calendar.

Outlook

Outlook is another free scheduling app that you can use. If you have Microsoft Outlook, then you can take advantage of its calendar feature.

Price: It is free. Just create your account.

Features: You can schedule, cancel, or modify your appointment with this scheduling app. You can also set an alarm to remind you about an upcoming event or appointment.

Reviews on the web: It is good for office use but if you are managing a business where clients need to place an appointment on their own, this app won’t do. Clients also can’t pay you through your Outlook calendar.

Possible cons: This scheduling app works for individuals who manage their schedules. It is not for business.

Checkfront

Checkfront is an online application that can be used for making reservations. This program can also help you analyze your sales data.

Price: This scheduling app costs $8 per month.

Features: It is compatible with your CRM and can be used for marketing and sales analysis. You can set payment to full or partial.

Reviews on the web: Small businesses that need operational data for analytics can take advantage of this scheduling app.

Possible cons: It is highly recommended to businesses in the travel industry, outside of that it may not be a great fit.

Appointment Plus

Appointment Plus is a great scheduling app, but is not recommended for small business owners. It comes with great features at a high price.

Price: The basic package for this scheduling app is $49/mo.

Features: It comes with more than 500 settings that you can use to manage your appointments.

Reviews on the web: This is a great scheduling app, but is not for a small service business because of its pricing.

Possible cons: The pricing is high because it targets large companies.

Bookeo

Bookeo helps businesses to manage their bookings effectively. It is used by businesses in the car washing and photography industry.

Price: The price of this scheduling app starts at $14.95/mo.

Features: This scheduling app can be used to make payments. It is also designed to prevent schedule conflicts and cancellations.

Reviews on the web: If you are a party or event organizer or a service business owner with at least 3 staff, this scheduling app is for you.
Possible cons: This scheduling app has no free trial. This scheduling app is not ideal for solopreneurs.

Acuity Scheduling

The best feature of this service business application is its customer-facing option. When a client set up an appointment, this scheduling app will collect basic information.

Price: It has a free trial for individual users (doctors or tutors) and a plan that starts at $15 a month. For service business owners, you can opt into their $25 per month plan or $50 per month plan that comes with multiple calendars.

Features: Automatic updates of schedules with your calendar, compatibility with MailChimp and Google Analytics, and it can process payments (if you bring your own payment processor). Kind of like BYOPP (Bring Your Own Payment Processor). Doesn’t have a great ring to it does it?

Reviews on the web: Service business owners provide a great review of this scheduling app because of the time they save with data collection.

Possible cons:  This scheduling app is very complex to set up. Get out your spectacles and your ibuprofen.

GigaBook

For a detail-oriented scheduling app, the GigaBook scheduling app is something to check out, for sure. This scheduling app allows you to make appointment timeframes to maximize each schedule. It also allows clients to choose the staff they want.

Price: Price starts at $12 every month with a $7 additional fee for additional access. The $7 is for every staff member that you add.

Features: This scheduling app allows customized appointment set-up and for clients to choose their preferred staff for assistance.

Reviews on the web: New users complain about the complexity of this app.

Possible cons: It is hard to use for non-techy users.

Appointy

This app allows your clients to schedule their appointment based on your availability and theirs.

Price: Free for small businesses that get at least 100 appointments per month. Small business with less appointments has to buy a plan that starts at $19.99/mo. Professional plan for $49.99 and $79.99/mo are also available.

Features: You can let your service business clients select available appointment dates. You can also add discounts and gifts or make packages that your clients can choose from. It can also process payments and it can send SMS reminders to your clients about their appointment.

Reviews on the web: This scheduling app is affordable for small businesses and service business owners. It is easy to use.

Possible cons: You have to bring your own payment processor to the table by linking it with Stripe or PayPal to receive payment for your service business.

PocketSuite

With PocketSuite, you can manage your schedule, allow your client to make appointments online, and collect payment easily. This scheduling app is highly recommended for individuals who need to manage their schedules (estheticians, fitness trainers, pet professionals, therapists, health and wellness professionals, and other small businesses like dog walkers / cleaners, contractors, photographers, life coaches, beauty professionals, and more).

Price: This scheduling app is available for free trial. A premium plan starts at $19.99 per month. For more features, get a Premium Plus plan for $49.99.

Features: This scheduling app features online booking, sign e-contracts, send forms to your clients and more. It has POS, invoicing, packages, subscriptions, gift certificates, and scheduling all-in-one platform.

Reviews on the web: With its free basic plan and 24/7 live customer service support, users of PocketSuite find this scheduling app a helpful one.

Possible cons: We couldn’t find many cons, if you’re a small business you owe it to yourself to give PocketSuite a shot!

Found what you need for your service business? Remember that all scheduling apps are the same in a way, some are more affordable and offer more features than others.

Now it’s time to go get yourself that single glass of wine to celebrate your new appointment app!

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2019, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!

Appointment Apps For Your Business

Are you a service business owner looking for an appointment app? Do you find it hard managing your bookings and appointments?

I can understand. Once you hit 15-20+ clients it gets confusing!

It’s time for a “whole new world” so to speak, as you begin to manage your calendar with ease using an appointment app.

An appointment app can make your small business processes easier. Processes such as booking an appointment or making a payment can be completed much faster with simple software.

In this article, we will help you find the best appointment app to use for your service business.

Our criteria

In choosing the top 10 appointment apps, we used price, features, reviews, and possible cons for each appointment app.

Are you excited to find the best appointment app for your service business? First, let’s define an appointment app.

Defining: What is an Appointment App anyway?

An appointment app is an app on your phone that allows you to manage your calendar. With this kind of software, you can do the following:

  • Schedule appointments or meetings
  • Track appointment and set reminders
  • Cancel or modify appointments or bookings
  • Accept payments

Let’s take a look at the top 10 best appointment apps for 2019. We’re breaking it down listicle style, ladies and gentlemen!

Up first we have a heavyweight hitter that we all know (but not all of us love…)

Squareup.com

Square Appointment is an appointment app that small business owners use to manage online booking.

Price: The use of this scheduling app is free but every transaction comes with a 2.75% transaction fee. Team accounts also come with a $50/mo subs fee on top of a 3.5% +$0.15 per transaction fee.

Features: This scheduling app has features like online booking, payment, cloud-based calendar, built in point of sale system, and customer management. It is compatible with Google calendar.

Reviews on the web: This is a popular appointment app for service business owners because of its user-friendly interface.

Possible cons: Pricey at $50/mo plus a transaction fee. You can only take payment via Square.

Schedul

Schedul is a free appointment app that offers a lot of features. Being a new player in the appointment app market, they offer a lot of features that are not free with other appointment app programs.

Price: Free

Features: This appointment app sends automatic booking reminders to customers, allows easy online bookings, and tracks your current bookings.

Reviews on the web: Designed to work best with service business providers like salons and spas only.

Possible cons: It doesn’t have an integrated payment system and is not compatible with popular calendars like Google Calendar.

Google Calendar

Also a free appointment app, Google calendar is your definition of a basic appointment app. It is a regular calendar with extra features like appointment setting, setting a reminder, and being a cloud base.

Price: Free

Features: It is web-based so you can see your calendar wherever you are.

Reviews on the web: It is easy to use but lacks a lot of features of a good appointment app.

Possible cons: This appointment app works for individual users for setting meetings and appointments, but not for managing small business operations.

Outlook

Want another free appointment app? Try Outlook calendar. This is embedded in your Outlook email. This appointment app is also easy to use but is highly recommended for individual users only.

Price: Free

Features: This free appointment app allows you to set meetings, appointments, and even create an alarm for reminders.

Reviews on the web: It is easy to use but only works best with professionals who need to manage their schedule on their own.

Possible cons: It lacks features like payment options and your customers can’t use it to do online bookings.

10to8

The 10to8 appointment app offers features like built-in email, promotional tools for social media, and a chat feature. Users of this appointment app can get help via online chat.

Price: This appointment app is free if you only schedule 100 appointments/mo. For a small business that gets more appointments, plans start at $9.60/mo.

Features: Schedules can be managed by multiple users and it can process credit card payments.

Reviews on the web: Service business providers with multiple staff can take advantage of this appointment app and its excellent features.

Possible cons: Small business owners can’t use it for sales analytics.

Setmore

Setmore allows online booking and offers a login to at least 20 staff members with a single account. It is a generous plan for a simple appointment app, considering you can do all of this for free.

Price: It offers a free trial, but if you want to have an integrated payment system via Setmore, you have to subscribe to their $25/mo subscription plan.

Features: The free plan alone can support 20 logins. If you have a small business with less than 20 staff members, this appointment app will work for you.

Reviews on the web: The client booking screen is easy to use. Setting up a parameter for each booking page is also easy (like the auto-close feature for bookings with a limited slot) – say you are setting a class with a limited number of enrollees, you would use this feature for that purpose.

Possible cons: This appointment app has payment processing, but it’s not free.

SimplyBook.me

SimplyBook.me is an appointment app with a professional look. Their booking page is easy to manage and use even for non-techy web users.

Price: This appointment app is free if you only receive 50 or fewer bookings in a month. If your small business will be receiving more, you can subscribe to one of their plans that start at $9.90/mo.

Features: Two-way calendar and booking access allows you to create offers for your clients and process payments.

Reviews on the web: This appointment app has a lot to offer, but if you want to unlock more features, you have to start paying their monthly subscription fee.

Possible cons: The free trial of this appointment app isn’t even workable for a service business that gets more than 50 bookings per month. Bigger businesses should look elsewhere.

Flash Appointments

The aim of Flash Appointments is to make scheduling easier for both small business owners and their clients. This appointment app features RIA or same-time update across all of its page users.

Price: The price of this appointment app starts at $10 per month. There is a free trial offered for one month.

Features: Can handle thousands of schedules of online booking, offers access to users from multiple locations.

Reviews on the web: It has a unique, useful feature called RIA (Rich Internet Application) which makes it so a single page update will update all screens accessing the same page. This prevents double booking and overbooking.

Possible cons: It requires a complex set-up and familiarity with a web program. Professionals and small business owners might find it hard to use.

Appointment Care

This appointment app serves service business providers such as salons, vets, doctors, dog and pet groomers, and dog and pet trainers. It aims to help in increasing small business revenues with their easy to use booking system.

Price: This appointment app is available to test drive using their 30-day free trial. Their basic plan starts at $14.95/mo. Their most expensive plan is $59.95.

Features: This appointment app offers small business owners flexibility in managing their online booking with their automatic reminder feature and website. It also features a staff calendar and customer management system (CMS).

Reviews on the web: It is easy to use and the CRM has a fairly quick learning curve.

Possible cons: It is expensive. Small business owners with more staff have to pay more, which adds to the fees.

PocketSuite

This appointment app is highly recommended to service business providers like fitness trainers, dog trainers, therapists, estheticians, life coaches, pet experts, photographers, beauty professionals, and cleaners. If your service business relies on schedules, PocketSuite is a good match for you.

 

Price: PocketSuite is free for individual users who just need a basic appointment app. For service providers, getting their basic plan is advisable to unlock more features. A premium plan starts at $19.99/mo.

Features: This appointment app allows direct messaging, scheduling online, payment processing, online booking, e-contracts, online forms, subscriptions, packages, discounts gift certificates, sales taxes, inventory tracking, saved message templates that your service business staff can use and much, much more.

Reviews on the web: It is easy to use and the free plan offers a lot of features.

Possible cons: Small business owners that need logins for their service business staff have to pay for this feature. However, the price is still lower than many of the other apps we mentioned.

Have you found an appointment app from our list that you can use for your service business? To make it easier for you, create a checklist, choose at least 3 appointment apps, then compare and find the one that best suits your small business needs.

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2019, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!

How To Generate Online Leads For Your Service Business In 2019

How to Generate Online Leads for your Service Business in 2019

Do you run a service business? Interested in how to generate more online leads for your business in 2019?

In this article, you’ll learn ways to generate enough new leads for your business to do an extra $10,000 in monthly revenue.

You’ll also learn pro tips from real business owners that have been successful using these platforms to grow their service business to $20k, $30k, all the way to $100k in monthly revenue.

You’ll also get a breakdown of how to get started, and any possible risks.

Ready to dive in? Read on…

“Your business can’t be struggling if you don’t check your bank account”

As a service professional, you might be thinking that leads are getting more expensive.

To offer your services to new customers, you need to find them first.

Owning your own business means you run your own marketing team, which means you are the one responsible for driving a steady stream of high quality leads.

With all the competition out there, how can a small business owner get an edge?

In this article we’ll reveal how the top Pay per Lead providers work. For each provider, you’ll learn:

  • How it Works
  • Pro Tips (from real businesses that have been successful on these platforms)
  • How do I set it up?
  • Possible risks

Take advantage of the hours we spent researching. Cut your learning curve by reading this article, applying the knowledge, and learning how to get a head start on your competition with each of these platforms!

Intro to Service Lead Models: Pay per Lead

One customer acquisition model that has been revived from the dead in a big way is the pay per lead or introduction model.

If you enjoy pitching your services to interested clients then pay per lead (“PPL”) might work for you.

PPL offerings have grown in recent popularity as more and more individuals are going out and starting their own businesses (thanks to lower marketing costs, lower legal registration fees, lower healthcare costs, mobile productivity tools).

For the most part, you have to be more a pro-active to get the most out of these PPL platforms.  You – the business owner – can pay for direct access to a client who is looking for specific services that you offer. Then it’s up to you to close them!

This model isn’t new. There are many platforms that offer PPL as a service.
These are the Online Lead providers that we will be reviewing in this article:

  • Home Advisor
  • Angie’s List (now owned by Home Advisor)
  • Thumbtack
  • Talklocal
  • HomeGuide

Let’s get started!

HomeAdvisor

How it works

HomeAdvisor is one of the pioneers of the PPL model. It was founded in 1998, formerly known as ServiceMagic. ServiceMagic was a simple PPL platform allowing professionals of all types (e.g., musicians, handymen, therapists, you name it) to directly pay for incoming leads and pitch their services.

In 2012, the company changed its name to HomeAdvisor, and started to evolve its ad products and focus purely on home services.

As a professional on HomeAdvisor, you can sign up and pay to join the network (similar to Angie’s List it’s a “pay to get access” monthly / annual fee). Once you’re in, then one of the main features is the ability to “turn on” leads.

What that means is you set a budget and HomeAdvisor sends you new business that you can try to win.

That new business comes from clients submitting job requests. HomeAdvisor lets clients complete detailed service requests.

These services include a diverse mix of home service jobs (e.g., landscaping, remodeling, cleaning, plumbing, etc.), the timing, the location, and more.

You – as the service professional – will get notified of these job requests and it’s up to you to close the customer. You can call the client, email the client, text the client – do whatever you think will win you that business.

As you can imagine, this type of marketing platform is ideal if you want to acquire new clients immediately, which would likely appeal to a new business owner. To have good success, you need to be energetic enough to pitch leads and compete for the business.

I highlight the top 3 tips from this blog for using a PPL platform like HomeAdvisor. They are absolutely spot on! These practices will help you maximize your return on investment:

Pro Tips

 1) Call leads immediately – ASAP!

“This is the single most important factor to making HA work for you, even more so than having good reviews.  I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, if I call within minutes of receiving the lead, I get the business. Some customers have even told me that they always choose the first person that calls”

Check out this screenshot from the Lead Response Study linked below:

As you can see, it’s imperative to contact the leads within 5 minutes (or less!) of receiving them. This study was done on sales leads, but service leads are no exception! Source: http://www.leadresponsemanagement.org/lrm_study

2) Sign up for small job leads

“Leads for big jobs are expensive at $50 and up.  With price shoppers all over the place, this can eat into your profits really fast.  That’s why I recommend only signing up for leads for jobs under $15. You will still get your foot in the door and can bank on the return business.”

3) Eliminate leads that don’t pay

“After you’ve been using the service for a while, it’s a good idea to go back over your leads and see which categories pay off and which ones provide mostly junk leads.”

4) Message the leads again

“If the leads haven’t responded, follow up again within 24hrs.”

5) Keep an eye on your costs

“Costs for leads stack up. Make sure you track conversions from leads.”

Get a game plan in place so that when you do turn those online leads ON, you are immediately ready to close them and beat out the competition!

Home Advisor has also invested in tools like Instant Booking and Instant Connect, which allows clients to reach out to you directly if they like your profile and reviews. These add on features are still a small part of the platform activity, but they are growing.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

Go to the “Pro” section of HomeAdvisor: https://pro.homeadvisor.com/how-it-works/

Watch the 2 mins ins and outs video tutorial. Then you can sign up for free.

The setup process is multiple steps. You need to provide references and background information as part of the registration process.

HomeAdvisor is pretty thorough in terms of its screening process, so setting everything up takes a bit of time. You get a dedicated marketing consultant contact who will reach out and who you can call or email with questions throughout setup.

Then you are prompted to set up your Home Advisor subscription and decide how much you would like to start paying for leads.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

History

In 2012, ServiceMagic changed its name to HomeAdvisor in an effort to re-brand itself. If you Google “ServiceMagic” you will see a laundry list of customer complaints about the quality of the professionals on its platform.

Homeowners complained that the service providers who performed the jobs did terrible jobs. But more so are complaints from the providers themselves talking about how the leads coming to them were bogus in a lot of cases, and they spend all this money to pitch customers with no business coming to them.

To shake their bad reputation, ServiceMagic brought in a new CEO in 2011 and changed its name to HomeAdvisor.

Cost

HomeAdvisor is also pretty expensive. It costs ~$250 per year to just be a part of the network, and then you need to pay to get leads.

We have heard feedback from participating professionals that you need to be careful turning your leads option ON, because if you don’t pay attention HomeAdvisor can send you a bunch of leads in a short amount of time and start charging your card on file instantly…

Stay on top of your online leads option and turn it OFF if you’re busy with work or taking some downtime.

Also, for a lot of business owners, this type of lead ad model is very tough to master. The risk is you spend a lot of money to get these leads with none of them panning out.

Sometimes you were too slow to call the customer so they went with a competing provider. Other times your bid was simply too high. Or customers can change their mind. You call them and they never pick up.

Just be careful on the upfront spend – before you know it you could be in the hole hundreds of dollars without any clients, any clicks, any “likes”, any reviews.

Moving on, up next we have a Pay per Lead platform that most folks are familiar with by now… Thumbtack, of course.

Thumbtack

How it works

The Thumbtack model is similar to HomeAdvisor. The 2 main differences are: (1) there is no monthly or annual fee to join the network, and (2) the industries it services are not just limited to home improvement – but includes all types of service providers like dog walkers, lawyers, photographers, tutors, and more. As far as customer acquisition goes, Thumbtack is a treasure trove of possible clients.

Clients can go through a similar “concierge” flow, specifying their service needs and their job details get blasted to up to 5 professionals for that specific service and geography. Thumbtack sets the opening bid price for a lead’s contact information. If you win the bidding process, you get to pitch that lead – and the cost is paid in “credits”.

Each credit costs $1.67 to buy and leads can cost anywhere from 2 to 9 credits (so $3.34 to $15.30 per lead). That’s another difference between Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor – Thumbtack has more control over which leads you choose to spend money on (based on limited service requests and client demographic information).

Once the credits are spent – then it’s up to you to close that online lead!

Another consumer use-case is when clients actually Google a specific service name and the location, then Thumbtack’s page results actually rank high on Google and the service providers – you – are accessible directly by any customers.

For example, if I Google “dog walkers in Seattle, WA”, one of the results in Google is the link below to one of Thumbtack’s popular list:

Clients are able to review your profile (like description, reviews, photos, etc.) and “Request a Quote” from you directly. Note that you – the professional – will still be required to pay credits to Thumbtack to find out who requested said quote from you (as no website or phone # details are included on your profile for direct contact).

Converting first-time clients into recurring clients is crucial with Thumbtack as well. If it takes you multiple online leads before closing one, then your initial return on investment might not be that great, but if you can convert that client to book with you in the future, then your ROI could look great. Remember, customer acquisition is a long term game.

Pro Tips

  • Respond as quickly as possible – in recent studies, even 5 minutes may not be fast enough. Yes, seriously.
  • Set up software like Calldrip that calls your phone whenever a lead comes in, then calls the lead. It’s like having a concierge connect you to leads automatically whenever they come in. The software even whispers the client’s name for you or your admin before connecting the call. It’s basically magic:
    • Look up your profile from the client’s side. This gives you two great opportunities:
    • See how you show up from your client’s perspective. You never know what you might uncover! (Is that my personal email being displayed on there? Oh boy…)
    • Take a sneak peak at your competitor’s profiles! Get ideas on how to optimize your pictures, your description, and showcase your services in a more appealing manner. This is actually a perfect segway to our next point:

    HOW DO I SET IT UP?

    You can join Thumbtack as a “pro” for free: https://www.thumbtack.com/pro

    The setup process is pretty simple and straightforward. Along with setting up your profile, Thumbtack will give you a link to your specific profile – they encourage you to send this link to past clients to build you reviews. I would recommend doing this. More reviews and content on your profile will make their system rate you as more relevant (and higher quality) and, as a result, will send you more online leads to bid on.

    Setup Instructions:

    1. Go to thumbtack.com/pro
    2. Choose your City and Industry

3. Log in with Google, Facebook, or Email

4. Follow the prompts to set up your brand spankin’ new profile!

5. Need help? Here’s a shortcut: Use GetHuman to find Thumbtack’s best live support number – skip the wait and talk to a person live if you’re having issues!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

With Thumbtack being a similar PPL model as HomeAdvisor, similar risks around cold leads and tough bidding apply. You can wind up buying and using a ton of credits, and not get any new business when it is all said and done.

There are some reports out there stating on average you win 16% of all leads you buy – in that case you need to make sure you are not spending a lot to buy said leads…or if you are, you need to make sure the final payment you get from the customer is a lot more than the amount you spent on all the other lost leads.

Another risk is that the bidding and pitching system typically leads to a “lowest price wins” game. Meaning, clients will often tend to accept the lowest priced service no matter how many professionals reach out to them.

Thus, similar to discount platforms, this model attracts customers who are looking for low price over quality, and the next time they need a service (the same service done again even), they will go back to the well for anyone who can give them “bottom-of-the-barrel” prices again.

There also seem to be frustrations regarding the quality of leads. Here is a recent post on Thumbtack’s forum that summarizes the issue folks have been having – it looks like Thumbtack is sending online leads to too many providers, and also the quality of leads seems to have diminished.

That being said, Thumbtack is still where droves of customers go to find a quality professional, and thus still remains a viable source of opportunity as far as getting new clients thru online leads for your service business.

Why don’t we go right ahead into our next pick: Talk Local.

TalkLocal

HOW IT WORKS

TalkLocal has a bit of a twist. As a smaller company, it isn’t technically a PPL company, but more of a “Pay Per Conversation” type of app. And just as it sounds, it takes much more over the phone / conversational take to introducing a business to a potential customer.

As a professional, you can preview incoming customer leads for free over the phone (as in you get a call from TalkLocal and you can hear the information about the job request) and only pay when you actually opt-in and speak to a customer. It covers about 50 different service verticals, focusing on home improvement like plumbers, handymen, HVAC, and roofers, which are big ticket services. They require more salesmanship and quality and track record matters in addition to price. So when one of those leads closes, it typically pays for all of the ones that you lost.

Just like on Thumbtack, as a client you can go to TalkLocal and specify your location, the job or service details you are in need of, and contact (i.e., phone #) details. TalkLocal then blasts the most relevant service professionals in the area via automated phone call. When the pro picks up, they can opt in to accept the job over the phone, then TalkLocal immediate connects them to the client by calling the client’s phone. Once the client picks up, the business gets charged the “introduction” fee. Then it’s up to you, the business, to pitch your services over the phone.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

Head to http://www.talklocal.com/claim/ to claim your business on the TalkLocal site. In addition to entering your business information, you select your job preferences, service area radius, and your desired call frequency/bid level all of which can be adjusted at any time.

Joining the Premium plan will send you a higher volume of leads, which the company says on average costs $16 per call introduction. The free plan only sends businesses jobs that member companies (like Yahoo! Local) have passed on.

PRO TIPS

Just like any other PPL platform, TalkLocal has its own quirks and pro tips. Let’s dive right in!

TalkLocal is sending out an automated phone call to all of the potential leads. This is different because it requires the lead to answer the phone.

But once this happens, TalkLocal then sends a follow up call to your phone – here’s where the magic starts.

Some things to keep in mind from a customer acquisition perspective:

  • Answer the phone professionally. Too many Pros are answering the phone like an individual instead of a business. To look more professional, try starting the conversation with a phrase like “Thank you for reaching out, we are a TalkLocal verified provider and I was wondering if you could tell me more about the project?” This sets the frame from the start that…
    • You are a professional company
    • Indeed responding to their TalkLocal inquiry
    • Focused on them and their needs
  • Get details up front. Too often the job scope is not communicated over the phone effectively. For this reason there is frustration on both sides because…
    • The Pro ends up feeling required to complete tasks outside of the job scope (because they’ve already accepted the job without detailing the deliverables beforehand)
    • The Customer feels confused and slighted (because there aren’t clear expectations set for the success of the job, and what is required to classify this job as a success).

For example: Pro answers the phone unprofessionally, doesn’t clarify the scope of the job.

Result: Customer is unsure of quality / professionalism of Pro, and is upset when some of the items that were expected to be completed in the scope of the job go undone. Customer reviews Pro negatively on TalkLocal and other review platforms. Customer, Pro, and TalkLocal all had a bad experience in this situation.

Another, contrary example: Pro answers the phone professionally and asks great questions to drill down on the requirements for the job.

Result: Customer is happy with the professionalism and feels proud of his decision to hire Pro. All job details are discussed upfront, so nothing is left to chance. Assuming the Pro completes all items on time and up to par, customer is happy and decides to hire the Pro on a recurring basis. This reflects TalkLocal and also the Pro well, and can result in additional recurring revenue for both!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

TalkLocal is small in size so the volume of client requests and introductions will be relatively small – take this into consideration when you spend time setting up and learning the system.

You should not spend hours of time with a platform that may or may not provide you a lot of new customer liquidity. But arguably it shouldn’t take you very long to get set up.

The company states that average cost of a new client introduction is $16. Keep in mind that this does not guarantee you will win this business. As soon as the call is connected, you are out $16.

Arguably, if you are talking to the customer over the phone, the chances of converting that client to a paying customer is higher than sending them a simple bid through a platform like Thumbtack – it’s more personal to talk on the phone!

But the jury is still out on that theory, so you need to do your own testing to see how convincing you are to win a customer at an average $16 per “opportunity”.

HOW IT WORKS

HomeGuide is another Pay per lead platform. The way it works is a bit different from the others – it still uses a credit system, but you can receive a refund for credits that don’t result in the customer responding.

This seems like an improvement on Thumbtack (which sends quotes to so many Pros, the conversion rate seems to be low) however HomeGuide doesn’t have as big of a network, so the frequency of new online leads may be lower.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

The way to start is to tap “Join is a Pro” in the top right:

Once you complete the setup and add your business info, you’ll have a chance to start bidding on jobs.

You may also have to confirm your email (and possibly your phone number) in order to verify your profile.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

One thing to remember is that you get to keep 100% of the revenue that you generate – HomeGuide doesn’t keep any of the money that is transferred from the customer to you as the Pro.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to keep track of how much money you’re spending on bids.

Additionally it’s imperative to track how many of the bids you’re sending out are converting to actual customers.

This way you can track the revenue generated by the customers, compare that to your total costs of using HomeGuide (or any other PPL platform) and thus determine your Return on Ad Spend (RoAS).

Now we’re thinking like top Pros! Give yourself a pat on the back once you’re completed this tracking – it’s more than 90% of Pros do to ensure their business is running healthy!

PRO TIPS

HomeGuide has a clever way of getting new Pros – they actually send out a cold email blast asking service providers to put their Best of HomeGuide badge onto their site.

This creates 2 virtuous cycles:

  • Creates a backlink from the service Pro’s site to Homeguide, increasing their SEO and thus their search rankings.
  • Creates social proof on both sides:
    • For the Pro (look, I’ve been featured as Best of HomeGuide!)
    • For HomeGuide (this website categorizes service Pros, so they must be legit.)

So what’s the Pro tip here? You can put the image of their badge onto your site without having to provide a backlink! This creates exposure for HomeGuide (great for them) and also allows you to have more social proof on your website (good for you and reassures your customers that you’re a legit business).

What a journey we’ve taken! Let’s launch into some closing remarks regarding Pay per Lead platforms…

Overall Pay Per Lead Platform Thoughts

In this guide you’ve learned:

  • What are PPL Platforms
  • How they work and make money
  • How you as a service professional can capitalize on the vast amounts of potential customers looking for your services on these platforms
  • Things to watch out for
  • How to set each platform up
  • The risks of each platform

The PPL model for generating leads online is becoming more popular with a certain sect of consumers because it makes price shopping quite convenient for services. You tap a few buttons, and then in minutes you’ve got professionals calling and emailing you with specific quotes on cost of service as well as a nice little pitch to go along with it.

It’s almost like a concierge service for the clients, all the while delivering clarity around pricing – and that means lowest price in most cases.

As a result, we’re starting to see the likes of Google enter the space with Google Home Services. They’ve started first in the San Francisco Bay Area (in beta), so if you’re a provider in that area I would sign up. (Update 2019: Google Home Services and Amazon Home Services are now in full swing)

Clients can “Send Requests” for a quote from you directly from Google (without doing any extra work like visiting another site):

Angie’s List is testing out its “Lead Feed” product offering even, which is again very similar to the PPL model.

Point being, you’ve got an increasing amount of options to play around with to test out if the PPL model is right for your business. I would get a game plan in place as to what your course of action is once a warm lead comes your way, then spend some money to see what it takes to convert leads to clients and also get a sense as to how many of these new clients you’re converting to lifelong customers.

Pro Tips for All Pay Per Lead Platforms

Now that we’ve come to the closing of service business leads in the Pay per Lead form… Let’s discuss some hands-in-the-dirt strategies for actually applying everything you’ve learned about PPL platforms. How you can use them to dominate your local service industry?

Pro Tips:

  • Follow up fast. Like, lighting speed fast. Here’s another interesting graph from the Lead Response management study linked above. This one shows how important it is to follow up quickly in terms of leads that became qualified:

    Always track your RoAS. Remember, you’re paying for each lead, not each customer. This requires you to track how many leads you have to pay for before you convert one into a paying customer. By tracking RoAS you are making sure that your initiative on each platform is paying off. To start tracking RoAS:

    • Track your total expenses for each platform (on a weekly or monthly basis). On PPL platforms this typically comes down to  how many total credits you purchased
    • How many actual customers were generated from these efforts (per platform)
    • Revenue (and profit!) generated from customers for each platform
    • Extra credit: To improve your system further, track the conversion rate from:
      • Lead bids to responses
      • Responses to bookings
      • Avg revenue per booking (per platform)

    This concludes our exhaustive article on Online Leads for Service Businesses! You should now have enough info to dominate your local area… and maybe even time for a victory dance!

    Have any further suggestions for how to use Pay per Lead platforms effectively?

    Anything I missed or that should be added? Please contact support@pocketsuite.io

    If you liked this content, check out our Frustrations with Square article! You’ll never feel so vindicated in your life. 😉

    And of course, if you’re a service Pro and you want a way to manage your entire business from your phone, check out the PocketSuite app. We’ve been featured on TechCrunch, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and more.

    Author: Ilya Ornatov

    Original Article by: Sam Madden

Top 4 Messaging Apps for Small Businesses in 2019

Top Messaging Apps for Small Business (in 2019)

We’ve all been there.

You’re scrolling through your text messages, trying to figure out which client you messaged and when.

Your business is growing, but it’s starting to feel like a looming, disorganized monster.

Maybe you’re starting to lose track of clients as your business expands.

Or maybe you’ve finally had that one key client slip through the cracks.

You’ve dropped the ball on following up with them, and you’ve realized it’s because you don’t have a system in place to remind you.

On the other hand, maybe you’re just starting your business, and your goal is to create a great first impression with your clients.

In any case, you’ve decided… enough is enough! It’s time for me to find a more professional solution.

In this article you will learn about the best solutions to your dilemma.

We’ve corralled the best Client Messaging Apps available in 2019 for Small Business owners.

Ready for a knowledge bomb? Read on!

Why You Should Care

For small businesses, a reliable client messaging service is essential to the company’s success.

Messaging tools ensure collaboration and communication, especially if you have remote employees and are on the go yourself as a business owner.

The best tools are easy to use and intuitive, and allow you to problem-solve and share information in real-time.

The issue is that, as a business owner, if you actually search for a group messaging app, you might find unhelpful search results like the following:

Search: What is the best group messaging app?

  • BBM – BBM is no longer exclusive to Blackberry phone owners. …
  • GroupMe. …
  • Google+ Hangouts …
  • Tango. …
  • Voxer …
  • WeChat.

Seriously, who uses these for business messaging?🙄

As you can see, it’s not enough to just have a generic messaging app. None of these suggested apps fulfill the needs of a business owner, as we shall discuss in arduous detail below.

Luckily for you, we’ve saved you the researching time and compiled a definitive list of the absolute best messaging apps for business owners.

The list we’re going to go over today includes:

  1. SMS Text
  2. Facebook Messenger
  3. WhatsApp
  4. PocketSuite Messenger

Below are four of the most popular messaging services & apps out there for today’s small business owner:

1. SMS Text

If you’re like me, you probably have a love / hate relationship with texting.

Short message service (“SMS”) texts allow you to use your cell phone plan to send short messages to one or more people. It’s easy and convenient; the majority of people have cell phones now, so you can contact clients and workers on their current devices.

People tend to prefer texts over calls. They’re quicker, and allow people to read and edit messages on their own schedule. They’re more immediate than email, and users do not have to download any special software or apps.

Additionally, it’s estimated that 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes or less. Talk about an astronomical response time!

How did you feel the last time you lost your phone? Yeah, not good.

However, depending on your cell phone plan, relying on SMS text can be expensive. If you go beyond your allotted threshold, you could be on the hook for pricey fees.

SMS tends to become a disorganized mess once you’re working with over 10, 20, or 30 clients, depending on the frequency of interaction.

Not to mention you aren’t able to add notes to client messages (or a client file) in order to remind yourself of key aspects of your business relationship with the client.

Example: A random phone number (presumably one of your clients)  texts you at 8PM asking to switch tomorrow’s appointment time, or they will have to cancel.

You frantically begin searching through your notes to find the client’s name so you can look up when their booking is for.

Unable to find the client’s information in your notes, you expand the search by checking  your calendar, your desk drawer, and all of the other places you might have notes stuffed (c’mon… I know you’ve got notes!)

Plus there are limits to how you can communicate via SMS text – you can’t send broadcasts or schedule follow-ups to go out, and there are other feature limitations when comparing SMS to other messaging apps.

How many times have you wanted to do this with your phone 😅

SMS covers the “basics”, but there are a lot more things you prefer to communicate to your clients besides simple texts and photos.

Moving on, we have one you’re probably familiar with if you live in the developed world, or even certain remote countries – Facebook Messenger!

2. Facebook Messenger

Facebook is free to use and allows you to chat with individuals or small groups.

This can be a useful option because many people use Facebook on a daily basis in their personal lives. You can use Facebook Messenger for discussions or questions and to send pictures and video.

However, relying on their Messenger as your primary messaging service has some drawbacks.

  • Anyone you want to communicate with must have the Facebook messaging app installed (unlike regular SMS text, Facebook does not come pre-installed on smartphones).
  • To use Facebook Messenger on a smartphone, both you and your clients will need to download a separate app, which can be an annoyance for busy business people.
  • Many business owners prefer to have their conversations with clients separate from conversations with Facebook friends. Some feel as though messaging clients via Facebook isn’t the most “professional” mode of communication.

As you can see, it may not be in the best interest of you or your business to use Facebook Messenger as your primary messaging app for your small business. If you’d like to find something more suitable for messaging your clients, keep reading!

3. Whatsapp

Whatsapp is available on both your computer and smartphone. It uses your internet connection to make voice and video calls. After being acquired by Facebook in 2014, Whatsapp no longer charges customers an annual fee to use the service. They also hit 1.5B monthly users as of Jan 2018.

Unlike some other messaging services, Whatsapp does not display any third party advertising. However, this does come at a price:

  • While Whatsapp is a free service, it does require users to download the app on their smartphone or computer. This again causes friction on the customer’s end to ask them to “do work” to download an app that they will only use for your business’s communication.
  • In addition, there have been some security concerns, which could prevent some clients from using the app – especially if personal information and payment information is being exchanged over this messaging service. See this shocking LifeHacker article from last year: “Stop Using WhatsApp If You Care About Your Privacy.”

4. PocketSuite Messenger

PocketSuite is a client messaging app, but hyper-focused on service and small business owners.

The app supports basic messaging features like normal text and photo sharing, but also has a suite of messaging tools available, such as:

  • Scheduling messages to be sent
  • Creating & naming customer groups
  • Sending out broadcast announcement messaging
  • Saving/sending common message templates (like shortcuts) to customers

The app comes with a built-in calendar and payments tool as well. So within every message thread with your customer, you can easily schedule an appointment, send a professional request for payment, and more.

It’s more of a one-stop-shop communication tool for businesses with their clients.

The best part is clients don’t need to download any app on their end – no friction!

Clients send and receive all messages on their end over regular text message. So they don’t even know a separate app is being used by the business – they can text your business just like they text their friends.

To get a dedicated business line there is a small monthly fee, but you can also use the app for free if you prefer just a basic, organized client messaging tool (without additional messaging features).

For example, you can send smart campaigns to clients to remind them to book your services (and increase your bottom line):

“Smart Campaigns have doubled our revenue in the last 3 months.” Madison Parker, PocketSuite Service Pro

Finding the Right Tool

Finding the right tools for your business is an important part of making you profitable. Communicating with clients is something you most likely do every single day – making the messaging tool you use very important.

The wrong messaging service can cause you confusion, add to customer headaches and cost you from winning over clients.

Finding a cost-effective platform with the necessary tools for your business, can simplify your administrative needs, allowing you to focus on the big picture – making more money.

Ensure you try out different messaging services before deciding on one. While SMS text may be your default, you may find that a more robust tool like that can streamline your business.

This wraps up our comprehensive article on the top Messaging Apps for Small Business in 2019. At this point, it’s time to pick a solution and implement! Of course, as with any new system, be sure to check in on your progress and make adjustments accordingly.

Have any further suggestions for Small Business-geared Messaging Apps?

Anything I missed or that should be added? Please contact support@pocketsuite.io

If you liked this article, you may like our 2019 Guide to Generating Online Leads for your Service Business.

And of course, if you’re a service Pro and you want a way to manage your entire business from your phone, check out the PocketSuite app. We’ve been featured on TechCrunch, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and more.

Written by Ilya Ornatov

Original Article by Sam Madden

What is Business Messaging

A new category of communication has arrived…It’s called “Business Messaging” and it’s designed for busy professionals and business owners.
If you find yourself asking “What the heck is Business Messaging?”, the answer is simple:

A mobile messaging tool to help your business make more money

Business Messaging focuses on 3 core benefits that can instantly bring your business out of the ancient technological traps of SMS and email, and delight clients (both old and new) to help your business make more money.

People in the 21st century want instant gratification more than ever.

Faster Customer Responses

That means, any inquiry or question a customer (or prospect) sends to a business, they want a response ASAP. The longer the client has to wait for a response, the higher the likelihood of the client moving on to another business.

To enable you (the business or professional) to respond as fast as possible to customers, you need to make sure you’re getting notified. In order to do that, you need to make sure your client list is organized so you can actually response as fast as possible.

The first key to delivering an instant customer response is being notified when the client reaches out.

That means ANY time a client wants to contact you (whatever the context may be), you need to get notified immediately — whether you’re sitting at a desk or out with another client.

This is where email falls short. You don’t want clients who shoot you an email or who fill out a form on your website, to have to wait for you to happen to pull out your phone and load your emails and then respond. This creates pockets of delays where clients can be waiting hours or even days to get a response.

Not only that, but with email spamming being a reality of life these days, parsing through unwanted emails to find your urgent client emails can be huge a time suck.

This bring up point #2 in delivering faster customer responses:

Client Organization

Email, yes, can have spam intermixed with customers. But even worse is SMS text message — not so much the spam aspect of it, but more so personal distractions.

80% of business owners we talk to use text message as their primary way of communicating with clients. The issue there becomes – on your texting feed, you’ll have a client, then a friend, maybe a family member. Your private life conversations and business get mixed together.

This creates (at no fault of your own, to be clear) an unorganized feed of your life’s thread of communications.

Not having a single, instantly accessible area where ONLY your customer messaging and history flows into, creates a problem. It’s a problem because:

  • You’re unaware immediately when you hear a text come through if it’s a client or friend or family member pinging you
  • You cannot prioritize messages to be followed up with in a regular SMS feed
  • Spend time scrolling and searching through a mix of people to find specific customers
  • Can only access a client’s message history — not calls, notes, payments, or anything else relevant to that client

A way some business owners get around this is to shell out  another $500+ on a new phone (for “business”). Then you’re permanently stuck carrying around 2 devices at all times: one for business, one for pleasure.

These days are now over.

Business Messaging keeps all your client communication in a central, mobile location. This will give you instant and organized access to all your customer’s needs. This makes your life less stressful while keeping your clients happily attended to.


A More Organized Day

Today’s modes of client communication are all handicapped mainly because they only do one thing: communicate.

We (over at PocketSuite) don’t really see any particular reason for why that has to be the case.

With your client communication (whatever that may be: phone, email, text, a fancy CRM system, etc.) being focused on just communication, then you depend on other tools for relevant information about each customer. That information includes customer:

  • Payment history
  • Upcoming appointments
  • Detailed notes
  • Signed contracts
  • Referrals
  • Call logs

Logistics and payments are all integral parts of any conversation you have with a client. Thus, these important items should be naturally weaved into the conversation and easily accessible by both you and your client.

Business Messaging does just that — it integrates all crucial transactional information into each customer message thread. WITHIN a conversation, you can transact with said client, while at the same reference important information about said client.

Combining all this information into one place that is instantly accessible anywhere turns today’s business owner into an efficiency machine.

Accessibility 24/7

Homeowners have graduated from having to flip through a single Yellow Pages book to search for a local business to hire.

With the growth of discovery platforms online, the ability for you to reach moreof your addressable customer market is easier than ever.

But that also means that clients are going to be reaching out to you on a LOT more platforms. That includes:

As you expand your business presence online, you’ll be receiving more and more incoming messages, inquiries, questions, quote requests, leads, and more, from a whole host of platforms. Each one of these different platforms has apps, account log-ins, special email addresses, etc.

Business Messaging reduces the mess and consolidates all incoming requests – no matter where they are coming from – into a single, organized channel.

Business Messaging comes with messaging widgets that can be placed as links practically anywhere. From a single website, social media, directory to a lead gen platform. That means, that no matter WHERE a customer finds you, all their reach-outs will be directed into your Business Messaging feed.

This allows you to respond smartly and instantly to any new customer coming your way. You are 100% accessible so a new customer never slips through the cracks, and a repeat customer never feels ignored.

Client Payments: However You want them

10 Ways to Receive Payments

1) Point-of-Sale

Occasion: Quick way to charge a client’s card if they hand it to you or simply tell you the card details over the phone.

Benefits: Fast! Also you can store the client’s card for future charging at will.

How: Tap the CHARGE button on your home screen of PocketSuite, enter client CC info, charge any $ amount.

Save on processing fees at 2.7% per payment, compared to Square or PayPal.


2) Invoicing

Occasion: Sending a traditional (and professional) invoice to clients for services.

Benefits: Allows clients to pay any invoice amount online (from their smartphone or computer) with convenience.

How: Tap the INVOICE button on your home screen of PocketSuite. Deliver any invoice via text or email, and clients will have the option to pay online.


3) Appointment Deposit Upfront

Occasion: If you want to collect payment on an appointment upfront when scheduling a client to your calendar.

Benefits: In one-fell swoop, confirm a client appointment on your calendar while receiving a full or partial $ deposit upfront.

How: When scheduling an appointment in PocketSuite, set a “$ Deposit” amount on the appointment and require your client to confirm said appointment with a credit card when you send it to them.


4) Payment once an Appointment/Job is Complete

Occasion: When you want to accept payment immediately after an appointment is complete.

Benefits: Uber-like experience to charge a client’s card that is linked to an appointment on your calendar.

How: Tap the CHARGE button on any appointment on your calendar that has been reserved with a client’s credit card. You can charge any $ amount and even hand the phone over to your client to add a tip (if desired).


5) Online Payments

Occasion: If you want to have clients book/pay you online – you can accept payment through your website, Facebook page and Instagram profile.

Benefits: Allows you to turn anyone visiting your website or social media pages into an instantly booking and paying client.

How: Enable ‘Online Booking’ in PocketSuite, and integrate your booking widget onto your website. Then paste your booking links on your social media profile.


6) Selling Packages

Occasion: If you want to sell upfront to a client a group or package of services/classes for future use.

Benefits: Collecting payment upfront, and then having a simple way to track all the sessions/credits used by each client.

How: Set up / save any standard package or program you sell, then send it off to your client (via text or email) to review and then purchase online. Credits are auto-added to the client’s account and you can start tracking those sessions!


7) Recurring Payments

Occasion: When you need to automatically charge clients each week, month, etc. – for ongoing memberships or recurring billing.

Benefits: Literally get paid while you sleep. No work on your end to have to invoice/charge clients, and no work on the client’s end to have to remember to pay an ongoing bill.

How: Enable ‘Subscriptions’ in PocketSuite, and send any type of subscription plan you’d like to a client (with a set $ amount and payment schedule). Your client confirms that plan just ONCE with a credit card only and voila!


8) Class Deposits

Occasion: When you want clients to sign up for a class and pay a drop-in fee ahead of a class.

Benefits: Double whammy: fills up your class roster allowing clients to sign up for a class ahead of time, and ensures you get PAID for the class ahead of time.

How: Enable ‘Classes’ in PocketSuite, then set up your class schedule (class name, $ drop-in, schedule, location, etc.). You can sign clients up yourself or post your class schedule online (see ‘Online Booking’ above) for clients to sign up & pay online.


9) via SMS Shortcode

Occasion: When you are requesting payment from a client via SMS text (i.e., sending an invoice via text, a package via text, requesting a job deposit via text, etc.), clients can literally just reply “1” to pay.

Benefits: Literally the easiest way around for a client to make a payment.

How: If you send any payment request to a client via text message, then your client will be given the option in the text thread to “Reply 1” to pay whatever is due (assuming your client already has entered a CC on file before).


10) Cancellation Fee

Occasion: If your client ever cancels an appointment falling inside your cancellation window.

Benefits: Gives you the ability to charge a cancellation fee — so you can be compensated for clients who fail to show up or cancel on you last minute.

How: When a client taps on their appointment link and hits the CANCEL button, they will be shown that by cancelling, their card (on file) will be charged your cancellation fee (as set by you under Settings > Business > Cancellations).


Bonus: GIVE YOUR CLIENTS THEIR OWN APP…

11) Client-side app

Occasion: If your client wants more control over sending you one-off payments not tied to any particular transaction.

Benefits: Gives your clients more flexibility and an organized record of all payments they send to you as the business.

How: Clients can download PocketSuite to their smartphones as well – they create a ‘client’ account instead of a ‘business’ account. They can add your business details under their PocketSuite contacts and send you payment at will via credit card, debit card and even ACH transfer.

Top 9 Therapy Websites & Marketplaces to Join

Top Therapy Communities

When you are building your therapy, clinical social work or mental health business, growing your customer base and getting exposure can be challenging. With more and more competition, standing out from the crowd can be difficult.

Joining a therapy or health marketplace can be a great way to establish your practice and build your clientele in a high quality way. A lot more so than simply being listed on Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.

We’ve been speaking with dozens of founders of therapy marketplaces and organizations over the past few months, and we wanted to share our thoughts.

Below are nine different types of marketplaces eager therapists can join to help your practice grow, depending on your business’s niche and needs.

Big Brand & Reach

GoodTherapy for Mental Health

As one of the largest mental health directories in the world, GoodTherapy connects patients to professionals in 30 different countries. Each month, the network receives over 1.5 million therapist searches.

GoodTherapy focuses on collaborative care, with a focus on non-stigmatizing language and the client and therapist working together to identify solutions. For mental health professionals, GoodTherapy offers a wide range of continuing education materials, such as webinars, best practices and marketing seminars.

The platform also tracks visitors to your profile as a therapist. You can get access to real-time analytics as to how many clients are visiting your profile, how many are calling you, tapping on call-to-actions, etc.

To become a member it costs $29.95 per month, with discounts if you sign up for longer term memberships.

Platforms Doing Good

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective for Mental Health

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective believes everyone should have access to quality mental care, regardless of income. The mission of the site is to provide middle and lower-income people to affordable psychotherapy and mental health education services.

Individual clients can see a quality therapist for $30 to $50 a visit (well below market pricing). The mental health providers that are part of Open Path’s directory are either therapists building their practice and reputation or established professionals giving back to the community.

There are currently over 2,300 therapists in the community, but with rising client demand, many more are needed.  To join this non-profit network, therapists complete an online application and send in a copy of their license and liability insurance. For most, the process takes under 10 minutes there are no fees whatsoever for participating therapists.

International-Focused Platforms

International Therapist Directory for Mental Health

The International Therapist Directory (“ITD”) is a global listing of professional therapists, counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists who offer cross-cultural therapy. Spanning 40 countries, therapists can connect with clients and also network with other healthcare providers.

As our world becomes more and more culturally blended, with people living and working in new countries, culturally-sensitive healthcare providers are essential to provide relevant and helpful therapy.

The site is focused on professional therapists with credentials at the master’s level or higher, with a thoughtful understanding of the ‘Third Culture Kid’. Healthcare providers in the ITD network have a tendency to connect with one another to refer patients and share their expertise, so their referral network is growing quite considerably.

Member fee is just a $35 annual fee.

Directory, Community, Web-building & More

TherapyTribe for Mental Health

TherapyTribe is an online therapist directory that also offers online support groups with wellness tools and activities.  Offering support for people with mental illnesses, addictions and diseases, the site has a professional directory of thousands of therapists as well as self-help materials.

As one of the largest directories, TherapyTribe receives tens of thousands of visitors each week from people looking for help. In addition, therapists listed with TherapyTribe are featured to support group members using geo-targeting to match by location.  

TherapyTribe is now offering members a free professional therapist website included with their membership.  A membership with TherapyTribe gets your business in front of a national pool of potential clients for a monthly ($20) or annual fee ($199).

Where Physical & Mental Intersect

Essential Yoga Therapy for Holistic Approach to Psychology and Fitness

Essential Yoga Therapy (“EYT”) connects customers with specialized yoga therapists who prepare customized plans to treat chronic pain or illness. EYT focuses on yoga therapy as the evolution of the healing process.  

In addition to giving yoga therapists greater access to potential clients, the site also has quality educational resources. For example, there are sessions on how to teach a class with individuals dealing with scoliosis, covering techniques and pose adjustments that will not hurt the client.  

The site is tailored to certified yoga therapists who focus on the holistic needs and therapeutic practices for individuals. Essential Yoga Therapy also offers in-person training for its professional community to learn new techniques.

OCD-Specific

International OCD Foundation for Niche Mental Healthcare

As one of the oldest resources for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (“OCD”), the International OCD Foundation connects individuals and families with disease state information, support materials and healthcare providers.

The site has a targeted group of therapists 1,200 strong. In addition to a directory listing, professional members also get access to the annual conference access, entrance to the behavioral therapy training institute and clinics with providers specializing in the treatment of OCD.

There are millions of people affected by OCD (1% of the U.S. population to be exact), but finding therapists who are knowledgeable in the disease is difficult. This site connects individuals to specially trained professionals.

The foundation is thoughtful in making membership affordable to its professionals. There are 3 tiers of memberships – from students preparing to be licensed therapists, to institutional memberships – with a sliding scale of membership costs.

Regional Therapy Organizations

The Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work for Regional Care

There are a growing number of regional therapy marketplaces on a state-by-state basis, including the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work (“GSCSW”) as an example. Since 1980, the GSCSW has worked to advance clinical social work practices and empower professional social workers in the state of Georgia.

By becoming a member, social workers can network with other local professionals, access continuing education resources, and keep informed about legislation affecting the field.

Social workers can join the network with an annual fee ranging from $20 for a student, to $110 for a licensed practitioner. Upon joining, professionals are listed in the local directory and gain access to a forum of other professionals to pose questions and receive support.

On Demand Mental Health

7 Cups for Mental Health

Recently launched 7 Cups provides affordable, on-demand mental health services, connecting users to compassionate and trained professionals around the clock. From everyday stresses to more severe needs, 7 Cups offers users a safe space.

With over 800,000 site visitors a month spanning across 189 countries, the 7 Cups platform is rapidly growing and expanding their services. The benefit to the platform is that therapists can provide care online via messages through the app. All therapy is done through the HIPAA compliant platform, and allows clients to get online (and mobile) access to therapists without having to move a muscle.

For the therapist, the fee is $29.95 per month to be listed. In addition to 40% per client interaction if the client decides to book communication time with you.

For people who want traditional in-person care, 7 Cups also offers a practice directory. Professionals can get connected to thousands of potential clients the old fashioned way as well.

Alternative Therapy

Alternative Therapists Network for Non-Conventional Care

The Alternative Therapists Network (“ATN”) focuses on multiple modes of therapy and self-care for patients. ATN connects clients with counselors, yoga practitioners, life coaches, and music and art instructors. It offers a space for clients and professionals to find alternatives to conventional therapy and medication. This is a known challenge to established beliefs.

Users can find out about practitioners, their experience and their approach to therapy before ever contacting them. That way, they can ensure their therapist shares their ideals and philosophies before beginning sessions.

Clients can schedule appointments directly through the site, which makes it easier for therapists and instructors to build their clientele. For a fee, professionals can join the network, get connected to users and get access to webinars and training seminars.

The founding team of ATN also runs Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, sourcing and delivering great content and articles to ATN members.

Recommendation: First Research, Then Join A Network

As a therapist or healthcare provider, building your own practice can be daunting.  Joining a professional network or marketplace can help you establish your presence and credibility. For a small fee, you can increase your clientele as well as network with like-minded professionals.

It’s a worthwhile investment that will expand your practice.

Smartphones Beat PCs in Speed, Cost, Convenience

Frustrating Slow PCs

WHY THIS IS HUGE NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The release of the iPhone X has proven one major headline: smartphones are now faster than PCs.

Chips inside computers and smartphones are referred to as central processing units, or “CPUs”. The faster and higher quality they are, the quicker your PC or smartphone runs. The CPU inside the new iPhone X is referred to as the “A10” chip, and that chip not only outpaces all other Android smartphones, but it has now caught up with Intel’s laptop CPUs.

That means that common tasks are (for the most part) now faster to perform on your mobile device than on your desktop or laptop. Retail consumption trends show just how important processing speed really is, with people are buying smartphones at five times the rate they are acquiring new PCs. iPhones alone saw 75 million shipments last quarter vs. 72 million for PCs.

But it’s not just your average consumer buying up more iPhones and smartphones for their day-to-day enjoyment. Small businesses and professionals are now flocking to this newest wave of faster and more powerful technology.

Speed and Power

Speed and power are crucial and a much-needed added benefit to today’s small business owner.

If your business runs faster and more efficiently, you have more time to grow.

Many businesses and on-the-go professionals have been resorting to their laptops to deal with customer transactions. The speed and flexibility of their PCs were providing platforms for scheduling, invoicing, contracts, etc. Despite being on their feet and in the proverbial field each day, mobile was not quiteadvanced enough to support all their real-time needs.

As the power of smartphones has now surpassed that of the most popular computers, the adoption of mobile in business continues to see an upward trajectory. It’s perfectly natural for home and local businesses to want to have the fastest, most capable, and most convenient tool at their fingertips to stay ahead of their competition. In fact, they deserve it.

Hardware-less

The lighter you are, the faster you move.

Small businesses are shifting in droves from lugging around laptops (and even tablets), to moving towards the more practical, lighter-weight tools.

The iPhone X, for example, has now removed the need for wired headphones by removing the jack. This is a major step towards something bigger than just mobile – wireless. The indirect result means that other clunky hardware like Square swipers will soon be defunct as the business world continues to turn light-weight.

Shedding excess baggage and hardware weight gives mobile professionals the agility they need to better serve their clients. This leaves much more time and energy to focus on the day to day business and clientele… the real revenue driver.


All-in-One

The fundamental offering of any smartphone is the combining of the most basic workflows. From being a communication device, location awareness, to a high resolution camera.

Native and 3rd-party applications further build on top of this foundation. Specifically for businesses includes tasks like note-taking, scheduling, payments, client management, and more.

The advancement in smartphone technology actually presents an exponential benefit for small businesses. That is to say, it doesn’t just make a single workflow faster – it makes all of your daily workflows faster.

This small device supports all your core workflows on a single device. Professionals are starting to save tremendous amounts of time by taking care of all client related things in the palm of their hand. The beauty is without going back to their desk to use their computer or a pen and paper.

In addition to a time saver, moving mobile is a cost saver. Instead of paying thousands for the newest PC, any business owner can pay just hundreds for a powerful smartphone. And instead of paying for 5 different workflow tools, mobile apps can now support all core workflows in a single app. For less.

The Future of Work

The future of work and business is fast. It’s cost-efficient, time-efficient and mobile.

Small business owners and freelance professionals alike are growing to accept today’s mobile world. This is not just due to the aforementioned benefits above. Their clients have come to accept this as the norm.

The average consumer and homeowner checks their phone 85 times a day. It’s convenient, it’s with them at all times, and it’s enjoyable to interact with. The increasingly accepted mode of consumer communication is SMS text, with phone calls and emailing on the secular decline .

As more professionals make the switch from PCs to now faster smartphones, that allows them to further engage clients on their device of preference – mobile. Happy clients turns into to more referrals, which means more revenue.