by Michele Nachum
Published on 2 May 2011
Lately there has been a proliferation of online booking applications to help small businesses generate and manage customer appointments. However, Bookeo is one of the best of the appointment solutions I have experienced so far. Why? Because they got it right. Simple as that. Not only do they have the basic tools such as building or importing a customer database, creating class or appointment times and managing an appointment calendar, Bookeo also has a very comprehensive marketing section. The Bookeo team knows that managing your appointment calendar is a real benefit - but generating appointments and new customers is a much harder proposition and having the marketing tools and know how to do that is more important than ever.
When I navigated through Bookeo I felt as though I was reading through a marketing text book. Not in the boring textbook sense - but in the "oh my goodness I forgot I could do that" sense. In addition to the oft-used promotional email to clients feature, Bookeo helps its SMB's create pricing promotions, membership opportunities, and viral and social media campaigns. The solution also has tools that allow SMBs to offer online payments and deposits, gift vouchers, integrated CRM programs and more.
Pricing starts at an affordable $14.95 per month so most SMBs will be able to afford the tools and benefit from the value that Bookeo provides.
The Basics: Signing Up, Customer Information and Scheduling
First of all, anyone who is not real technical will be pleased to know that Bookeo provides a nice clean interface that is easy to navigate. Secondly, Bookeo appears to work best with SMBs that already have a website and/or business Facebook profile, since Bookeo allows you to embed appointments and booking buttons directly onto your site.
Once you sign up for Bookeo, you will input your information and create a URL that will look like this: www.bookeo.com/yourcompany. You will then spend some time in the Customer section either entering in your customer database manually or importing it from either Microsoft Outlook or Apple Address Book and vCard.
You can also begin creating appointment times in the Calendar section so that customers can sign up for your services.
Once a customer signs up for an appointment, Bookeo allows you to send SMS text reminders to your customers to avoid no-shows, as well as collect feedback from them after the visit.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, I was most impressed with Bookeo's extensive marketing options. In addition to the more traditional email marketing tools, Bookeo is fully integrated in the social space with one-click Facebook signin, GroupOn/LivingSocial voucher validation, and viral marketing via Facebook and Twitter.
As someone who likes to book appointments and reservations online, I do appreciate a nice looking booking button on a business website. The good news is that Bookeo does makes it very easy to add a booking button to your website. To embed a booking button, you will click on the Booking Button option and then Bookeo supplies you with the HTML code that you can paste into your web page source code.
You will have to paste the code in the HTML view (often called "Source") of your web page editor, and not in the normal graphical view. This process might be a bit intimadating for those not familiar with HTML, but Bookeo does offer customer support for such instances.
Once the button is embedded in your site, customers can click on the button and be taken to your Bookeo URL automatically where they can fill out the online form and ultimately book the appointment.
Promotional emails to customers are a bit old fashioned but surprisingly effective. Bookeo provides the tools to reach out to your customers via email. Before developing your campaign, you will have to first enable MailChimp integration. Just click on the MailChimp link to download the software. MailChimp is a pretty nifty feature as it offers advanced mailing list management, with colors and graphics, statistics, reports. Best part - it is free for up to 12,000 emails per month.
Bookeo knows the value of social media campaigns. Once your customer books an appointment, the Viral tool will automatically offer your client the opportunity to share out information about your services on Facebook and Twitter. To entice customers to do this - you can also reward them and potential new customers with credits and discounts. The Viral marketing feature is available on any paid plan, including the cheapest plan at 14.95$ per month.
Customers who are "members" are more likely to return, as they experience a closer connection with your business. In the Membership option, you can offer special "member" pricing as well as create special member-only events and classes.
Like the Marketing section, Bookeo's Settings provides a number of different options for SMB's. Settings include some basics tools like importing your logo to your Bookeo URL as well as regionalizing your Bookeo site by choosing a language other than the default English to either Spanish, Italian, French or German. In the Settings area, you can also choose to integrate your promotional materials with Facebook, GroupOn and MailChimp. In settings you can also add in online payment tools, as well as implement special pricing for different seasons.
Is it for you?
I truly believe any SMB with a small promotions budget will benefit from the many features and tools that Bookeo offers. Small businesses that sign on will find that there are affordable and relatively easy ways to market to customers and most importantly, keep customers coming back.
Bookeo works best for small businesses that are dependent on customers bookings such as hair salons, exercise and fitness class venues, massage therapists, photographers (especially those who work weddings and other special occasions), tutors and more.
Overall Bookeo is wonderfully affordable, complete and easy-to-use solution for service-oriented SMBs.