According to a Google survey, 80% of consumers search online to find a business and more than a third of them want to book an activity. In fact, 25% of millennials (those under 35) will only book appointments online based on data from FitSmallBusiness.com.

If you need more evidence, consider that 60% of online bookings on Pingup’s Marketing Network happen outside normal business hours.

Consumers desire to connect with a business on their own terms and through the convenience of the web. If your small business lacks the capability of online booking, you are missing out.

Varying solutions

There are many solutions on the market for online booking, from business management software platforms such as Booker, MindBody and Setster, to more basic solutions such as Google Calendar and Calendly.

These solutions are built with a variety of bells and whistles, from CRM integration to billing and so on. Scheduling platforms are also designed to accommodate certain verticals such as health and beauty, accounting, home services, and more.

You should take the time to inventory your needs when thinking about an online scheduling solution for your small business. Consider which features will actually benefit your unique business strategy the most.

But I don’t want business management software.

Data shows that the majority of small businesses operate without business management or scheduling software. You may be like many small salons and spas and still keep schedules with pen and paper, or take walk-ins only.

For small businesses like yours, the power of online scheduling software solutions often eclipses your basic needs. In some cases, it may even be cost prohibitive.

How can I get new customers online without scheduling software?

Don’t confuse online scheduling software with marketing. Granted, some scheduling platforms include extra features related to marketing, but they are not marketing solutions.

To attract customers to your business, focus on where they go to find businesses like yours. Many of them visit search engines, online directories and social sites. Google, Facebook, Bing, YP.com and others are the first stop for consumers when searching for local businesses. A few key tips:

  1. Spend time on SEO. With 80% of your prospective customers searching online, you have to ensure that your site is SEO friendly. Spend some time on content creation as a way to improve your ranking for key terms around your business category. You should also know that SEO is not a magic bullet and it will take time to generate returns. Local Seo Guide has a great blog on the topic here.
  2. Be Social. I know it goes without saying, but tomorrow’s consumers are going to social sites and networks first to find and discover businesses with whom they want to engage. Keep your social profiles up to date. Message your followers with offers or updates on services you provide.
  3. Be accessible. Make sure to include ways for customers to contact you across all digital touchpoints. Share your social media handles, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you every way that they want to communicate.
  4. Be responsive. If you do the right things and customers reach out, reply to them and do it quickly. Across our network, we see that close to 60% of all booking requests are for an appointment in the next 48 hours. If you don’t respond to a request quickly, your customer will move on to the next option.
  5. Lastly, Be Bookable. Consumers are pulled in a lot of different directions and their access to more options is ever increasing. Everyone is bombarded with ads and distractions. However, most consumers still start with online search. Make sure that your online listings allow a customer to book with your business. Add booking buttons on your business listings across search, social and directory sites. Make it easy for consumers to connect with your business and you’ll find it easier to grow.