What is Book’d, and how did you and your team get started in this field?
Book’d is an online booking engine aimed at making individuals and organizations more profitable, productive and accessible. We are using the term “engine” because our ultimate goal is to make businesses stronger and faster, and we sit between the definitions of web application, content management system, online calendar and probably a few others as well. The core functionality is an online booking system that will allow users to have others book time with them through an online interface. They will be able to accept payments, have multiple schedules for multiple staff members or venues, and run promotions. Additionally, the system will allow users to create a full-functioning, responsive website with online booking and e-commerce functionality in less than 15 minutes. Book’d will also be available as an embeddable widget and a simpler landing page.
We started building Book’d because we saw a universal problem: Too much time is being wasted. We got frustrated with not being able to book an appointment with a service provider online and sending six emails back and forth to find a time to meet on something. Our goal in creating Book’d was to create more time for people by removing the complexities of scheduling it. The technical skills were already there, so we just needed to apply them.
How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize Book’d to create either better end-results or enhance in-house performance?
With any productivity tool, application will vary based on your needs, but here are a few of the ideas on practical application from our team:
- Online presence for small business clients on a tight budget. No, it won’t be as customized as the $20,000+ website you proposed. However, our website builder can create a responsive website for your client in under 15 minutes, making them mobile and tablet-ready. It’s definitely a game changer for those small business with no web presence (yes, many still exist) or those with outdated sites.
- A building manager. Book’d can also be used to just to solve internal problems, such as how to book various meeting rooms around the office. You can make venues available and have people book time slots in them to avoid the “I need this room more than you do right now” debate.
- A new business tool. For those of you who offer services that are best exhibited through a demonstrative session, such as an analytics platform, Book’d can work as a lead generation funnel. Embed it on your website and allow people to “book a demo” whenever they happen to stumble across your site.
- A universally accessible scheduler that will sync with iCal and Google Calendar, especially if you are an independent consultant. Scheduling time with clients either requires you to spend your evenings emailing back and forth or employing someone to be your accessibility channel. Book’d can act as your display of “available times” from which people can book at their convenience. It also means that you can create new available time, such as the long commutes into the city, etc. If you charge for consulting by the hour, you can also have people pay in advance, meaning they’re more likely to show up on time!
What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that Book’d would fill a void?
As we said above, we knew people were wasting time because we were wasting time. After looking at the existing solutions, we knew there was a specific void to be filled — the “clever” solution. Other online booking software already exists. It works, but it’s far from perfect. Many of the existing solutions are clunky, have compatibility issues or are hard for anyone without technical knowledge to use effectively. Also, the responsive design we are implementing takes this industry into the mobile market, which it has not been using well at all to date. We know where business is going and we wanted to design something that would assist organizations in getting there quickly and on an extremely low budget (less than the cost of an hourly employee).
What types of brands and industries is Book’d most suited for? What are some examples of ways that companies can use the service?
Book’d is suited for anyone in need of a way for others to book time with them, accept payment for appointments and for those needing a sophisticated online presence. It works for practically anyone, but it specifically solves primary challenges for service-based businesses for whom every hour not booked is money lost.
In addition to the examples already given, Book’d will be for individuals/organizations like...
- The consultant (of any kind).
- The new business person who needs to spend time with a potential client in order to make a sale.
- The venue manager who wants to make multiple rooms available for rental.
- The pilates studio that wants to have clients book classes, individual instruction and packages.
- The physical therapist or personal trainer who wants to provide a way for his or her clients to book appointments whenever it is convenient for them.
- The bridal boutique who wants clients to book dress fittings and alterations and pay in advance to avoid no-shows.
- The photographer who wants to book more sessions each week.
- The voluntary action center who wants to provide a way for volunteers to register for an event online.
- The public health organization who wants to provide a way for citizens to register for informative classes online.
How can online scheduling help businesses reduce expenses and make it easier to communicate with customers?
Online booking decreases the amount of communication (and thus, time) required to schedule productive time. It’s a cost reduction no matter how you look at it. Additionally, for those who accept payment for time (i.e. service-based companies), Book’d provides a way for them to easily collect payment ahead of the appointment, reducing no-shows, which is a big issue.
In today’s market, accessibility is key with converting new customers and retaining existing ones. Convenience is mobile, which means you better be accessible on mobile devices. Especially among younger generations, the idea of having to make a phone call to book an appointment will often keep them from making one. Accessibility = increased conversion and happier customers.
Since you are just starting out, what is your go-to-market strategy?
We are going to market ready to experiment. Emily Eldridge (Eldridge is also the co-founder of The Agency Post) has experience bringing startups to market and has come on as our CEO. We also have some great external marketing partners in this endeavor, which will certainly help us to make “informed market tests.” We’re going to be testing everything from Facebook advertising to Google AdWords to foot soldiers. Access to Book’d is being granted on an invitation-only basis so that we can maintain control over the number of users and ensure everyone receives the best possible experience with the software from the beginning. We’re also implementing an Industry Partner program in which we are looking to partner with a few businesses in key industries to determine how best to use Book’d for their needs and how to continue to build out our website design options accordingly.
Initially, we are launching “Make Time Count,” a Pinterest-based strategy we’re excited to test. We didn’t identify the issue we set out to solve (wasted time), and a lot of awesome people have had a lot to say on the subject. Inspiring quotes, as you probably know, are a very popular item-to-pin, so we’re going to be adding a new one each day that relates to the values of Book’d. In past work, we’ve had great engagement from Pinterest users, so we’re interested to see how it works for Book’d.
We’d like to give a special shout out to 12th of Never, the awesome design firm based out of Australia who helped to develop our visual branding elements. They were simply amazing to work with, and the 24-hour work schedule created by being on opposite sides of the globe is ideal for startups...
For more than a decade, Jamie Stephens has been helping small and large businesses build technology and marketing strategies for their customers. Jamie's passion is building simple, usable software that allows people to focus on their core activities instead of tedious minutia. You can find out more about Jamie and some of his other work by following him on Twitter.
Originally published Aug 1, 2012 1:00:04 AM, updated December 05 2014