A Year in Reflection

Whew, last week was a whirlwind for me. Today, I am back at work, starting the new year with a little more clarity, if not less chaos.

Meanwhile, I spent my weekend hanging around the house, baking a lot of apple pies (I didn’t mean to bake three pies, it just worked out that way), and reading my January issue of Nails Magazine.

And I got to thinking about 2011, business, the economy, all the things I did right ... and the things I did wrong.

2011 was a great year. I have not finished doing all my adding up, but it might be my best year yet for gross receipts. It was also my most evenly booked year — I slowed down a little more than I would have liked toward the end, but I guess I needed the break.

I started an actual advertising plan in 2011. Not only have I been working to really keep up with the Internet marketing — including moving my website to a Blogspot site and including a blog with my site (and keeping it reasonably updated!) — but also with local advertising mediums. I advertised in two major periodicals that are handed out by our local Chamber of Commerce and our local Downtown Merchants’ Alliance and I committed to a year of print advertising in a local newspaper.

I have to say, I really did see a distinct spike in business once my ad started appearing in the local "Valley Voice" newspaper, and business stayed at an all-time high for several months, until... the thing I did this year that I think was the worst idea I’ve had in a long time: I added online booking to my website.

I know so many other techs in the business for whom online booking software such as Genbook or Schedulicity has been a boon. So many colleagues recommended it. So many colleagues have had such tremendous luck with these programs.

However, it was right about the time I started using Genbook as my scheduling program that I started to see a drastic decline in calls. Both from new and existing clients. My existing clients never embraced the new booking system, they kept insisting on calling me. The more I suggested to everyone that they make use of the online option (mind you, I’d rebook personally for anyone who wanted to book their next appointment before leaving the salon, and standings never even knew there was a change), the more space I started to see slowly opening up in my schedule.

It took me about three months to cancel my account with Genbook due to simple lack of interest. It took me till recently to see how this pattern emerged and consider there might be a correlation.

It was apparent that my clients are not yet ready for self-booking. In retrospect, it appears that what the local population hasn’t embraced is the whole credit card to secure your appointment thing.

Of course, there’s no way I’m going to open up my schedule for self-service booking to a bunch of strangers and amateurs without requiring any sort of security!

But that’s my best hypothesis for pinpointing what, specifically, didn’t go over well.

Well. My year of newspaper advertising is over — and, sadly, the newspaper is currently without a future, so it’s not like I’ll continue with that venue. I have gone back to minding my own book, no credit card or deposit required, and business is picking back up.

I’m thrilled to hear about all the people out there for whom online booking has been a positive addition to their business, but I wanted to share my observations for anyone who is on the fence about it so you know that it isn’t a perfect solution in every instance for every tech.

Meanwhile, I have to think of another venue for advertisement this year, seeing as how my beloved local newspaper seems to be at its end ... Maybe it’s time to try radio?

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