Many businesses build a website as a billboard, something to get their information out on the web. They use it as another place to gain visibility and brand recognition. However, a website is much more than an advertising tool. Making your website work for you, I mean actually doing some of the work for your business, is another reason to have a solid internet presence. Remember the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” By automating some of your business processes online, you truly can work smarter, not harder!
Do you schedule appointments, take payments, communicate with your clients? Do you take orders for products or services? Do you have a catalog or product information you give to your customers? Do you take reservations? Do you take applications for employment?
These are all business processes that can be automated and put on your website to help you work more efficiently. It may be as simple as creating a form and sending the information to the right person. Or maybe enlisting the help of a 3rd party service that can automate these tasks.
Ever heard of Paypal or Square? They are 3rd party services that millions of people use on a daily basis to automate the process of taking payments online. We don’t think it’s a big deal, but really, it is! If you can use one of these services to process payments online you might gain business or get paid quicker. It’s easy for your customers too. This saves your company time and money!
Communicating with your clients by email is still the best direct marketing plan available. People need an email account for most anything they do online. Why not gather email addresses and have a direct line to tell your clients about a special offer or upcoming event? Offering free helpful tips and DIY information may seem outside the scope of what you want to do, but it is helpful to those on the receiving end. If they can trust you to tell them how to make a minor repair, guess who they will call when they can’t figure it out or need help on a bigger project?
Schedulicity.com or AcuityScheduling.com are both great online scheduling tools. They offer the flexibility for you and your clients. Scheduling can be done in real-time where you set the hours of operation. You can even take payments or offer to reschedule online. This saves timely phone calls!
Have you ordered ahead at Starbucks lately? I can skip the line by ordering and paying with my smartphone. I have a local t-shirt design company (Creator Designs) that I use and all my orders start online! It’s so easy and simple. If you have an order process, your website is a great place to gather the basic information needed to get an order started. Your customers can select a few options, enter their contact information and click send. As a business owner, all I have to do is confirm a few details. Plus, I may already have your contact information in my contact management systems and can see what you ordered last time. All these details can be kept in a database for future use. What a time saver for the company and your clients. Great customer service, too!
Many companies offer product or service information online. Delivering catalogs and extended brochures on your website is another helpful tool. You can do this by offering free downloads or previews. Not only will your online viewers find this information, but you can direct callers to this information as well. This saves them the frustration of waiting, making a point to stop by for the information, and you having to mail or email it!
Living in a vacation destination area like Branson, I’m still amazed to find places that do not take online reservations, even for lodging. This is such an important part of a lodging facilities business. Changing your business process to include online reservations is a no-brainer. Offering real-time reservations can bring last minute business for rooms that will sit empty. Plus, your customers will appreciate the convenience.
Do you take applications for employment or financing? Many large brands require you to fill out your employment application online before they will even consider you for employment. Applications are simply general contact information and some other items of interest. For smaller businesses, there are third party services that can protect private information on a form or page of your website for a small fee. You can also ask your web designer to create a secure site for your gathered information also. Either way, this efficient tool can gain you valuable information in a short amount of time.
I’m sure there are many other business processes that can be automated online. We find new ones all the time. Not everyone will want to complete and gather all their information online. But, for those that will, it saves your company (and it’s bottom line) much time, effort, and money! You may be able to spend your hard earned money on other items that will help your business grow and enjoy the benefits of a well-oiled machine – your online business processes.