I recently had a chat with a friend, let’s call her Sally, who told me she was taking bookings for her healing practice manually and wanted to make the process smoother, both for herself and for her clients. As we’re all worried about cash flow at the moment, I said I’d look into the cheapest and easiest way that she could do this. I shared my findings with her and why not share them with you? 

The objective was this, find a cost-effective way to automate the appointment booking process.

I mapped out the customer journey to help work out what we’d need. 

  • Visitor either contacts Sally or finds her profile on social media and is directed to the appropriate landing page 
  • Visitor reads info on landing page about the service and Sally
  • Visitor decides to book a session with Sally
  • At this stage, three things could happen. 
      1. Visitor pays for their session and is then sent an automated email that directs them to a page where they can book their appointment
      2. Visitor books their appointment and is sent an automated email that directs them to a payment page
      3. Visitor is able to book and pay for their appointment within the landing page 

Let’s dig into these three options for a moment.

The first option secures the payment, but the client doesn’t know which dates are available for booking. This introduces an element of risk for them and increases the chances that they click away from the landing page before completing their purchase. 

In the second option, the visitor can see the dates available and can book, but payment comes later. This adds risk for Sally; it’s not ideal if her calendar gets filled up with appointments that aren’t paid for. 

The third option is the ideal scenario. The potential customer can see the dates available and they have to pay in order to book their desired slot.

  • Booking is confirmed by email, and reminders are sent 24 hours before the session is due to take place. 
  • Client is tagged in mailing list as a ‘current client’

So according to this journey, we need a landing page for the service, a calendar app to book the time slots, a way to take payments, and an email service to send confirmations and add customers to a mailing list. 

From my 5+ years experience, I know that to do this we need two types of software; 

  1. an email service that offers landing pages, 
  2. and a calendar app that can take payments. 

Mailerlite is an email management system that’s gotten increasingly popular over the last year. There are lots of tools available on the free account, which is perfect if you’re just starting your list. You can have up to 1000 subscribers, send 12000 monthly emails, build 10 landing/website pages, create forms and pop-ups and use email automations. It’s also simple to use with drag and drop templates that you can add your own branding to.

The free account doesn’t allow us to take payments though. To do that we’d need to pay approx 10 USD a month. And we’d end up with option 1, where the client was paying for their appointment before being able to actually book the date/time. Not ideal, so let’s look at our calendar software.  

Calendly is an appointment booking app, which has a decent free account if you only have one type of booking you want to make through it. (It’s what I use for my 30 min free chat bookings). But by upgrading to the Professional account, we can set up multiple appointment types and we can also get the capability we’re looking for; we can take payments as part of the appointment book process, via Stripe or Paypal. This costs approx 15 USD a month. Calendly also allows us to customise and schedule reminder emails for the appointments. 

So how well do the two programs work with each other? 

We can embed the Calendly booking area into the Mailerlite landing page so visitors wouldn’t even leave the landing page to make the booking and pay. Again this helps reduce the risk of the customer having to wait for another page to load, increasing the chances of them clicking away before they’ve completed their booking. 

Using Zapier, a free integration software, we can set up a link between the Calendly form and the mailing list in Mailerlite, so that each email that’s added into the form is automatically added to the mailing list and added to the group for ‘Current Customers’. 

So by using Mailerlite, Calendly and Zapier, we can set up an automated appointment booking process for 15USD, about £12.36 a month, by today’s rates. 

There are loads of different email services and booking apps out there, so it’s perfectly plausible that there’s an even cheaper way of setting this kind of workflow up, that I’m just not aware of. If you know one, let me know too!

I already use Mailerlite and Calendly for both myself and my clients, and they are two of the easiest apps to find your way around which is why I recommend them. We’re all busy enough as it is, without having to learn complicated new tech just to take a booking. 

And Zapier is a really handy tool to get your head around if you’re interested in automating more of your processes. Zapier basically helps all your different software share information better, taking a lot of the admin out of the various systems you need to run your business. 

Let me know if you decide to set this automated payment system up yourself. I’d love to hear from you if you do. Or if you’re already using something and it’s not quite working how you think it should, contact me to share the issue and I’ll give you any advice I can to help.

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