Waiting to accept money is KILLING your mobile attraction or event business!
A little background.
Just as a preface the article below applies to almost any industry! So even if you run a window cleaning company or a wedding reception center this applies to you!
I run a successful mobile attraction business called Epic Party Events, and we offer mobile attractions like our Mobile Game Den, Mobile Archery Tag, Mobile Laser Tag, and Mirror Me Photo booth.
In our first full year of business we did $110,000+ in sales! In this blog post my goal is to impart a piece of knowledge that helped me reach that success.
I don’t bring up my success to brag, I bring it up simply to help you understand how important the topic of this post is!
Before I started Epic Party Events I worked for my cousin selling life insurance as an investment and not for the death benefit.
Life insurance is not an easy sale to begin with and with many big names like Dave Ramsey saying life insurance is not a good investment it made the sales darn near impossible.
Despite this my cousin is very successful selling life insurance as an investment, and there were many reasons for that, however, in this article we will focus on one thing he taught me.
Get your clients skin in the game ASAP!
Some of you reading this may already know what I mean, but just in case you don’t it means to take at least some money from clients as soon as humanly possible.
In the event industry this usually takes the face of deposits, and most of the people reading this article are already asking for deposits. That’s great!
There are many benefits to getting a client to give you a deposit, and one of the most important is that they have invested in you! Their search for competition is now over and you have emerged victorious!
Many other benefits are found when taking deposits, and we will cover them a little later on, but first let me tell you where the weak link in your armor is.
Most booking software will require you to accept a booking before the client pays. In case you missed the issue there, I will repeat it: You must accept a booking BEFORE the client PAYS.
And if you don’t use a booking software, then the process of getting payment usually involves one or more phone calls, a few emails, and sometimes more! Talk about giving your potential clients time to feel buyer’s remorse!
What’s the worst that can happen…
Here are a few examples of what can happen while a client is waiting on you:
You are asleep and the client sends a booking request. While you sleep, they are shopping around, they are looking for better prices, deals, or other options.
You know they are. When you wake up you accept the booking as soon as you see it, however, they never pay. They found someone else.
Have you heard the term “strike while the iron is hot”? If a person has clicked your book now button, they are red hot!
Are you going to let them cool down because they must wait for you to use the restroom, or you’re on a trip and whoever you left to guard the “acceptance gate” is playing video games?
Quite a few emails are sent to spam nowadays, even emails that people want are often sent to that infernal death box!
This time you are on the ball, and you accept your potential clients booking right away! Then a day goes by with no response, then two days, why hasn’t the client paid you?
Well that nice acceptance email that got sent out was eaten by the spam trap and your potential clients think you skipped out on them, so they naturally looked somewhere else.
When the problem does come to light… it’s too late!
Think about it from your client’s perspective, they are panicking, they have a party in two weeks and the invitations need to be sent today!
They don’t know how long it is going to be until the company on the other side (your company) is going to take to accept the booking.
Instead of waiting around they just move on to a company they can call, or book with immediately to insure they can get the party ready. (I know this happens because a lot of my clients tell me that they couldn’t reach the other guys, so they came to me.)
For those who don’t use a booking software: You get a request by phone or filled out pdf, then you check times, and let them know that is available. The potential client then thanks you and says they will get back to you with payment information! Then like some awful magic your potential client just disappears!
I hope by now you are thinking to yourself “why haven’t I been taking my clients money automatically when they book”? Or “how can I set this up, so my clients pay the deposit without having to wait on me”?
If you are then you are on the right track, and the good news is there is a way! However, let’s talk about the reasons you haven’t done this already, and there is at least one very good reason you haven’t allowed clients to pay before you can check it out.
The dangers of accepting your client’s money BEFORE they book!
Double bookings or bookings that are scheduled too close together.
I know this problem very well because the web application I was using made this a constant headache. I have always accepted payments from clients without them having to wait on me to accept the booking.
Often this would lead to a problem. You see my web application back then would only allow me to put a padding between scheduled appointments that didn’t change based on that days booking locations.
Padding is a buffer that is automatically placed after, before, or after and before a booking or appointment is scheduled.
For example, I could set a padding of whatever time I wanted to have between my Mobile Game Den events, however, once I chose that amount of time it was applied to every Mobile Game Den event that was booked.
If I put the padding as 60 minutes, then bookings would be spaced at a minimum of 60 minutes apart.
The problem I then face is that if the travel time between bookings was 90 minutes or more then there would be no possible way for me to clean up and leave one event and arrive at the next event on time.
When that happens, I must call customers and try to move their party to a later time. This has cost me $500 dollars in the past couple months. Most customers are super willing to work with you, however, as I learned not all of them are.
Another problem that happens when you use a system that only allows for set time padding in between is time waste.
Let’s say that I set a 120 minute padding between bookings to help alleviate the problem above, now I have to wait for an hour or more most of the time (because most events are much closer than 2 hours apart) which could be time used to have an additional event that day.
Less events = less money, or more time between events = less money. As far as I know everyone in business should be in business to make more money not less!
Why even with the dangers accepting client’s money before they book is still better than the alternative!
Just to be clear I would still recommend taking money upfront over having to accept the booking.
I may have lost $500.00 due to an upset customer, but I have gained countless thousands in sales by being available right away to accept customers money!
By my experience you are jumping over dollars to save pennies if you delay for even ONE EXTRA SECOND your client’s ability to pay you!
I no longer use my original booking system because I created a solution that has erased the problem of clients booking too close together or too far apart while allowing clients to pay right away. More on that in a bit!
Now that the dangers of your potential client waiting to pay you have been made apparent, let’s return to some of the fantastic benefits that come in allowing your potential clients to become actual clients without delay.
You will have money to pay your employees or yourself or both before the event takes place!
Your travel costs will be paid (if your booking system automatically calculates travel fees and charges clients) and you will be able to get fuel for the travel with the money from that event.
Customers can’t rip you off as easily (especially if you require full payment before the event like we do) because they have already given you the money.
Requiring a deposit and payment before the event allows you to make sure checks clear, and that credit card payments are processed.
If I haven’t convinced you of the power of accepting payments right away, then just ask yourself what have you really got to lose? Clients? I guarantee you are already losing clients to competitors!
Would you rather have to refund a couple of clients or lose thousands of dollars a year to your competitors?
If you answer these questions honestly then I think the only question left is “what do I need to do to stop KILLING my business by making clients wait”?
I have two more questions though! What if you could accept payments right away and not have to deal with the dangers listed above?
Would that be enough to convince you to stop making potential customers wait to become paid customers?
What solutions are out there?
Several incomplete but adequate solutions exist already, and most of you have probably heard about Acuity, Bookeo, Inflatable Office, Xola, and MANY more! Let’s talk about a few pros and cons that some of these solutions have!
I have personally used Acuity, and I have used the demo for Inflatable Office as well as had conversations with their sales reps.
Not only that I have many friends in the industry that use Bookeo, and I have extensive secondhand knowledge of how it works.
I want to cover each of these three in a little detail as they all have helpful options to collect money upfront.
They all have some level of disconnect as well with the concept because they were not BUILT from scratch for the purpose of automating your clients ability to pay you immediately.
Let’s begin with Acuity.
Before my current solution Acuity was my favorite of the three we are discussing. It had several amazing features, but most importantly clients were required to pay for the booking at checkout!
I was getting bookings in my sleep, on vacation, and while I was playing with my kids. No call or acceptance necessary!
Acuity also has some incredible back end features at a great price. They have automated emails that go out to clients and can be edited.
There calendar system is powerful and MUCH more!
Acuity has a weakness though! It’s the danger described above. You can only set a static or unchanging padding between events. If you choose a 60-minute padding, then there will be a 60-minute padding between appointments and that’s it.
Bookeo has a different approach, you can make it so your clients pay you up front but most who use it have the feature turned off, so they have to accept appointments first! If you use bookeo and use this feature CHANGE IT NOW!
The reason most bookeo users in our industry do this is to avoid the danger of bookings being too close together.
Bookeo and Acuity also have another downfall, neither of them collect the money for any travel charge you have up front at the time of checkout. I will have another short article about the money you are losing linked to this one right here!
Inflatable Office by from my experience is the most well built for the Event and Mobile Attractions Industry.
They can have a travel fee added on, and they charge the clients up front for that! On top of that they have a great FREE tier.
They even will prevent bookings from booking to close together, and therein lies the problem. They PREVENT the booking and require you to accept it. Now we are back to square one!
Another common complaint comes up with Bookeo and Inflatable Office, the pricing quickly becomes difficult for a small business to handle. Acuity shines here as there pricing is amazing!
I have heard a few similar complaints from users of all three of these great systems. They are complicated and difficult to use. I know most business owners don’t have the time to spend hours learning a new booking system.
I searched everywhere for a software that would make sure to take the clients’ money AND automatically calculate the distances between appointments on the spot, I didn’t find it!
I decided to create the perfect event booking software and it is the only booking software in the WORLD that will automatically calculate distances between appointments and assign a travel time padding automatically (preventing scheduling conflicts NOT transactions), making you tens of thousands of dollars more, and still thousands more by allowing you to book more events per day.
It will also save you hundreds a month with automatic fuel/travel fees! Automatic email and text reminders along with other features are also included!
A way to truly automate your income and make more income at the same time! The solution will change your business forever!
What is the solution? RobiMobi.com. With Robi Mobi we had all of our appointments and calendars set up in just ten minutes, moving appointments from the other booking software admittedly took longer but we had a lot of appointments to move, and it was still easy!
Here’s the great part, if a potential client is trying to book but the time is not available it will show them a list of available times automatically (again taking the distance to travel between events and showing the times that won’t cause you headaches) and they simply click the other time and now they are a client for real!
Something else I love is that members who join the top tier will be grandfathered in as features are added and prices go up.