They’re the lifeblood of any service business.
If you’ve been in business for a while then you’ll know how challenging it can be to acquire new clients.
What you may not know is your website can be one of your best acquisition tool, but only if you use it correctly.
Think about this…
Your website is like a salesperson that can collect leads for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can refine your pitch and deliver it perfectly on screen for every visitor.
The trouble is, most businesses miss out on huge volumes of potential clients because they’re not using the right tools.
That’s where vCita comes in.
What is vCita?
vCita offers a suite of marketing and client management apps for small businesses.
While they have 5 distinct products for small businesses, we’ll be looking at their appointment booking and online scheduling tools in particular.
With their scheduling tools, you can create a custom calendar with services you offer and available time slots. Visitors can then select any time and day they want to schedule an appointment with you.
Before we dive into the software itself, here’s how these tools can benefit your business.
If you’re still taking phone calls to schedule appointments pay close attention to this next section.
The benefits of scheduling software
There are three main benefits to adding appointment booking to your small business website.
Automate appointment booking
You might be accustomed to taking calls from new clients to schedule appoinments. This requires keeping someone available to answer calls at all times.
The scheduling software gives your site visitors a visual calendar they can use to book appoinments. This prevents scheduling conflicts and also automates the process for you.
Reduce cancellations and no-shows
Once a client schedules an appointment, their contact info is saved in the vCita app. You can send automated followup emails or text messages to confirm their appointment and remind them.
Follow-up messages can greatly reduce the chance of clients forgetting about the scheduled visit and missing it.
Sync with your whole team
Anyone on your team can login and view the appointment calendar. This keeps everyone on the same page so you’re prepared for every client visit.
How to get more clients with vCita
Now that you know why online booking can help your business, let’s talk about how it all fits together.
There are two challenges when it comes to client acquisition and management on
First, you need to a way for visitors to schedule an appointment on your site.
Second, you need a way to manage your clients and their appointments.
The vCita app includes tools for managing your clients as well as your services and appointments. In this review, we’ll be looking primarily at how you can use the vCita WordPress plugin to connect the app with your site.
The vCita WordPress plugin
The vCita WordPress plugin is free to install and makes integration with their app simple.
You can download the plugin on wordpress.org or search for it by name in your Plugins menu.
With the vCita appointment booking plugin, you can include four different types of lead generation forms on your site. These various forms provide your visitors with access to your appointment calendar which they can use to schedule a visit on their own.
Since the plugin syncs with the app, all of your site visitors that schedule appointments will be automatically added into vCita where you get full access to the CRM and other valuable tools.
Before we move onto the four acquisition tools, let’s address the elephant in the room.
The vCita plugin has collected a fair number of 1-star reviews. I looked through these reviews to find out what was wrong, and they are almost entirely from WordPress users who found the plugin and expected to get all the functionality for free.
I can empathize with them in that a lot of plugins on wordpress.org are truly free, and vCita could advertise more clearly in the description that it requires a paid vCita account to get the full functionality.
At the same time, who really expects to get a powerful customer appointment booking and lead generation tool for free? If they help you land new clients and reduce overhead, why wouldn’t you be willing to pay them for that?
Most other reviews for their plugin are positive and illuminate why business owners are finding great value in their product.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the plugin!
When you install the vCita plugin, you’ll find a new top-level menu item added to your WP admin dashboard.
As an appointment booking tool, the most important feature included in the plugin is the calendar. You can reach the calendar by clicking either of the links highlighted here:
The scheduling calendar
In the Calendar menu, you can edit everything about the calendar from your hours of operation to the color and branding of the calendar.
The preview on the right side shows you how it will look on your site, and it’s fully interactive so you can test it out.
The Settings section on the left includes all the customization options each of which will link you to a page in the vCita app. For example, if I click the Add/Edit Services link, I’m taken to this page in my account where I can customize the services I offer my clients.
This is why an active vCita account is an essential aspect of using their plugin. Their interface is much better adapted to this type of work and it’s easier to edit there than in the WordPress interface.
You can also switch from the calendar preview to the Service Menu preview.
If you offer more than one type of service, visitors will see this interface to select a service before viewing the calendar.
The calendar is the core of this product and the most important element to customize. Once you’ve got the calendar set up exactly how you want, you can utilize the four lead generation tools that come bundled in this plugin.
The 4 lead generation tools
Back in the main menu added by the plugin, you can review the four lead gen tools.
Let’s start with Active Engage which is my personal favorite from the bunch.
The Active Engage feature lets you add a small popup to the bottom of the screen. Some people refer to this as a “slide-in.”
Here’s what the most basic configuration looks like:
Visitors can click the Schedule Now button and they’ll be taken straight to the appoinment calendar hosted by vCita.
In the sidebar, you can see the six different actions that can be added. If you enable them, additional floating buttons will be included above the form:
If you add one or more actions, you’ll see a new menu icon show up and if visitors hover over it, they’ll see these same actions available.
There’s also an inline style that I prefer personally because it places all the action buttons in the same place as the scheduling button.
With numerous actions added, the form can get a little large, but the scheduling button is the main draw and works great when used alone or with other actions.
Customize the text
Besides the Portal Actions, you can also customize the invite text. This includes the ability to edit the title text, paragraph below it, and the button text.
The coolest customization option here is the ability to change action associated with the main button. You can change it to make a call, make a payment, or any of the other actions available.
Customize when it displays
By default, the Active Engage form only shows a blue tab at the bottom of the screen. You can leave it that way or choose to have it expand after a fixed number of seconds.
You can also choose to display the form on mobile and desktop individually.
Pro tip: We use a popup form to collect email addresses on the blog here at Compete Themes, and I’ve found that 14 seconds is the sweet spot that leads to the most signups.
Customize the colors
At first glance, it looks like there is only one color option available in this section. However, you can click the link to create a new theme which will give you access to all the color and font controls for the form.
That’s a complete look at the Active Engage feature and how you can customize it to work for your business.
I like this tool in particular because you can immediately display it across your entire site. You never know exactly when someone will be ready to get in touch, so it’s nice to have this form available at all times.
Furthermore, it only takes a few minutes to setup and get more leads with it. It should make for a great ROI on your site.
You probably already have a contact form on your site.
While there are lots of contact form plugins available for WordPress, the benefit of using the one available from vCita is that your contacts will get stored in their app.
Instead of simply having the contact show up in your inbox, you’ll have a profile for them in vCita where you can engage with them using all the other tools available.
Customize the contact form
The contact form is pretty simple and easy to use. Here’s a look at the basic configuration:
As you can see, there are four different designs available. These alternate designs allow you to include a headshot or logo and a big button linking to the appointment scheduling calendar instead.
You can choose which forms you want to include in the form.
And you can also customize the colors and fonts with a similar set of options found available in the Active Engage tool.
With the Active Engage tool, you could simply enable it on all pages. Obviously, the contact form needs to be embedded in a page, and here’s how you do that.
How to display the contact form
There are two different ways to add the contact form.
First, you can return to the main page added by the plugin and enable it here:
Once enabled, you’ll find a new “Contact Us” page added to your Pages. If you visit this page in the editor, you’ll see a single shortcode for including the form.
This system is a bit confusing until you understand how to use it. On my own site, I would leave the contact page disabled and simply insert the shortcode into my existing contact page in place of the old contact form.
Once you know the shortcode, it only takes a few seconds to add it to any page on your site. And since there is a shortcode, you can add the contact form to as many pages or posts as you’d like.
If your site has a sidebar, you might like this widget for adding another way for visitors to schedule an appointment.
The sidebar option in vCita gives you a similar set of customization options as the other lead generation tools we’ve already looked at.
As you can see, there is a more personalized approach with this widget. There’s place for you to add a headshot and your name or the name of your company.
Like the other tools, you can customize the text that displays as well as the colors and fonts.
How to add the widget to your site
While this feature is called the Sidebar, you can add this widget to any of the widget areas provided by your theme.
Here’s an example of the widget added into the Primary sidebar widget area added by the Apex theme.
The vCita widget always shows up in the inactive widgets section at the bottom of the Widgets menu:
I found this odd because widgets normally display in the Available widgets section unless added and removed already, but you can include it in your widget areas all the same.
The last tool added by the plugin gives you a dedicated page to display the calendar form.
Scheduling Calendar page
We already covered the calendar at the beginning of the review and how to customize it for your business.
While all three of the other lead generation tools end up using the calendar, this final option allows you to publish a dedicated page on your site with the visual calendar.
Having a page on your site you can link visitors to is practical when promoting your site on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Similar to the contact form, enabling this option adds a new page to your site with the shortcode inserted automatically.
You can use this page or take the shortcode and add it to any page or post you want to display the calendar on.
Automated booking with vCita
The scheduling calendar is the centerpiece of the app and plugin offered by vCita, and the benefits are obvious for service businesses.
Clients can find available time slots without tying up your phones, you get all of the contacts auto-added into a full-featured CRM, and you can keep in touch with clients via automated follow-up emails and text messages.
Should you use vCita for your business?
The WordPress plugin offered by vCita makes it easy to add the booking calendar into your site.
While they could have simply created a calendar embed option, they went above and beyond with this plugin to help you generate more leads.
While there were a few aspects of the plugin that I found confusing to use, it delivers on all the benefits promised. If you only have a contact form right now, this plugin could lead to a huge amount of new business generated from your website. Not to mention, you’ll save a lot of time and headache managing your appointments.
You could signup and have all four of the lead generation tools in this plugin added to your site by the end of the day. It’s just too good of an opportunity to put off IMO.
If you have any questions about the booking form or calendar plugin, post your comments below.