We are closing in on the end of the year, typically a time when businesses review their finances and think about how to be more profitable and proficient as they go forward. One way to improve the financial picture and be more efficient next year? Evaluate your invoice and find ways to improve it. Even simple tweaks, like adding a payment due date, motivate more people to pay bills on time.
Here are 6 points to consider:
Have you covered all the basics? Run through this checklist first.
Does your bill tell customers everything they need to know? Here are the basics that every bill, no matter the type of business, should include:
- Business name
- Telephone number
- Office address
- Client/customer name and address
- Invoice number
- Invoice date
- Due date
- Payment terms
- Payment options
- Detailed description of products or services provided
- A “thank you” for your business message
Are there other features you’d like to add to your bill? Collect a variety of invoices from competitors and others and compare them to yours. Ask staff and even some customers for their ideas.
Appeal to more customers by adding payment options
Most billers give customers the option to pay by check, credit card, in-person, by phone and online. And guess what? Every one of these methods is used, proof that different customers prefer different payment methods.
Many companies have shifted some customers to automated EBilling. EBilling has many advantages, including speeding up payments and eliminating printing and postages costs. We’ve found a good system for our clients who want to make EBilling an option.
A number of consumers also like to pay through payment gateways like PayPal. And, there are likely more payment avenues to come, according to a recent article on payment trends in pymts.com. CEO World points out that new ways to pay are constantly emerging–some make it, some don’t. Their advice? Pay attention to those that get the most buzz but also do your due diligence and make sure the hype is justified. You are responsible though for vetting payment systems to ensure they are safe and secure and also, that they are easy to use and dependable.
The more options you offer customers, the better your payment rate will be.
Seeing a variety of payment options signals to consumers that yours is a business that stays in step with the times.
Be clear. Be firm. Set deadlines.
One of the best ways to make sure customers pay bills on time is to have a clear Payment Due Date. And, while we don’t promote going all Crayola-crazy with an invoice, the payment due date is one place where spot color is completely justified and beneficial. Make your Due Date bright–red is probably the best–and customers won’t be able to overlook it. Don’t forget to be clear about what happens if they don’t pay on time–does their bill increase by a certain percentage? Include the amount they owe and then
below it, show how much more they will have to pay if they pay late. A few extra dollars will get their attention and more likely, make them pay on time.
Make a schedule for add-ins to mail with your invoice.
While you are mailing an invoice, is there anything else you can slip into the envelope that would be valuable to your customers? Look at the next 12 months. Are there messages you should be sending based on the season? For example, before freezing temperatures arrive, a water utility might want to remind customers of steps they should take to prevent water pipes from bursting –like disconnecting water hoses and insulating pipes near outside walls. In springtime, an electric company might want to supply some tips on how to plant trees to help create shade and lower summertime air conditioning costs or, during spring storm season, remind customers what to do when a power line is down and how to report it to the company. Using your invoice to deliver other news and information is a smart way to get the most from your mailings.
Every time you mail an envelope, build your brand
Creating a visual identity through a distinctive logo is an important aspect of building your brand. Always use your logo on invoices and on the envelope you use to mail your bills. Why spend money to have a designer create a snappy logo and not use it? Every time you put your logo on anything–letterhead, an invoice, a sign, an envelope, your website–it builds your brand. It also helps customers quickly identify that a bill is from your company. Thanks to digital printing, you can now print your invoices as you go, so that if your logo changes along the way, you aren’t stuck with boxes of preprinted invoice shells that have to be recycled.
Take a page from Miss Manners and improve yours.
One of my favorite business names, to date, is the Louisville coffee shop Please & Thank You. Even before you step up to the counter, you like the place because its name says, “We are nice and we appreciate you.” Do the same with your invoice. Thank your customers for their business. Say it in a way that is sincere and shows gratitude. “Your business is important to us. Thank you!” “We appreciate your business. Thanks for choosing us,” or a simple “Thank you for your business.” It’s a no-brainer, really, but you’d be surprised how many businesses fail to have their invoice do double duty as a thank-you note.
If you are not sure how to tackle a redesign of your invoice, or you want to talk about adding EBilling or a payment gateway as an option, give us a call. We’ll be happy to consult with you and share what we’ve learned from our 45+ years in business.
Interested in how Bluegrass can help?
See what we can do.
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