Are your invoices just pieces of paper requesting payment?
If so, you may be missing a key advantage they have over anything else you send to your customers – they’re actually obliged to look at and take notice of them!
Also, as potentially the last contact your customer will have with you, an invoice may be the last chance for establishing a lasting link with them. A customer who pays and then wanders off into the wilderness is a waste of the resources required to attract them.
Although sometimes the person dealing with invoices isn’t the purchase decision-maker, they can still be the person who is asked to re-order or purchase consumables. Also, since you’re sending an invoice anyway – the cost of enhancing it should be be negligible.
So how could your invoice help you build better customer relationships?
1. Say thank you.
Of all the things your customer could have done with their money, they chose to spend it with you – and if nobody did that, you wouldn’t have a business. That has got to be worth a little gratitude?
Perhaps I’m being terribly old-fashioned, but an invoice that says “thank you for your order” puts that company a step ahead in my reckoning over one that doesn’t. I grew up being told that “manners maketh man” – but manners maketh businesses too!
2. Be helpful.
As with saying ‘thank you’, some helpful information shows that you’ve thought a little more deeply about your customers than them being a mere ‘revenue stream’.
You probably already have resources and information your customers can utilise to support their purchases, so what better place to erect a large signpost to such resources than your invoice?!
If they’ve just bought a big widget machine, a line on your invoice such as “If you need help setting up your big widget machine, call this number, or visit yourwebsite.com/bigwidgetsetup” could be very useful. If you’re selling foodstuffs, signpost some recipe ideas – or for decorating products, signpost some design inspiration, ideally all customised to the items on the invoice.
There may not be room on an invoice for comprehensive information, but there’s plenty of room for some creativity. When invoicing items that require consumables, such as printers, you could include sticky labels with part numbers and re-order information to attach to the product.
And if your customer would like to benefit from a regular supply of helpful information, why not subscribe to your newsletter, follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook page? Link building by being helpful!
3. Invite people back
Bolting a blunt “you’ve purchased this, now buy this” type sales line to an invoice hints at a self-interest that isn’t engaging and can even annoy people: “I’ve just spent all this money and all they care about is how much more I can spend.”So, in the spirit of saying thank you and being helpful, approach your invitation with a little more tact and thought for your customer and their objectives.
“Thanks for your order – here’s x% off your next one!”
It’s always nice to be rewarded for loyalty, so if financially practical an offer or discount on their next purchase is a sales tactic that’s mutually beneficial. Well managed offers should cost less than constantly chasing after customers with expensive promotional activities.
“Thanks for your order – when you run out of toner, just call this number and order part no.123”
You could also helpfully predict future demand, based on customer consumption or perhaps seasonal variations. So, as per the printer example above, you could use your invoice to highlight the specific ink or toner replacements for the invoiced purchase. Or maybe a food producer could indicate when their seasonal ranges will be available.
“Thanks for your order – ‘like’ us on Facebook for regular offers and updates”
It would be better still if you used these techniques as a reward for maintaining a link with you. So customers are provided with regular offers and product updates if they’re subscribed to your newsletter, follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook page, etc.
This is just a small sample of invoice enhancing possibilities – but hopefully it has inspired you to do a little more with your invoice than simply ask for money.
Guest post by Andrew Hemmings – Frugal Marketer – www.frugalmarketer.co.uk