Granted, how your invoice looks shouldn’t have any bearing on how fast customers pay it. But you may be surprised at how much difference a few changes could make.
While there are other factors at work — like the financial health of the customer and how much the bill is for — the easiest fix could be the layout and information give on invoices.
Check your invoices for:
- Visual clarity — If your invoice is just plain hard to read, with lines through it or type that’s barely legible, a lot of people will push it aside while they pay easier to read bills. Make sure the invoice has clear printing, including an easy to see font size — usually a 12 point Times New Roman font works best.
- Easy to understand — A consistent format with an easy to comprehend layout is key to getting customers to pay up fast. Some aspects of an easy to understand invoice: references the job / order number, clearly lists products or services purchased along with number purchased and amount, lists your company’s name and contact info at the top and tells the customer how to pay — check, credit card, via the phone or online. Customers want something they can glance at quickly and know exactly what it’s for and how much they owe. If they have to study the invoice, or worse call for more info, they’re likely to procrastinate.
- Clear terms — If you list terms on your invoice — whether it’s money off for paying early or penalties for paying late — make sure they’re clear and easy for the customer to find. The customer’s not going to look for terms, so make sure they’re front and center. Putting “2% 10, net 20” isn’t going to mean nearly as much as “Take $25 off if paid by July 10, 2008.” Also, any dates should have the month spelled out and the full year. Granted if they get the invoice in the middle of June 2008, putting that it’s due by July 15 seems obvious that it means July 15, 2008, but you get extra points for clarity.
Some other techniques companies are using to get customers to pay up:
- Hand written sticky notes get customers to pay up faster. Slapping a note on an invoice lets customers know there’s a person on the receiving end, which makes the transaction more personal. If they get an invoice with a sticky that says “Thanks for your business! — Becky” or “Let us know if there’s anything else I can help you with. — John” that lends some personal flair that won’t go unnoticed.
- Attractive incentives included on the invoice — like giving them some cash off their bill if they pay by a certain date — gets invoices paid much faster. Knowing they’ll get $10 or $20 off will place your invoice in front of an invoice that’s due earlier but has no incentive.
- Fit their accounting system so they can get your info entered and the check cut faster. If you’re sending out invoices to other businesses, knowing the information they need for their accounting system could mean the difference between the top and the bottom of the pile for your invoice. If they need the order number, your company info and total amount due make sure all that info is right there on top. The easier it is for them to do their job, the happier they’ll be which gets you paid faster.