Back when I worked in conferences, my job was to learn everything I could about a field, identify the top trends and turn that into a conference. It was basically trend spotting and market research. One conference I worked on had the rather dry name “Billing & Revenue Assurance” and it was about how telecoms operators optimised their billing processes in order to deliver customer service and prevent loss of revenue through fraud. Yes it was pretty technical. And also relevant, I promise! keep reading…
Telecoms operators have massive amounts of customer data, and once you and I are a customer, the main way we interact with them is through our bills. We mostly call them when that billing process gives us a giant shock (technically called “bill shock”). So they were using big data and some AI and machine learning to try and make sense of the data – it was bleeding edge stuff at the time (about 8 years ago).
One very interesting experiment they were trying, which lodged itself in my marketing brain, was using the bill as a marketing tool. They were rolling out all the user experience design theory and looking at how the could add value to their customer’s day through their actual bill! Whether or not you think they were successful, this totally opened my mind to the idea that every document, every interaction with the customer is a brand and marketing moment – even if that document is generally governed by the accounts department.
So, in no particular order, here are 7 reasons to jump on this here bandwagon and start thinking about your invoices as one of those 11 brand and marketing touch points between your customer and purchase:
Your customer is definitely going to look at their bill, and the same can’t be said for marketing flyers or social media images. You basically have a captive audience.
Bills are generally very unpleasant experiences, and if your main interaction with your customer is through bills, involving unpleasant experiences, that’s a lot of poor brand experience to have to counteract elsewhere. If you can do anything at all to lift that experience, you’re making life easier for yourself.
If you apply graphic design and user experience (UX) design principles to your bill, then maybe people will actually pay it faster. UX design in particular really encourages empathy with the end user so it means that you will design something more user-friendly, for example with digital form filling and signatures along with hyperlinks. You can also introduce colour theory by using action colours around bill payment information like bank details and total amount.
It’s much easier and cheaper to sell your services to someone who has already bought, particularly if they’ve had a good experience. Conventional wisdom says that you need 7 hours of content or 11 touch points to move someone from just having heard of you to buying something. If you think of your invoice as a marketing touch point then you can start cross-selling immediately by including links to relevant blog articles you’ve written. It will keep someone in your content ecosystem and be a nice unexpected surprise for them. All adding a faster buying decision down the line.
It makes you stand out. Most people use their invoices as functional accounting documents. You can be memorable by being the one with a delightfully easy to use and user-friendly document that has (*gasp*) colours.
You can show you’ve been listening to them when they talk about their challenges, and everyone loves to be heard. If they have been talking about trying to use video better, or that IP enforcement problem that keeps coming up, why not link to blog posts you’ve written on those topics?
Leave the client on a high note. In professional services we usually invoice after the work is completed. Most people remember the most recent interaction. You could have knocked the ball out of the park on the work, but mess up the invoicing and that will dominate their emotional memories of working with you.
Once you open your mind like this, you will start to see all sorts of other opportunities to apply marketing theories and thought processes in non-marketing contexts.
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