Efficient cash flow management is one of the biggest challenges facing agencies and small businesses. In fact, 82% of small businesses fail due to cash flow problems. It’s an extremely common problem. However, there are many ways to avoid, or at the very least, mitigate it.
Digital marketing agencies are inherently client-facing business models that require strict guidelines around payment expectations, exit clauses, and billing options in order to create the most consistent and rewarding cash flow possible.
Without these guidelines and strategies in place, there is too much potential for payment delays and other roadblocks that prevent you from being paid accurately, on time, all the time.
We know that figuring out how to create a winning payment structure can be tough on your own. That’s why we’re looking at some strategies you can implement for improved cash flow, enhanced customer payment experiences, and a payment structure that is as efficient as it is profitable.
A successful payment interaction begins well before any actual work has begun.
You can set the tone for a smooth, timeous transaction by revisiting the expectation-setting part of your business process. When you and your client share the same expectation for how a project is going to turn out, it becomes a lot easier to navigate payments later on.
If your agency is experiencing a lot of complications or delays with regard to client payments, take a look at how you are setting expectations from the get-go. Make sure that you and your clients have a clear, plainly laid out understanding of what’s happening, including details like:
Project scope – How big is this project? What services, tools, and platforms will it require? How long is it expected to go on for? How many team members will be needed to complete it? Determining project scope can help you gain important insights into what you should be charging a client for your work.
Payment terms – What is your preferred method of payment? Do you only take once-off payments, or does recurring billing work better for you too? Payment terms are an extremely important part of expectation setting because they define how the payment will be made.
Deadlines –Every project has a deadline, and that deadline can inform how much you charge a client. Without a clear deadline, confusion and conflict can run rampant.
Ultimately, clear communication and transparency can help avoid misunderstandings and late payments. When you and your client are on the same page about what the project looks like, how much it costs, and how it is going to be executed, the risks of late or inaccurate payments significantly decreases.
When it comes to a smooth, consistent cash flow, having a solid contract in place is extremely important. There are a few key elements that should be included in every contract, such as:
Payment terms – Good, clear payment terms should explain how, when, and through what method your clients will pay you. This helps to eradicate confusion around common payment confusions and promotes the easiest, fastest possible transaction.
Late payment penalties – While it’s nice to avoid them altogether, late payments are extremely common and may happen from time to time. However, you can decrease their probability by adding a payment penalty or fee for delayed transactions.
Dispute resolution mechanisms – Should you and your client have a dispute around what is owed or why, there needs to be a resolution mechanism in place.
Exit clauses – In worst-case scenarios, you or your client may be so dissatisfied with a project process that you wish to abort the agreement altogether. Should this happen, your contract needs to include exit clauses to provide clarity about how it will go down.
If contracts and payment terms aren’t your strong suit, don’t leave it to chance. Rather, obtain legal advice in drafting contracts for the most airtight contract system possible. This is an area of business you will never regret outsourcing to a pro!
Sometimes, the reason behind a late payment is something as simple as a forgetful client. In fact, as many as 35% of people admit to missing payments due to simply forgetting about them.
As frustrating as that can be, creating a system designed to catch those payments before they slip through the cracks is a smart move that will benefit both you and your clients. Providing polite, punctual reminders for upcoming payments is one of the best ways to do that.
Digital reminders can play a major role in ensuring timely payments. There are many different types of reminders that you can implement, but the most popular ones tend to be emails and phone calls.
Email reminders – Contrary to popular belief, emails are still one of the fastest and most effective ways to reach consumers. This makes them an ideal place to send reminders about upcoming payments. Short, polite, but informative email reminders are generally sent 3-7 days before the agreed-upon payment date.
Phone call reminders – Phone call reminders are somewhat controversial because they have the potential to be both highly effective or highly irritating.
Yet, when done right, a brief but friendly phone call reminder a few days before your established payment date can be a simple but impactful way to ensure your payments arrive on time without coming across as overbearing.
Another thing to consider when contemplating payment reminders is the use of automated reminder systems, although these are best applied to emails, not phone calls.
This can take out the tediousness of having to send them out yourself and make sure that each mail is crafted to perfection. Win-win!
While delayed payments are often a technical problem, there is a distinct correlation between the quality of service delivered and timely payments. When you deliver quality service on time, it serves as a high incentive for clients to pay you in a punctual fashion.
There are a few areas of productivity you can focus on in order to facilitate timely payments, such as:
Meeting deadlines – Delivering projects when you say you’re going to is the hallmark of a professional digital marketing agency. Make sure your team’s time management skills are up to scratch so that every deadline is met swiftly and professionally.
Delivering quality work – The more impressed and satisfied clients are with your work, the more likely they are to pay you on time.
Maintaining good client relationships – Strong client relationships are much less likely to result in late or forgotten payments than new or underdeveloped ones. Establish good relationships with all your clients for faster payment turnarounds and other benefits.
Delivering quality service is something your agency should prioritise no matter the reason. It keeps your brand reputation consistent and makes your business more profitable.
Direct debits are payment arrangements in which a bank enables a third party to make automatic transfers from one account to another on agreed dates. It’s an effective way to control recurring payments from clients that have hired you on a continuous or retainer basis.
For instance, if a client has hired your agency to perform website maintenance for 12 months, they may not want to pay you a lump sum. However, they may be happy with setting up a direct debit system that sends you a portion of what they owe on a monthly basis.
Direct debits are useful because they eliminate the need for clients to perform the transaction themselves, thus facilitating an easy, no-fuss payment process.
However, clients will still need to check that they have enough funds before each monthly payment – and if they don’t, it can cause a lot of administration issues. But overall, direct debit payment systems are an effective and popular way to handle recurring payments.
You can set up a direct debit with clients via your bank and the person who is in charge of facilitating your client’s transactions.
Bonus Tips For Faster Payments
There’s much more to timely payments than the payment processes themselves. With the right approach to client management and your agency’s internal billing system, you can make it easier for both your team and your clients to experience a smooth transaction every time.
Offer early payment discounts – If charging a penalty fee for late payment feels to harsh, try sweetening the deal by offering reductions for clients who pay early.
Foster stronger client relationships – By investing in the strength and quality of your client relationships, you can foster a deeper sense of trust and security with them, thus increasing the probability of a punctual payment.
Charge upfront – Sometimes, it’s easier to get all the payments out of the way from the start. However, this only works with certain projects, and not all clients will be open to it.
Revisit your payment structure – There are loads of different payment structures out there. Hourly, project-based, and retainers to name a few. If your agency is receiving a lot of delayed payments, perhaps you simply need to adjust your approach.
Offer more payment options – Studies show that the more payment options your clients have, the more likely they are to pay you on time.
Think: PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and beyond. Plus, the more options you provide, the more clients you can appeal to, thus boosting your agency’s recognition even more.
All in all, if you want to improve the efficiency of your payment processes, you need to look further than just the bill. Consider your payment process experience from the client’s perspective – and see what you can do to make it as easy and simple as possible.
Make Getting Paid A Priority
Without a solid, sustainable cash flow, your digital marketing agency won’t survive. And while there are many important aspects to running a business, a smooth payment process is definitely one of the most crucial. Fortunately, there are ways to accomplish this.
By delivering quality service, setting clear expectations, sending reminders, and creating airtight contracts, your digital marketing agency can drastically reduce the number of late payments it receives, if not completely eradicate them.
Share Your Thoughts With The Greater Digital Marketing Community
Navigating your way through late or unpaid invoices is not an isolated experience in the digital marketing industry – or any industry, for that matter.
But connecting with peers and sharing insights is one of the best ways to improve your brand strength and become the best version of itself it can be. Leave a comment below about your frustrations with late payments or offer advice about how you overcame them.
If you found this article interesting, share it with a friend via email or social media to help them develop a smoother payment processing system that helps them reach success.