Every day, people are bombarded by junk mail, social media activity, and dozens (who are we kidding? hundreds!) of emails, both business and personal. It is become increasingly harder for emails you send to be seen. However, an extremely popular method for letting customers know about open invoices is emailing payment reminders. What do you do, despite this clutter, to make sure your carefully crafted payment reminder letters make it into the right hands?
Addressed To Whom?
In general, collection letters should go to whomever is in charge of actually dispatching payment. Depending on the company, this could be anyone from the assistant bookkeeper to the founder. This is where your knowledge of your clients – and a little common sense – is essential. If you’re gently reminding the project manager, who usually pays on time, to send a payment that is only two weeks late, you probably don’t need to copy her boss’ boss on that correspondence. But if you’re reaching out to the account manager for the umpteenth time with no response and are ready to send the debt to a collection agency, that’s the time to bring a few “heavy hitters” into the loop.
Some of the pros of emailing collection letters are self-explanatory. Emails get delivered to the recipient immediately, and if you’re using a service like Funding Gates, you can check to see if the recipient actually opened the email. One of the strongest points in favor of email (over snail mail) is that you can strategically choose a subject for the email that will encourage the recipient to open it. Depending on your relationship with the client, the subject can be more or less forceful:
- Still waiting for your payment.
- Did you receive my invoice last week?
- Urgent! March payment due immediately
Of course, there is always the possibility that your recipient could just erase your email, either accidentally or deliberately, without even reading it. Emails sometimes don’t hold much weight because there are just so many of them in the inbox. That’s where snail mail comes in.
If most of your correspondence with your clients is via email, then a well-placed phone call or mailed letter can hold a lot of weight. There’s a chance that your delinquent client has been putting off paying you because he had more important things to deal with first. After all, the payment requests were just a few emails in his inbox. If that is the case, receiving a letter in the mail could be the motivation he needs to take that payment seriously. When he’s holding the physical letter in his hand, he can’t help but respect your professionalism. Sending a letter or making a phone call can feel awkward, especially if it is particularly formal or harsh with a client you consider a friend. Remember, though, that you deserve to get paid, and this situation has not arisen because of your actions; you are just following through on the contract.
Right Time, Right Place
All that being said, depending on how you usually interact with your client, a letter may be even easier to ignore than an email. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow. If you have a client who isn’t paying you on time, try mixing up the way you correspond with that person. Send an email with an open-ended subject, make a phone call first thing rather than late in the day, or mail a letter – anything to show that you are serious about getting paid and not just sending out the same automated email over and over again. And, if need be, escalate the issue to someone else in the organization.
By adding variety into your correspondence strategy, you make it clear to your client that the late payment has caught your eye and you’re going out of your way to resolve the issue as soon as possible. This simple way of singling out how you notify them might be all they need to get motivated to send their payment along.