Once a month, I will spend half a day sending out invoices to my clients (263 of them, for this month..I usually add between 2-4 new clients per month). I do this through freshbooks, which I highly recommend if you need a virtual solution for sending and receiving bills online.
I could automate this affair. I could group them today, send out a white label invoice and be done with it in about 15 minutes. But instead, I go through each invoice one by one and personalize it. Which chews up a few hours of my time.
For instance, if someone had asked me about setting up an email list for their website, I may mention it. Or if someone expressed interest in social media, I may tell them that the door is open if they want to understand it more. Or, if I am doing SEO for them, I may mention a new keyword that has cropped up in their results that I feel may be good for their business. Or it may be a URL that I found interesting in regards to what their business is. Sometimes, the message is strictly business. Other times, it is to thank them for giving me a referral. And sometimes it is just following up and seeing how things are going.
But it is always a personal message. 263 of them.
So, why would I do this the hard way?
About 6 years ago, I remember reading a book by the owner of the Warrior Forum (allen says) in which he was extolling the “greatness” of recurring income. The way he suggested it, a marketer / business should treat recurring payments like a ninja; in other words, once you made the sale, you hung in the background and collected until they figure it out and cancel. At the time, in my ignorance, I thought this made sense.
When I started getting clients a couple years ago, I realized that this was bad advice. Because people don’t mind paying for services (even when they are strictly retainers) when they like you, and you have something valuable to offer them. But more importantly, they really like it when you acknowledge that their business matters.
And that is what the personalized invoices do. They say, “hey man, your business matters and I am in your corner to help you succeed.”
There are things that get out of this as well, by the way, so don’t think this is purely altruistic….
- I get more business from existing customers- It’s usually not a ton of work but everything adds up little by little. Existing customers are your bread and butter. There are a lot of businesses that forget this and instead, focus on new acquisition. Adding business to existing customers is infinitely easier though.
- I get more referrals from existing customers- I stay in the back of their head should a friend need help with something web based. You would be surprised at how often people will refer you when you are in their corner.
- I humanize the business relationship- If you go into a store and they know your name, you gotta admit that it makes you feel pretty special. It’s like the business exists to give you service. When it comes to competition, usually the only thing that separates you from them is price, expertise and what you stand for. That’s it. And once you hit the pro level, the first 2 things are marginally different usually to the point where it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. After that, what you stand for matters more.
What are some things you do to make yourself different from your competition?