Late payments for services rendered

According to a recent article on the Smallbusiness.co.uk website, the Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (Bacs) have revealed that out of 1.7 million small to medium enterprises in the UK, more than a third of them have to wait to receive payment beyond their agreed terms of payment. Almost forty percent of companies are spending hours each week chasing late payments owed by their customers.

Automated payments are one solution to the problem, but may not always be viable. I must admit that in my own business where part of a regular service I offer provides two options for payment, I have found that regular automated monthly payments to be more reliable and require less administration than invoicing on an annual basis.

If you run a company which can offer an automated payment plan then it would be worth providing this as an option for your customers. Another way to reduce the possibility of late payments is to make it clear in your payment terms and conditions that interest will be added on late payments at the highest possible rate as allowed by law. This is particularly relevant on business to business transactions. The current 'statutory' interest rate allowed in the UK is 8% plus the Bank of England base rate. However, you can’t claim statutory interest if there’s a different rate of interest in a contract.

You can find more information about Late commercial payments and charging interest and debt recovery on the gov.uk website.

Writing a business plan for your startup business

Writing a business plan is a vital step if you’re going to be starting up your own business. It will clearly define your goals, help you understand and know your market, establish your USP (unique selling proposition), set your marketing goals and have a clear plan of action to take those first steps to success.

Watch the video below for a more comprehensive look at writing your own business plan and what you should consider.

Automating sales and emails

As we all know, answering dozens of emails everday can be a tedious task. In fact it can be a real pain in the butt! It’s time consuming and monotonous, particularly if you have to respond with similar emails to lots of different people.

This is where autoresponders can help you in your business.

Autoresponders can be used to set up simple automated email messages to answer queries with a message that you create. They can also be used to send out a series of emails if required to existing customers. This is ideal if you want to plan a regular advertising campaign to promote your products over a period of time.

IF, for example, you had a website that sells or promotes a service or a line of products, you could set up a subscriber opt-in box for people who enquire about your services and add an automated message that tells them you have received their enquiry and will respond within a certain period of time. Alteratively, a more specific message can be sent relating to the opt-in requirement. Furthermore, additional emails can be sent out at regular designated intervals that can help people make a further decision about buying or using your service.

Even better, your visitor conveniently gets a reply almost straight away, so no need for them to wait or ring you when it might not be convenient, e.g. outside normal working hours.

Autoresponders have the potential of boosting sales as well as enquiries. Put up an autoresponder opt-in box on your website, add an enticing invitation to enter their email, such as free information about your product or service, or perhaps details of a special offer promotion, and you’ll attract potential customers to add to your mailing list. Or even buyers who will immediately take up your offer.

So how do you choose a good autoresponder?

Here are 7 features you need to look for…

1. Your autoresponder should provide a quick response and reply to a request within a few minutes.

2. There should be no limits on the size of your message. If you come up with a great sales letter that requires a detailed description, it may prove less effective if you have to edit down the information you’re trying to impart to the reader.

3. There should be nor restrictions on beig able to change your autoresponder message at any time, and for it to take immediate effect.

4. If someone requests a message from your autoresponder, it’s important they receive it. There should be no limits placed on the number of replies you can send out.

5. You may need to test the effectiveness of your message so you should be able to continuously trying to improve your autoresponder message without having to pay extra.

6. Ideally, you want an autoresponder that allows you to send follow-up messages to your prospects. It’s generally assumed that it can sometimes take up to seven or more exposures to a message before a customer decides to buy from you or use your service. This can depend on various factors. A strong offer will take less.

7. You should be able to view every request sent to your autoresponder, including the date of each request. This way you can place your autoresponder in various spots on your website, or promote your autoresponder using different methods and immediately know how well each is working.

8. Subscribers who receive your emails must have the option to be able to remove themselves from your mailing list. If you don’t provide for this, you could easily be accused of spamming. This could lead to serious consequences. A good autoresponder can handle this automatically for you whenever the recipient of your emails follows a simple procedure to remove their address from your list.

Free autoresponders may seem an attractive option, but most of them have one big drawback, they offer a free service because they include advertising messages somewhere within the email. They get paid by the advertiser which is the reason they can provide a free service. If you’re ok with that then fine, but if you’re trying to project a professional image, best to avoid these type of free services.

If you don’t currently have an autoresponder, I would recommend using Aweber or Getresponse. These are the leading services used by most businesses today.

Try AWeber’s Autoresponders for $1