You have an amazing product or service – I know that because without one, you likely would not have a vegan business. You’ve spent a lot of time and attention on developing your offering, as you needed to do. And while the effort of making your product/service the best it can be will always necessarily be top-of-mind, there are other – perhaps less sexy – parts of your business that are also extremely important to support the success of your business. For example, do you have the kick-butt infrastructure your business needs to thrive securely in place?
(Do I hear groaning?) Ok, I know that “infrastructure” isn’t a very exciting word. Actually, most projects to do with “infrastructure” may sound dull and boring. However, their impact can be hugely beneficial to your bottom line (NOT so boring?!)
Starting to sound interesting?
Many business owners make the mistake of pouring all their creative efforts into their product or service. But maybe it’s time to try something a little different. What if you saved just a little of that creative bandwidth to work on the systems, tools and software that will help you run your business more efficiently, reduce re-work and help you provide better customer service?
There are so many areas in your business where you could apply this advice that getting started may feel overwhelming. So let’s take one step back. Today I want to suggest that you get started by looking at how you get paid. I find that most of the low-hanging fruit in infrastructure improvement inhabit the realm of payments and order-processing. No customer wants to feel it is a hassle to pay you, and obviously you don’t want any barriers to keep your customers from ordering. So improvements in this area are a win for everyone.
Here are a few tips to help you get started with making the payment process in your business more efficient and effective:
Take Your Process For A Spin. First, step into your customer’s shoes and try to process an order. This might sound strange, but I find most business owners haven’t used their own shopping carts to test purchasing products. If someone other than you set-up your shopping cart, take a minute to go through the process. Click on a link from your social media page or a recent promotional email. Use a timer and measure how long it takes for you to place an order, how many pages have to load before the order is complete, and notice if a customer has to leave your website to place the order. Is an automated confirmation email sent after each order? If you invoice clients, send yourself an invoice and go through the process of paying that invoice. Does the invoice represent your brand? Is it clear when the invoice is due? Does the system send automatic reminders if an invoice is past due?
After asking yourself some of these questions, you might experience an “Aha!” moment. Perhaps you need to consider collecting less information to make the order-process smoother, or maybe it’s time to move away from Paypal buttons and upgrade to a shopping cart. Maybe you are spending hours creating invoices in Word and would benefit from using a free online invoicing and payment software.
A word of caution: don’t go overboard. Upgrade in stages so your systems, tools and expenses fit the current stage of your business. If you are only bringing in 50K per year you don’t need to buy the most expensive invoicing system on the planet. Look for solutions that will cost you less than $20 per month.
Make It Easy To Pay. When it come to “getting paid,” your job is to make sure the process is simple, easy and painless for your customers and clients. This means setting up more than one payment option: Paypal, Google Wallet, Amazon and credit card payments. I don’t mean credit cards via Paypal – ultimately you should be set up so someone can pay via a credit card on your website. Having said that, you have to start somewhere. So, those Paypal buttons on your website are a good start. However, consider enhancements every six months by adding more options, so the client is empowered to pay via the tool of their choice.
Other things to consider are upgrading to a mobile-friendly shopping cart (40% of purchases are made via a mobile device), or if you invoice clients look for a tool that will allow customers to pay invoices via more than one payment source, e.g. check bank draft, credit card or Paypal.
Offer Up A Plan: If your business offering is conducive to a payment plan setup, they are a great option to offer, and your customers will love you for it (even Paypal offers them for free). If you are selling an online course, why not give clients the choice to make two payments over 60 days instead of one? This might mean launching your programs earlier, but it could be the difference between getting a customer/client and not getting one. You can offer this for courses or products, allowing people to secure a discount if they sign up early, pre-order, or purchase in advance. The course is delivered, or the product is shipped when the last payment is made.
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking a critical and creative look at the infrastructure you have in place, and working with it on an ongoing basis to ensure your customers are always having a great experience. Obviously it’s important to have a great product or service, but if there are barriers to customers attaining what you have to offer, they will quickly go elsewhere. So pay some attention to that infrastructure – the more you realize how critical it is to long-term business success, the sexier it looks. 😉