Credit and Collections Issues for Bill-Me Offers (2,137 words)
Follow sound direct mail design. You have three seconds to convince customers to open envelopes and three seconds to get their attention once it's opened.
"If the letter is a jumble of words or just an invoice, you'll lose customers," Harpham says. "You must continually change the message and how you communicate it. It must be different each time, and letter geometry is essential."
A billing letter must have good eye flow and be easy to read. Use boxes and large fonts. Take the most important sentence of the paragraph, and put it in bold and center it on the page.
Always include a headline. A headline is necessary for two reasons:
1. It serves as a central point of focus.
2. Often it's the only part that gets read.
Strengthen the wording with each mailing. Don't be afraid to get tough.
"Some direct marketers have soft billing series for fear of alienating customers, but if the offer is clear to start with and the billing service is firm but polite, people who don't respond after two or three mailings aren't good customers anyway," says Harpham.
The tone should escalate in urgency, from the friendly "perhaps you missed our previous bill" to a more severe wording each time. Generally, magazine publishers and continuity marketers take a gentler, more gradual approach to a billing series because they have more of an interest in continuing the relationship than companies that are marketing one-shot collectibles or books.
The second notice, which usually follows the first by about a month, should give the consumer the benefit of the doubt. Second notices may use the words "duplicate bill" on the outside envelope copy and usually give a diplomatically-worded reminder that the bill is past due.
The third notice may lay on guilt with conscience-fighting language that emphasizes that the consumer has an obligation to the creditor. That is, the creditor has supplied the product or service, and thus the consumer has a duty to keep up his or her end.