The Bill’s in Your Court
Love can get you far in this world, but to reference an old lyrical pearl from Motown legend Barrett Strong: It don’t pay your bills. Your product or publication may have generated a loyal enough following to secure an enthusiastic prospect’s order, but until you secure her dollars, your ROI won’t be breaking records anytime soon.
Accomplishing the troublesome task of getting customers to open their checkbooks is no easy feat, which is why, in the hierarchy of direct mail, a billing series exists in a class all of its own. Unlike traditional efforts that impel action through relationship-building tactics, bills arrive with one, laser-focused objective: To collect your money.
Though their nature often is likened to less desirable mailbox arrivals (utility payments, anyone?), it’s this very similarity mailers should capitalize on in the development of a solid series. Here are some creative fundamentals mailers can use to strengthen their billing packages.
Although bills are not normally verbiage-heavy, there are a few copy strategies worth noting to guard against avoidance and procrastination on the part of your customer. As an overall rule, “professional” and “official” should be the watchwords for every effort in the series. This approach mirrors other payment notices a consumer might receive, which implies it’s of equal importance, says David Rosen, president of Armonk, N.Y.–based direct marketing agency Rock Hill Direct LLC. While the tone should increase in urgency as the series progresses, language in all efforts must be tightly written and leave no room for interpretation.
• Be straightforward. “It’s not something people have an option to pay; it’s something they need to pay,” says Cary Zel, president of Miami–based circulation management agency ProCirc. To keep customers thinking along those lines, mailers must present the information as a mandatory request. “A lot of marketers are so afraid of turning customers off, they forget to ask directly for payment,” says Rosen. He suggests including a reply-by date on each bill in the series to let customers know what’s expected of them. Rosen also warns against attempting to resell the product or romance customers with over-the-top benefits copy, even in the first or second communication, when a lighter tone is appropriate. “Some mention of product features and benefits is fine, especially in the early efforts, but the promotional stuff should always be very secondary,” he maintains.