We know that there is a certain amount of risk in any business, but today it has magnified. Quality counts in today's contracting economy and credit risk are increasing. Tight bank lending standards and slack demand has proved difficult for lower quality companies to refinance their debt. The recession and lack of liquidity has significantly increased your risk and don't be surprised if you see payables extend and sudden cancellation of orders. Don't try to be the bank!
Consider building a marketing model to minimize your risk by looking at your sales conversion or funnel so that lower risk companies could be rewarded and high-risk companies may have a little more stringent payment terms. Remember, most companies fail because of cash flow, not necessarily profitability. It was Will Rogers, who used to say when describing his investment strategy, "He was more interested in the return of his money, than the return on his money."
Here are a few examples of things to consider in your marketing funnel:
1. Cash is King: Simply stated make it more attractive for someone to pay up front. But even so, put your marketing team together to start promoting your customer more, generate some PR for them.
2. Standard Terms: Well they are standard and in a risky economy they are even less than standard. Treat them that way. Think of low cost rewards that will reward the payee such as a free seat in a training semina.
3. Aging Terms: Every day they go over, the less likely you are to collect them. Customers that have always been slow have just became high risk. Start building more value in your relationship before this begins. Your marketing team is typically more focused on building repeat and referral offers than insuring payment.
4. Special Orders, Customization: Great opportunity to increase your business and where others may be less likely. However, the more special it is, the more protection you need. Don't do it unless you can get something down. Ironclad agreements are useless if there is no money there to be had.
5. Discounts for repeat business: The best customers pay, so make sure you show your appreciation.
6. Creative finance terms: Not by you though, find someone else to carry the paper.
7. Discounts for referral business: If they are bringing you money than reward them big. Most of your referrals will come from the same sources. If you are going to risk anything this is the place to do it. Especially if you can tap into their customer base.
8. Run Credit Checks: A++ ratings get automatic-discounts with your company. Insurance companies do it.
9. Create auto-pay feature: Set automatic payments from your suppliers. This way you can create cash flow for yourself with some sense of security.
10. Direct Payment to vendors: If your vendor pays you promptly, have your customer billed direct and just receive commissions. Whenever possible, don't handle the payment. Always ask yourself, what purpose does it serve for you to bill direct?
But there is a greater purpose to this message. Your marketing team needs to look at things differently to help you succeed in a tough market. Think of ways that you can make your customers feel more like part of a team that is helping them get through these times. If you do that, your bill may not end up on the bottom of the pile. I gave you 10 things that I can think of to improve your cash flow, do you have any?