CRM Marketing Automation for Small Businesses- Step by Step Guide.

Along with the growing popularity of social media and online blogging, content creation became as easy as winking. Everyone can become a blogger, influencer or any kind of content creator. Because of easy accessibility, the digital world has gotten jam-packed with content of different kinds.

The abundance of all sorts of information affected small businesses’ digital and mobile marketing strategies both positively and negatively. On the one hand, now it is easier and cheaper to promote products on the internet, ensuring that the marketing message reaches a broad audience. On the other hand, people receive tons of different messages on a daily basis, thus are used to ignoring them.

It is not a secret that small businesses need promotion to stay competitive in the market more than any other businesses. However, this chaotic situation doesn’t leave too many alternatives for them. The only solution left is to take a personal approach for each client, and base customer relationships on that. Fortunately, there is a way out. Small businesses can achieve that level of personalization through CRM marketing tools.

What is CRM Marketing?
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) marketing is a range of strategies and actions directed to enhance business-client relationships, thus increasing customer loyalty and creating a brand value. To put it simply, being heavily focused on consumers, CRM is designed to develop long-term relationships with existing and new clients.

CRM has come to prove that one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns are ineffective and their time is long gone. As much as marketing campaigns attract more consumers, they still struggle to maintain them in the long run. However, CRM marketing works to establish long-lasting relationships between businesses and clients, which increases the chances of attracting more consumers.

With CRM marketing software, small businesses can store and organize essential customer information such as purchase patterns, product preferences, age, gender and so on. This data can be at the disposal of each and every worker of the company at any time. In other words, you can learn everything about a particular client with just a click of a button.

One of the biggest problems for small business promotion is that the competition in the market is tough. Moreover, some of the competitors may be better off and have more effective marketing campaigns. Therefore, a business has to stand out in order to attract consumers and generate leads. This is where CRM marketing comes in quite handy by assisting businesses in showing an individual approach to every single client.

Let’s admit it, everyone likes to feel special. Who wouldn’t want to receive special treatment by a company? This is to say that an individual approach can lure customers in and place the business a step ahead of the competition. Since there are tons of customers with different preferences, businesses need CRM tools to get all the information together.

What is CRM Marketing Automation?
Before getting into the details, it is important to note that CRM marketing automation is different from marketing automation. Although some of the tasks they conduct may be of the same nature, they are used for two distinct purposes.

CRM automation tools conduct tasks aimed to manage interactions with new and existing clients and to store data related to it. On the contrary, marketing automation tools conduct operations, analysis, and predictions regarding the company’s marketing campaigns.

CRM and marketing automation tools can be quite expensive for a small business. Therefore, it is more efficient to combine them into one CRM marketing platform to save time and money. This can unify your marketing and sales teams and create a large platform to share client information.

Based on the client information received from the sales team, your marketing team can create a more effective and precisely targeted campaign. By the same token, your sales team can receive statistics regarding the customers’ patterns of behavior, preferences or needs.

A CRM marketing automation platform can also include other mobile marketing tools to increase its usefulness. Tools such as email or SMS API can be integrated into a CRM system to be controlled from there. This makes them more practical in terms of customer relationship management and overall marketing strategy.

How to Get Started with CRM Marketing Automation?
Although CRM marketing automation software may be expensive for small businesses, it is a smart investment for future growth. At any stage of the development, businesses should appreciate the value of each client and work hard to maintain them. CRM is the ultimate tool for this since it contains most of the crucial client data. This allows to establish a more productive interaction between the business and its customers.

Here is how to get started with CRM marketing as a small business.

1. Choose a Reliable Software Provider
There are lots of CRM software providers around the world, each offering different prices and services. In order to choose the best one for you, identify your needs first. Examine your problems and define what specific features of CRM your business needs the most. This will bring you close to the package that fits your business best.

As a small business, you may want to choose an all-in-one CRM package that can cover most of your marketing automation issues as well. Although those packages cost a bit more than ordinary ones, their practicality justifies it.

2. Conduct a Detailed Test of CRM Software Services
Some providers offer free trials for subscription. Typically, those trials give a general overview of the product’s quality. However, most of those trials don’t have all the functions of a complete package. Hence, make sure to check each and every detail before shifting to a paid plan.

CRM is almost an endless product, so when you shift to a paid plan, check whether you or your staff need any additional training. Every provider has responsive customer support that can help with anything. But still, additional training would be of great benefit to your company and employees.

3. Import Your Client Database into CRM and Get Started
Once you’ve identified your CRM provider and started the cooperation, you’re only left with importing client data into it. If you don’t have a client database at this stage, it is not a disaster. You can start importing the data gradually with every new client, though it might take a little longer.

Know how Past Due Invoices can help Tackle Late Payments

invoice

SMBs bear the brunt of late payments, which hit hard on the underpinning functionalities and success of organizations.

As facts are best told in numbers, here is a survey conducted by Marketvoice on every aspect of invoices for small businesses. The results of this survey are based on data collected from over 80,000 invoices issued to different companies in nearly 90 countries.

The key facts derived from this data are:

  • 62% of invoices are paid late
  • 1/3rd of the invoices are paid more than two weeks late

Find below an image that shows the amount of delayed payments made to companies from different sectors.

late payment days

Source

Is there a way to tackle this challenge effectively?

Though different types of invoices exist, the past due invoice helps initiate the process of getting the past due amount from customers.

Let us understand past due invoices.

What Is a Past Due Invoice?

A past due invoice is an important part of small business invoicing. It is an official document reflecting the billing statement that refers to the amount that has not been paid within its due date. Typically, SMBs implement a structured process of sending invoices for services to their clients. They usually have online invoice software in place that sends invoices with details of the payments.

If the due date lapses, the invoicing tool automatically triggers a past due invoice with details about the overdue payment and any penalties for the time lapse.

When Is a Past Due Invoice Needed?

Usually, in SMBs, projects are finalized, developed, and delivered in advance. They are either paid for in installments with the ongoing work or after completion. Clients begin using the product, experience its advantages and clear payments from the profit they obtain. This is not due to the lack of trust in the service/product provider, but because clients are not always equipped with heavy funds.

In this scenario, service providers seek the help of online invoicing software that maintains accounts of payments received and those that are due. If a client fails to pay up and the time period provided lapses, the invoice software immediately sends out a past due invoice as an alert.

Who Past Due Invoice Can Help?

Freelancers

Though freelancing has its own benefits, freelancers frequently experience the pain of not being paid on time. They can use the past due invoice to inform their clients that they have a payment due.

A past due invoice helps freelancers convey to their clients that they need to arrange funds for overdue payment. This invoice may also include extra charges for late payment, if applicable.

Retailers

In a retail set up, managing inventory is one of the most challenging tasks. A retailer ideally places an order for the products from the wholesale provider and begins to distribute them. A partial payment is made for the products received.

In this case, the wholesale provider may find that payments are pending and the due dates have lapsed. He may send out past due invoices to inform the retailer about the past due amount.

Purpose of a Past Due Invoice and Its Role in Collecting Payments

Past due invoices also help in collection of due payments in a streamlined manner. This procedure includes the following steps:

Reconfiguration of Payment Terms

A service provider may advice the client about making full or partial payments within a given time. He may also reduce the time provided for the payment or charge a penalty for the late payment.

Checking for Errors

An error-free invoice may help speed-up invoice approvals, facilitating faster payments. This may involve a third-party to proofread invoices and check for errors.

Review of Credit

This includes reviewing the financial position of the customer if a medium-to-large credit request has been made. This review shall include an examination of the client’s financial statements and credit reports.

What Information Needs to Be Present on a Past Due Invoice Template?

  • Invoice number
  • Invoice date with payment due date
  • Customer/service provider name and contact information
  • Detailed split-up of services rendered, including dates, descriptions, man-hours involved, manpower invested and applicable charges
  • The subtotal and total of the amount to be paid
  • Specific payment methods accepted
  • Terms and conditions for early or late payments, if applicable

What to Expect after Sending a Past Due Invoice?

Past due invoices harm the credit of any particular individual/company. Service providers may reduce the credit limit or even stop accepting project proposals.

Long-standing past due invoices are eventually directed to collection agencies. This may result in a permanent discredit on that particular company, leading to other service providers limiting their business association.

A service provider may alert the customer and request a payment multiple times after sending a past due invoice. If the customer fails to revert, such invoices are directed to collection agencies.

These are the steps undertaken after issuing the invoice:

1. Sending a Dunning Letter

This is a low-key reminder message that conveys the amount due, invoice number, and invoice date.

2. Reminding over Call

If a dunning letter does not receive a response, a personal phone call is facilitated to know the status of the payment.

3. Escalating

If the service provider is not able to speak to the concerned person over call and doubts the intention of the customer, the provider may escalate to the accounts or senior management.

4. Setting up a Payment Schedule

If the customer is in a financial crisis, the service provider may help by breaking down the payment into installments and scheduling it. However, this is backed by a personal guarantee for the payment from the customer’s side.

5. Taking Legal Action

If these attempts fail to obtain the payment from the customer, an attorney letter may be hired to issue further warnings.

6. Filing an Involuntary Bankruptcy Petition and Suing the Customer

If the service provider finds that the customer has not cleared payment dues for other companies as well, he along with these companies may together file a bankruptcy case and initiate legal procedures accordingly.

It should be noted that the first few points are modest efforts to get payments from the customer while attempting to pursue a cordial business relationship. The remaining aspects focus on simply getting the due payments based on the virulence of the situation and may result in the discontinuation of the business association.

Conclusion

Past due invoices play a pivotal role in the payment cycle. They help service providers remind their customers about pending payments and that they need to arrange funds within a stipulated time to avoid functional hiccups.

The incorporation of effective online invoicing software can ease payments collection by triggering past due invoices, when required. Have you implemented one to manage your payments? Do share your experiences with us in the comments section below!

How Online Interim Invoicing Can Turn Things around for Your Small Business

small business invoice

Running a small business in the age of rapid globalization is a challenge. As a business owner, you have to wear multiple hats. You are the store manager, customer care executive, marketer, and the accountant, all at the same time. However, one of the frustrating and mundane responsibilities you have to carry out is dealing with invoices…

Only timely invoice payments will ensure you are bringing in more money than you are sending out. Unfortunately, late invoice payments plague many SMBs. A quarter of SMEs in Northern Ireland and over two fifths in the UK suffer from late payments with over half them being forced to write off up to 10% of their turnover.

In other words, if you don’t want to lose your hard-earned money, you need a strategic small business invoicing strategy. That’s where online interim invoice can help you.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. What Is an Interim Invoice?

Instead of asking for the payment in one lump sum, an interim invoice allows you to collect the total amount in small installments. You can either design these installments as fixed monthly payments or when a particular stage of work is complete. You will need to send the final invoice after the project ends with the details of interim bills and respective payments. Almost every online invoice generator allows you to send an interim invoice.

Let’s say you are offering SEO services to ABC for six months starting from 1st August, 2019. You can charge the client with $300 each month. For the first five months, you will be able to collect a total of $1500 from the client. In the final month, you can foot the final bill for $300.

However, you will need to make the adjustments in the final bill for extra work hours (if any) plus the profit you intend to make. For example, if you did extra work worth $500, and intend to make a profit of $600, your final invoice will be $1400.

Outstanding Monthly Charges $300
Extra Man Hours $500
Profit to be Footed $600
Total Final Bill $1400

The total amount you will collect from the client in this case will be $2900 ($1500 + $1400).

2. Why Use Interim Invoices?

Most small businesses use interim invoicing for the following three reasons –

  1. Maintain a Liquid Cash Flow – As you keep getting monthly payments, interim bills allow you to maintain the cash flow. A highly liquid cash flow, in turn, helps you run your business smoothly without incurring unnecessary debt.
  2. Avoid Costly Write-Offs – It can also help you avoid costly write-offs as you get a bigger chunk of your payment before the project is over. You can afford to follow-up for the final outstanding amount via email. If the client stops paying in the middle of the project, you can also stop working until the dues are cleared.
  3. Offer Flexibility – This is an advantage for your clients. Instead of arranging for a lump sum payment, they can pay you in small installments. You can also add or remove services during the project tenure and charge the client accordingly.

3. When to Use Interim Invoices?

As you can see, you can use interim invoice only for large projects or services stretching over a long period. Usually, you can use it for projects that will run longer than three months at least. You can’t use this method for small projects and short-term contracts. You will also need to consult the client to see if they are open to this idea. Although it is rare, some clients may refuse to use this invoice format.

4. Understanding the Structure of an Interim Bill

The structure of your interim bill change depending on the type of service or project you are undertaking. For example, a contractor will need to provide measurement details along with measurement books, a statement of recoveries, deductions, advances, and extra payments if any, and cumulative information of work completed till the date of billing.

On the other hand, a digital marketing agency will need to include only the details of completed work, work in progress, and the amount billed as decided in the contract. However, usually, an interim invoice has the following details.

  • Invoice number
  • Date of invoice as well as the due date
  • Purchase Order (PO) number
  • Bill-Of-Material (BOM) number, if applicable
  • Name and contact details your organization and your client
  • An itemized description of services and products you are charging for
  • The total amount you are charging including the breakdown of relevant taxes, discounts, and any other charge
  • Terms of payments, including late payment charges, if applicable
  • Special instructions or notes for the client, if any

In addition to this information, you will need to mention the total due amount in the final invoice when the project is complete along with the details of all previous interim invoices.

Once you have sent an interim invoice, you should expect the client to make the payment within the stipulated time. If not, you will need to follow up. Today, invoicing software has made online invoicing easier, to create different types of invoices, including interim bills. You can also integrate almost any invoicing tool with other business applications to create more accurate invoices and an automated follow-up via email reminders.

Parting Words

As you can see, an online interim invoice is a powerful tool for small and medium businesses. It will not only help you maintain cash flow, but also offer clients the flexibility of paying in small installments. Are you still using an Excel sheet for your small business invoicing needs? Maybe, it is time to switch to an online invoicing tool. The question is when are you going to do it? Let us know in the comments section.

Online Invoicing for Small Businesses: Brief History & 5 Essential Invoices You Need

Online Invoicing for Small Businesses: Brief History & 5 Essential Invoices You Need

Findings reveal that 27% of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) admit that they have a hard time creating and sending invoices, let alone tracking them.

As per a HubSpot survey of 400 SMBs, 49% have a hard time following up on late payments, and 46% find it difficult to receive their payments on time.

It’s no secret that small business owners wear several hats, but sometimes this can be overwhelming. While they’re supposed to focus on the strategic and money-making aspects of the business, they often find themselves taking care of manual tasks that can easily be automated. One such time-consuming task is invoicing.

One may say that invoicing is crucial to getting paid for the products/services provided, business owners need to realize that time is money. There is no money to be made for the time spent on creating, sending, and organizing invoices.

It is best to automate invoicing jobs to not only save precious hours, but also streamline the process, make it error-free, and ensure quick payments. You can put different types of invoices to use for your various business payment needs. Meanwhile, you can take care of business activities that help you rake in additional revenue or attend to your customer needs.

Invoicing should never feel like a hassle or slow down small business operations. If you think it’s hampering your productivity, using online invoicing software can help. It will improve your experiences with your clients in these ways:

  • Provide Accurate Estimates before Invoicing

You can proactively prevent the chances of answering verification questions and addressing disagreements with your clients at a later stage by creating professional-style invoices with the help of small business invoicing software. Using its templates will ensure that both, you and your clients are clear about the entailments of the project and associated costs even before starting work on the project.

These type of invoices can also help you detail your payment terms and establish a healthy work environment right from the project’s inception. This, in turn, will ensure that you don’t have to spend hours going through agreement terms and conditions over and over again to answer clients’ queries.

  • Add Specifics and Branding Standards

Your invoices should help you get easily identified by your clients, so establishing strong brand standards is necessary. They should also emphasize your brand’s values consistently in all your communications.

Certain important specifications should be mentioned in every invoice that is created for better organizing. It helps to have a numbering system in place so you can assign a unique number/code to each invoice for easy tracking. Your invoices should also specify your contact details such as your office address, email ID, and phone numbers.

Moreover, make sure the specifications mentioned cover the terms and conditions of the completion of the work and the payment. Even though these figures and stipulations are included in the written agreement/contract, your invoices should reinforce them to the client as and when they are issued.

Purpose of Invoicing

Businesses send sales invoices to their clients after providing them with goods or services. The invoices serve as either written or electronic documentation of the transaction between the business and the client. It is crucial that businesses maintain a record of all the sales they make to protect their interests in case a dispute arises in the future.

The purposes of invoicing include:

  • Record Keeping

One of the primary purposes of invoicing is to chronicle your sales figures accurately. It is an efficient way to track specific details such the date on which the product was sold, the price that was paid for it, as well as any outstanding debt. Further, an invoice it also aids the process of accounting while monitoring the performance of employees that makes sales and the items they sell.

  • Tax Calculations

More often than not, governments do not formulate a set system or template for the type of invoice businesses should use. However, all business are required to pay certain taxes, which is why invoicing tools become useful in recording cash inflow. It is always a good idea to maintain an ongoing summary of all business transactions with the help of invoices. This comes in handy at the time of filing taxes and ensuring that the precise amount is paid to avoid audits.

  • Legal Considerations

Online invoicing systems help shield small businesses from fraudulent and petty civil lawsuits. The details mentioned in the invoice make it clear that a particular item/service was provided at a certain time. An invoice with the client’s signature is extremely valuable as it serves as evidence of an agreement between the business and the customer. In the absence of an invoice, there will be no record of a sale, which makes businesses susceptible to facing price-related conflicts.

  • Gain Marketing Insights

Business owners need to closely monitor all sales invoices to use the information for targeting its customer base and marketing to them. This includes data such as dates of sales, frequency of sales, products sold, and the selling price of the products. CRM software or marketing professionals can use this information to gain insights on customer demography, peak purchasing times, preferred products, and more. This proves valuable when creating marketing strategies.

  • Inventory Management

Using well-designed invoices for small business can be beneficial to buyers as well as sellers as they help with managing inventory. Whether you employ an automated inventory system that adds and removes items as you receive and sell them respectively or use the traditional paper-and-pen method to manage information about your available stock, an invoice is a valuable document. Sellers can track details about the products that are sold and shipped, while buyers can track the products that are received and stocked.

  • Information Sharing

Invoices for small businesses present all the product and sales-related information in a systematic manner wherein the total price is broken down systematically and explained. It also reflects charges levied for services as well as labor. Other details include the date and time of the purchase, taxes applicable, total product price, date sent, the due date for payment, and seller and buyer information.

From Traditional to Modern: The Invoicing Journey

As far as modern businesses are concerned, invoicing tools have been gaining momentum as they streamline and simplify receiving payments. However, the practice of recording the rendering of products and services as well as the consequent transactions is being followed since the last 5000 years.

Before the modern invoicing and billing software for small businesses came along, other methods were used. It began thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia in a region that corresponds to modern Iraq. In the earliest recorded forms of invoices, sellers created IOUs (abbreviated from the phrase “I owe you”) on cards made from clay.
Given the technological advancements in the times we live in, sending invoices on paper, email, and PDF have also come to be considered as primitive methods.

Let’s take a look at how invoices have evolved over the centuries.

earliest invoices
Source: Ohmynews.com

3300 BC: This image depicts one of the world’s earliest invoices, which came in the form of clay tablets. Inscriptions on it were made with the help of a writing system called cuneiform.

Philip I of Castile invoiceSource: Wikimedia Commons

1504: This image shows an account of a £36 down payment made by Philip I of Castile when he bought a painting of the Last Judgment (Paradise and Hell).

invoice for products
Source: Goodfuneralguide.com

1780: The above image shows an eighteenth-century invoice for products purchased for a funeral. Items include coffin, furniture, and more.

earlier invoices
Source: Jot101.com

1870: This image shows a document created by the director of the Sistine Chapel choir. They charged 67 francs and 50 centimes for six lessons plus the sheet music.

earlier invoicesSource: British Library

1891: This is a seventeenth-century invoice for Dutch sea charts which were bought by the British Library.

earlier invoices Source: The Coopered Tot

1904: This is an early twentieth-century invoice from the renowned Graham Distillery Company.

earlier invoices

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1935: This is what the price list for bow and arrows in Belgium looked like.

earlier invoices

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1942: This is an invoice for American painter, Ed Hopper’s Nighthawks from the Chicago Art Institute.

earlier invoices

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1976: This image shows the oversized IBM printing machine model 3800. It was first used for large-scale document printing such as invoices and mailing labels.

earlier invoices

Source: Vintagecomputing.com

1981: Seen above is an invoice for a disk drive meant for the Atari 800, which was among the first personal computers to go on the market.

earlier invoicesSource: DiCentral Corp.

2003: The above image is a screenshot of a Walmart invoice. This is how the typical ERP-powered invoicing solutions looked like (and maybe still do), although offices did need to carry out a certain amount of supporting paperwork.

cloudbooks invoice
2013: E-invoicing software became a total game changer and simplified the invoicing process.

Many businesses create invoices on programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. Templates for creating such invoices are easily available online. All you need to do is download one, fill out the required data fields, and email it. You can also print the invoice and send it to the client via snail mail. However, this can be extremely tedious and time-consuming for a growing business, especially if you’re required to repeat the same process frequently.

Further, it is also an error-prone process. From entering the wrong numbers to accidentally deleting certain details and messing up the alignment, the scope for going wrong is immense.

For these reasons, online invoicing tools are gaining increasing popularity among small businesses. Not only are they easy to use, they also allow users to create different types of invoices in a matter of seconds.

Invoicing software for small businesses is more efficient and convenient to work with for the following reasons:

  • Automation: Online invoice software automates necessary processes that make invoicing easy and efficient. This includes sending automatic payment reminders for unpaid bills to the concerned parties.
  • Quicker Payments: The invoice format used by invoice software results in a professional design. It includes all the necessary information which is conveyed clearly to customers to enable faster payment.
  • Innovative Built-in Tools: Crucial data related to products, customers, prices, and taxes is securely stored by invoice software. This enables businesses to prepare an invoice with only a few clicks.
  • Mobility: Because all data is stored on the cloud, it doesn’t matter where you access it from. Whether you want to work with it at your desk or when on the go, online invoicing empowers you to easily view and manage your invoices. Further, you’re equipped to perform transactions through your mobile devices.

The Cost Conundrum

An increasing number of businesses are switching from paper-based invoicing methods to online electronic methods. However, several emerging businesses continue to employ paper-based invoices and billing systems along with outdated payment processing procedures. This can prove to be expensive, inaccurate, monotonous, as well as extremely time-consuming.

A research by Sterling Commerce revealed that (on average) the rectification of every paper invoice error costs companies $53.50.

The same study also found that “manually-processed invoices cost, on average, $30 per invoice to process, while fully-automated invoices average only $3.50 per invoice to process.”

In modern times, an online invoicing system is more suitable as it is cloud-based and makes it possible for businesses to create and send multiple invoices simultaneously over the internet. Such a system, therefore, helps cut costs and speed up the billing process.

If you’re still using a paper-based invoicing system, the following few factors could be burning a hole in your business’s pocket:

  1. Cost of preparing and printing paper invoices
  2. Cost related to storing paper invoices
  3. Fees for postage and shipping
  4. Fees for offering payment options such as debit and credit
  5. Costs associated with undelivered bills or lost invoice and time
  6. Costs related to handling customer calls and answering questions about the invoices

“Below is an infographic that will tell you everything about online invoicing and its global impact. Also, why small businesses should start going paperless and how it will help them with faster and timely payments while saving money.”

infographic e-invoicing

The Emergence of Online Invoices

If you haven’t already ditched the paper-based invoicing system and adopted online invoicing, here are a few undeniable reasons to do so right away.

  • Bid Adieu to the Challenges of Paper Invoices

As established above, paper-based invoicing process takes time, effort, and money. With an online invoicing system, you can reduce expending valuable resources on all these fronts and optimize your accounts payable functions. When it comes to storing invoices, sending automated reminders through electronic invoices will leave a trail that is easy for you and your customers to refer when needed. This means lesser clutter and smaller mess at the workplace with no need for filing paperwork.

  • Enhance Process Automation

Thanks to technological innovations, businesses have become capable of transforming their processes to collaborate, communicate, administer, and operate better, regardless of the time and location. Online invoicing can not only make process convenient and accessible, but also allow you to leverage your mobile devices to run your business by sending you timely alerts, updates, reports, notifications, and more.

  • Improve Cash Management

When the economic conditions are tough, which is the case among most small businesses, you need to focus on cutting costs. The importance of optimal cash management cannot be overlooked. Whether it is receiving timely or late payments or recording details about your invoicing expenses, an online invoicing system can help you keep everything sorted.

  • Facilitate Quality Assurance

Sending low-quality and erroneous invoices to clients will ruin your image and they will probably stop taking your business seriously. This may result in late or no payments, which is the last thing you want. Having an online invoicing system in place will prevent this by:

  1. Verifying and organizing supplier data
  2. Confirming the number work on the invoice
  3. Ensuring the invoice is in accordance with the order, receipt, and contract
  4. Assigning to cost centers
  5. Generating correct tax statements
  • Embrace a Green Initiative

We live in times when clients want to be associated with socially responsible companies. Moreover, going green is great for our planet and future generations. Creating less paper invoices and storing files electronically will enable you to do your bit to try and make a much-needed difference to the ecology.

Setting up the Online Invoicing Process to Make the Most of It

Mentioned ahead are a few things to keep in mind to fully reap the benefits of an online invoicing system.

  • Ensure Proper System Setup: Every client you transact with should be assigned a unique numeric code and all invoices sent to clients should include their own respective number.
  • Be Regular with Sending Invoices: Regular billing is key to receiving timely payments without attracting disputes.
  • Mention Penalty for Late Payment: Doing so will keep the clients alert to not miss payments and send them on time.
  • Generate Important Reports Frequently: Whether you need instant or customized reports for a quick glimpse into your business affairs, you can generate all necessary reports whenever needed to stay on top of your business’s financials.

Advantages of Electronic Invoices

Because the online invoicing process is automated, buyers, sellers, and administrators stand to gain a number of strategic and operational benefits. The ability of the invoice software to integrate with other business applications allows businesses to improve efficiencies and revenue-creation capacity.

Apart from benefits such as cost reduction, time saving, and dispute avoidance, e-invoices offer several other advantages.

Advantages for sellers:

  • Quicker and more accurate payments
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Reduced likelihood of invoice rejection
  • Better accounts reconciliation
  • Enriched cash management
  • Improved customer relationships
  • Creation of professional-looking invoices

Advantages for buyers:

  • Augmented accuracy
  • Better productivity
  • Accelerated payment cycles and processing
  • Improved accounts reconciliation
  • Enhanced cash management
  • Decreased likelihood of fraud, disputes, and other payment-related issues
  • Better supplier relationship management

Advantages for business administrators:

  • Enhanced business branding and awareness
  • Optimal use of business capital
  • Ensured compliance with industry and legal norms
  • Improved relationships with customers and suppliers
  • Optimized IT system
  • Eco-friendly initiative

Different Types of Invoices: 5 Essentials for Small Businesses

Here are the five essential types of invoices that every small business needs.

1. Pro Forma Invoice

A pro forma invoice is different from a regular price quotation in that it is a binding agreement. However, the terms and conditions of the sale are subject to change. They’re helpful in streamlining the sales process by minimizing back-and-forth post a sale going through, as all mentioned terms are agreed upon by all parties involved.

It, therefore, is a document of good faith estimate to prevent the buyer from incurring unforeseen and substantial charges upon the finalization of a transaction.

The purpose of the pro forma invoice is to provide the buyer with an exact sale price. This invoice includes estimates of fees or commissions, applicable taxes, and shipping costs if any. Businesses from almost every industry use pro forma invoices to complete their internal purchase-approval process.

A business may send a pro forma invoice either prior to shipping the products or at the time of shipping them. While the invoice does contain the exact cost and the details of the sale, it is not considered an official demand for payment. There are no guidelines in place that dictate a precise format of a pro forma invoice. It may or may not be similar to other commercial invoices in its presentation.

Example:

You may have visited a designer boutique and agreed to the price of a garment on a pro forma invoice. The designer will deliver the garment once it is ready. You will pay the designer once the invoice is received. The final amount on the invoice will be the same as or around the same amount as mentioned in the pro forma invoice.

2. Interim Invoice

An interim invoice allows breaking down payments for a huge project into multiple small payments. The time of making the payment corresponds to the completion of a predetermined portion of the project. This type of invoice covers that amount of money and helps with regulating cash flow for large-scale projects.

Big projects make higher expenses in terms of material, labor, and additional operating costs. Interim invoices help small businesses manage their expenditures when undertaking high-volume jobs. You need not wait until the completion of the project to receive payments. You can use the money received from interim invoices to pay off some of the costs you incur.

This kind of invoice is commonly used when you want to post multiple invoices for a client job.

Example:

You may perform some accounting work for Johnson HVAC technicians. You might start the work in January 2018 and estimate that the job will be completed by December 2018. You decide to invoice the client $100 per month.

If you use interim invoice, you will have to post interim invoices for $100 for every month between January 2018 and November 2018, bringing the invoice total to 11, and the amount total to $1100.

Your time ledger shows $1500 of staff time. The interim invoices will show 11 different postings of $1100, thereby reflecting a net WIP balance of 400. The interim invoices will show as “credits on account” and will not be coordinated with any amount of time.

By using an interim invoice, you have the advantage of being able to see all staff posting that has not been billed and all the invoices sent to the client so far when November ends. You will also be able to view the current WIP balance owed to you, which may help you make a more informed billing decision.

Once December arrives, you complete the job and are ready to bill the client. You see that you’ve spent $1500 on staff and have invoiced the client $1100. Consequently, you may decide to invoice the client $1800, thereby making a profit of $300. You can also reduce the client’s WIP and clear all posted interim invoices.

For this, you will need to post a final bill of $700 ($1800 less $1100 is $700). You can post a write out to the value of $1500 as that would be the current balance, and your aim is to get the value down to $0 ($1500 less 0 is $1500). The final bill is used to finalize (or clear) all interim invoices posted to the client’s account so far.

3. Past Due Invoice

A past due invoice serves as a reminder to the client that they haven’t paid up yet and should act to settle the due payments. Sometimes, the client fails to pay you in accordance with the due date on the final invoice. When this happens, you may send them a past due invoice immediately after payment becomes late.

The main purpose of a past due invoice is to remind clients that their payment due date has passed. When preparing this invoice, make it a point to mention all the information from the final invoice, including penalties that late payments will attract.

Example:

You want to overlay your driveway, so you buy large quantities of gravel and a couple of pallets from a hardware store. The purchase agreement mentions a payment term of two weeks from the delivery date.

The hardware store delivers the supplies the next day, thereby completing its contractual obligation. It now has the right to collect the purchase price from you. In this way, a debt relationship is established, with you as the debtor and the hardware store as the creditor.

If the debtor does not provide the contractually agreed upon payment before or by the due date as mentioned in the agreement, then the creditor can demand it upfront.

4. Recurring Invoice

Issuing a recurring invoice makes sense when invoicing for ongoing services. It is most suitable for payments of the same amount, like a subscription.

When you set up recurring invoices, your invoices get sent to your customers automatically. You need not bother with setting reminders or copying data from an old invoice to a new one every time you need to send them out. This arrangement allows you to focus your time and attention towards other strategic business activities while your invoicing takes care of itself.

If the product or service you provide requires you to send out invoices with the same details to clients on a regular basis, you need to use recurring invoices. A few types of businesses that use recurring invoices are:

  • Service providers, like plumbers and electricians, who bill for a fixed number of working hours every month.
  • Providers of monthly service packages. For example, a digital marketing agency that provides a set number of content and implements SEO services for its clients.
  • Providers of maintenance plans for products. For example, technology companies that digitize company processes with the help of their trademark tools and technologies. Integration with legacy systems and constant updating of business-critical applications will need their monthly support. Another example is that of a gardening service provider that attends to the client’s garden on a weekly basis.
  • Providers of educational material and online training resources such as long-term online learning and refresher courses offered by educational and training institutes.
  • Providers of services that require membership or subscription. This could be a one-year subscription to a magazine or fees for a 10-year club membership.
  • Software providers who charge a license fee every month to allow the use of their products.

Typically, when a recurring invoice is used, customers avail services at regular intervals without performing any additional action. When the agreed-upon term ends, the customer can either extend or terminate the alliance.

5. Credit Memo

A credit memo or a credit memorandum is a document that is issued by the seller of products or services to the buyer to decrease the amount the buyer owes to the seller under the terms of an earlier invoice. Typically, the credit memo clearly mentions the reason for the amount stated on the memo that has been issued. This comes in handy at the time of gathering information about credit memos and figuring out the reason for their issuing by the seller.

This document is commonly issued when the buyer wants to return purchased goods to the seller, or when there is a pricing issue, a marketing allowance, or any other reason where the buyer should not pay the seller the amount as mentioned in the invoice. The seller makes of a note of the credit memo as a reduction of the accounts receivable balance. The buyer, on the other hand, notes it down as a reduction in the accounts payable balance.

When using a credit memo, the seller will do well to review the open credit memos at the end of each reporting period to check the suitability for linking to open accounts receivable. When this is done, it lowers the average amount of outstanding invoices, and can also decrease payments to suppliers.

In case the payment from the buyer and seller is pending, the buyer can use the credit memo as a partial offset to the invoice-based payment to the seller. But if the buyer has made the full payment as mentioned on the invoice, he/she has can use the credit memo to either uses the credit memo to offset a future payment or demand cash payment in exchange for the memo.
An internal credit memo is created when the buyer is not sent a copy of the invoice. This is done when a business is writing off an outstanding receivable balance.

Example:

You purchased some clothes from a fashion clothing store. The store’s return policy stipulates that returns will be accepted within 15 business days from the date of purchase. Their policy also mentions that reimbursements will be made through store credit only, and not by cash.
One day after the purchase, you realize that one of the garments you bought has a hole in it. So you decide to return the product. The store manager informs you that they will accept the returned product. The manager then proceeds to create a credit memo because the clothing store will need to reduce a previously issued invoice to compensate for the sold damaged garment.

Once the memo is issued, your account at the fashion clothing store will be credited with the amount you paid for the item you want to return. You can then use this positive credit to either exchange the damaged garment with a proper one of the same model or buy a different garment altogether.

Conclusion

The modern marketplace is extremely competitive and small businesses need to be prepared with the best systems and software to stay competent. Business needs to not only attract new clients but also retain them if they want to grow and compete in the market for the long term. Efficiency is the name of the game, which is why it is crucial that small businesses find ways to maximize their results while saving their resources. Factors such as improving productivity and making dealings convenient for clients matter. An online invoicing system for small businesses is the key to achieving this. An improved invoicing process will ultimately help scale your business by bringing about enhanced cash flow. Gone are the days when creating invoices on paper and excel sheets were enough for efficient invoicing. Modern business processes demand the efficiency and the multiple benefits that only cloud-based software can bring to the table.

Is your small business equipped with a state-of-the-art invoicing system that caters to all its unique needs? Do let us know how it has helped your business in the comments box below.

Is a Business Degree Still Relevant in 2019?

Business has long been the most popular major at U.S. colleges and universities, which hand out far more degrees in this field than any other.

And yet some people say business degrees nowadays are unnecessary, outdated and irrelevant. Business is a fast-changing field in today’s digital economy, and some say business instruction isn’t keeping up with the times or producing the skills needed to succeed in today’s marketplace.

Many business schools would disagree, saying they are preparing students for a broad range of careers by providing instruction in all aspects of real-world business, including management, economics, finance, accounting, marketing and sales.

Do you need a business degree to succeed in business? Many well-known entrepreneurs would attest that you don’t, including college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

But could a business degree help you on your personal path to success? Like everything in business, that depends. Here are five points to consider.

1) The market is flooded with business majors.

If you want to be a business major, you won’t be alone. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Out of 2 million bachelor’s degrees issued in 2016–17, the majority were in five fields:

• Business: 381,000 degrees
• Health professions and related programs: 238,000
• Social sciences and history: 159,000
• Psychology: 117,000
• Biological and biomedical sciences: 117,000

Business surpassed education as the most popular major some 40 years ago, and it shows no signs of losing its dominance as the chief field of study in the United States.

So while you’ll have lots of company in business school, you may find it hard to distinguish yourself in the job market among so many business grads.

2) Generic business degrees do not have high earning potential.

General business degrees do not usually turn out to be big earners in the long run, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on the potential earnings of hundreds of college majors over the course of five and 10 years.

Majors in “general business” came in at 201st place on a list of fields of study ranked by earning potential, with mid-career salaries in the $80,400 range. The list, compiled by Payscale.com using 2018 NCES data, defines “mid-career salaries” as median earnings after 10 or more years of work in the field.

According to other NCES data reported in “The Condition of Education 2019,” a general business degree falls almost exactly within the median annual earnings of 25- to 29-year-old bachelor’s degree holders by fields of study in 2017.

With electrical engineering graduates topping the list at $72,600 and social workers bringing up the rear at $38,400, general business grads earned $50,400, while the median for all fields was $50,500.

That means that out of all college graduates who were not business students, half earned more and half earned less. Contrary to what you may think, the data suggests that broad-based business majors are a poor path to high earnings.

3) Specialized business degrees are usually worth more (but not always).

Those who earn a specialized business degree rather than a generic degree can generally expect substantially higher earnings.

Specialized fields within the broad business category include finance, accounting, economics, marketing and management. While general business degrees ranked 201st on the Payscale.com list cited above at $80,400, business analysis came in 9th at $129,800; business logistics and transportation 28th at $117,000; and business and economics tied for 53rd place with international business management, at $109,000.

Out of 25 majors with the word “business” in the title, 18 earned more than “general business” and only six earned less.

4) Most employers do not care what your major was.

Employers do not generally care about a job candidate’s college major. What they care about is the job candidate.

A survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93% of employers say job candidates’ critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills are more important than their college major.

Also, 80% of employers say that all students should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences, no matter what their major.

Businesses may or may not be looking to hire business majors. But they’re all looking to hire people who will help their businesses succeed.

5) Your best bet is to pursue something you love.

Many experts say you should find a major that aligns with your interests and passions rather than try to force yourself into a major that you think will lead to a lucrative job. You’re going to spend a lot of time studying, and presumably working, in the field you choose, so you’d better choose something you like.

If business is that passion for you, then there’s no reason not to pursue a business major. Business can expose you to many different disciplines, which can lead to work in a variety of fields. The versatility of the degree is often cited as a plus for students who don’t yet know exactly what they want to do in life.

Whatever you choose, strive to gain the broadest education possible, try to build a network of contacts in your field, and look for internships or other work experience so you’ll have more than just a degree on your resume when you graduate.

Online Project Management Software for Small Business: Choose Wisely

online project management

According to findings, only 58% of organizations fully understand the value of project management. Meanwhile, a whopping 93% of organizations report using standardized project management practices. In fact, 77% of high-performing projects use project management software.

Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of organizations using spreadsheets to manage their agile projects dropped from 74% to 67%. This is because these organizations moved to specialized project management tools.

When it comes to running a successful small business, you need a seamless project management software that helps you stay focused on your goals and achieve them without delays.

From getting through the early stages of planning, scheduling and communicating to managing critical resources, tracking costs and reporting, a robust project management program can make it all happen flawlessly. Further, it becomes easy to collaborate with utmost transparency in every process.

The main objective of small business project management software is to streamline and simplify tasks for project managers. It puts them in the driver’s seat where they get to decide on the whats, whens, whys, and hows of executing project-related tasks.

Thanks to easy collaboration, processes can be unified as different teams work together across several applications while staying abreast of the latest developments. Tasks such as file-sharing, task monitoring, reporting, and communicating can be carried out from one place.

In other words, a comprehensive cloud project management software will ensure that you’re always aware of the smallest details as well as the bigger picture.

Did you know that project performance has risen globally? In 2018, almost 70% of projects met their original goals or business intent, while around 60% were completed within the original budget. Both these numbers are up from 62% and 50% respectively in 2016.

Here are a few reasons why choosing the project management system that’s right for your business is of utmost importance.

  • While it is a challenging endeavor, using the right project management program can organize your business operations, enabling your organization to provide optimal outcomes through first-rate work processes.
  • In the modern business landscape, using manual and outdated tools such as paper-and-pen and spreadsheets to maintain records can prove to be highly ineffective and error-prone. These issues can be avoided with project management software.
  • Your clients expect high performance from your business. Missing deadlines, wasting resources, poor risk management, and similar issues can result in major trouble for you and may result in your project failing before even getting off the ground. None of this happens when you have an efficient project management system in place.
  • Effective client management is a critical aspect of growing a small business. The right project management tool takes care of this too.

Now, you might be wondering how to pick the right system for your small business, right!

Let me show you, How?

Take the below considerations in mind while choosing a project management software for your small business:

1. Best-in-Class vs Business Needs

A lot of small business owners make the mistake of buying high-end software that’s stuffed with features that promise to meet the needs of an entire enterprise. This type of software is usually promoted as “best-in-class.” However, you need to be smart and determine whether or not it is best for your business needs.

Usually, such a program ends up as shelfware. Business owners fall for shelfware by choosing from a couple of names based on top-of-the-mind recall. It is necessary to gauge the program’s features and benefits with regards to your business, and spend wisely on it.

While manual and spreadsheet methods may have served your business so far, you need to keep up with the changing times and harness technology to improve your project management processes and outcomes. While we do not recommended buying the next software you come across, we do suggest to determine the specific requirements of your business and select a program that plugs the gaps in the system.

2. Free Trials Are For You Only

It makes sense to actually try the project management tool at first to determine whether or not it fits your needs. However, don’t stop at one or two. Check out demos of 5 – 10 programs and shortlist a few to see how they work.

Take advantage of the free trials that most providers/vendors offer either under a limited account or for a fixed time period. If your provider doesn’t offer this facility upfront, feel free to ask about it.

Secondly, the software you choose should make communication and collaboration processes as flawless as possible. And, that’s why it is important to trail new software with team before buying it. Get their feedback on how the process is working for them. Doing so will also make your team feel involved in the decision-making process.

The duration of the trial should be long enough to allow you to gauge the software and feel convinced that it does fit your working style and business needs. Evaluate every provider to ensure that you don’t end up settling for a system, but get one that actually serves you well.

Most importantly, always remember to take the customer service and overall vendor responsiveness into consideration. Many times, even professionals make such small mistakes by overlooking the customer support which lands them into trouble later on.

Why you should never overlook the customer support?

In case, if you hit a roadblock or have certain questions on your mind and you contacted their support team but, you didn’t get the desired response. It will spell doom on your projects.

So, a wise move is to pose some queries and check their responsiveness in attending such queries, solutions that they provide. Doing so will enable you to see how receptive and co-operative they are.

3. Cost vs Capabilities

Regardless of the volume of the project, small businesses typically work within budgetary constraints. Picking software that best fits your unique business needs can, therefore, be a challenge. In such a case, it makes sense to get a program that offers you complete value for your money.

The cost of project management software varies from one provider to another. Some may cost as low as $50 while complex ERP solutions can set you back thousands of dollars. If you focus on getting quality software, you can consider your money spent well.

Some factors to consider include:

· What will be the ideal payment solution?
· Should you go for the subscription option or stick to monthly/quarterly/annual payments?
· How much will adoption and implementation of the program cost?
· Are you getting enough features/amenities for the price you’re paying?
· Will having the program cost more than running the business without the program?

The answers to the above questions will help you figure out whether or not the software can justify its cost.

4. Scalability For Future

Several small business owners end up buying a project management tool that caters only to their immediate current needs, overlooking the possibility of quick business growth. As they expand, they realize that their software isn’t flexible enough to accommodate the growing business demands and customer expectations.

This necessitates further expenditure on buying an advanced program. It is crucial to invest in a flexible and scalable project management system that grows as your businesses progresses. Make sure to get a program that allows you to add more features to it and upgrades as you grow.

5. Protection Against Cyberattacks

Underestimate the security aspect of your project management software at your own peril. Without a doubt, security is one of the most crucial factors to consider when investing in a software solution.

When your clients associate with you, they trust you with some of their most critical and confidential data. The last thing you want is to lose their trust and your credibility because a vested interest hacked into your software and stole/misused this sensitive information.

Apart from client data, your own business data, research, findings, patents and trademarks also need to be kept away from vicious online criminals.

Preventing/Avoiding Cyberattacks and other security issues should be high on your priority list from day one. Choosing a fortified and secure program will keep you safe from hackers, malware, viruses, and such.

It is recommended to check and recheck the security features of the software you’re planning to buy and gauge its reliability. Moreover, the vendor’s efficiency and dependability in backing up your data on a regular basis should also be factored into your decision. Determine whether or not they’re using a secure hosting platform to backup customer information, without hampering current operations.

Another consideration in this regard is the downtime. The project management solution you choose should be available at all times without any glitches. You don’t want keep your clients waiting because of problems with the project management tool and the inability of the vendor’s customer support team to respond to your queries.

6. Easy To Use Interface

One of the main reasons to invest in project management software is so business owners can stop worrying about daily operations and focus on business strategy.

With time being a luxury, the last thing you want to do is spend it learning the workings of your software, right!

It is crucial to get a project management solution that comes with a user-friendly interface and allows you work with it effortlessly without much training. The best programs require minimal training and enable users to work with them right away. This is because of their intuitive user interface.

One of the most overlooked factors here is that your software should minimize the risk of users getting it wrong and making costly mistakes. To ensure user-friendliness, your software should be:

  • Intuitive: The software should be easy-to-use even for novices, while being configurable by experts. Finding and changing software settings should be quick and hassle-free.
  • Accessible: The project management system should be easily accessible by both, on-site staff and remote staff with a login ID and password. Further, it should be accessible across devices and platforms.
  • Supportable: Features in cloud-based online project management software get upgraded regularly in order to maximize performance and boost outcomes. Your program should offer adequate maintenance and support in this regard either for free or at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

Choosing project management software that suits your specific business requirements is key to meeting your organizational goals. It can help you with enhanced decision-making abilities and customer satisfaction, resulting in unwavering success. However, don’t be fooled by fancy software making tall claims about its features. You may just end up with a higher cost and features that you don’t even need. Pay heed to the factors mentioned above, and you will be able to zero in on one that’s the perfect fit for your business, team, and clients.

Have you been using project management tools to propel your small business? Which feature(s) do you think is the most important? Tell us about it in your comments.

Why Your Small Business Needs Time Tracking Software

Okay, so at some point, every young entrepreneur or small business owner wants to know which Time Tracking Software is best for their business.

But, there’s one more question to ask yourself.

When does your small business actually needs a Time Tracking Software?

Ever gave a thought on it? Not actually, right!

Well, that’s okay, in this post I’m going to show you WHEN to actually go for a Time Tracking Software and for which type, depending on your business.

small business working hours

Source

Setting up a small business is great, but running it is the real battle. Business owners go to great lengths to ensure smooth operations and optimal workforce management. Thanks to advancing technology, achieving these objectives has become a lot easier.

Time tracking has a huge role to play in streamlining work processes. Yet several businesses continue to underestimate it and use manual process and spreadsheets to this end. This can result in human error, duplication, and wastage of time, which in turn, can be disastrous for your business.

This is where a robust time-tracking software comes into the picture. It not only gets you real-time information, but also makes business processes transparent, error-free, and quick.

Here are a few other benefits of using time tracking software in your business.

Better Workflow

A comprehensive time tracking software enables you to be in the know of all the goings-on within your business. You will always know exactly how your business is running, what your employees are doing, which projects are taking the most/least resources, and more. This knowledge will help you streamline processes, organize projects, delegate responsibilities, track cash flow with ease.

Every business workflow is designed with one goal, i.e. profit. Another closely associated objective relates to cutting overheads. When you have an efficient time tracking system at your disposal, you are always equipped with the right numbers. Moreover, you are able to address the minutest issue in a timely manner.

Resource management becomes easier, which results in timely and quality output. A time tracking program can also help business owners allocate the right levels of resources among different projects, depending on the workflow. This helps in personnel management as business owners can gauge if they need to create certain permanent positions or simply outsource certain tasks to contractors.

The process of performance review and reporting can be simplified and expedited by having proper time tracking software in place. Further, it also becomes easy to minimize waste and increase operational efficiency. Reviewing workflow over a period of time becomes convenient as does identifying scope for error and improvement.

Improved Employee Productivity

Did you know, a whopping 70% of US employees are not engaged at work?

An online time tracking system is great for boosting employee productivity. It enables them to track the exact amount of time they’re spending on their projects and assess how productive they actually are.

Employees can easily monitor their tasks and calculate how much time they’re spending on each one. This helps improve their focus. If they find that their productivity is low, they can quickly take steps to improve their performance through better time allocation.

If they estimate a delay in the project’s delivery, they can inform their manager and clients along with a reasonable deadline, thereby feeling more accountable and in control of their work.

Further, employees can manage their vacations and sick days better. They will not need to wonder about their leave balance as the system will provide them with all the necessary information. This way, they feel more in control of their time off as well.

This provides another indirect benefit: when employees know about their holidays, they can schedule their work better. Employers need not to be surprised if they notice a reduction in the number of unplanned employee absences (sick days notwithstanding since these cannot be planned). Having a time tracking system will enable better time-scheduling and flag employees who are taking undue advantage of the system.

Superior Payroll Management

A well-equipped time tracking system will enable you to create error-free timesheets that can be used for payroll purposes. Almost all companies encounter pay-related issues where employees receive an amount that’s either lower or higher than their monthly remuneration. These kinds of problems can be eliminated with time tracking tool.

Sometimes, employees may be required to work in shifts or at odd hours. In such cases, it can be challenging for the payroll department to compute work hours and ensure accurate payments and/or deductions. Using time tracking software makes this easier and virtually error-free. All calculations are entered into the software, and employees can track their own time while receiving the right pay.

Eliminate Time Fraud

According to a recent study, the average employee steals approximately 4.5 hours every week from their employer, totaling nearly six full work weeks per year while costing businesses hundreds of billions of dollars every year worldwide.

Also, up to 10 minutes per day, per employee, is lost due to tardiness, long lunches and early departure, as per the American Payroll Association.

Simply put, time fraud refers to the practice of inflating the number of work hours. Sometimes, employees receive pay for the hours they haven’t worked. This means they accept money from their employer without giving anything back to the organization. Time theft is more common than we think and can affect a company’s budget, resulting in losses amounting to millions of dollars annually.

This can be prevented with the use of the right time tracking software as it registers every working hour of every employee. All they need to do click on the timer. A good time tracking tool can track billable hours for every project, bringing transparency in the process of calculating the time dedicated to them. This, in turn, empowers employers to make faultless payment for every minute.

Client Billing

Financial accuracy is crucial for running a lucrative business. However, client billing is a common problem that several companies grapple with. It is crucial that clients are accurately billed within the specified timeframe. Companies that don’t use a potent time tracking and invoicing software often experience difficulties in achieving this.

Some companies bill clients by the hour, while others may bill them by the project. This can be a perplexing task to perform manually. With time tracking software, you can remove the confusion from the process and charge every client the right amount.

Losing track of billable hours can lead to employees missing out on their wages. In fact, even businesses can miss out on bringing in revenue, resulting in losses of tens of thousands of dollars in every cycle. When billable hours are computed properly, it becomes easy for the payroll department to be timely and accurate. The entire process becomes simplified and efficient, and the cash flow becomes steadier.

Additionally, if you’re looking to reduce the length of the billing cycle, all you need is an efficient time tracking program. It can help you transform and modernize your billing cycle and improve cash flow. Currently, you may be taking a month or two to just bill clients and, in turn, receiving delayed payments. It’s time to bid adieu to these outdated practices.

Real-Time Analytics

Every business reaches a point when it has to consider increasing the prices of its offerings. To be certain of getting the pricing right, you’re going to need a time tracker that comes with the analytics feature.

Once you know the average time it takes for completing a task, you can deduct employees’ salary for that period and cut your costs to see if the current price is still feasible for your business. If you’re falling short, you need to raise the rates. This clarity can be derived only if you have access to accurate real-time data, which you can easily extract from time tracking software.

The buck doesn’t stop here. Your software should make it easy for you to view and comprehend the data. Managers will do well to have access to detailed business reports complete with a visual representation of data like charts and graphs.

Analytics features that can be customized according to your preferences can be like icing on the cake. Reliable data derived from analytics helps in arriving at the crucial daily and/or weekly numbers, and in generating visually-appealing reports.

Time-Tracking for Different Types of Businesses

No two businesses are the same and neither are their requirements. Business owners will do well to pick time tracking software armed with features that can meet their specific requirements.

For Freelancers

Freelancers tend to work at their own time with clients from various industries coming from different time zones. A simple time tracker that allows multiple time tracking options along with the ease of editing time entries and continuing tracking time will be ideal for them.

Because freelancers perform every business task on their own, it will be convenient for them to have easy accessibility to all their data and time entries in one place. At the same time, features such as reporting and sending/exporting files to clients are also essential so clients can track work progress and be in the know of each minute of the billable time.

For Remote Workers

While freelancers work independently, remote workers often have to collaborate with different teams as well as with their employer. They’re also required to account for their work hours to their managers, which is why they need a time tracker that allows them to do so.

A time tracker that is equipped with team viewing capabilities is ideal for remote workers so employers can always know what the team members are up to. Such a time tracker overcomes the hurdle of the lack of physical monitoring due to distance and keeps employers on top the latest in every project.

For Small Businesses

Small businesses may have fewer employees compared to large enterprises, but both perform almost all the same tasks. Further, small businesses also have smaller budgets, which is why they’re always looking for reasonably-priced yet effective solutions that are compatible across devices, and provide quick access and support to important business data from anywhere.

Team collaboration and management is a huge challenge for business regardless of their size. This is why small businesses need time tracking software that enables people to work together. Such a system will make it easy for business owners to create and delegate business-critical tasks so all team members are on the same page.

Conclusion

With a plethora of different time tracking systems out there, it can be bewildering for small business owners to pick one. At the end of the day, it all boils down to considering your business’s unique needs and expectations. The type of business you do, the devices you use, and your typical workflow will also guide you in making a sound decision. Remember, good software offers not only critical features, but also ease of use. Make sure you ultimately pick one that is efficient, affordable, and feature-rich.

3 Software Marketing Ideas to Increase Sales

The software industry is currently experiencing a development renaissance. This is great news for business owners looking to shop around for a new vendor, but it makes gaining market share challenging for software companies. Given the crowded apps marketplace and the prevalence of cloud-based SaaS solutions, it’s vital for software companies to market their products appropriately.

In order to scale past early adopters and into mainstream sales success, nearly 90 percent of SaaS companies reported new customer acquisition as a top priority. Lead generation can be a costly process, but with a solid software marketing strategy, growing companies can lower those customer acquisition costs and potentially increase sales. Let’s take a look at some software marketing tips that can boost revenue.

Focus on customer service
Customer service has become a cornerstone of brand strategy in a digital age where companies are cultivating a richer understanding of the impact of customer experience on the sales funnel. Customer service, however, is more than just responding to questions and complaints online. It’s about understanding the customer journey. What do they want? Where are their businesses headed, and how does a company’s software fit into that niche? How are they currently evaluating their vendor options? Questions like these can help segment the buyer persona more effectively. Answering these questions gives insights to marketing teams so they can more intimately understand how stakeholders make purchase decisions, allowing them to more precisely build marketing campaigns and target more qualified leads.

Another valuable element to SaaS marketing is examining the value proposition behind the product offering as a potential vehicle for marketing efforts. Identifying key elements like price, data storage, analytics, and other facets business owners are particularly interested in plays a role in developing solutions to fill those needs. Software CEO Mark Hurd echoed this theme by saying, “aligning technology strategy to better service customers becomes an essential path to revenue growth.” If software companies can isolate the most appealing aspects of their offering, thus reducing costs for their customers while remaining competitive in terms of function, they can translate their developments into better customer service. Outstanding customer service can act as a key differentiator and provide valuable marketing clout.

Optimize content marketing
Content marketing has experienced explosive growth across industries, especially in the SaaS sector, where breaking down more complex topics can be integral to converting sales. Two ideal places to offer such content are blogs and social media channels. A unified blog and social media strategy can extend the half-life of popular posts and drive organic traffic to target pages. Additionally, offering engaging content can help software companies build up an email list to send out newsletters and marketing material.

Businesses should offer relevant, expert content that appeals to their target audience’s particular set of interests and expertise. Content can take the shape of standard blog posts, podcasts, infographics, and videos. The idea is to create “explainer content” framing data or product information in an easily digestible and shareable format. Current trends in media consumption point to mobile devices as a leading source of paid and organic clicks, so focusing on content such as video and audio can help capture an audience who is always on the move.

Feature marketing is one SaaS marketing trend that can be augmented with content marketing. Many software companies develop side features, apps, and widgets that stand alone from the main product but provide added value to target buyers. These additions have the potential to confuse customers if they are not communicated properly. Yam Regev, a software content marketing expert, commented, “the fact there are lots of new features is just like having more content! Extra features enable marketing to better inform and engage targeted audiences.” Sometimes, companies develop features that become more widely used than the main platform itself. Savvy marketers will consider the development of new products and apps as valuable opportunities to attract new customers and upsell existing ones.

Crowdsource reviews/client testimonials
Customer testimonials are essential when building up credibility surrounding a software product. They are an important part of a brand’s presence and stand as a testament to what prospective clients can achieve, or “social proof.” Because 92 percent of e-commerce buyers stated they sought out and read customer reviews before making a purchase decision, positive testimonials are increasingly important to those considering a software vendor, which is a more nuanced purchase.

Marketers can encourage customers to leave reviews or identify and reach out to specific clients who are likely to leave a positive testimonial on their site. Case studies are a great example of leveraging client results to inform future purchase decisions and can be a valuable asset in a content marketing campaign.

Standing out in the bustling SaaS marketplace can seem daunting. The tips above can help software companies cut through the noise and communicate their product offering more clearly to prospective customers.

How to Choose a Small Business Invoicing Solution: The Complete Guide

small business invoicing solution

Did you know that 27% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) admitted that they have a hard time creating and sending invoices?

You may want to take a look at the infographic below to gain a better understanding of the current state of invoicing.
smb invoicing

Source

As you can see, a seamless and intuitive invoicing system is an indispensable requirement for your business.

Starting a small business may be a dream come true for many an entrepreneur, but running it takes effort and smart work. Modern businesses need to harness technology that not only supports their processes, but also betters them to set the tone for long-term success.

Every time your small business sells a product or a service, an invoice is generated. For a thriving business, that’s way too many invoices being made every single day. This is where an efficient small business invoicing solution comes into the picture. It takes the worrying and erring out of making sales and payments, and makes the process expedient and hassle-free (and environment-friendly).

This post will shed light on the purpose of online invoicing, its functioning, and the factors that will help you choose the right online invoicing solution for your small business.

The Purpose of Online Invoicing Solutions

Having a small business invoice software in place will allow you to bid adieu to traditional solutions like MS Word and/or Excel. This, in turn, will enhance your workflow and eliminate the frustration arising from the arduous process of managing invoices.

With the right invoicing solution, it becomes easy to create, track, and process invoices as well as business and customer details. Further, such a software can accelerate and augment your cash flow, as well as expedite and simplify payments, apart from helping you save time and money.

Online invoicing software allows you to store all your data in the cloud. This means you can put your worries related to losing invoices or client data, or even your computer crashing and hacking issues to rest. All you need to do is log into your account to access all your business-critical information and start billing your clients.

Mentioned ahead are a few undeniable advantages of using online invoicing software.

a. Automated Digital Payments

Invoicing software allows businesses to carry out secure digital transactions and automate outflows by setting up recurring payments. This is particularly helpful with long-term clients. The system sends follow-up messages and payment reminders for forthcoming and due invoices. This, in turn, eliminates the stress of manually tracking and chasing down these payments.

b. Secure Your Data

Paper invoices can easily get lost or land in the wrong hands. A good invoicing system prevents this by making data security a priority. Ensure to invest in software that complies with PCI Security Standards. Such software employs advanced security safeguards, such as SSL encryption, against threats and loss of data.

c. Get Multi-Language and Multi-Currency Support

Technology has brought the world closer, enabling small businesses to work with global clients. Cloud-based invoicing platforms are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to allow users to choose their preferred language and currency, making interactions and transactions between companies and clients smoother and clearer. Because online invoicing systems are able to operate flawlessly in the global marketplace, the payment barriers are eliminated.

d. Access Information at Any Time from Anywhere

Online invoice management systems empower business owners to access and manage client information and billing data from any location and time zone and on any smart mobile device. Whether you’re working from office, home or are on-the-go, you can do business as usual without a hitch.

e. Easier Auditing

It is easy to access and interpret information with an invoicing software as it allows you to save and view your bills, estimates, expense receipts, transaction statements, and other important documents on one dashboard. The system creates a systematic and quick process for assessing financial statements related to your accounts and tax deductions. This makes it convenient for you to maintain your records in an error-free manner, which can be especially helpful during IRS audits.

f. Quicker Payments

Sending invoices online and receiving payments is quick and easy with an invoicing system in place, even more so if you use the recurring billing facility. Receiving, reviewing, and returning invoices can be done with the click of a button. This translates into quicker payments in a safe manner.

g. Save Time and Costs

Business owners can say goodbye to tedious data entry with online invoicing systems as they let you generate and distribute multiple invoices without reentering customer information each time. Bills can be tracked easily as well. Further, overheads can be brought down by jettisoning the use of paper, stationery, stamps, and document storage items used for sending invoices.

h. Reinforce Your Brand Identity

All your system-generated invoices will have your company logo, color schemes, and fonts that are a part of your brand standards. With a strengthened brand identity, clients are bound to take your business seriously and make payments on time. Further, you can customize your invoices with messages such as “Thank You!” You will also be able to link to piece of content created by you to help solve clients’ specific problems. This will reinforce your brand identity while establishing your leadership and expertise.

How Invoicing Software Works?

To put it simply, online invoicing systems for small businesses allow owners to create and send bills electronically. However, there’s more to them. These systems also enable users to create, control, and evaluate invoices on your smartphone or tablet. This essentially means that you’re on top of your work-related developments at all times. Read on to gain a thorough understanding of how to use an efficient invoicing solution to simplify your life:

  • Start by entering your client’s information on your invoicing system. This includes their name, contact details, email address, billing and mailing address, and preferred payment method. Organizing this data will enable you to set up recurring payments and issue invoices instantly.
  • Users can also input the usual billing costs once and for all in the system. The software will calculate the total bill at the end of each cycle automatically. This works particularly well if you charge an hourly rate.
  • Set up your payment terms and policies as these will determine how your invoices will be paid. Other factors to consider are payment schedules and preferred payment methods. Deciding on these aspect will make your billing process glitch-free. This should motivate clients to pay invoices on time and without hesitation.
  • Invoicing systems allow you to carefully design invoices to prevent confusion and delays. While this may seem complex, it really isn’t. Make sure your invoices include your brand’s logo, color scheme, your contact information, invoice number, payment due date, payment terms and policies, itemized list of products/services, and a note of thanks to the client for the payment.
  • You can maintain records of contracts, agreements, payments (paid and due), and other documents in the most orderly manner with the help of an online invoicing software.

How to Choose the Right Online Invoicing Software?

One of the conundrums small business owners find themselves in relates to choosing the right invoicing software. This can get tricky because of the variety of industry-specific solutions available in market. However, you will do well to focus on the following criteria when picking a system for your business to ensure that all its needs are met.

a. High-Level Data Security

Figure out if your invoice management system stores your data on its own server or a third-party server. Ask providers about the security measures they take to ensure the security of your information. Also, verify if the software providers are using HTTPS connection (from their website URL in the address bar). This protocol ensures that the data transferred from your computer to their server is encrypted and safe from hackers. You can also view their security certificate on their website.

b. Availability of Essential Features

An efficient invoicing solution will easily allow you to:

  • Create and manage customer records and purchase information on a centralized database in a secure manner
  • Enable quick payments by processing credit cards promptly and allow recurring billing
  • Create high-quality, professional-looking, and customizable invoices with predefined templates
  • Categorize and track costs and transactions according to projects
  • Manage inventory, stock movements, and wastage
  • Settle accounts by importing banking transactions
  • Create and record purchase orders
  • Record voucher entries
  • Integrate seamlessly with payment gateways
  • Manage customers and vendors list
  • View balance sheet, account payables and receivables, profit and loss statement, and tax statements
  • Receive multi-lingual and multi-currency support for issuing receipts, accepting payment and managing taxes
  • Send quotes to customers from a centralized database
  • Add team members and grant access control

c. Ease of Use

Not all business owners are well-versed in accounting, which why an invoicing suite becomes a necessity. Even with a dedicated accountant in place, business owners should be able to view and make sense of the financial information without any trouble. Ensure you get an easy to use software with a clean user-friendly interface that allows you to focus on business-critical tasks.

d. Scalability

A lot of business owners make the mistake of thinking short-term and buy software that fails to support the needs of their growing operations. This slows the progress and forces entrepreneurs to migrate to other software, which can be a hassle. It is, therefore, prudent to get software that scales with your business needs. Go for one that offers free entry-level features and can be upgraded to an advanced fully-equipped paid version, which you will need in the future.

Conclusion

Having an ingenious invoicing software in place can certainly help small businesses streamline their processes and work better with clients. From automating invoices and organizing data to receiving payments safely, online invoicing solutions can do it all. The kind of system you need depends entirely on your business goals and the kind of legacy software you have been using. Use the above information to make an informed decision and propel your business towards success.

What kind of challenges did you face when picking an invoice management system for your business, and how did you overcome them? Do let us know in your comments.

Top 4 Quick Travel Marketing Tips

The majority of people love to travel, which is why you may think that travel marketers have it easy.

Well, the truth is that the opposite is the reality, because the travel industry competition is stiff and fierce. That’s not to mention that things fluctuate greatly between seasons and between destinations, which complicates things even further.

But even with the travel industry expected to grow even further and competition getting even more fierce, the truth is that marketing your travel business also doesn’t need to be as difficult as you may have initially suspected.

Here are the top four quick tips for travel marketing:

1 – Summer and Winter Are Your Seasons

These are the seasons when people are the most likely to book for travel, with a nearly 30% increase in travel searches during this time. Specifically, December, January, July, and August are the top four months of the year when people are booking the most flights and hotel rooms.

Therefore, these are the months of the year when you will want to be focusing your marketing efforts the most intensely.

2 – Bid Lower During Those Months

While you may think that you should bid higher during those months when people are going to be booking far more flights and hotel rooms, the truth is that’s the exact same strategy that most if not all of your competition is going to be using as well. Instead, bidding your prices just a hair lower can be the best strategy to stand out more and gain you more sales. Just don’t bid too low, because you still want your business to turn out a profit.

3 – Be Informative

It may be a good idea to be informative and to go as far as to start a blog about travel tips and advice. That way, people may find out about your travel agency or business through your blog first. Just make sure that your blog truly is informative and educational. Beyond generic subjects like ‘top travel tips for beginners,’ you can get more serious and specific with subjects such as visa application rules by country or the best hotels by city.

4 – Be Visual

A major mistake that travel agencies make these days is that when marketing, around two thirds of all advertisements are just dull text ads.

When people are traveling or planning to travel, they don’t just want to read or hear about the destinations. They want to actually see those destinations. That’s exactly why images and videos need to dominate your websites, mobile apps, and advertisements all at the same time in order to make them significantly more captivating.

Travel Marketing Tips

All in all, these are the top four travel marketing tips that you will be unwise to ignore: marketing the most aggressively during the summer and winter, bid lower if possible) to stand out more, be informative and educational in your website, and be visual in your advertisements.