The Small Business Doldrums
The doldrums—that time of year when business slows to a crawl.
For a business owner, having a stable cash flow can mean the difference between tightening the purse strings while riding out the slow season or the ability to take a vacation with your family. Structuring your business fully, or at least in part, around recurring revenue will help keep you out of the doldrums with predictable income, on-time payments and happy customers.
Wind in Your Sails
Recurring or subscription billing has caught on big time. It’s not just for magazines and SaaS companies anymore. From specialized food products to weekly sock deliveries, companies are seeing the potential for growth and dependable income through recurring payments. Why should service-based businesses get left behind? It’s time to start thinking of your services as the products they are. Recurring billing is a valuable tool for both you and your customer.
Step 1: Understand your customer’s journey
Convenience, convenience, convenience—anything you can do to make your business and use of your services convenient will build loyalty with your customers. Looking at your customer data, think about which group would be most likely to benefit from a subscription or recurring payment. Now think about what expectations this group will have from before they sign up to after the experience is over. Be thoughtful. Remember, this customer is committing to your business for a few months or possibly years. What will you do to make this process simple and useful for them?
Step 2: Envisioning your services as products
Now that you are thinking about your customer base, it’s time to look at what you are selling. There are many ways to be innovative with recurring billing. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Don’t give up if you don’t see yourself fitting into these three options–a little creative thinking and you’ll soon find a fit for your company.
- Do you provide maintenance services that can be scheduled monthly or 3-4 times a year? Selling plans to your customers where they pay a low monthly fee in exchange for scheduled visits is enticing to customers because it can provide a sense of security and comfort.
- For education or training courses, (think dance studios, gyms, etc.) recurring billing is a natural fit. Multiple classes paid for over a period of time just make sense. What if your customers frequently ask questions that are better answered through training videos? For a low monthly fee they can access these videos through a link on your website, providing them with the answers quickly and easily and you with a regular income.
- Appointment-based businesses thrive with the use of recurring payments. Being able to schedule appointments online or pay a monthly fee to cover a certain number of appointments helps your customer with convenience and trust while giving you a repeat customer!
Step 3: Find a platform to offer your services
You’ve done the hard work, now you’re ready to sell. There are a number of on-line services available to help with setting up recurring payments for your customers. Think about what you need in order to find the best fit for your business. Do you have or need:
- An online store
- Payment platform
- Customer database management tools
- Online appointment booking
Take a look at PaySimple and our Online Store offering as a possible fit as your business moves to recurring billing.
Step 4: Market your services
You have your customers in mind and have set up recurring payment options to build convenience for them and you. Now you need to let people know! Your website is a great place to market your recurring payment options. If you work from a storefront, make sure that your customers are made aware of these options before they leave. Emails and social media are also great ways to get your message out. Make sure recurring billing options aren’t your best kept secret.
Step 5: Measure your progress
Once your recurring billing is up and running, take some time to evaluate how it’s going. This is not a set it and forget it option for business success. Track your most popular and profitable options. Are there ways to improve or build on these? Look for opportunities to increase or improve your offerings based on your data.
Building recurring revenue into your revenue stream isn’t really an option any longer. After all, if you don’t include it, then you’ll simply have to compete with businesses like yours that do. With recurring payment options you’ll turn one-time customers into repeat customers. Now that ought to put some wind in your sails!