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HOW TO OVERCOME THE CASH FLOW ISSUES PLAGUING TOO MANY BUSINESSES

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Ian Duffy, CEO of Accelerated Payments

 

Cash is the lifeblood of any business, but cash flow issues haunt even the best-run companies. According to JP Morgan Chase Institute research, the average business has only 27 cash buffer days in its operational runway. If cash stopped flowing in, then within a month, most companies would not be able to cover rent or make payroll.

Smaller businesses have typically battled to collect prompt invoices from larger companies, as larger companies often use their market power to force concessions. This has only been made worse by the pandemic, with the number of unpaid bills almost doubling throughout the UK at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When larger businesses do not promptly pay invoices, it is not usually for lack of funds. Instead, it stems from inefficient payment structures and the failure to accurately track or analyse data from suppliers. Many accounts payable departments still run on paper, with paper invoices being costly in terms of storage and riskier than digital records.

Invoices filed inaccurately can take a long time to track down. Invoices with incomplete information can automatically get blocked, which means that accounts payable departments cannot keep their original payment schedules. Most commonly, there can be slow approval processes, which lengthen payment turnaround times.

Electronic invoicing, also known as e-invoicing, addresses these issues. E-invoicing is the exchange of the invoice document between supplier and buyer in an integrated automated format. Digitising systems allow automation, converting manual flows into instant and computerised tasks and increasing payment processing speeds of every workflow.

The global market for e-invoicing is set to grow to £516 billion by 2024, largely due to widespread government adoption and technological innovation. As governments in many countries look for a way to tackle tax loss, they have started enforcing regulatory paths to encourage adopting the e-invoice practice. EU member states have brought in mandatory e-invoice legislation for public procurement.

Tech start-ups are also introducing new, practical solutions and making e-invoicing a cost-effective billing tool. Web applications allow a more robust user interface, enabling online submissions of invoices in multiple formats, increasing the adoption of e-invoicing across businesses of varying sizes and geographies.

While e-invoicing helps businesses better control their cash flow, it ultimately does not solve the root of many companies’ problems around late paid invoices. Sending automated reminders is one thing – but actually getting the liquidity into the bank to keep things moving is a game changer that can keep a company from going under.

According to the UK banking platform Tide, the pain inflicted to businesses by late payments is chronic and widespread: on average, one in six small business invoices are paid late. This varies between industries: small businesses operating in the IT and telecoms sector see payments arriving 12 days late on average, while small businesses in media (such as marketing, advertising, PR and sales) see payments arriving over 30 days on average.

However, if businesses have never-ending late invoice problems, e-invoicing will not ultimately be the only solution required. E-invoicing can manage the issuing and reminding of invoices but cannot guarantee prompt payment, as there are only so many late reminders that can be sent.

Instead, companies are being forced to be more innovative about how they collect payments. Some businesses have started offering discounts to encourage on-time payment.  Other methods include changing how a company pursues unpaid invoices and the payment channels it will accept. Email and digital channels tend to be more effective than phone calls as employees continue to work from home. Subscription models can also lead to more reliable payment.

Another innovative approach to tackling the issue is single invoice financing. Single invoice financing helps small businesses get advances on cash they are due from specific individual invoices. Single invoice financing companies tend to work flexibly with an SME, choosing how many and which invoices they use. This provides easy access to funds without incurring fees on every invoice or financing an ongoing credit line.

Accelerated Payments Limited (AP) for example provides such a service in several European and North American markets. AP’s technology platform can streamline the settlement of invoices between suppliers and buyers as well as offering suppliers the option of funding some or all of these invoices. This gives suppliers the option to dynamically match working capital needs with a line of funding from invoice financing. AP is also planning to launch a service during 2022 that will allow third party e-invoice providers to use AP’s invoice financing module to provide their clients with invoice financing services.

The model works particularly effectively for smaller businesses that might be providing services for industry giants or larger companies with complicated organisational structures and approval processes. Companies that take advantage of the freedom and flexibility of invoice financing do not just use the funds to survive but can also thrive and scale, as they can simultaneously access credit or traditional forms of investment for further growth.

As more companies are paying attention to how they address the cash flow issues arising from late payments, they are also examining the broader context and addressing how to fund future goals around hiring, technological investment, and expansion. This is where invoice financing can go beyond a short-term solution and be a critical factor in long-term growth.

 

Business

A new beginning for financial services B2B marketing

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Financial services B2B marketing is dead. A bold statement with B2B ad spend set to pass $30bn next year in the US alone. But it is dead, or at least, it’s dead boring.

B2B marketing has long carried a reputation for being dull, lacking emotion, heart or guts. Indeed, the same could be said for financial services, with its technical jargon, long-winded T&Cs and an array of complex services and products to promote. Put the two together and you have a considerable marketing challenge on your hands.

Michael Richards

But there are green shoots of change springing up on the beige horizon, as financial services businesses begin to recognise that they deserve better and start to see the lessons to be learned from their B2C peers. For example, many financial services B2B brands moved to digital to refine client experiences and grow relationships during the pandemic, meaning they could connect with businesses in a more accessible way through tailored and creative solutions. But it’s not enough to just convince a business to buy a product or service with a smattering of data and a selection of charts. There needs to be a focus on provoking the truth about these progressive brands; giving them what they deserve: intelligence, imagination and emotion to provoke their truths and tell their stories in ways that just can’t be ignored.

There are so many financial services B2B brands that are missing the mark on creating provocative work and telling their stirring stories. The industry is full of inspiring stories but needs to adopt the techniques of B2C (and fast) to avoid being left behind.

Below, I’ve outlined three approaches B2B financial services marketing should take from B2C:

 

Be 100% brand and 0% product

Let’s look at the lessons we can learn from one of the biggest brands in the world. Coca Cola used to advertise on a single poster with simple descriptive messaging that didn’t make a lot of sense … but that was in the early decades of the 20th century. Coke is now one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world. It has evolved so much from that early uninspiring product messaging that some Coke ads today feature nothing more than a red background, a white glass bottle silhouette and the message ‘Open Happiness’. 0% product, 100% brand.

Financial services business brands can learn a lot from this. Very few are tapping into the vocabulary of emotional marketing. They sell their product in line with industry jargon, expecting their ever-changing audience to understand what they mean. When really their product or service should be learning to speak a new language. One that showcases the brand over the product, communicating to their audience with a personality and values of their own.

No company can rely solely on their product features because no product is unique anymore. The power of a brand can generate that differentiating value that will set it apart from the competition.

 

Use data to personalise your offer

Data is the beating heart to personalisation. It gives businesses the foundation to build a product that is bigger and better than its competitor. One that entices new audiences while maintaining loyalty.

Consumer brands are obsessed with collecting data to better their product and reach audiences far and wide. In fact, nearly 90% of UK shoppers will hand over their personal information for improved online customer experiences.

B2B businesses also use data, but on a much narrower scale. In a survey of B2B companies, only 25% of B2B businesses use data weekly to understand customer needs, while 9% admitted they never use data at all. This is evident given that 47% of B2B buyers who need a new financial service go straight to their existing bank, and 75% of those who claim to shop around also end up with their current bank. Most buyers don’t even consider more than two brands. Meaning lots get left behind.

This is where B2B marketing shouldn’t just rest on its laurels of tedious white papers and limited data. It should inject its own personal touch and emotion by undertaking its own research and data collection to produce insightful pieces of research and showcase its unique findings. This can include specific consumer trends and behaviours in the financial services space, so they can really understand their audience and further improve their product.

 

Be audience aware

Audience Blindness is a condition that hinders B2B brands from seeing that business decision-makers have changed. They have become younger; they’re millennials. The content they consume is worlds apart from what their predecessors consumed and is constantly evolving – particularly as we enter Web 3.0 and the metaverse.

Even in the finance sector, B2B marketing is still about appealing to ‘people’ and their needs. B2B isn’t a machine and shouldn’t just cater for a computer. It needs to connect to real life audiences – those with feelings, thoughts and emotions. Because behind every business partnership is a room full of people interacting, debating and sparking ideas.

The B2C financial services sector has progressed significantly, understanding changes in audiences and catering to new needs and desires. The rise in neo-banking, investment made easy and services specifically for young adults and children looking to save is testament to this. They’ve introduced digital-first approaches, influencer techniques and new ways of improving the shopping experience through buy now, pay later (BNPL).

We’ve seen glimpses of B2B’s new beginning, but its future is to live in the present, and inject it with the power of B2C. Only then can B2B see the new audience, hear the new market and feel the new world.

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Business

Need a business broadband package? Here’s what you need to know

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Author: Kerry Fawcett, Digital Director at Radius Payment Solutions

 

Does your business have a broadband supply that is speedy, cost effective, and most importantly, reliable? If not, now is the time to put that right. Online is king in this day and age, and no matter the size of your company, a good business broadband supply is vital to allowing staff to work as they need to. Here are some tips to find your organisation a business broadband package that fits it like a glove.

 

  1. You need to choose the right business broadband package

There are a number of reasons why your business might need a business broadband deal. Such reasons can include email which helps you stay in touch with customers and suppliers, social media access so that you can communicate with your customers and provide support, research and web browsing that your employees may need to do as part of their jobs, and general marketing tools which are nowadays more often than not web-based and require an Internet connection.

Also, let’s not forget that the people who want your products and services are online too—they use the Internet and search engines to find what they need. If this is your product or service and you do not have an online presence, their business will go to your competition.

That said, the decision on which broadband package to opt for is far more complex than simply choosing the deal with the fastest speed, or the cheapest price. Depending on the business, things to account for include data management, other services like email, and backup options.

With any package, however, it is important to look closely at the services being offered and whether they match up with what you are looking for. Also, check to make sure that they are built with business use in mind and have not been designed solely for consumer-grade activity.

To ensure your business chooses the right broadband package for its needs, make sure that you account for these three things. By doing so, you end up in a much better position to begin comparing options:

  1. Before choosing a broadband package, be sure to look at and understand how your business uses the data it is creating and storing. This will ensure that your broadband package can handle the data loads your business produces.
  2. Make sure to read and study service level agreements (SLAs). Every single half-decent business broadband package will have one of these—if they don’t, avoid the supplier—and looking closely at the clauses helps you avoid nasty surprises.
  3. Look for a broadband provider that has a bandwidth utilisation of below 50%. This will avoid bottlenecks and make your website and general broadband services a lot faster, enabling more data to be processed more quickly.

Price is certainly a factor, though. Whether comparing the price of business broadband, business mobile phone tariffs, or anything else, it makes solid business sense to make sure you are getting the best deal possible for your ideal product.

 

  1. Be aware – business broadband is not the same as home broadband

It is wrong to assume that business broadband is the same as the broadband that the vast majority of us have at home—it’s not. Business broadband packages include features that are specifically designed for business customers.

Generally speaking, a business broadband connection is set up and optimised to meet the increased demands of a business. Therefore, the features that are often found in a business broadband deal include prioritised customer support on-hand to provide immediate relief should something go wrong, faster upload and download speeds that can cope the bandwidth demands of a commercial office, better security features that protect your assets and data, and static IP addresses that allow you to run CCTV, host your own website, and authenticate intranet users.

What’s more, business broadband packages will usually come with generous—often unlimited—usage limits and competitive price points that aren’t too dissimilar to home broadband packages and plans.

 

  1. Explained: Business Broadband vs Home Broadband

For any readers still wondering about the most important differences between home and business broadband, here are four things that you don’t tend to get with a home broadband deal.

  1. Guaranteed service levels
    Returning to the point made about SLAs, business broadband providers will offer customers a guarantee to keep the broadband service up and running, and to do all they can to bring it back online should things go wrong. If a situation occurs where a provider is unable to do this in a pre-agreed timeframe, your business will often be compensated.

It is rare for home broadband packages to come with such a guarantee.

  1. Prioritised traffic
    Some of the best-known business broadband providers such as TalkTalk and BT prioritise traffic for their business customers over non-commercial home broadband customers.

This of course means that the speed and quality of your Internet connection will not be negatively affected by other customers’ usage patterns during peak times, such as when HD media and games are being streamed and played.

  1. Business-centric customer support
    As a business, it is vital that your broadband connection is restored as soon as possible should it go offline. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing revenue and having your reputation harmed. Business broadband providers know this all too well, and for that reason they typically offer around-the-clock, UK-based customer support.

This is in contrast to home broadband where customer support operatives are only available at select times, usually during business hours.

  1. A static IP address
    Most business broadband deals provide you with a static IP address. This type of IP address enables you to use your business broadband for some very useful business-critical operations, such as:
  • The hosting of your own server (vital for CCTV, file transfers, client services);
  • The hosting of your own website and domain name servers;
  • Enabling remote connections by your employees to their work desktops; and
  • Making available systems that require authentication, such as intranets.

Instead of a static IP address, home broadband packages include a dynamic IP address which changes each time a new connection to the Internet is established.

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