Transcript: Follow This Simple Payment-Recovery Process to Boost Your Revenue

October 27, 2022

AMY PORTERFIELD: “You want your emails to be frequent and create urgency. People get busy. They often see the email and think they'll do it later. And so when you take this frequent-and-urgent approach, it supports the customer in making updates as soon as possible.  

“I mean, I think we've all, at least once, like I said, had a credit card expire, and then we’ve forgotten to update it in different areas, and then we start getting the email saying, ‘Hey, your credit card expired.’ You're like, ‘Oh, yeah. I'll get to that,’ and then you don't. But then the next day, you get another email, and you're like, ‘Okay, here I go.’ 

“So I'm going to encourage you to do five emails over seven days. But if that's too much for you, at least three, okay? So again, I do five emails over seven days. Some people extend that to fifteen days. So do what feels best for you. Just making a decision is half the battle here.”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: The Duct Tape Marketing podcast, hosted by John Jantsch, shares marketing tips, tactics, and resources for small- to midsize-business owners and marketers. John recently did an episode where he talked about the topic of analytics, specifically tracking results either for your own business or your clients who you work with. The episode’s called “What You Should Be Tracking in Your Marketing Efforts and Why.” And I know my audience. I know you love to know benchmarks and numbers and analytics and what you should be tracking. So you are going to love this episode. He also talks about the other marketing aspects, like how to support your customers and build an online community. 

So, you can listen to the Duct Tape Marketing podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Enjoy. 

Welcome to another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. 

How are you doing? If you're listening to this in real time, can you even believe we are in quarter four of 2022? I cannot. Like, where did the time go? And with this year coming to a close, there are definitely a few things that we as entrepreneurs have to get in order, like getting stuff ready for taxes, all the fun stuff. And when I was thinking about getting stuff—I love how I say stuff, like it's a really strategic term. Shows you how much I love talking about taxes—but when you're getting—I don't know what else to say—things ready for taxes and all of that, I was thinking of it, and it made me realize there's an important conversation that we need to have to make sure we are closing out our year with the maximum revenue possible. And that means we need to make sure that any failed payments from our customers have been taken care of. 

Now, really, throughout the entire year, this is something that we need to think about, right? But I was just kind of thinking about as the year came to an end or is coming to an end, like, what does that look like overall? And yes, failed payments, I know what you're thinking. This is just one of those things that feels so heavy, like, definitely not something that we go into entrepreneurship excited about. Like, “I want to start a business because I want to deal with failed payments.” Like, no, that's not something we think about, right?  

But the truth of the matter is that if you have offers in your business, especially if you do any kind of payment plan, whether it be for a digital course or a membership or for a mastermind or whatever, if you are in business, then you have failed payments. Welcome to the club, my friend. The good news is that you do not have to be intimidated by how you should handle these. And the best news is that I've got a process that you can follow step by step to get those under control and start recovering them.  

In fact, when my team manage failed payments internally, this is the exact process we used. Now we have an external company that manages this for us. It's called Gravy. I love them. We were their very first client many, many years ago. And if you want somebody to handle your failed payments for you,  

Now, the last time that I talked to them, usually most of their clients come in at around two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. So if you're making about two hundred fifty thousand dollars or more a year and you have failed payments or you—I shouldn't say that. You have payment plans in your business, which, then, will result into failed payments. It’s inevitable—then check out Gravy. Really great company. Love them to my core.  

But many of you aren't at that place yet. So I want to talk about what you can do internally. So in this episode, I'm going to walk you through how we set up our internal payment-recovery process. So that can be four payments that come from your digital courses. Maybe you have a six-pay option or a twelve-pay option, meaning someone gets to pay over the next twelve months for your digital course. Or like I said, maybe you have a monthly membership or even, like, a mastermind, where you allow people to pay month by month, whatever it is. And I'm going to add some tips for recovering payments during your digital-course launch, and like I mentioned, why I work with an external company and why that benefits my company. So I am going to actually address why I work with Gravy and how I made that decision.  

So while this topic may seem overwhelming or advanced to some of you, I want to urge you to stick with me and take a listen, because one of the things that I think is important, what I did and what I still do, is that when I get some advice from someone who is proven to have success and that advice isn't something I need right now, I'm a better entrepreneur if I listen and I take it in and I basically put it in my mental back pocket and I say, “Okay, I'm not ready for that, but I know what to do when it comes time because I will get to a point that I am taking payments. I will get to a point that I'm going to need support. So now I know where to go or what to do.” And I think that's important. 

In this episode, I've tried to break this down for you in a simple-and-easy way so that you can actually have your own process set up within a week or so. And so for those of you who do need something more dialed in, this is going to be an easy-and-straightforward way to do it, because when I talk payment plans, the first question I get is, “But Amy, what if I do a payment plan and somebody doesn't pay?” Or the specific question I get asked is, “But Amy, what if I do a payment plan for six months but my course is only three months, so now they're paying after the course has ended, and I think they're going to stop paying.” These things come up all the time, and so I want to talk about payment plans, and I want to talk about what you can do to recover them, because I've said this a million times: if you are selling a digital course and if you do not have a payment plan, you are leaving money on the table, meaning if you're scared to do a payment plan because what if people fail to pay, then you're actually losing out more money than you would if some people failed to pay. I know this to my core. And so because of that, I want to help you wrap your head around it and teach you in terms of what to do. So let's get to it.  

Okay. First things first. When you are creating your failed-payment plan, it's best to understand what tools you currently have available to you. Understanding this will help you with step number two, where you'll outline your recovery plan. So when I say “what tools you currently have,” I’m talking about digging into your customer-relationship management platform or your merchant or billing platform. Some examples of this would be HubSpot or Keap or SamCart or PayPal or Stripe. And of course, there are other payment gateways, but these are just some of the common ones.  

So you'll want to start by checking with whatever platform you use to see what available tools they offer for supporting you with these failed payments. The good news is that many of these billing systems have payment-failure settings that allow you to build out your own recovery process within the platform, with things like automated notifications and emails. In fact, many of them will not only help you with failed payments, they'll also offer a notification option for when a credit card is about to expire. I mean, these can be truly seamless and really helpful for an entrepreneur who has their hands in all the things. Like, if you're a one-woman or a one-man show, you want to use a system that's going to notify you, or better yet, notify the person that their credit card’s going to expire soon or “Hey, your credit card did not go through. Might be an expiration issue. Can you please fill out this form to get your credit card up and running again?” So they can reach out for you. So that's the optimal resource or tool.  

Now, I know not everybody is going to have access to these types of tools, but if you do have access to something like this, like customizing or adding payment-failure notifications, amazing. That's going to help you create your process in the next step.  

I want to take a moment and do a little mindset shift for you. This is important. If you're multitasking, come back to me for this one. When you think about failed payments, it's common, or very human, to think, “Oh my gosh. They're trying to screw me. They want to take my product and not give me the money,” or “I knew they would do this. They paid their first payment, and now they're not going to pay all the others.” Before you go down that road, because that's a dark road to go down, it might just be an issue of their credit card expiring.  

This has happened to me many times, where I'm on a subscription for things I love. One of them is—you all know that I coach with—I have a coach every Friday morning. And recently, two things have happened. One time my credit card expired. So she has a notification system, so she didn't even know it expired. I got a notification saying, “Hey, your credit card has expired. Can you give us a new credit card?” I love coaching with her. So I'm like, “Of course, right away.” And then, actually, I think this has happened twice: I had fraud on my credit card, so I had to close it down. You all have been there, right?  

So this is very common. And credit cards are getting so much better at just shutting it down the minute they see fraud and letting us know. This has happened to me twice in six months. So the credit card that was attached to all of these subscriptions no longer work. I got a notification. I put the new credit card in when I got it.  

So do not think that people are screwing you. Ninety percent of the time—okay, that's an exaggeration—I'm going to guess, from my own experience, 75 percent of the time, people are not meaning to have a failed payment with you. 

Now, the other 25 percent, we have to have compassion for. I think some people are just financially in a financial hardship right now. We are going through a recession right now, and maybe their credit card is maxed. And in those situations, as you're kind of navigating through this, then maybe you want to give them a little grace and say, “Look, we'll kind of delay”—not “kind of”—“we will delay your payment for a month or two, to give you a little grace period. And then we'll pick back up.” So there's things that you can do for that as well. Let's lead with optimism and grace and compassion versus “These people are trying to screw me.” Deal?  

I don't know who needed to hear that, but one of my listeners did, and that one was for you.  

Okay, moving on. So step one is just to kind of look at the tools. Now, once you're clear on the kind of support your payment platform offers, the next step is to identify the payment options you have in your business.  

So to help you identify what they may look like in your business, let me share what mine are. So for us, we knew that we had payment plans from our digital courses as well as our membership, so we had subscription payments for the membership. So think about what you have.  

So first, we looked at the tools. And again, if you don't have any of those tools, I probably would recommend SamCart.  I think SamCart—so will take you to the page that will give you all the details you need to know. S-A-M-C-A-R-T. So they have a really good cart that you can use, order forms, and—“cart” sounds weird—but where people pay you. And then on the back end, they have a really good system for failed payments. So if you have nothing, I think that's where I would look. So again,  

So you're looking at tools. But now you're looking at, “Okay, so what am I offering here? Where do I have payment plans? Or where are my opportunities? Now that Amy said I'm leaving money on the table by not offering a payment plan, where are my opportunities here to maybe add one?” 

So the following steps I'm going to share relate you specifically payment plans or subscription plans. A little later, I'll bring you through what to do if you have a failed payment on a one-time payment. For example, that'd be if someone paid for your digital course in full, but the payment didn't go through. I'll address that as well, and I'll share how we tackle those. And those are during the launch. So, like, I launched Digital Course Academy. Some people paid full pay. Their credit card didn't go through. In a moment, I'll tell you what I did with that.  

But before we get there, let's talk about these payment plans. So you've gotten clear on the types of payment options you have in your business or maybe that you want to add. And from there, it'll be so much easier to start outlining your communication pieces and building out your recovery process from start to finish. So when I say “communication pieces,” that means the automated emails that will go out to each student who has a failed payment. Essentially, when a payment fails in the system, what do you want that payment to trigger? And then, what are the communication pieces after that?  

We'll get into this in a bit, but you generally want to plan to send three to five follow-up emails to really see results in terms of resolving that failed payment. I send out five emails over the span of seven days when a failed payment comes through, and I'll share why I do this frequency in a bit. But you can at least start gauging how you want your process to look and tweak it if necessary, from time to time.  

The other important thing here is to look at your goals. Now, you might not have any right now, and that's okay, but you're going to create some. And what I mean by “goals” is out of the payments that fail for the month, how many payments do you want to try to recover? Like, what percentage? Now, you may be thinking, “Um, all of them. Duh.” But I've been in this game for a while now, and I've seen many failed payments occur and, also, many failed payments resolved. And the truth of the matter is, you will not be able to recover 100 percent of them all the time. But you sure can set some goals and aim for those goals. And in my company, we've set our goal at 80 percent monthly because we have subscriptions and active payment plans. I've also had my business for thirteen years, which makes it super established, and after much trial and error, I've come to know my customers deeply. And because of that, we confidently feel we can aim for and hit that 80 percent monthly pretty consistently. But remember, I also have help. I have a very qualified, successful company, Gravy, helping me do this. And so it's just not me alone. Now, I'm not saying that you can't have an 80 percent if you do it internally, but I also have some experts behind me, which is why I'm a big advocate for Gravy. But just something to think about. 

So where the heck do you even start with identifying your goal? Well, you can start by looking at your industry and finding out what the average recovery rate is. You're going to have to do some Google searching for this. But I don’t want to spend too much time on that. It might not be easy to find for every industry. But I always like to start with a benchmark.  

So let's just say that you want to start with 50 percent. Don't get too caught up in this percentage because I always like to start somewhere. And then, you know my personality. It's like, okay, how can I grow from there? How can I go forward from there? So ultimately, you might want to hit 80 percent, but let's give yourself a little grace, right? and start out with 50 percent, hit that milestone, and then get better and better, and you'll start increasing it. I don't know. That's just the way I like to do things in my business. You think about what works best for you. 

All right. Circling back to the communication pieces. These are the automated emails you'll be sending out to those customers who have already failed on their payments. Like I mentioned, you'll want to include at least three to five emails that will notify the customer that their payment has failed, over the course of one to two weeks. The important thing is you want your emails to be frequent and create urgency. People get busy. They often see the email and think they'll do it later. And so when you take this frequent-and-urgent approach, it supports the customer in making updates as soon as possible. 

I mean, I think we've all, at least once, like I said, had a credit card expire, and then we’ve forgotten to update it in different areas, and then we start getting the email saying, “Hey, your credit card expired.” You're like, “Oh, yeah. I'll get to that,” and then you don't. But then the next day, you get another email, and you're like, “Okay, here I go.” 

So I'm going to encourage you to do five emails over seven days. But if that's too much for you, at least three, okay? So again, I do five emails over seven days. Some people extend that to fifteen days. So do what feels best for you. Just making a decision is half the battle here. 

Now, the first email should instantly go out as soon as the system recognizes the missed payment, and then the remaining emails go out shortly after. With each email, you want the subject line and the email copy to feel a little more urgent because you don't want anything to happen to their access to the product because, ultimately, if they don't pay, you take away access to your digital course, or you take away access to your membership. But you don't want to get to that point. You want them in the course. You want them to get success, right? So you're doing them a service if you're really clear. “Hey, you're going to lose out here.” So you got to nip it in the bud ASAP.  

Now, for the emails, I like to personalize them. I have a strong sense that you probably feel the same way, right? I didn't want my students to receive a generic email from any platform of ours. And this was really important because when you're dealing with finances, even if you have a sense of urgency, you still want to be compassionate and personable. If you take this approach, hands down, you'll see much better results with your recovery.  

The great news is that most platforms allow you to personalize what these emails say so that they can stay in your voice, and then they can also allow you to personalize the branding of the email so they look like they're coming from your company. So it almost feels like this email is coming directly from you. That's what I want. Use your personality. Have fun with it. Don't assume they're trying to screw you. So that's why you're like, “Oops, oh no! Your credit card expired,” or “Oops, we had a glitch in the system here, my friend. This didn't come through. Here's what you can do to fix it.” So I think making it a little bit lighthearted and fun in the beginning allows your customer to put their guard down and not feel like you're coming at them or blaming them or accusing them of something. We’re dealing with money, here; it gets a little touchy, right? 

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Another piece to this that we found extremely effective was to include a link for them to update their payment details directly and a message that if they were having trouble making their payments, they could simply reach out to my billing team to arrange a personalized payment plan. You can say something along the lines of, “We are here to support you, and happy to chat through an arrangement that might work better for you. Please email or call us at x, y, z,” and then include your contact information. So that's something that you could do, too.  

All right. So after that seven or up to fifteen days, whatever you choose, you'll want to set up something in your program platforms that either continues to allow access or restricts access, depending on the actions your customer took. And you can actually set it up so that once a payment has been recovered, your customer will be notified that their account has been updated and confirmation that a payment has been made and that access to their account has been resumed. If there there's been no movement, no payment has been made, no communication from them, you've got to restrict access to their account until a payment has been made in full, or they've reached out to you to set up a payment arrangement or plan that works best for both parties. Like I mentioned, you can have a gracious heart and say, “Look, I understand you lost your job. Times are tough. I'm going to delay your payments by two or three months, and then they'll pick back up. You let us know if that works for you.” You're the boss. You can do whatever you want. I like case by case in those situations.  

Okay. I want to circle back to something I mentioned earlier, and that is that one-time failed payment during a launch. What we've seen in my business is that people are trying to make a payment, and even though the system tells them that the payment was successful, it might not have actually gone through. Really frustrating. So it might be an issue with their bank or whatever the case may be.  

The way we tackle this is to assign a team member, or if you're running the solo game right now, you'll set some time aside to follow back up with these pending orders, or, essentially, failed payments. So to make this really simple for anyone reaching out to these customers, my customer-service team has created a few guided responses. Basically, people call those canned responses. I don't like anything canned. So a guided response in my business is something we've already written out, that when a full payment comes through during a launch and it's failed, here's essentially what you email to them, but I want it personalized to every person. So that's why we call them “guided responses.” This is something you can do as well. And it comes in handy for simplifying and systematizing this process, especially during launches. 

So for example, as you can imagine, during launches, a lot of one-time payments fail for various reasons. But because we have these guided responses and because we have a dedicated person to be paying attention to them an hour or so a day, we can quickly and easily reach out to the customer to inform them that their order didn't go through, and in order to continue their purchase, they can update their payment by going here, which we link to a payment page, or reaching out to our team, which would link to a contact information to say, “I would like to talk to your team.” So we provide them with all the basic information they need to make it easy and seamless, both for the customer and for my team.  

Now, as a little note, which may or may not be feasible for you, but if you can do it, I highly recommend you do, aim to reach out to those failed payments during the launch. This is what I wanted to bring up. Come back to me if you're multitasking. During your launch, if a failed payment comes through, get on it right away. My friend, this is something I never did for years. I didn't even know to look for this. You don't know what you don't know, right?  

And so if a failed payment comes through during a launch, there is an energy around a launch. They just watched my webinar. They were just on my boot camp. They were in it. They are serious. You need to address it while they're still excited and engaged. If you wait a week or two after the launch to follow up, they've lost that loving feeling. They were in it. They thought they had it. They can't get in, because their credit card didn't work. And now they're like, “You know what? Maybe that's a sign that I'm not supposed to be in your program. I was nervous anyway to sign up. It's a lot of money. Yeah, a week or so has passed. I'm good. I've changed my mind.” Do not let that happen.  

So before you go into your next launch, if you have a VA—this is a perfect job for a VA—it’s a one hour a day during the launch, you find, whatever your system looks like, find the failed payments, reach out to everybody individually. It's not that many people, but geez, this has been a game changer for us.  

Now, again, if you have a team, I want them to do it for you, but it might just be you. And I remember the days like it was yesterday where it was just me. So this is money easily found, easily recovered. So don't skip this. 

And here's the thing. Let's say that they think their payment went through—because, again, some systems, including ours, make them think they're good to go, but it actually didn't work on the back end. It's a really silly thing, but it happens that way—so they're waiting for their login information, but it never comes. And then they start to think that we have bad customer support, right? So if they get a notification that their payment didn't go through, they understand, “Oh, okay, I got to fix this. I'm waiting for my logins.” So again, the sooner you can catch this failed payment, the better. It's just a better experience overall for your new student, but also for you. So something to think about. 

Now, like I mentioned earlier, we no longer do our payment recovery in-house. I did for many, many years. First of all, I did nothing, nothing for many, many years. I had no clue even to pay attention to that. I'm kind of embarrassed about that,  but it's true. Wasn't even on my radar. And then as I started to get more successful, I'm like, “Um, I thought I was making a whole lot more money than I was. I need to get this under control.” So we did it internally, just me and a VA. And then as my business grew more and more, we started working with a company called Gravy, as I mentioned earlier.  

Now, I love Gravy, and I want to preface this by saying that Gravy does require that you make a certain amount of money, and it was two hundred fifty thousand dollars the last time I talked about it. It might have changed. I mean, if you're like, “Ah, maybe, they’ll go a little bit lower for me,” reach out to them. See what they say. But I really do believe if you're in a place, at least six figures or more, to hit them up and see if you can work with them, because I love their company. And I keep saying I love them because I love their customer support. They have a beautiful team, and they've been so good to us and so many of the people I've sent their way.  

So what our process looks like now is that we're outsourcing it. Gravy 100 percent handles any kind of payment recovery. My team works with an account manager to share how we want the recovery process to look. So to me, the more personal, the better. And that's what Gravy does well. So we share our own copy with them. We share all of our guided responses with them.  

And what's so great about Gravy is they have a team that works with your students and customers directly, which provides a human touch. This also is important to us.  

So they handle the majority of work each day and provide us with tracking and reporting so that we know that we're staying with our recovery rates and our goals. And if we get behind in our goals, we talk to them about how we can help make it better.  

They also help us to decide the best way to increase recovery percentages. Like, they're saying, “Ooh, here's what we've seen work with other companies,” or “We're seeing this as a big issue in your company. Here's what we suggest.” So they work with us. And to me, I think that's so important.  

So I can't recommend them any more. I love them. So G-R-A-V-Y. Look into it. You'll be so glad you did.  

But again, you all heard me. You can do this internally. And I've done it internally. And if you're not in the six figures yet, then absolutely, let's put a system together in your own business. You've got this. 

Okay. I got to take a breath. There you have it. That was a jam-packed episode. I haven't done an episode like this in a long time, and I hope you're walking away with a renewed hope that failed payments are an opportunity for your business as long as you put a system in place to recover them. And if you learn nothing but this one thing, I'm still going to be happy: you are leaving money on the table if you are not doing a payment plan for your digital courses. I really believe that. And I know the question comes up for some of you, like, “Amy, my course is just a hundred dollars. Should I do a payment plan?” I've done a payment plan on a hundred dollars before, but it's not absolutely necessary. I think a hundred-dollar digital course is still in the no-brainer kind of decision area. But I think two hundred dollars or more, a two-payment plan would be great. Five hundred dollars or more, I would love a four-payment plan. Like, I'm all about it. You're leaving money on the table if you're not exploring payment plans, and it's better to have one than not to have one.  

And this is from a girl who's made millions with digital courses. So I promise you, I'm not leading you astray. It's like the next iteration of your launches if you haven't done payment plans before. But if you do them, you've got to have a system, because those failed payments can add up quickly if they're not addressed.  

So that's why, when I started this episode, we're coming to the end of the year, and if you look at your bottom line like I did years and years ago and thought, “Wait. I thought I made more than this,” and then realized I wasn't following up with any failed payments, that was just an opportunity that I had to jump on.  

So start by looking at your billing and your payment platforms. See what kind of services that you can either already use because you have access to them or engage in like SamCart. That's, like, a quick one that you can use. And then I want you to identify what each payment option looks like from what emails to write and how often you want to send them and what feels right for you.  

Then, you're going to look at a realistic goal. Like, start with 50 percent recovery, and then I want you absolutely to go up from there. But I like to always have a really easy, realistic milestone to start with, especially when it's something new.  

From there, you're going to craft your emails, set up the action items depending on if the payments recovered or not, meaning if it is recovered, you make sure they have access. If it's not recovered, you're going to take away access, which actually is another thing that kind of pings people. That's the ultimate. If they genuinely want to be in your program, they ignored all of your emails, but now they can't log in, that's when they're like, knock, knock, knock, “Excuse me, I can't get into my course.” And you're like, “Oh, no problem. You just got to update your credit card.”  

And then the last thing I'll say is that I gave you that little tip of in the moment, in the launch, recover those one-time payments. Makes a huge difference. 

All right. So I hope you enjoyed this jam-packed episode. Thanks for joining me for another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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