Small Business Minute: Use positive emotion to help collections

By Brian Leaf

You know it’s bad when your best customers aren’t paying their bills. But before you dump them, get emotional.

Getting emotional doesn’t mean getting mad at those who buy your products and services. Threatening letters or turning the account over to collections is likely to end your relationship.

But showing a little empathy just may get you paid and even strengthen your business ties.

It’s situations like this that call for emotion marketing.

Emotion marketing, a strategy developed by Hallmark Loyalty Marketing, an arm of Hallmark Cards, is about showing customers that you care. If customers believe you care, they’ll remain loyal.

Here’s an example from the National Association of Credit Management. When a national credit card company was about to lose millions in uncollected debt, it prepared a mailing. Instead of a harsh collection letter, it sent hand-addressed greeting cards to debtors.

The cards acknowledged that the customer was having a tough time and that the credit card company wanted to work with them to solve the situation.

The result: a 10,000 percent return on investment, as customers paid millions in back debt because they felt the company was sympathetic to their plight.

People are emotional about money. Most feel badly about not paying bills. And how a company communicates with a someone about that debt will determine if the bill is collected and whether the debtor remains a customer.

Bills can be collected with compassion. If it helps you keep a customer, it’s worth it.

After all, business owners know it’s far more expensive to find a new customer than it is to sell to an existing one.

–Leaf is a contributor who writes frequently about small business issues. Contact him at