Invoice template design best practices

Invoices are a reflection of the way you do business. From emails that accompany the invoice, to payment methods, to information included on the invoice, your customers expect frictionless billing.

See what some big companies like Zoom are doing poorly and what some Ordway customers like Botkeeper and Ocrolus are doing well.

Topics covered in this webinar

  • Look at today’s landscape for invoice design and delivery
  • 5 Tips and best practices for invoice design
  • Q&A


About the presenter

Eren-KoontEren Koont, Platform growth, Ordway. 

 

 

Watch the webinar

 

Read the transcript of the webinar archive

Eren Koont, Growth, Ordway (00:00):

Invoice-template-design-best-practices-archive.mp4

 

[00:00:00] So welcome to invoice template design, best practices, and hopefully this will you'll walk away with this from some actionable ideas for your business. So quick little agenda, we will look at today's landscape in terms of invoice. We'll share five tips and best practices for invoice design, and then we'll also leave a little room for Q&A. We will do a poll during the session to have it be a little interactive. And if you want to add questions to the Q&A tool in the webinar, we'll save those up and answer those at the end of the session. So before we dove in, really want to give you a little insight into who we are at Ordway and what we do really billing in it is in our DNA. We've built a business that is serving customers across North America and Europe and and really have helped them remove inefficiencies in their sales to finance workflow. We were founded by a visionary in the space who's been building these types of systems for the last 20 years. And there was always something missing with the financial applications and billing applications in ERP applications he spearheaded. And that's really why Ordway was founded, was to fix a lot of the issues that a lot of us experience in our daily lives, in business and sales to finance workflows. So that's a little bit about Ordway. My name's Eren Koont and I'm part of the product and platform growth team here at Ordway. And I'll be walking you through these best practices today. So let's take a look at the current landscape out there in terms of invoices, and this is just a survey of a few different technologies,  , on one end of the spectrum. You've got the templates that are available in Google Sheets and Microsoft Word.  , those are for folks that are just getting started. There's a whole class of invoicing, software and accounting software that allows you to send one off invoices. And then there's sort of at the other end of the spectrum, the type of technology that Ordway provides is that the automated customized invoices at scale per customer. And with this, I want to just do a pause here in a minute. Launch the first poll.

 

[00:02:36] So if you could just let me know here.

 

[00:02:42] What form of invoicing you do today, are you doing one off invoices with templates from the G suite? Are you sending out recurring invoices out of your accounting software or some sort of piece software? Or are you really doing sort of the customized invoicing at scale with billing platform? So we'll give people a couple, 20 seconds to answer.

 

[00:03:20] Votes are coming in. And.

 

[00:03:26] Give people five more seconds. Looks like it's beginning to slow down.

 

[00:03:31] Five, four, three, two, one. So it looks like about half of you are in the manual entry era and some of you are using accounting software, but nobody has implemented the fully automated system yet.

 

[00:03:53] And that's OK. We all have to grow and get get there over time.

 

[00:04:01] So let's taking that landscape into account.

 

[00:04:05] Let's talk about some problems that are present with sort of more rigid solutions that end point solutions like manual invoicing and through accounting software. First of all, if you're doing things manually, it's typo prone. It's something that you might type in the wrong rate. You might do some some bad math that causes confusion with your customer and just sort of look sloppy. Rigid templates also don't communicate information or the brand. Well,  , these two examples of invoices, the one on the right is action invoice that I received here at Ordway for a service. But I don't really know much about the company or what it's doing or really who they are with with that invoice. And I'd argue that just using out of the box templates without any customization,  , why is some of this information on the invoice? I'd I'd probably label it something other than tax invoice. If I were sending this out to my clients and. Also,  , what did Ordway purchase?  If there's just a generic services terms as agreed. What does that mean? Is the quantity actually valid? What's the unit price mean? I'd argue that maybe we don't need to be including both the USD and the UK. British pounds on on the invoice to somebody who's who's paying it here in the US. That might be something that's important to you and your business for your counting purposes. But for the end customer, I'm just paying in U.S. dollars. So these these systems have a tendency to sort of force you to pigeonhole solution. So,  , the first tip that we're going to go through is keep it simple. We all know that the KISS principle keep it simple, stupid. It's important to do that with with your invoicing. So some items that are critical to communicate within an invoice is the invoice number or reference number that people can can reference later. Both your customer care folks, as well as the actual customer terms and due date obviously are really important. The products purchased and descriptions of what those products are is important and the balance due after adjustments in any kinds of taxes, and this is an example from barkeeper, is one of Ordway as customers. It's a nice, elegant, simple invoice and it is serving them well. So the number the next tip is really,  , your brand and how you communicate with your customers invoice as part of that customer journey and part of that customer experience. This example from Zoom,  , they're they're obviously one of the darlings of the this era and,  , making this webinar possible through their videoconferencing technology. But,  , their invoice while their logo is on it. Does it feel like the same quality product that that Xoom sells?  , I have an example here of their their website. The invoice looks like it's coming from almost a completely different company and except for the logo. Here again is an example from Botkeeper. And you can tell that it's when you align both the brand,  , your Web site, your sales materials, as well as the invoice. It just shows attention to detail. It shows that you're really caring about the customer experience from from end to end. And I would argue that while Zoom is doing a great job, they probably have some room for improvement on their invoicing side of things. So the next tip that we'll share is really you want to leverage modern design?  , we all can't be Apple. We all aspire to be Apple. But we may or may not have the design armies that that Apple has, but we can do some simple things to sort of make our systems look better and our invoicing feel and feel better and be more readable. So the first is remove borders on tables. You can see on this invoice over here under the invoice total section, they've got this random white box that sort of is bounded and there's nothing really in it. And so why why are we putting everything into boxes? I'd say that modern design and Google has really spearheaded this as well with the material design is remove alternating rows and shading. So,  , I think this alternating rows shading is kind of a vestige of the 1990s. And Lotus notes for anybody who remembers that system out there. It's probably a distant memory for anybody who even remembers that. But either you can sort of simplify the look and feel of the invoice without including a lot of different shading. It's important to use your brand color and palettes and fonts. So,  , it it just again, one of those attention to details where if you're pulling in the design, the color palette of your brand into invoices, it's it's memorable. It's it provides that continuity on the customer journey. And,  , every opportunity you have to interact with your customer is an opportunity for them to remember your brand. And then,   that the the final tip here is try and keep important information in one pane so you can see this this zoom in for the invoice spilled over to two pages. And they've got this invoice balances zero on the second page. It obviously is in the invoice totals section. But,  , for whatever reason, this invoice got separated, there may be important information that is not on that first page.

 

[00:10:46] All right, so tip number four, use each touchpoint with your customer. And so it's not just the invoice that we're talking about.

 

[00:10:55] It's the email communications. It's any kind of chat that you're having with somebody on their Web site having access to all this data. But,  , the email is obviously one that is very relevant today. And,  , it's important when you're communicating to your customers to explain why this is. This e-mail is actually in their invoice. You can't just do a simple text message with an attached invoice or you can, but you can up it. What the quality of your communications by including customer information to your customers through the e-mail communication. Then the next tip is really,  , make it easy to scan people, spend less than five seconds going through e-mails and they'll take an action one way or the other after that. That five seconds. And so,  , you want to make sure you have a lot of open space within the e-mails. So it's easy for the eye to move through the content quickly and make choices to pay the invoice or to take some other action. And so don't burden your e-mail and your communication with so much information that it's hard to understand what to do. Again, keep it simple and communicate the charges. So if you have the opportunity to clearly spell out what is what the product and services that you have within your that you're you're sending an invoice for, do that the timeframe that the the services is being invoiced for the actual product and service. And,  , all those little things make it easier for a accounts payable person to make decisions and not have to go back to the the the buyer and say, well, what was this? When did we get it? What was it for? Was it for last month? Was it for the full quarter? All those kinds of questions that happen at your customers systems and workflows can get alleviated if you're communicating clearly within within the invoice. And then the last subtle but important recommendation to make is use a different color for your action button. And so this really,  , your ear. If you want to take your colleagues in in marketing to a virtual coffee, ask them for the palette that the brand's style guide and action buttons, or take a look at your own Web site and see the buttons and what colors are they. Try and try and bring the action buttons from your other parts of your system, your software, your service, your Web site. Bring that into the invoice email template as well. And then the last bit of information is really just around communicating just the facts. So you want to communicate all relevant information, but not more than what's needed. So, for instance, with this zoom in voice and I'm really picking on Zoom today, but this came to us here at Ordway. We're not using purchase orders. So why why include some text without anything next to it on the purchase order line? It it just adds more visual confusion to me. I don't know why that's there as as a recipient of it, but it's probably something that they're they're templated system didn't allow them to remove or it would be difficult for them to remove. With this invoice, I'm really having you hope,  , you're probably also having to really study the details to really understand what this invoice is communicating. So I just want to pay this invoice and maybe I do want to classify things in different ways. But the the charge details, invoice totals, tax details, transactions all within. This framework and not really explaining what there are different reasons for, including this information on the invoice. It just adds to the visual confusion and probably could be simplified. So here's another example from one of our customers, Ocrolus. They are great company that charges their customers based on usage, and they have an API that digitizes documents for their customers. Really cool company. But. Within this invoice, they're just communicating. All that's needed to their customers to be able to pay an invoice effectively. So the payment terms are are clearly spelled out. And that might be custom terms for a particular customer.  , if you're going to auto charge there a payment method, Tellman, you may not need to include banking information or other other make checks payable to oxalis if all that's happening is they're going to be charged with their payment method. On any given day. Also clearly saw them what they purchase. So this is, again, going back a few slides to when there is just sort of zoom pro or services as discussed in the contract, doesn't really explain to me what I'm actually buying. They do a good job of explaining that to their customers, what they're buying. And then finally,  , include the usage details, if at all, if you have a usage component to your business. A lot of businesses do these days.  , being able to pull all that information in and provide information and reference to what actually transpired during the billing period is super critical and just gives people confidence that it is. Useful to them. And then finally, there is you probably want to make sure that you've got a system that can handle different scenarios for different customers, Qu another one of our examples that that they sell to franchises around the country. And they've got Parent-Child relationships within their they're who they're selling to too. And so they need to have invoice templates that handle both the parent communications and invoicing as well as the children or the the individual franchise locations. And so you can see this this invoice handles different location, number 160. Number one fifty nine. And it's all handled within this particular framework. So what's powering this for Ordway customers really is the fact that our platform is very flexible and able to be nimble in creating invoices and sending invoices out to customers. And so on the left, you can just sort of see an example of all the different types of communications and touch points that might be available to sending customers payments if something. Credit card changes, all those kinds of things can be customized to your brand. And then the invoice templates are a combination of HTML and liquid scripting technology, which allows you to pull in information from the Ordway system to populate all that usage data or description data within within your invoices. So that that was the shameless plug. Part of the tips. And,  , we're going to be wrapping it up here shortly. But,  , today we really just focused on this part of the workflow, the invoice design, sending, billing, collecting payments. But there is a whole other part of Ordway which allows you to streamline your sales to finance workflows, starting with order entry from your CRM to quoting to contracts, to generating revenue schedules. And all of that is tied together in one system to be able to send summary journal entries to your gaoler, accounting software. And so,  , we focused on invoice template design today. But there are certainly a lot more to the system that we can walk you through in the future, if you like.

 

[00:19:55] So let's move to the next.

 

[00:20:01] Sorry, my mouse has disappeared. Bear with me while I'm solving these technical difficulties.

 

[00:20:39] Almost there. OK. The mouse is back.

 

[00:20:47] So in summary. Am I clear that drawing? In summary, we've got. To note that manual and rigid systems make it hard to design voice as well. And I think we saw that early on and really the the key practices that want to share with you is make sure you're keeping it simple. Speak with one voice. Use all the touch points that you have within your arsenal to be able to communicate effectively the invoice and why you're sending people an invoice and then design a system that really accommodates lots of different scenarios, whether it's Parent-Child, unique terms that you might have for your customers as well as usage billing in that sort of thing. So. Thank you for listening in on this session today. I want to point you to a few more resources. We've got another really cool webinar coming up in a couple of weeks. That is around Webhooks and how you can use customer events to really transform your billing process. And then also definitely take advantage of the archive that is available there on the Ordway Website at resources, dot Ordway labs, dot com slash webinars. You can check out our past webinars as well as the archive of this session today, which will be available on Monday. And we'll send an email to all the people that registered for this webinar. So with that, I would like to take a look at the questions that have come in.

 

[00:22:26] The first question is, do you recommend putting banking information on an invoice?

 

[00:22:34] Briefly touched on that, but I'd say that it really depends on your business model. And if you're collecting payments through a payment processor, through credit card, you may not need to include the banking information. If you do have an option to send a check or pay the ACH, then it's probably wise to to put that information on the invoice. That being said,  , following the rule of communicate all the facts and nothing more. It's really just if you need it for your business model. Absolutely. If you don't, I would say keep it off and keep it simple, which is the first the first of the the tips on invoice design. Let's take a look see at the next question.

 

[00:23:24] You showed using billing data for.

 

[00:23:30] Let's see.

 

[00:23:32] Can I define my own variables, to use on invoices? Yes. Yeah. No, that's a great question. And I'm just gonna go back a couple of slides here. Yeah, all this all this information you see here, this this code can be pulled into invoices and you can within Ordway system, define your own custom variables to be inserted into invoices, emails about payments, all that sort of thing. So it's an easy process to do that. And our documentation shows you how to do that effectively.

 

[00:24:17] Are there any other questions we'll give people another 30 seconds or so? OK. Well, it looks like there no more questions. Definitely. Appreciate you spending 20 minutes with us today. And hope you learn something. Hope you took away some good tips to take back to your business. And we'll hope to see at the next webinar in a couple weeks. Have a great Friday.