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Marketing Your Accounts Payable Message

The most efficient processes enabled by the world’s most advanced technology platform will never reach their optimal potential if internal customers don’t know how to use them. Getting the right message to the right customers is critical for success in any business, including the business of Shared Services.

A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM specifically discussed the internal marketing of Accounts Payable and featured a member company that has thousands of customers at hundreds of geographically dispersed locations. Additionally, these internal customers do not have Accounts Payable or back-office roles but instead are relatively infrequent process users. The challenge for our feature company was to create processes that were easy to use and provide access to the information customers need when they need it, so they can quickly initiate their transactions at the front-end and get on with their work.

Prior to the discussion, attendees were polled to see if they had implemented a formalized communication plan within Accounts Payable and the results were evenly split:

formalized communication plan with internal customers accounts payable message ipolling results

The  PeercastTM feature company, started the discussion by describing its formalized and disciplined approach to communicating with its customers. The approach consists of four key delivery components:

  • Web Presence
  • General Communications
  • Targeted Communications
  • Training


1. Web Presence

The Shared Services organization has a comprehensive web presence on the company intranet. Within the Shared Services site, users can access the Accounts Payable section, which has a number of links to facilitate easy access to information, including links for:

  • Policies and Guidelines
  • Service Level Agreements
  • Invoice Submission
  • Special Handling Invoices
  • Payment Terms
  • New Vendor Request and Setup
  • Forms
  • Contact Information

2. General Communications

General communications are used for information that has a broad audience and is distributed within already existing, company-wide communication channels.  Examples of items included are:

  • Widely-used How-to’s (requirements for expense reimbursements)
  • Reminders (recycle toner cartridges)
  • Background on Current Initiatives (e-invoicing and related benefits)

3. Targeted Communication

Our feature company has segmented its customers into communication audiences, depending on their role, as well as activities they perform within the Procure-to-Pay process. A database or communication matrix is helpful to quickly identify the targeted audience. Suggested data groupings to identify communication targets may be related to any number of components and related to many possible events:

  • Audiences (users by activity such as invoice submitters, approvers, card holders, etc.)
  • Categories (policy changes, technology change, commodity master data change, etc.)
  • Channels (email, web, procurement, location posting, etc.)
  • Data Sources (HR hierarchy, e-invoice application, security, master data team, etc.)

4. Training

The Accounts Payable team provides a number of methods of training for customers. Depending on the frequency and complexity of transactions that a user may encounter, the training may include:

  • Web Conferences – Usually addresses specific training needs or related to a change in process/technology
  • Open Q&A Sessions  – Opportunity for two-way communication to understand and address customer issues
  • Simulation Videos – How-to’s on specific transactions available
  • Self-paced web tutorials – Time-consuming to create, but can be valuable for high-volume questions and training common activities.

The PeercastTM  had excellent discussion contributions by a number of Peeriosity members. Some of the lessons learned are self-evident, but without a formalized plan, many organizations may not be executing as effectively as they could.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Know Your Audience – It’s critical to segment your customer base and target communications
  • Be Brief – People are busy. Quickly explain “what” and “why” and use bullet points and lists
  • Be Consistent – Messages, format, expectations, where to get more information
  • Ask – Communication is a two-way street. The survey, focus groups.
  • Analyze – What are your defect measures and help desk statistics telling you?
  • Segment Communications and be Judicious – People are busy – really. Try to give customers only what’s relevant to them.

How are you communicating with your customers?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

1 “PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.

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