Selling website care plans adds a lucrative stream of recurring revenue to your business but these seemingly small mistakes can send clients packing.
In a service-based business that relies on one-and-done projects and client engagements, it can often seem like you’re stuck on an income roller coaster with no exit in sight. Some months you’re super busy and flush with cash and other months you’re twiddling your fingers and barely scraping by. The amazing highs have you feeling like you can conquer the world, while the worrisome lows leave you questioning whether or not you’re cut out to be a business owner.
It’s a tough, stressful situation to be in and it can make managing your business finances a painful experience.
The good news is that there is a way to slow down the feast or famine roller coaster and exit the ride for good.
That exit plan is diversifying your revenue streams with services and offers that provide reliable, dependable, monthly recurring revenue. For web designers and web developers, the easiest way to build recurring revenue is through ongoing web support and maintenance plans.
The biggest mistake I made in the early years of my creative agency was not giving clients a way to keep working with us after we designed, built, and launched their websites. My revenue relied solely on one-and-done projects — Thank U, Next! — which meant I always had to be selling and closing new business. It also meant I was exhausted and overworked, and I pretty much hated my own business.
Introducing website care plans to my business changed everything.
- It created a stable baseline of income we could rely on month after month.
- It reduced the amount of pressure associated with new client acquisition.
- It covered all major expenses and improved overall cash flow.
- It allowed us to hire team members and grow the business.
- It provided greater peace of mind regarding long-term business sustainability.
But it didn’t start out that way…
Website Care Plan Mistakes To Avoid
Monthly recurring revenue is the Holy Grail for service-based businesses and one of the primary ways you can escape the trap of trading hours for dollars and increase profitability.
When you realize the potential impact website care plans can have on your business, it’s easy to get excited and dive in head-first. But without proper planning when crafting your offers, it’s also easy to make costly mistakes that lead to losing a client or leaving money on the table.
Here are eight of the biggest mistakes web designers and web developers make when selling monthly website support and maintenance:
- Calling it website maintenance
- Pitching website care at the wrong time
- Using a one-size-fits-all-approach
- Not incentivizing a yes
- Avoiding phone support
- Poor communication
- No clear expectations and boundaries
- Taking clients for granted
Let’s take a closer look at each mistake and how you can avoid them in your business.
1. Calling It Website Maintenance
When considering what website support packages to offer clients, most web designers and developers default to selling website maintenance. It’s not a terrible idea, but it’s not a fantastic idea either, especially when you consider the simple definitions for maintenance and support:
- Maintenance: To keep in existence or continuance; preserve; retain; to keep in an appropriate condition.
- Support: To uphold by aid; a person or thing that gives aid or assistance.
Maintenance is about continuing to exist as is. On a deeper level, it’s a reminder of all of the things we have to pay for that we don’t want to pay for, like car maintenance, home maintenance, and even personal health maintenance. This is why I almost never talk about website maintenance with clients.
I mean, no one enjoys their annual physical or paying for car insurance, and far too many people consistently consider canceling their gym memberships.
Support, on the other hand, is about providing help and caring for another person or product, which makes it more valuable to clients. That’s why it’s a no-brainer to call your offers website support plans or website care plans — terms I’ll use interchangeably in this post.
2. Pitching Website Care At The Wrong Time
It’s tempting to pitch monthly website support services upfront when you’re selling a website project. Knocking out two birds with one stone and securing additional monthly recurring revenue can feel sounds like a great idea.
There’s just one problem:
Pushing for a monthly website support agreement right away is like asking a client to marry you without dating first.
- For new clients, making a commitment for monthly website support before even building the website can feel scary because they have no experience working with you yet. They worry about getting locked into a long-term relationship for a service they want to tackle in-house or with a service provider they don’t like or didn’t have a great experience working with.
- For web designers and developers, pushing for a website support agreement upfront can backfire and overwhelm the client with too many decisions or too big of a commitment. It’s also risky for you because you may discover that you don’t like working with that client and you don’t want to support their website after all.
Waiting to address the need for monthly website support until the very end of a website project.
The last thing you want to do as a website project is coming to a close and the client prepares to make their final payment is surprise them with unexpected tasks, responsibilities, and fees.
A better approach:
Start discussing monthly website support packages during the very first conversation with a client, and provide education and options without pressure.
Then, throughout the project, reinforce the importance of responsibly caring for a website, explain what it entails, and share the benefits of having a support plan in place.
Finally, provide the call-to-action and support agreement near the end of the project as the need for ongoing support is now a reality.
Do this by using the Seed, Nurture, Harvest approach:
- Seed: Plant seeds of interest in your very first conversation with a prospective client. Provide information about the responsibilities of website ownership and education about website care. Then introduce your website care plan options.
- Nurture: Help the seeds you planted grow. Mention tasks associated with caring for a website, security considerations, frequency of care required, and more, and get your client thinking about who will be responsible for doing that work.
- Harvest: As you near the end of a website project and prepare for the website launch, harvest the seeds you’ve been nurturing. Ask the client how they plan to care for their website and keep it updated and secure. Remind them of your website care plans options and offer to provide them a website support proposal.
3. Using A One-Size-Fits-All Approach
All website clients need the same baseline support services to keep their websites safe, secure, and performing well. But that’s where the similarities end. All clients don’t have the same budgets, the same willingness to do the work or hire help, or the same goals. So a one-size-fits-all website care plan can mean losing out on potential monthly recurring revenue.
When crafting your offers, create three levels of service:
- A low-level website care plan ($) that’s very affordable.
- A mid-level website care plan ($$) that’s practically irresistible.
- A high-level website care plan ($$$) that’s customized for each client.
Once you have your offers defined, you can choose how they get presented to clients. You can choose to out all three options on your website or in a proposal, or you can choose to only share the “right-fit” plan with a prospective support client.
4. Not Incentivizing A Yes
Nearly all website support plans are the same. They all offer software updates, backups, testing, monitoring, and security, and but none of those tasks carry much weight with clients. Sure, clients know these tasks are important but they don’t know the details of what the work entails. In general, clients’ understanding of support tasks is superficial.
And that’s okay. It’s not their job to become website care experts. It is, however, your job. That means you need prospective support clients to say yes. So the question is…
How do you get clients to happily say yes to a monthly website care plan when they don’t fully understand the value of the tasks included?
The answer is simple: Sweeten the deal. Dangle a delicious carrot or two in front of the client and provide the motivation they need to get off the fence and say yes.
The trick to incentivizing a yes is adding high-value, non-technical items to care plans — items that address clients’ concerns, provide peace of mind, and deliver tremendous value.
A few examples include:
- Guaranteed Response Time: If your standard response time is 48 hours, offer low-level support clients a 24-hour response time, mid-level clients a same day response time, and high-level clients a 4-hour response time.
- Phone Support: Give support clients the ability to talk to a real person. They may never use the hour or two included in the monthly plan, but knowing it’s available makes a huge difference.
- Discounts On Additional Work: Reward clients who make a long-term monthly commitment by giving them a lower hourly base rate for all additional projects.
- Higher Priority Scheduling: Offer clients who have a website care plan in place the ability or jump to the front of the line in your schedule and workflow.
- Premium Plugin Licenses: As long clients remain with you, they get to use your premium plugin licenses, which saves them hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year.
For each incentive, the bigger commitment a client makes and the more a client pays, the bigger reward and incentive they receive.
5. Avoiding Phone Support
All of my website support plans include at least one hour of phone support (available during normal business hours), and when clients call, they talk to me. Knowing that they can chat with me about a problem or ask me a question provides clients incredible peace of mind.
I’m able to offer this benefit because phone support works like insurance. Many people pay in yet only a few ever use the service. While all support clients have the ability to chat with me for at least an hour a month, some have never taken me up on the offer. Others only call 1-2 times a year, and a few call more often but never use an entire hour.
Clients love having the benefit of phone support, and for some, it’s the main reason they stay with us year after year.
Don’t avoid the phone, embrace the phone! Adding phone support and access to a person clients trust adds tremendous value to your packages. It also gives you another way to stay connected with clients, build stronger relationships, and secure new projects for clients who already love you.
6. Poor Communication
Every business owner wants to get clients and customers on the hook for dependable, stable, reliable monthly payments, especially when there’s a good chance they won’t actually need all of the benefits included in their package.
Problems arise, however, when monthly care plans are viewed as semi-passive income and the “client service” is left out of the service delivery.
You can’t just sell a website support package, complete the monthly tasks included, and ignore client management.
Once you land a new website support client, you need to retain that client for as long as possible, which means caring for and communicating with that client.
If you fail to do that, you’ll leave them wondering:
- What’s going on with my site?
- What am I even paying them for?
- Are they really doing anything?
- Can I get rid of this monthly fee?
Consistent, regular communication is the easiest way to provide extraordinary client service to long-term support clients and improve client retention. For example, if you support WordPress websites, in addition to regular communication or reporting, you can:
- Update clients each month about what’s going on in the WordPress ecosystem
- Review any security-related news and how/if it affects your clients
- Outline what updates have been completed and what updates are coming up
- Share a few quick WordPress tips or links to helpful articles.
Great communication and smart client management shows clients you care about their experience and success and it reminds clients of the value you bring to their business. It’s also a way to add surprise and delight to the client experience for what can be a boring service offering.
7. No Clear Expectations And Boundaries
If you have felt frustrated by clients who seem overly demanding, or clients have felt frustrated because they feel like you’re not helping them as you should, you’ve most likely not set clear expectations and boundaries.
When you fail to establish clear expectations and strong boundaries, it opens the door to sticky situations, tough conversations, and even lost business.
- Without boundaries and constraints, clients will keep making requests and keep asking for more, and they’ll contact you at all times of day or night.
- Without expectations properly set, clients won’t have a clear sense of what’s included and what’s not included, when they should expect a response to their outreach, and what requests will require an additional investment.
Clear expectations and boundaries eliminate uncomfortable tension and reduce conflict in client relationships by making sure everyone involved knows what to expect, how things work, and what the process is.
And when you tackle this upfront during the new client onboarding process, it sets relationships up for long-term success by ensuring clients understand details like:
- What work is included each month as part of their package.
- What work is not included and requires an extra fee.
- When you’re available.
- The process for making a request for work.
- How fast you’ll respond to their emails, phone calls or support tickets.
- What the turnaround time is on work requested.
8. Taking Clients For Granted
Over time, the work associated with monthly website support can become monotonous and boring. When that happens, it’s easy to get a little lazy, pull back on going the extra mile, and begin to take your monthly support clients for granted. Falling into the trap of thinking your monthly recurring revenue is guaranteed is dangerous and it leads to mediocre performance, nonchalant clients, and lost business.
Once you earn a new website support client, it is your job to keep them. Retaining long-term clients requires a long-term commitment to provide high-quality care. And the longer a client stays with you, the more important that care becomes.
Demonstrating that you care about your clients and their success, staying in touch with them regularly, and helping them discover new opportunities strengthens client relationships, positions you as an indispensable part of their team, earns you more quality referrals, and creates unparalleled brand loyalty.
And, that brand loyalty directly translates to dependable monthly payments that stabilize cash flow, reduce sales pressure and stress, and increase profitability.
Game Changing Benefits Of Website Care Plans
Adding website support plans to your service offerings introduces a reliable, dependable foundation of monthly recurring revenue that will stabilize your business, even out income peaks and valleys, and give you a ticket off the feast or famine roller coaster.
Here are a few other benefits to consider:
- Staying in regular contact with clients keeps you top of mind, which leads to repeat business and more referrals.
- Keeping clients’ websites performing without issue helps clients see better results from their sites, which means happier clients and better testimonials.
- Protecting websites from malware, spyware, and security vulnerabilities means not having to scramble under pressure to recover or fix a compromised site.
- Knowing how much your baseline income is every month tells you exactly how much you need to sell each month and gives you the ability to better plan for the future.
- Clients who sign up for monthly website care plans are clients who want a partner. These are good clients who see the value you bring to their business and want to build a strong relationship.
- Many of the support tasks included in website care plans can be systematized and automated with software, delegated to a team member or subcontractor, or outsourced to a team like GoWP that will manage the entire support plan revenue stream for you, which means increasing the value you provide to clients without increasing the amount of work on your plate.
Selling even a few monthly website support packages can lay the groundwork for amazing changes in your business.
Just make sure you avoid the mistakes I outlined above and make the adjustments needed to deliver extraordinary client service every month, month after month, for the lifetime of each and every client relationship.
This is an updated and improved version of this article written for GoDaddy.