With client services, it can often seem like you’re riding an income rollercoaster that you can’t escape. Some months you’re flush with cash and in others, you’re barely scraping by. It’s a tough and very stressful place to be, which is why so many designers and developers are on a quest to end the feast or famine cycle by adding recurring revenue to their businesses in the form of monthly website support and maintenance.
Website maintenance plans are great for business, but …
Adding website support and maintenance services to your business generates recurring revenue, improves cash flow, provides breathing room, maximizes client value, and creates more stability for your business. Unfortunately, in their quest to boost their bottom line, many designers and developers make costly mistakes when selling website maintenance plans that cause them to lose the client or leave money on the table.
8 mistakes to avoid when selling website maintenance plans
Here are eight of the biggest mistakes I see web designers and web developers make when selling website maintenance plans:
Calling it a maintenance plan.
Waiting to discuss maintenance.
Not providing phone support.
Not offering options.
Not incentivizing support.
Failing to communicate regularly.
Not setting clear expectations.
Taking support clients for granted.
Let’s look at each misstep in detail and figure out how to avoid making these mistakes.
1. Calling it a maintenance plan
When considering what packages to offer clients, most designers and developers default to selling website maintenance. It’s not a terrible idea, but it’s not a fantastic idea either. Let’s take a look at 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 simply continuing to exist and on a deeper level, it’s a reminder of all the things we have to pay for that we don’t want to — including car maintenance, home maintenance and even personal health maintenance like an annual physical checkup.
Support, on the other hand, is about providing help and caring for another person or thing. This is exactly why I may talk about website support and maintenance internally, but externally with clients, I speak about website care, website support and website growth.
Remember, when selling a client a monthly website support plan, you’re selling access to you and the value you deliver, and you’re setting the stage to upsell additional services in the future.
2. Waiting to discuss maintenance
Many service providers go for the website support upsell right away, asking clients to commit to and sign a contract at the start of a project. But when a relationship is new and the client has no experience working with you, it’s unlikely they will agree to a long-term monthly fee for ongoing services — that’s like asking someone to marry you after the first date. On the other hand, if you wait until the end of a project to discuss website support, you’ll be surprising the client with unexpected fees, which is never a good thing.
Start discussing monthly website support packages during the very first conversation with your client, but don’t pressure them.
Communication about monthly website support packages must begin in the very first conversation with your client, but done so without pressure. Then, throughout the project, the idea and benefits of ongoing website support need to be reinforced. Finally, you provide the call-to-action and support agreement toward the end of the project as the need for support and maintenance is now a reality.
Consider using the Seed, Nurture, Harvest approach:
Beginning with the very first sales call, plant seeds of interest. Provide information and education about the need for ongoing website support and share that you offer those services and have packages available.
Throughout the project, nurture your relationship with the client. Educate them about the roles and responsibilities of being a website owner and mention things they need to consider in terms of website care, support and maintenance along the way.
As you near the end of the project and are preparing for website launch, harvest the seeds you’ve been nurturing. Ask the client how they plan to handle the ongoing website support and maintenance. Share your packages and options and let them know you’re available to support them and deliver the official call-to-action.
3. Not providing phone support
At Bourn Creative, we have support and maintenance clients who have been with us for years, yet never used the hours included in their monthly support plan. They have however, called us a few times with questions. For those clients, the ability to make that phone call — to have someone they know and trust available when they need help or have a question — is worth the monthly fee alone.
If you want to grow your monthly recurring revenue by offering support and maintenance packages, you can’t afford to ignore the popularity of phone support nor the value that peace of mind it gives clients.
Plus, offering basic email and phone support allows you to stay connected with your clients and provides extra opportunities to upsell and land new work.
4. Not offering options
While all clients will need the same baseline support services, not every client will want the same things or have the same budget. This means that if you offer one support package at one price point, you’re alienating clients and losing out on new recurring revenue.
The smartest approach to crafting support packages is to create three different levels of service to meet your clients where they’re at with the level of ongoing service they need:
- A basic plan ($) that’s very affordable.
- A mid-tier plan ($$) that’s practically irresistible.
- A high-end plan ($$$) that’s customized for each client.
5. Not incentivizing support
If clients are on the fence about signing up for an ongoing monthly website support plan, consider including a few non-technical items to help clients easily see value in the investment such as:
- Guaranteed response time: The more the client pays, the faster you’ll respond to their emails and phone calls.
- Discounted rate on future work: The more the client pays, the more they will save on future work and website improvements.
- Higher priority scheduling for projects: The more the client pays, the higher priority they get in your schedule and workflow.
- Premium plugin licenses: As long as they remain a client, they don’t have to purchase the plugin licenses for the premium plugins used on their website.
By adding incentives to your packages, you’re creating a more compelling reason for your clients to say yes and stay with you long-term.
6. Failing to communicate regularly
It seems like every business in every industry is seeking the same thing: monthly recurring revenue. 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 need the services included.
But you can’t just sell a website support package, do the monthly work, and ignore your clients. If you do, your clients will begin to wonder:
- 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?
Instead, create a regular schedule for communication with your monthly support clients, providing updates on your business and service offerings, reports about what’s going on with their website, suggestions for improvement, updates on technology changes or new software releases, and education about security. Remind clients of the value you’re bringing to their business with your support services and they’ll remain clients for the long term.
7. Not setting clear expectations
Without clear expectations and boundaries established, you set yourself and your clients up for serious frustration. You’ll be frustrated at clients who seem overly demanding and your clients will be frustrated with you for not helping them like they think you should.
Clear expectations eliminate frustration by making sure everyone knows what to expect, how things work and what the process is.
When onboarding new website support clients, it is critical that you establish boundaries, set expectations, and review the process for your work together. This will set the relationship up for long-term success by ensuring the client understands things 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 support clients for granted
One of the challenges of serving monthly support clients well is that over time, the work can become monotonous and boring, or you may inadvertently begin to take their business for granted. If you let this happen, it will lead to mediocre performance, nonchalant clients and lost business.
The secret to retaining your monthly support clients is to deliver extraordinary service every month without fail. Demonstrating that you care about your clients and their success, staying in touch with them regularly, helping them discover new opportunities, and building upon your personal connection will strengthen the relationship you have with your clients, position you as an indispensable part of their team, and create unparalleled loyalty.
And, that loyalty will directly translate to dependable monthly payments that will stabilize your cash flow, reduce sales pressure and stress and increase your profitability.
The benefits of successfully selling website support
Successfully selling website support and maintenance plans to your clients means that your client’s website will be better taken care of and better protected, and that they’ll have a trusted partner they can turn to when they have a question, need some help, or have an emergency.
Other benefits of offering monthly website support packages include:
- Staying in regular contact with your clients keeps you top of mind, which leads to repeat business and more referrals.
- Keeping your clients’ websites performing without issue and better protecting them from malware, spyware and hacking.
- Knowing how much your baseline income is every month and how much you need to sell to pay your bills.
- Attracting better clients who value the work you do.
- Adding new systems to your business that can be automated or delegated.
Selling even a few monthly website support packages can lay the groundwork for amazing changes in your business. Just make sure you avoid the eight mistakes I outlined above and make the adjustments needed to deliver extraordinary service each month, month after month.