WordPress updates and regular website maintenance are critical for website health and growth. In fact, for WordPress websites that generate revenue — whether directly through eCommerce or through the online exposure of the brand — website maintenance plans are a necessity.
Constructing website maintenance plans to offer our clients is key to supporting their sites on an ongoing basis.
It also provides us website professionals the revenue we need to offer this service to clients on a monthly basis. The nature of the recurring charge for a “fixed” set of services is the only way we can have predictable time and cost for the productized plan.
I often see many website professionals trying to roll too much into their website maintenance plans. In order to drive up the price of the plan, freelancers and agency owners will fall into the trap of offering features that don’t qualify as website maintenance and support.
What they don’t know is they are hurting themselves and reducing their chances at profit and retention of clients.
What shouldn’t you include in website maintenance plans?
High churn rate (cancellations), scope creep, confused clients and low profit are all risks of offering the wrong maintenance package features.
We’ll explore all these areas below. But first, let’s take a look at why this is important:
Education and establishing the maintenance plan
Do clients know what it is you do? Loaded plans confuse the client and have them focusing on the wrong offering and what it is you specialize in.
It is so important to our bottom line that we and the client are aware of the boundaries of the monthly productized service. If we add in too many value-adds for what should be a “website maintenance” plan, the core principle that every website needs maintenance gets lost in translation.
Once the client realizes they don’t want to pay $2,000 for your fully-loaded “plan.” They cancel, not knowing they still need continued website support with WordPress updates and monitoring. Larger “all-in-one” plans are motivation to cancel. They run the highest risk of falling short of client expectations.
I believe that website maintenance plans are a gateway to contracting with a website professional for all their other services. Cancelling that core plan is severs the relationship and therefore prevents the client from any future work with you they need.
3 pitfalls of badly constructed website maintenance plans
So what should we avoid, and how do we position different services? Easy. Let’s explore by reviewing the three biggest pitfalls of poorly constructed website maintenance plans:
Premium services: SEO, social media and marketing.
Website insurance and hacking recovery.
Let’s dig in.
1. Premium services: SEO, social media and marketing
Search engine optimization (SEO), social media and marketing can all be refined into set monthly offerings. The issue, however, is that when we roll them into a core “website maintenance” plan and don’t set them aside as their own offering, we increase churn and reduce profit.
This is a problem because, typically, freelancers and small web agencies offering SEO offer other types of services as well.
Let’s say you have a client cancel a “bloated” plan. Had it been positioned as website maintenance, it would have allowed the client to contract for your SEO services as an add-on.
By cancelling the add-on instead of the whole plan, the relationship would remain. In that scenario, you retain them as a client on the website maintenance plan. You can keep nurturing the relationship for development and design (or whatever other services you provide) over time.
2. Anything “unlimited”
I often see those who are newer to website support quick to offer “unlimited” features in their plans. The psychological reasoning is that the price of the plan can be higher when “unlimited” is involved. The issue here is that no one can offer “unlimited” anything without small print — otherwise, where’s the profit?
There are two ways “unlimited” can cause problems and suck the profit out of your plans, thus removing them from “website maintenance” and into a back and forth email chain of “sorry, we can’t do that.”
First: “Unlimited” support tasks are exactly what a full-time hire does.
When an employed website developer heads into the office, they are expected to do an “unlimited” amount of tasks. Therefore, if you are positioning “unlimited” to your client, they are going to view this as a steal! Yes, you can load it up with all the fine print you want, but come the time you want to pull the reins back on an overreaching client, you will encounter much stress.
In all my years of training website professionals on how to offer website maintenance plans, I can assure you that no client is ever looking for unlimited anything. If they are, they’ll hire full-time.
Second: “Unlimited” opens the door for confusion and you as the adversary.
We need to position ourselves to our clients as being on their team, there to help and support their needs. By being specific about what is offered (time, number, quantity) the terms are clear.
We go from being an adversary that has to correct when our clients overstep, to being on the same page that this time/number/quantity feature is exactly what they need for their website support.
3. Website insurance and hacking recovery
The point of regular WordPress maintenance and monitoring is to keep a site as safe as it can be and keep the website performing smoothly. This does not mean that you as the website professional are responsible for insuring or cleaning up a website that has been compromised.
Hack recovery is a great service to add on top of your website maintenance plan. However, including it in the core offering, you increase your perceived liability. Don’t make it seem like any compromise of the website falls on you and your team. It skews the core purpose of the plan.
We all know WordPress core code, hosting and third-party plugins or themes are out of your control. There is no way to guarantee your client that malware or a hacker won’t find their way in through them. We can only confidently say that keeping the website up to date and monitored is the best way to prevent it from happening (and stressing the importance of daily backups).
We position to our clients that we are the advocate for their website in the event of a compromise, not the responsible party.
Of course, we can’t promise their website will not be hacked. But, we can promise we will do everything in our power to prevent it, as well as assist in the restoration of one of their backups. It’s never a guarantee a restore of a backup will remove the security vulnerability, and that needs to be communicated.
Speaking the same language
As website professionals we need to speak the same language on what constitutes website maintenance plans.
If you find yourself struggling to make profit off of your support plans, or wanting to stop offering them in your business due to stress, you must first consider whether you are over-selling them with unnecessary features.
Go back to the drawing board on the amount of time and cost going into your plans. Time and cost should be a predictable fixed amount so your plans as profitable as they can be.
I have seen many a website professional brag about a $2,000 per month “website maintenance” plan, but as you’ve read, that’s not maintenance. These types of plans confuse many freelancers and agency owners. It also skews the conversation and confuses the language we need to help position our plans for our clients.
Don’t feel you need to load them up to help make the sale easier for your clients.
The features of basic maintenance plans (as detailed in these resources on the GoDaddy blog) don’t need unnecessary add-ons to convince potential clients of their value.
Single out premium services as their own “plans and packages,” get out of the “unlimited” mindset and stop positioning website maintenance as “insurance.”
At the very least, modify your existing plans and move forward with the right support features. It’s never too late to walk back your existing plans.