One of the keys to running a successful agency is to build your recurring revenues high enough to avoid the usual rollercoaster of having money one month and being broke the next.
Getting reliable money in…. that's where it's at!
And, as someone who builds websites, offering maintenance or “care” plans are usually the easiest ongoing service you can provide. Think about it, you're already building the site, so why not maintain it as well?
I’m hoping you already know what a care plan is and why they’re awesome, and are just trying to sell a whole lot more of them. If not, you might want to check out this article that runs you through the basics.
But this article that you’re reading right now is to help with another challenge: getting people to actually take up a care plan in the first place.
Since I have almost 100% takeup of my care plans, I wanted to run through how I do it in my own agency.
Make it part of the solution
Let’s start with the EASIEST option. When you run through your recommendations in the sales meeting, make sure you have the care plan as part of the recommended solution.
Sounds pretty basic, and that’s because – like most effective strategies – it is.
Think about it this way. You’re in a meeting with a potential client and you spend all this time understanding their needs and pain points, and educating them about audience and design and development and whatever else you go through. And you make a recommendation on what they need to solve their problems. By that stage, you (hopefully) are coming across like this huge expert, with loads of authority.
So then, when you tell the client they need a website with an ongoing maintenance plan, you’re coming from a strong position.
At that time, run them through the logistics of both the website process as well as the care plans, and if they ask questions you can educate them on what happens to websites that aren’t maintained.
You can even use the new car analogy. They’re buying a new website, which is a lot like buying a new car. Getting a new car is awesome, but what happens when you don’t ever get it serviced?
Yup. Without maintenance, the car is going to break down a lot faster, usually needing expensive repairs that could have been avoided. Goodbye new car smell, hello old car stench.
Websites are a bit different to cars in one way though, because when you drive your car you (hopefully) don’t have people constantly trying to make you crash. The internet, on the other hand, has a TONNE of bots and hackers out there constantly trying to hack into websites ALL THE TIME. An unmaintained website is one of the quickest ways to leave an opening for them to get in and cause massive damage. Goodbye new website smell, hello PR disaster stench.
By focusing on the maintenance as part of the solution, I end up with a really high acceptance rate. The client understands that their fancy new website needs to be maintained, and I’m the expert when it comes to that stuff.
Plus, compared to the investment of the actual website itself, the care plan is a comparatively small monthly amount with plenty of benefits (that I will take the time to explain if needed).
What if they refuse?
Sometimes people refuse the care plan. Maybe they don't see the value in it at the time, or maybe you are so focused on the website itself that you didn't even think to mention the maintenance. Oops.
Later on, it can be a bit awkward. If they've already said no, you seem like you're trying to pressure them into buying something. And if you didn't mention it at all, it comes across as a hidden extra cost.
And we're not trying to do the wrong thing here. Yes, we do get a financial benefit if they jump onto a care plan, but the benefit to them is also huge. Imagine the impact to most businesses if the website was hacked and started serving spam. It's not a pretty picture!
For a long time, this was an area I really struggled with. I don't want to feel like I'm forcing someone into something, or pressuring them, or giving them unpleasant surprises.
So I’d just end up leaving it.
Don’t want the care plan? Oh well… nothing I can do about it.
At least… that’s what I thought.
How to sell after the site
Thankfully, there are some really smart people out there. And one of those smart people is Kyle Van Deusen, who runs this very site, The Admin Bar community on Facebook, and his own web agency. Kyle came up with the Website Owner's Manual (or the WOM for short) which solved a MASSIVE problem for me.
See, the WOM is a manual that you give to your clients that runs through everything they need to know about their website:
- Technical details like hosting accounts and DNS records
- Maintenance schedule with what needs to be done, and when
- Maintenance assignments with who is responsible for what
That last one, the maintenance assignments, is super important – and you’ll see why in just a sec.
So the WOM is pretty comprehensive. And, so very helpfully, it also includes a link to the care plan page of my website at the end.
With every single website I finish, I prepare and send the Website Owner's Manual to the client.
If they’re on a care plan, I tell them that I’ve completed most of the details since we’re taking care of things, and just to look it over.
If they’re NOT on a care plan, I tell them I’ve TRIED to complete the details but there are a lot of gaps. And I ask them to complete the details of the maintenance assignments, and send me back a copy for my records. And of course, I let them know that they can always speak to me if they need any help.
Then a month later, I usually reach out and follow up to ask for the completed manual.
Why does this work?
First, we don’t actually want our clients to have problems. So even if they want to maintain the site themselves, it’s really awesome to give them a list of tasks that they've probably never even considered. We’re being super helpful which is always a great thing to be!
Second, the manual reinforces the level of work required to maintain a website effectively. While initially the person refusing the care plan might have thought it was a bunch of money for really not much stuff, now they can see what's actually involved. You’re helping shift their perception of the value – and people will pay for things they value. It goes from being something of low value, to something of high value.
Third, for the people who actually take up your care plans, it makes them appreciate what you're doing and helps keep them on board for longer. I mean, they might have gone ahead without really thinking too much about it, but after a few months of paying a monthly fee and not really knowing what you’re doing, they might start wondering if it’s really worth it. The WOM shows them it is.
Finally, and this is really key, we’re asking who is responsible for the maintenance tasks. This forces them to address it. They will either;
- Admit that no one is going to do it,
- Realise it’s a lot of work, and take it seriously, or
- Ask you about taking care of it for them!
Don't forget, you can't just send it and leave it alone. You need to follow up as well, because that follow up will remind them to look at it.
What happens next
By incorporating this process, it tends to result in the people who either refused a care plan, or never even had us tell them about it (oops), ask you for details.
Remember how there was all that pressure and feeling of being pushy before? Well, that’s gone now. They’re approaching us!
All you need to do now is have a conversation about their situation and educate them on how a care plan could help.
Regardless of whether you spend the time to develop your own Website Owner's Manual, or the 40 bucks or so to buy the WOM, implementing that process as part of your website handover is the key to selling more care plans while helping your clients.
Side note: it would have taken me HOURS (if not days) to develop my own version of the WOM, so I was pretty happy to pay to get one that was ready to go. And considering how much money ONE care plan makes, the WOM is something I’d consider to be extremely high value. The fact that they provide a bunch of email scripts to use when sending is also a massive bonus.
Okay I’ll stop gushing about it now.
So ultimately, to sell more care plans without feeling like you're pressuring people:
- First, incorporate it as part of your initial solution.
- Then when handing over a site, send a Website Owners Manual with all of their maintenance requirements, whether they took a care plan or not.
- For care plan clients, let them know that the maintenance requirements are taken care of by you as part of your plan. For the non care plan clients, remind them that they need to ensure those maintenance requirements are taken care of by someone.
- Then follow up after a month and ask if they've completed their part of the manual.
By doing all of this, you should find yourself improving your rate of care plan take up, which improves your recurring revenues, which is what we all really should be aiming for.