If you're even remotely interested in selling WordPress maintenance plans, read this entire post and watch the accompanying webinar below. It's epic. Truly.
There is no tl;dr here. This post rewards those prepared to invest some time.
Why WordPress Maintenance Plans Matter Right Now
With WordPress currently powering over 26% of all Internet websites, there is no doubt about its dominance as the software of choice for designing and developing sites, and that market share continues to increase today, assuring the long-term dominance of WordPress.
However, this fact alone will not be enough to ensure that your WordPress consulting business flourishes, and that clients will come pounding at your door with their urgent WordPress website needs.
In the early days of your business, you’ll probably be obliged to take on every single project that comes through your door, just because you need the cash flow to meet your own expenses, and to keep things afloat.
But that will eventually get to be a somewhat chaotic way of conducting your business, because you’ll have a very difficult time balancing all the requirements on your time and resources.
Clients for whom you’ve built websites don’t simply fade away after you’ve done some great work for them – those sites will all need support on an ongoing basis, because as everyone knows, things don’t remain static online or in business for very long. In the meantime though, you’ll also be getting completely new projects that demand your full attention, and probably even some work that calls for an advisory role.
It’s easy to see how you can become stretched pretty thin in your consulting and designing business when you have to schedule and satisfy all these demands, just to keep your head above water. The reason this business model is so difficult to sustain, and is frequently doomed to failure, is that in essence, it trades time for money, and too often that leaves you with no time and not enough money.
So what’s the secret to managing your workload effectively, and still generating the income you need to be profitable?
Building Recurring Revenue Through Selling WordPress Maintenance Plans
The reason that building recurring revenue is so critical for you as a WordPress consultant or designer/developer, is that it provides you with a source of revenue other than just the new projects which become available to you. When your business relies solely on new projects, you are trapped in the time-for-money paradigm, and you will be forced to keep your nose to the grindstone indefinitely, just to pay your bills.
By building recurring revenue through selling WordPress maintenance plans, you’ll have a safety net which will ensure cash flow even when new projects are not plentiful, and even when you want to walk away from the business for a week or two to relax and re-energize yourself. More than that, a steady source of income from maintenance plans will allow you to pick and choose the clients you really want to work with, and it will afford you the luxury of passing on projects which are either less profitable, less enjoyable, or both.
Here’s why recurring revenue is literally the Holy Grail of WordPress consulting:
- You receive money in your bank account on a monthly basis, without incurring any additional administrative costs, like invoicing, calling, collecting, etc.
- You are paid by credit card or bank transfer promptly, so no collecting action is ever needed
- WordPress maintenance plans and the associated actions can be systemized, delegated, or even outsourced, so that you personally don’t have to be involved. You can even employ people to run that side of the business as a distinct standalone entity
- With a WordPress maintenance plan in place with your clients, they will feel supported and they will have confidence that should anything go wrong, you will be there to handle it
- WordPress Maintenance plans are usually extended to existing customers, which means the business cost of customer acquisition is significantly lower – the cost of acquiring customers is one of today’s biggest business expenses, and this strategy bypasses that cost
- Clients on maintenance plans often extend new business project opportunities to you, as well as referrals to other clients, since you’re already providing value to their business as a WordPress expert
A Word on Terminology Around WordPress Maintenance Plans
It is far better to refer to this segment of your business as ‘WordPress Care Plans’ rather than ‘WordPress Maintenance Plans’, simply because of the connotations associated with maintenance itself. The word ‘maintenance’ evokes mostly negative images, e.g. auto maintenance, home maintenance, etc., all of which are costly, labor-intensive actions that people are turned off by and don’t want to pay for.
In business, maintenance has that same negative connotation, and has become a grudge buy – something businessmen hate to pay for, but feel compelled to do so for safety’s sake. By referring to them as ‘Care Plans’, a much more positive image is evoked, and the notion of added value is much more strongly emphasized. For websites which rely on 24-hour availability, the term ‘Business Continuity Plans’ might be even better, because it is suggestive of ongoing support and caretaking.
Instead of a grudge buy, the WordPress Care Plan thus becomes a package of benefits to a client. Instead of paying for maintenance, your client is investing in website support, and the value your client receives makes the investment pay for itself.
What to include when selling WordPress Maintenance Plans (aka “Care Plans”)
These benefits to the client are great ways of adding value to your Care Plan, and making the client feel good about having the subscription with you – which then enables your recurring revenue flow.
- Core updates – WordPress does provide its own core updates periodically, but a great way for you to add value to this is to always check the website afterward, to ensure that nothing has been corrupted or made non-operational.
- Plugin updates – Plugins can be broken or degraded after updates, so these should also be verified after any kind of update. Ideally, all plugin updates should be conducted on a Staging site to confirm functionality, and then pushed to the live site when verified.
- Theme updates – Themes and theme frameworks should be verified after updating, just like core updates and plugin updates.
- Daily/weekly backups – Data should be backed up daily, and the entire website should be backed up on a weekly basis, to ensure that all changes are captured effectively, should there be a need to revert to an earlier version.
- Security monitoring – The extraordinary popularity of WordPress has made it a very inviting target for hackers, so more and more hackers are being drawn to WordPress sites. This makes WordPress security an even more critical aspect of any Care Plan.
- Uptime monitoring – Some kind of software like Pingdom should be used, both for your information and the client’s, to be aware of weekly and monthly uptime. If there’s a problem, this will help you to identify and address it, and if there are no problems, you’ll have the advantage of being able to proclaim the rock-solid status of the website to your client.
This is all pretty standard stuff right? Well here's how to add premium value to a WordPress Maintenance Plan so you can get paid premium fees:
Content Management Assistance
Rather than handle this on an ad hoc basis, include content management assistance in the Care Plan, which systemizes it and eliminates all the extra admin work which would tend to make it less profitable. You can include three, four, or any number of regularly scheduled content updates to a client site for handling testimonials, product updates, content changes, etc.
Power Tip: You can also outsource this completely to my friend Brad and his awesome team at GoWP who offer a white label WordPress support service for agencies.
This needs to be incorporated into a Care Plan package to handle the many seemingly small little maintenance tasks which pop up during the month, and which you might devote time to, without being reimbursed for the time and effort.
This is a fairly broad area which includes all the conversational exchanges you might have with a client about how to improve a site, how to achieve greater efficiencies, how to increase site ranking, etc. All of these are questions which you, as a consultant, can provide immense value for, and which should be included as a paid-for part of the Care Plan – otherwise, you are just providing a free ‘community service’.
Google Analytics Reports
A dashboard report can be emailed to your client weekly to show all key performance indicators (bounce rates, click-throughs, etc.) on the website.
SEO and Social Media
Recommend website upgrades as needed to incorporate social media and good SEO practices to improve site ranking and share-ability of the content.
Email Marketing Management
You can setup templates for clients to use and recommend usage of MailChimp or other software to help them with email marketing. If you're confident with email marketing you can also just do it for them.
Advise clients on how to make optimal use of website content to achieve their business aims.
The real justification for all this, is that it is a model which is mutually beneficial to you and your client. The client needs to understand that it is essential for you to maintain a profitable business so you can continue to provide top-notch support for their critical website, and that they need to be willing to financially support that website.
As a business person, you are entitled to be adequately paid for all the value you are adding to a client’s website.
As a business person, you are entitled to be adequately paid for all the value you are adding to a client’s website. @troydean
Tools for selling WordPress Maintenance Plans
Here are some links to software providers who can help you with these benefits to include in your Care Plan package:
Amazon S3 – for storing offsite backups http://aws.amazon.com/s3/
BackupBuddy – for automating backups https://ithemes.com/purchase/backupbuddy/
CoSchedule – content marketing calendar http://coschedule.com/
Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics/
HelpScout – for managing support requests http://www.helpscout.net/
ManageWP – for managing multiple WordPress websites from one dashboard https://managewp.com/
Pingdom – for uptime monitoring https://www.pingdom.com/
ScheduleOnce – for scheduling consulting and coaching calls http://www.scheduleonce.com/
Sprout Social http://sproutsocial.com/
Sucuri – Security monitoring for WordPress https://sucuri.net/wordpress-security/wordpress-security-monitoring
Why clients should invest in a WordPress Care Plan
Making The Case for WordPress Maintenance Plans
Before anything else, you should have a conversation with a prospective client about the economic, social, and technological factors which make having an optimized WordPress so advantageous.
- Economically, the best way to attract clients is through the Internet because of the low cost.
- Socially, more people are online than in any other setting, and that represents a huge potential customer base.
- Technologically, advances are made in software and in device capability almost every month which make it easier and more effective to reach out to clients and attract them to your business.
Why YOU Are The Right Choice
Secondly, you need to make it clear to your prospect why they should subscribe to you for their Care Plan, rather than with a competitor. Highlight the benefits you offer in your plan to show why they should choose you. This is of course, much easier to do if you constructed the site for your client, because you are intimately aware of all its functionality and content, as well as the business goals of the client.
The Financial Upside
Emphasize the financial upside of investing in a great Care Plan – for instance, keeping a business website up and running 24/7, 365 days a year. The flip side of that coin is how much it would cost your client to be offline for any length of time.
Feel free to reference this story from Pat Flynn to highlight the pain that would cause.
Providing social proof of the value you add to a website can be very convincing. Referrals and references from satisfied customers and testimonials are solid gold currency in convincing someone why your company should be selected over a competitor.
Next is a shift in your mindset. I learnt this from Oren Klaff. Love that man (we even use the same theme music – pure coincidence). Set yourself and your business up as the prize in this negotiation (which is of course, contrary to the accepted perspective, which makes the client the prize because they have the money, and you are seeking that money). By explaining truthfully how busy WordPress consultants are and how you have only a limited number of Care Plans which you can support, you can reverse the traditional paradigm, and have yourself considered to be the prize which a client should be seeking.
In tandem with the concept of prizing, you should make it clear to prospective clients that you are only interested in working with clients who understand the value that a well-supported website brings to their business, and how added value can help that business grow. You want a client’s site to be the best it can be, and you can make that happen. To further emphasize the exclusivity of your service, you can use a simple application form that asks for some basic information and reinforces the notion that your service is one worth pursuing.
Putting it all Together
The only way you as a WordPress consultant, are ever going to rise above the crisis management mode of generating income for your business is to establish a solid flow of recurring revenue. By doing this, you’ll be able to pick and choose your projects more selectively, you won’t have to scramble to meet monthly bills, and you’ll even have some time to get away from it all, so you don’t burn yourself out attending to all the big and small tasks which demand your attention.
The way to build that recurring revenue into your business is to sell WordPress Care Plans (aka WordPress maintenance plans) to your clients, so that a very regular flow of cash is coming in at all times. What you include in those Care Plans is up to you, but several tiers of service should be offered to make sure that all the little calls you might get for support and strategizing are covered and paid for.
Not all clients will be interested in this type of plan, but the ones who are interested, are the kind of clients you should be working with anyway – clients who truly care about how integral their websites are to their businesses, and the value you have added to those websites through the services you provide.
Bonus Webinar: Selling WordPress Maintenance Plans
We recently ran an EPIC webinar about selling WordPress Maintenance Plans (including why you shouldn't call them “Maintenance Plans” and what to call them instead).
Over 1K people registered for the webinar and over 200 people attended live.
One of the things I promised was an email to encourage existing clients to transition to an ongoing maintenance plan.
I've shared this email below and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
You can watch the webinar replay below and access the two downloads below.
I usually then follow up with a reminder when they have 14 days and 7 days left to decide.
If I don’t hear from them, I call them and ask them what they want to do and reiterate the benefits over the phone.
Most clients do NOT want to handle this stuff themselves but are not aware that websites need constant care.
In my experience, you will lose some clients (which is a good thing for them and you) but most clients will appreciate the fact that you care about their business enough to offer this to them.
Frequently Asked Questions About Selling WordPress Maintenance Plans
Q: What do I do about clients who try to take advantage of my business knowledge and call every day with half-hour questions?
A: In actual practice, it averages out pretty consistently – some clients don’t call at all, some do call frequently. This has to be managed under the components of your Care Plan which relate to Support Tasks and Strategy Consulting – build these costs into the plan, so they are paid-for sessions. It’s also important that these be scheduled sessions, e.g. every Wednesday, so things don’t get out of hand.
Q: What is the best way to go about transitioning existing clients on an ultra-low maintenance plan to a much more value-added Care Plan, with costs that are commensurate with the service?
A: While a really good Care Plan may not work for all clients, it is absolutely the way to go for a client whose website is critical to his business, and which adds tremendous value to that business. It should not be hard to convince those kinds of clients why a bigger support investment is fully justifiable. For long-term clients that you have a great relationship with, the best approach is to simply have the necessary conversation about how your business has grown and you are now providing top-level support, and that in order to sustain that high quality service, you simply need to offer Care Plan packages whose cost is a more accurate reflection of the services included.
Q: How many clients can I really take on, if I offer unlimited 30-minute support tasks in my Care Plan?
A: This depends in large part on what your skill-set is, and how long you have been working with custom WordPress theme development and management. If you have a great deal of experience, you can tend toward the high side of numbers of clients, and if the experience is somewhat less than that, fewer clients should be taken on until you become more comfortable with it. It’s something you should grow into as your skill-set grows.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and this topic and how you approach it.
You might also enjoy this post from Kristina Romero on how to transition existing clients to recurring revenue.