Real insights, from real professionals on how to increase customer retention
The biggest challenge facing agency owners
Running a successful agency is no easy task! With so many factors in constant flux, the challenges to agency owners are significant. But what is the biggest challenge facing agency owners today?
We decided to pose this question to our Digital Agency Owners Facebook Community. Churn was the unanimous feedback we received from our community! (You can watch the replay of the discussion and grab some great links.)
Yes, the dreaded churn.
Before you switch off thinking this is going to be another post about churn and client retention, because we already have a great blog post about minimizing churn, we’re going to do this one a little differently.
Instead, we’d like to share some real stories from members of our community with you.
When anybody requests to join our agency community, we ask a few questions to ensure we have the right people. A few common replies will be growing and scaling your agency, but the biggest is client retention and churn!
We pitched the question – “What are the specific things you do to maintain clients, get more value from your current clients, and how to keep them happy.”
Let customers know the value you’re providing
Kyle Van Deusen @ OGAL Web Design
Working in web design, search engine optimization, and website management, Kyle identified the importance of check-ins with his clients.
This is especially relevant in providing services where you are not constantly “visible”—a common issue within website management. You need to remind your clients that you are working hard behind the scenes to keep their websites running smoothly.
Kyle wrote this email script for his Care Plan clients to inform them of a crucial WordPress update.
There was no urgent need for his clients to know about this update. However, it provided a perfect opportunity to remind his clients that he is still there, working hard behind the scenes to give the best and most up-to-date service possible.
It also reassured them that the correct processes and procedures were being followed, a significant factor in confirming their trust and confidence in his services. All while re-asserting himself as their on-call expert.
This is also crucial when providing white-label services where you are being brought in to fulfill a service so that your clients can be completely hands-off and not have to think about it.
While it is a testament to your service quality that your customers experience all of the benefits—such as zero downtime and high levels of website performance —without noticing anything. It is all too easy to disappear into the background and have your work forgotten.
Let your customers know about the value you are providing them!
In the same vein, when a white-label service receives excellent feedback directly from the client and bypasses an agency, these comments need to be shared with the agency.
The more touchpoints you have, the better!
Proactively lowering prices
Mickey Mellen @ GreenMellen Media
Mickey noticed an unorthodox approach from Slack to remind you when someone in your network hasn’t logged on for thirty days. So they announced they will be lowering your price to account for the reduced usage of services.
For example, you would reach out to a client paying $300 a month for services, informing them that they are not using the full-service. Therefore, the price can be lowered to $100 a month (for now).
Perhaps it sounds counterproductive, but it keeps them as clients for longer AND, more crucially, builds trust.
This is because otherwise, two months down the road, they will see that they are and have been paying way too much, so they will most likely cancel the service anyway.
While it isn’t a strategy to use often, proactively lowering prices improves the relationship with clients and boosts brand loyalty. Consequently, it also creates long-term customers and will lead to inevitable referrals.
It is relatively easy to track clients and how frequently they have used your product or service over the past X period. You can begin a conversation with clients who haven’t been using a service enough (or at all) about how they can maximize the service you are already providing.
If you get pushback or reluctance, then that would be the opportunity to offer a reduction in touchpoints and service prices. That way, you will keep them on as a customer. Often, keeping a client on is better than losing them altogether.
Strategic phase transparency
Bet Hannon @ Bet Hannon Business Websites
In the last year, Bet Hannon has increased the baseline pricing of new care plan clients. Aside from increases in costs, the increase in pricing was easily justified by explaining the opportunities available for customers who want to maximize their benefits from the plans.
For example, Bet reframed scheduled meetings included in the plan as a consulting opportunity. Clients could use that time to view metrics, look at how things could be done better, and how these changes could be built out in a new phase.
It is often easy for customers to forget the additional benefits they get from packages. These are often less glitzy but are still essential assets that make a service plan truly valuable.
For previous care plan clients whose prices hadn’t been raised in forever, Bet announced five months ahead of time that they would be increasing the plan price by 300%
It then came as a big surprise when barely a handful of clients decided to move on, and the rest were happy to accept the higher rate.
The real selling point was being transparent with the current clients and explaining that clients are paying even more for the same service in the new care plan. So while their plans are more expensive than before, they are still not at the “market level”… but this can be re-visited later.
Another approach would be to offer an alternative package whereby old clients could maintain the same rate with the same service, but you make it very clear about the benefits they will be missing out on. For example, plugin updates could be done in bulk with other clients, but they will not benefit from the high-value personal relationship that will provide opportunities for their business to grow.
Oh, the wonders of reverse psychology!
Sell customer benefits as The Expert
Joe Casabona @ Casabona
Having shifted his business model from website development to content creation, Joe identified that his best chance at increasing revenue from current clients is by convincing them of the benefits of having more content.
This requires a demonstration of the value of content Joe is bringing to the table. For example, encouraging clients to increase their podcasting output from once a month to fortnightly (every two weeks).
Joe is primarily trying to deliver more value for his members while gaining more coaching/consulting clients who need content growth. It should be noted that it can sometimes take a while to see a measured improvement or benefit to the clients.
This is because content services are harder to quantify. Sometimes, your only option is to conduct these experiments and observe what competitors (or even “influencers”) are doing.
Pivoting a business model and outsourcing
April Wier @ Sugar Five Design
April was pivoting into a different business model. She wanted to keep serving her current clients at the same level but be less in the business so that she could focus on creating things and not just service.
The solution could involve more automation and increasing customer rates and moving them onto a white-labeled WordPress maintenance service meaning April can remain the point of contact but be completely hands-off.
That way, her clients receive better service with the benefits of continuing to work with herself as a trusted expert–since they already have a strong relationship.
The problem with personal relationships is that you can’t do everything yourself. By adding in automation processes, you can achieve the same (and more) while providing a better overall service.
Sharing a product wishlist
Mickey Mellen @ GreenMellen Media
When working with clients across the gamut, the ones in the middle tend to be spoken to the most.
Each year you can present and share a wishlist of additional services or opportunities for growth with your clients. This way, you can collectively work on them each month to ensure that things move in the right direction.
Having the list priced out is also very beneficial because it helps you productize your services.
The main benefit of this approach is the semi-formal nature that holds more weight than a vague periodic chat that is never acted on.
One area where Mickey acknowledged he had made a mistake was in saying, “here are 10 options; what do you want to do?” This just led to option paralysis! It worked out much better when he showed the full list of options and highlighted three as his recommendations.
Give options, and then give a suggestion!
Propose a more palatable option
Bobby Kircher @ Papaya Search
Bobby contacted the owners of sites built roughly 5 or 6 years ago that had not been updated. The proposal was to shift everything over to Elementor.
A complete redesign is a big project that requires a lot of thought, work, and cost. For this reason, he decided that proposing a rebuild would be the best option. The design would be effectively the same, but his customers would benefit from a modern framework that would future-proof their websites.
This proved to be an excellent method for getting additional work from smaller clients.
The flipside to churn
We need to acknowledge that some of your customers could be more resistant to change and growth. This is usually true for those who have been around for a long time or those you brought on expecting a very minimal level of service.
What do you do when these clients no longer serve you?
There is a considerable level of competition in many industries, and the prospect of passing on clients to a “competitor” is entirely unheard of. But as far as agencies are concerned, being part of a community of agency owners is mutually beneficial.
You could even say that not being part of a niche agency community could be doing your business more harm than good.
Don’t forget that the client who is a borderline burden to you could be a lifeline to a smaller agency seeking to build its client base.
That is why it is so important to create a network of agencies around you with varying skill sets and areas of expertise,
We are all in the business of wanting to offer the best possible service to our clients, right? So you would do well to remember that you can serve your client so much better by re-homing them with an agency more adept at providing the service they want. That switch could even save them money, making you look like a hero!
Improving your client retention
The running theme for improving client retention after the first point of sale is to keep proactively adding value.
All of our experts agree that it shows you care about them individually, which is crucial in building long-term relationships as a business.
Our five key takeaways are:
- Assess your relationship: A simple way to think about how you are adding value to your services is by asking whether you are a cost-center or a revenue/investment center to your clients.
- Outsource and pivot your business: Outsourcing enables you to offer great service while increasing capabilities beyond what you can personally serve and still be involved.
- Automate: You can’t do everything yourself. Think about what you can automate and turn into a process to be as efficient as possible without being robotic.
- Proactively manage pricing: At the end of the day, both clients and agency owners want great value. Taking a proactive approach to pricing services with current customers can improve transparency, increase trust, and offer long-term stability.
- Avoid the friend zone: The more comfortable your clients get with you, the less they perceive you as an expert. This can have detrimental consequences when you need to suggest important product improvements/updates or a need to increase rates.
You can mutually benefit from re-homing clients with another agency and avoid the “ticking time bomb” scenario if all else fails. Just make sure that whoever picks up the client is fully aware of the situation first!
Of course, another great way of ensuring future business is joining our Virtual Happiness Hour and becoming a member of our incredible community of niche agency owners. It’s the ideal networking space where you can reach out to other agencies and find the outsourced services your clients are looking for.