Why The Mainstream Approach To Selling WordPress Maintenance Plans Fails
Selling WordPress maintenance plans is totally different today compared to just a year or two ago. That is why most WordPress consultants are failing to get clients signed up for monthly retainers.
Disclaimer: I'm about to link to an article posted on the wpmudev blog. I really like the guys at wpmudev and they have a ton of great WordPress resources. I regularly email with one of their editors and often refer people to their plugins.
With regard to some of the business advice for WordPress consultants mentioned on their site I, however, take a fundamentally different approach. My approach is radically different and isn't for everybody.
I'm not saying my way is the only way or that they are wrong. Let's be mature and realize it is possible for multiple things to be true at the same time. Some things work for some people – other things work for others. In this article, I'm sharing what's worked for me and how that differs from the mainstream, popular approach.
All of the WordPress bloggers, mentors, and coaches all say you are leaving money on the table if you're not offering WordPress maintenance plans. I see articles about this pop up in newsletters and blog posts at least a couple times per month.
It's always introduced with an opener like,
“How would you like an extra $250+ per month from each of your clients?”
Then they leave you feeling like if you haven't onboarded your clients into monthly maintenance, you're leaving thousands of dollars on the table. But, that's not the whole story…
Let's Give It A Try
So, naturally, everybody gets excited and tries to get their clients on monthly retainers for WordPress maintenance and support only to find that almost none of their clients are buying in. Granted, some people have had success getting their clients on maintenance plans and it has made a big difference in their businesses. So, with wishful hopes of stabilizing their income and scaling their businesses, WordPress developers everywhere are asking their clients to subscribe to monthly maintenance plans.
The truth is, most people fail at selling maintenance plans and the problem is getting worse every month as alternative platforms like Wix and Squarespace continue to improve and do not require expensive maintenance plans to keep sites healthy and online.
The Irony Of Value-Based Pricing For WordPress Maintenance Plans
One of the especially alluring features of selling maintenance plans is the idea that you can get paid more than your hourly rate because of the value you are providing. It's not about time – it's about the value of your service.
I absolutely agree that value-based pricing is a critical step to take towards scaling your WordPress business. The problem is, clients rarely see the value in WordPress maintenance plans, support packages, and pre-paid hours of development.
The Mainstream Pitch
It's hard to blame them for not seeing the value, because it is not authentic, business-oriented, value for most clients. The argument for value-based pricing with maintenance plans tends to go something like this…
First, you say that a website is making some amount of money per hour or per day – like $500 per day, for example. Then you do a little math to show how much money is lost if the website is down for several days, then the client has lost thousands of dollars. Therefore, it's totally worth it for the client to invest $250 per month to prevent this catastrophe of losing thousands of dollars from happening. So, even if you're only spending an hour or two per month keeping things in good shape, it's worth it to your client because of the value in preventing this bad problem.
The Reality For Most Clients
For most clients, the mainstream pitch falls apart immediately – right at step one. Most clients aren't making any significant money from their website – especially not on day one. Even when you're doing a site redesign and the original site has been out there for a while and is getting some traffic – most clients aren't making a lot of money through their website. They would be better served investing that $250 per month in an ad campaign or pretty much anything else rather than spending it on WordPress maintenance.
Clients are not “seeing the value” in the maintenance plans because they aren't looking at this as an insurance plan. They are looking at it in terms of achieving forward-looking business objectives. A WordPress maintenance plan is not going to bring in more calls, generate more leads, grow their audience, or build their email list. Clients are looking to spend money on things that make money.
The Insurance Analogy Is Good, But Not How You Think It Is
I often see people say that a WordPress maintenance plan is like insurance against having your site go down and losing money until you get the site back online. The “insurance plan” analogy is actually a pretty good one because it reveals why clients ARE NOT BUYING.
You don't buy insurance to protect against inexpensive problems. I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. The other day I was buying an $18 headset for my daughter to use with her online Spanish course. As I was checking out, I was offered a $7.00 warranty. I immediately discarded the offer because if the headphones break, I'll just spring for another $18 headset. My general rule is to only buy insurance for stuff that would be really hard or impossible to replace if something bad happened.
Clients are not buying WordPress maintenance plans because they don't feel like the downside is all that bad. When/if there's a problem, they'll just call you then to fix it. The cost of that fix is almost certainly going to be less than paying $250 per month every month until there's a problem. They are not seeing the value because the value really isn't there for most clients.
Ironically, the insurance analogy explains why clients are not buying – not why they should be signing up for maintenance plans.
Why It's Getting Worse
Furthermore, WordPress maintenance plans are one of the obstacles standing in the way of migrating clients from Wix or Squarespace over to WordPress because clients don't have to pay for maintenance plans on those other platforms. Granted, WordPress is a much more powerful platform, you have ownership of your own content, and have control of everything. But, if the client is just making a lateral move from one of those other hosted platforms to WordPress then they are struck with this extra maintenance plan expense. Those other hosted platforms are continuing to improve and chip away at the benefits offered on the WordPress platform. This is making it the concept of the WordPress maintenance plan even worse and harder to sell to clients.
It's Just Too, Expensive
It doesn't really matter how much you're trying to charge for the maintenance plans. Most clients view any sort of monthly commitment for site updates and security to be too much. For example, here's a comment from someone who is offering maintenance plans to his clients:
My WordPress management and security service, has been operating for years and costs only $5 to $12.95 a month.
$200 a month – guess I have the wrong clients because nearly all find my $12.95 rate too high…
It does not matter what the price is, many clients think any price is just too high.
Yes, Of Course, Clients Need WordPress Maintenance Plans
It is not good to launch a client's site and not have a plan in place for keeping it healthy and updated. I am NOT saying you should stop selling WordPress maintenance plans. What I am saying is that the mainstream approach is not working very well and a lot of WordPress developers are having an increasingly difficult time onboarding clients into monthly maintenance packages.
Doing It For Free Is Unsustainable
Here's the really bad part of this whole thing. We WordPress developers know that our clients' sites need to be updated and maintained regularly. Clients are not buying maintenance packages. So, a lot of WordPress developers simply end up doing the updates anyway – for free. The more clients you get, the more free updates you do. The next thing you know, you're working crazy hours doing a bunch of free work. This is unsustainable.
A Better Approach
Since we all understand that WordPress sites need to be updated if getting clients signed up for a maintenance plan is something you're trying to figure out, here are a few training sessions that take a deep dive into this very thing.
- How To Create WordPress Care Plans Your Clients Actually Care About
- How To Sell More WordPress Maintenance Plans
If you'd like to talk about your business and how you can start winning $5,000 to $10,000 per month, consistently, without working crazy ours and spinning your wheels doing free (or non-billable) work, then schedule a 45-minute phone call with me.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download