A number of years ago, a trusted person on my team became angry and vengeful. It happened seemingly overnight. She went on a tirade. She violated her non-compete contract. She called and emailed clients and people whom she had met at our big event.
You don’t need all the hairy details. Suffice it to say sometimes these things happen as your business grows.
But it sucked. Toxic energy like that makes people wary of course. Our sales went down. Some people told us that she had contacted them. Emails were forwarded to us. Prospective clients didn’t sign up.
My lawyer suggested a lawsuit. But in the end, I chose not to go that path. I told my disillusioned team that in the next year, this person – who became known as “she-who-shall-not-be-named” (humor is important in these situations) – would dwindle to a minor blip on our radar. And that this person would have to go scavenge someone else to keep her business going.
In a brutal scene like this, how could I find my way to such clarity?
The answer lies in a whole different way we had approached our business that year. My team and I had decided to spend a bulk of our focus on client loyalty. The results made all the difference.
That year, just before the drama, well over 50% of our clients had renewed for another year. We had always had a good renewal rates and lots of loyalty. But that year was our best yet.
So that meant I didn’t face the pressure to “get more get more get more,” as is the way of your average internet marketer. That’s just never been my style.
And even though I had to do my own personal work (and extra meditation) on the hurt and harm that was caused, Uplevel continued to thrive.
Before we talk about how we did it, consider these two facts:
1 – It costs at least 7 times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep a current client or customer. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
2 – Up to 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your current customers and clients. (Gartner Group)
So even if you are never forced to deal with drama, it’s worth examining your renewal process. Client retention is not a fluke or an accident. You make it happen strategically.
And this is not about quick tips and tactics for coercing people to re-up. You can always find someone who teaches those tactics. “Here’s what to say and how to say it…” And such tactics do work sometimes. You can indeed get a sale using a hat trick here and there.
Eventually, however, you’ll hate your life. That’s because you’ll have to perform those same tricks all over again to get someone to buy again. And again after that. And the next thing you know, you’ve built your business on a pile of tactics, which are useless when it comes to building something meaningful.
So, instead, let’s look at the real strategies we use here at Uplevel that creates clients who stay with us for three, four – and over eight years!
1 – Get rid of “get.”
The first thing I tell my team (and my clients) is that we are not out to “GET” anything. So let’s lose that word first, okay?
When you make an offer, you’re not “getting” something. You are offering something. And when you do that well, it works. This may sound like semantics. But trust me, trying to GET things — whether you’re trying to “get money” or “get laid” — has an icky, grabby energy to it.
2 – Give a shit.
I know, I know. This one’s obvious. But I have to say it. There are way too many people who approach this topic of renewals with a vibe of manipulation. You have to be good at what you do, you have to care, and your clients have to see results.
3 – Identify what makes your clients renew.
Our team spent a full day assessing every reason our clients renew. Yes, it’s partly because of their results – but there were several other factors as well. We listed them and asked what systems and elements we could offer to create more of those desirable outcomes.
The easiest way to determine why someone renews is to simply ask. Then make sure you do more of those things without added chaos and effort.
And remember, not every client needs to renew!
If the weight is lost, the website is complete or the copy is written… the question is:
Is there still value here for the client? Are they asking for more? Do they still need you?
If yes, that’s wonderful. If not, then trust that other clients will show up, especially if you’re doing your marketing.
4 – Identify what makes your clients NOT renew.
This one may hurt and cause much cringing. But it’s where your money hides.
What makes your clients NOT renew? First, ask yourself. Then, ask your clients who don’t renew!
When a business is growing, lots of stuff falls through the cracks. Clients can feel ignored or irritated by the smallest of system errors.
And yes, we had a number of those things. (You will ALWAYS have these things – but you can take time each year to get better and better at fixing the frustrations.)
Our team hashed out a whole heap of problems in our client systems, and we went through them one by one and created action steps to slowly fix these items. It made me cringe at first. But the fixes have been priceless.
5 – Remember: A renewal begins when the initial sale is made.
The time to think about a client renewing their work with you isn’t right before the last session. “Oh shit! It’s our last call! Quick! What’s something I can say to make him sign up again?”
A renewal begins the minute a client signs up the first time.
The question I asked my team was this: “What has to happen for our clients so that they will want to work with us again and pay and happily pay for even higher value programs?”
This question can lead you to some great ideas on delivering great value to your clients from the moment they sign on. A lot of it is about you showing up as a leader and communicator in every single step of the process. This will mean systematizing many of the things you “sort of just do intuitively.”
6 – Lead the client as you work together.
During your work with a client, it’s tempting to keep driving forward without reflection. After all, the client wants to keep moving faster, getting more. If you’re not careful, that agenda will drive the work – and possibly lead you and the client to miss the progress that has been made.
Therefore, it’s important that you lead the client. Which means that you must point out the breakthroughs and the value they are receiving as you work together. Not in a condescending way. But in a way that helps their brain understand that they’re making progress.
Otherwise, the bar is always set just above their head. (And yours.) This can have a detrimental affect on you AND on them. Remember that a leader provides framework, structure and perspective. Deliver on all three.
7 – Schedule a conversation with your client.
Get prepared for a renewal conversation with your client by reviewing your notes on her victories and progress. Make note of his recurring stuck spots and how your work together has broken through these areas. Again, be the leader.
Then, simply engage in a conversation about this and be willing to suggest continued work together based on this.
This often terrifies people because of their fear of what their client will say. This is why preparation is so important. Your job is to be clear with them and to understand where they might need additional support.
Plus, if you’re in start up, and a client has some feedback that could help you become a better leader or service-provider, that’s amazing. Yes, it sucks when you first hear it. But it serves you in the long-run. Obstacles are actually the raw materials for your highest growth.
Having a business is a full contact sport. It requires that ALL OF YOU – body, mind, spirit – be engaged in the process. This means your personal growth is not separate from your success.
Be willing to have hard conversations with an open heart and you will always succeed.
Comments and questions if you have ‘em.
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