It was dramatic. There were lawyers involved. Yes, I cried. Yes, I was pissed.
But read through to the happy ending – because my drama will make you more money.
Here’s how it went down:
A number of years ago, a trusted person on my team became angry and accusatory. It was almost overnight. She went on a tirade. She violated her non-compete contract. She called and emailed people she had met at our big event.
You don’t need all the hairy details. Suffice it to say that, when your business grows, there will be bumpy moments along the way.
But it sucked. Toxic energy like that makes people wary of course. Our sales went down. Clients and students reported that she’d contacted them. Emails were forwarded to us. Prospective clients didn’t sign up.
My lawyer suggested a lawsuit. But 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 she 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?
Well, the answer lies in a new strategy we took that year. My team and I had decided to focus on client loyalty. Our results made all the difference.
That year, just before the drama, 53% 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 have pressure. I didn’t have to “get more get more get more,” as is the way of your average internet marketer. (That’s never been my style anyway.)
And even though I had to do my own personal work (and extra meditation) on the pain that was caused, Uplevel continued to thrive.
Before I reveal 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 one. (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 never face any of your own drama, it’s worth Upleveling your renewal process.
Client retention doesn’t happen because you’re a magical unicorn, or because God likes you, or because you think good thoughts. You make it happen strategically.
And this is not about coercing people to re-up. You can always find someone who teaches those tactics. “Here’s what to say and how to say it…”
Yes, 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 language games, which are useless when it comes to building something meaningful.
So, instead, let’s look at 5 real strategies that create clients who stay with us here at Uplevel for three, four – and yes, sometimes over eight years!
1 – Identify what makes your clients renew.
Team Uplevel spent a full day assessing every reason our clients renew. (HINT: It’s not always about their numbers.)
Yes, their results do matter. But there were other factors that contributed. Like the way their spouses began to treat them differently, and honor them as real business owners.
We listed all of these reasons. Then we asked what systems and elements we could offer to create more of those desirable outcomes.
Can you name the three top reasons your clients renew? The easiest way to determine why someone renews is to simply ask. Then make sure you do more of those things without added chaos. Turn those things into systems.
2 – Identify what makes your clients NOT renew.
This one may cause much gnashing of teeth. But it’s where your money hides.
When a business is growing, lots of stuff falls through the cracks. Clients can feel ignored or irritated by even 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 want to weep. But the fixes have been priceless.
Take some time to check in with clients who didn’t renew, and ask them why they didn’t. Tell them that your only agenda is to become a better business owner.
Then, see if there is even one solution to one of those answers that you can implement this year.
3 – Remember: A renewal begins the minute the first 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.”
4 – Make conscious space to communicate progress.
As you work with a client, it’s tempting to keep driving forward without reflection. After all, the client wants to keep moving faster, getting more.
Hold on. 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 critical that you 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.
5 – 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. 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.
Two final things to remember:
First, not every client is an ideal client – which means not every client needs to renew!
And second… all of this is contingent upon you giving a shit. This may seem obvious. But it must be said. There are way too many people who approach the topic of renewals with a vibe of manipulation. You have to be good at what you do, you have to care, and your clients do have to get results.
So share with me now. How much of a difference would it make in your business if over half of your peeps renewed? Which of these strategies would be the best place to start?