Jennie creates websites for life coaches. She’s added recurring revenue streams in the form of website care packages that include website maintenance, content changes, and even marketing advice.
Jennie’s question for me was “how did you position your price increase to your existing clients?”
My first thought was “which price increase?” There’ve been a few over the years.
The first time I increased my rates was after I’d signed my first 10 (or so) clients and I realized a) there was no price resistance at all, and b) the current price wouldn’t get me anywhere.
The second price increase happened when I had so many clients that I couldn’t keep up with the work. I raised rates 80% for all clients. I lost about a third of my clients, which means I ended up with fewer clients and higher income. Bonus.
The next price increase failed. I kept my current clients at the most recent rate and started charging new clients 80% more than existing clients. I had a huge attack of “there’s no way this is going to work” and, what a surprise, it didn’t. I gave terrible service to the clients who were paying me the new, high rate. They fired me. (One of them didn’t fire me until I absolutely ghosted her. I wouldn’t return her emails. She finally said “Um, I found someone else to do this.” Not my best moment.)
My last price increase was client-initiated. Four of my clients basically cornered me and told me I’d be raising my rates 500%. I fought them. They won. I raised my rates and promptly lost every client who wasn’t in that group of four. Scary, but I ended up making more money with a lot fewer clients.
That’s the long answer to Jennie’s question. The shorter answer would be “raise your rates when demand for your work exceeds your capacity to deliver.” In other words, when a line forms at the door, the price goes up.
Another, harder-to-identify reason to raise rates when your rates are so low they actually hurt your credibility. A prospect actually laughed at me once when I told him my rate. He then admitted my low fee cost me the sale. Interesting.
In Jennie’s case, she’s considering an increase of her highest-ticket advisory service from $497 to $1,497 per month.
I asked her how many clients do you have at the current rate? One, she told me.
How many could she handle at the current rate? It depends, she told me, on how much website work they required. I asked her to explain.
She told me she bundles her advisory work (a monthly coaching call) with a package of website maintenance and changes.
Ah, that’s a lot like my business.
I told her that if she had 20 clients on the advisory+maintenance plan:
12-15 of the clients would use almost no maintenance services.
2-5 would use it as she expected.
1-2 would abuse it and have to be fired.
In other words, I bet she could have 15-20 people on the $497 plan without hating her life.
So my question for Jennie is:
What if you built up the $497 client list with an eye on increasing to $1,497 in 12-18 months?
That new, higher retainer will mean a totally different client. So she’ll either have to go get those clients (possible, but requires the effort of identifying, prospecting, marketing, selling) or have some of her current clients grow into that level (takes patience).
In either case, my opinion is that Jennie will have to do one of two things to have clients pay her the new price:
Sign clients who have enough ongoing design needs that they feel justified adding a designer to their team.
Be a designer with marketing skills who delivers leads/sales.
Either one can work great.
The one thing she doesn’t want to do is try to sell that big retainer to a coach who has big plans and small revenue. That’s a recipe for high churn in her business (and referrals to other low performers).
Here’s what I’d say to all of you about price increases. Maybe I already said it. Whatever:
Price increases are easy when they’re a response to high demand for your service. The more demand you can generate, the higher the rates you’ll be able to charge.
EmyLee is struggling with the all-too-common challenge of consultation no-shows. When she told me this I (of course) had to ask her the golden question:
“Are people signing up for consults shortly after clicking a Facebook ad?”
Yes, she told me.
Her current path to consultation looks something like this:
Facebook ad > Email optin > Educational (aka “value” video) on the optin confirmation page > Link to calendar software.
Now, look: everybody listen up:
I don’t have enough data to say that this workflow “doesn’t work.”
I can say that after a decent number (10?) of conversations about this approach, every coach I’ve talked to tells me they experience 80% (or higher) no-show rates.
Selection bias could be impacting my opinion. It’s possible that I’m only talking to coaches who have high no-show rates while others are doing just fine.
But I’m especially suspicious of this approach because I’ve had two conversations with coaches who are earning well and still suffering this high no-show rate. They’re just succeeding in spite of it. (Which means they’re losing some number of hours per week or per month, sitting in an empty Zoom room while another prospect flakes.)
So, EmyLee is wondering what to do.
My first answer is: I don’t know.
(Relevant sidenote: the good people who promote this method DID NOT use it to grow their businesses. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means this is a case of “do as I say, not as I did.” Which could be why people’s mileage varies so much when they attempt it.)
Where does that leave us?
I go back to relationship building principles:
If you ask for too much, too soon in a relationship, you risk getting in the way of what that relationship could have been with more patience.
Translation: an invitation to a consult immediately after a short video (which came immediately after an ad) may be too much, too soon.
And since we’re taking wild guesses in the absence of sufficient data…
I think there’s a bigger problem here. It’s not just that the person didn’t show up. It’s that she now feels like a failure for not having shown up. She’s embarrassed. The likelihood that she’ll overcome her fear of talking to you AND the embarrassment of having flaked once may be too much for her.
(Please prove me wrong by telling me about all the no-shows who came back later and completed a consultation with you. This would be a great time for me to be very wrong.)
For what it’s worth, my guess is that this is more likely to occur when your prospect starts with some level of fear/shame/embarrassment about whatever they’re dealing with.
To put it in more direct terms: I’d bet (actual dollars) that I would have fewer no-shows for business coaching than I would for depression/anxiety/pornography or food addiction…you get my point.
(Again, this would be the part where I would love to have someone show me data that proves me wrong.)
Okay, fine. That’s a long description of what I think the problem is. I should at least take a guess at the solution.
Here’s my idea:
Lower-stakes (lower-pressure) invitations to help the relationship develop.
What are lower-stakes invitations?
“Listen to this podcast episode for this reason.”
“Join me for a live class on Thursday.”
“Fill out this simple survey to help me get to know you better.”
It seems to be true that when a person agrees to a smaller commitment (like attending a live class), it gives them a chance to prove to themselves that it’s smart and safe to make bigger commitments.
EmyLee talked about how she could start teaching a semi-frequent live class and make it obvious to her subscribers that the class is a safe, useful space.
I don’t want to paralyze us with the thought “It’s too early to invite someone to a mini session/consultation.” That’s not helpful. But I do believe that it might not be best to invite someone to a high-stakes consultation five minutes after they meet you. Let the relationship breathe a little. Give them something else to say yes to.
In the long run I believe our success will come from building a strong relationship with the prospect, rather than having the “best funnel that gets people to show up to consults.”
Thanks for the talk, EmyLee. I learned a lot from it.
Breian has been invited to present to a women’s wellness group (online, of course). She knows it’s an opportunity to develop relationships for her 1-1 coaching, but she’s not sure what her call to action should be at the end of the presentation.
Normally I’d suggest the simplest calls to action would be “sign up for my newsletter and/or follow me on Instagram/Facebook.”
But Breian doesn’t send a regular newsletter and she’s not into social media.
This is useful because conventional wisdom says coaches have to create content if they want to succeed. And although I’ve seen benefits of content creation that make a compelling case for the habit, I don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary. You can fill a coaching practice without traditional content creation.
All you have to do is meet people, coach them, and invite them to take the next step. The next step could be a paid coaching engagement, another unpaid session, or a referral.
I told Breian about an experiment I would love to run:
Schedule two hours per week for free coaching. I didn’t say “make two hours each week available for free coaching.” I said schedule them, as in Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11am to noon.
Make it your whole job to coach two new people in those hours each week. At the end of each session, extend whatever invitation feels great.
In the days and weeks after each unpaid session with a new client, send a note here and a text there to stay in touch.
Repeat for fifty weeks.
I would be shocked if a coach finished this plan and did NOT have a full-to-overflowing calendar of paying clients.
What’s the hard part? Meeting enough new people such that two of them sign up for one of those sessions. After a year of this effort you’d likely have built enough relationships to sustain the referral and renewal cycle for as long as you care to offer 1-1 coaching.
Anybody willing to try this experiment?