Why You Generate More Revenue When You Retain Clients

You’ve heard that horrifying statistic about how many businesses fail within the first few years of launch, right? If you haven’t, then let’s have Fundera break it down for us:

80% of businesses will make it through an entire year.

66% of businesses make it to their second anniversary.

50% of businesses are able to hit the five-year mark.

Only 30% make it to ten years of continuous operation.

While those statistics aren’t as discouraging as they could be, it also doesn’t feel that great when you put your WordPress business into the context of those success rates. I mean, what causes so many businesses to survive one year of business, but then drop out as the years go by? You would think that with more practice and more time to build up a client base that your chances of survival would increase.

This is where I believe the failure to endure after two, five, or ten years comes from. I think WordPress professionals work so hard to create a valuable service and to find new clients to keep their business chugging along, but it’s not enough. You have to play the long game, too.

And this is why I’m going to talk about why you need to start focusing on how to retain clients instead of bringing in new ones.

Why You Generate More Revenue When You Retain Clients

While you may be inclined to spend any extra time you have on attracting and finding high-paying clients (which is definitely important), you should instead prioritize ways in which you can retain the ones you have. Here’s why I say this:

Repeat customers are much more valuable to your business than new ones.

Of course, that’s not to say you should stop any and all efforts to find new clients. It’s always good to inject new blood into your WordPress project pipeline. However, it would be much more beneficial and profitable to you in the long run to retain clients.

Now, many of the statistics that support my theory pertain directly to ecommerce businesses that deal in the sale of tangible products. That said, business is business; physical or digital. If you have something of value to offer clients, then there are ways to retain their business over the long-term and, consequently, improve your WordPress business’s chances of survival.

So, let me explain why maintaining recurring business with clients is so valuable:

Greater Spend Per Client

In general, long-standing and loyal clients are willing to spend more with a business that they trust.

Data published by RJMetrics showed that “[c]ompanies that have mastered repeat purchases are getting up to 75% of their revenue from repeat customers.”

A survey from Bain & Company and Mainspring expanded on this point, noting that “the longer their relationship with an online retailer, the more customers spent in a given period of time.”

Can you imagine how much more at ease you would feel with your business if 75% of your incoming revenue were guaranteed by the repeat business you secured? That would definitely make the process of seeking out new clients a much easier and less stressful one.

Higher Conversion Rates

In addition to spending more than new clients, returning clients are easier to convert. This is especially pertinent for those of you running a WordPress business. While you may have gained entry to a client’s business by offering traditional web design or WordPress consulting services, there is much more you could do to generate recurring revenue after that.

  • Did you build a WordPress plugin that you sell on your site and offer long-term support for?
  • Do you run a membership service from your website?
  • Do you offer WordPress maintenance or any other kind of support, marketing, or design services?

Rather than finish what you assumed would be a one-off project and then move on to the next new client, why not focus on trying to sell your current customer on the additional value of one of your other services or products? They’ll be more receptive to this value-add than someone you’ve never worked with before.

Data collected by Monetate showed that “[r]eturning visitors… have a higher conversion rate at 4.5%…. New visitors convert just 2.4% of the time.”

Bain & Company and Mainspring also found that it’s much easier to upsell and cross-sell to clients that you’ve already demonstrated a long-standing relationship with. “Across the board, web shoppers expressed willingness to buy different types of products from their online retailers of choice.” In the example given, they found that 70% of Gap customers said they were open to making non-clothing purchases (like furniture) from them as well.

Improved ROI

You know this already, but it costs a surprising amount of money to market to new clients. Even if you’re utilizing free or cheap marketing tools and strategies, the time you spend scouring job boards, promoting your content on social, creating proposals, and so on is costly.

What Bain & Company and Mainspring found in their research was that “[b]ecause customer acquisition costs… are high, to recoup your investment you need to convince customers to return to your site time and again.” They estimated it could take one business nearly 12 months of sales to recover the costs of marketing to a new customer.

Granted, the markup on your services may be broad enough to recover much of those costs in the first go-round, but think about the return you’d make on your initial investment with a client if they retained your services.

That is one less client you would have to market to, pitch to, and prepare proposals and other official documentation for. The relationship and rapport would already be there. It would simply be a matter of kicking off a new type of project with them and the time spent on that would be negligible.

Higher Referral Rates

There’s something to be said for loyal customers. Not only are they willing to thank you for a job well done, but many of them want to shout it from the rooftops about how great you are.

Bain & Company and Mainspring found that return customers were more likely to refer others to a website after completing multiple purchases. In addition, as they made more purchases, the number of people they referred to the site went up as well.

And why does this matter to your WordPress business? After all, a referral is nothing more than a new customer that you have to onboard, right? Well, yes, but…

A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that “referred customers are, on average, about 18% more likely than others to stay with the… [business]. We also projected that they generate 16% more in profits.”

So, not only does it pay to retain clients in your WordPress business because of the direct value they bring, but the referral business they send your way can prove to be more profitable as well.

What You Should Be Doing to Retain More Clients

Again, while I don’t want to discourage anyone from looking for new clients, I think it’s really important for WordPress professionals to spend time fostering better relationships with their current clients in the hopes of retaining their business over the long-run. It’s hard enough trying to maintain the balancing act of running a WordPress business while doing the actual work that powers your service, and this will make it significantly easier on you.

Here are my 16 suggestions on what to do to retain more clients:

  1. Right from the very start, set the proper expectations with your clients. They’ll appreciate that more than someone trying to be slick and mislead them on what they’re actually buying into.
  2. Never over-promise or over-commit to anything, even if you think it’ll make it easier to sell one of your services. Honesty and a quality return on their investment will make a greater impact.
  3. Communicate regularly with your clients. Giving them time to think and worry about what you’re doing, when the site is going to be ready, what is happening with all that money they’re spending on maintenance… it’s no good. Keep them in the loop and allay those fears before they get out of control.
  4. Always be the consummate professional, even if your clients try to take the low road.
  5. Never allow your clients to know more than you do about your business (like what’s trending in web design). If you can consistently demonstrate your expertise, they’ll have no reason to question it.
  6. Treat your clients like they’re your partner in this (because they are). If you treat them like a cash cow, they’ll see right through you.
  7. Provide fair and honest rates that are in line with the service you offer.
  8. Reward loyal customers with attractive promotional offers and discounts.
  9. Give current and long-standing customers insider access to new things coming down your pipeline, like a new WordPress tool, a private webinar, or expanded SEO services.
  10. Solicit your clients for feedback–and then actually put it to good use. If they see that you value their input, they’ll be more likely to trust that you have their best interests at heart.
  11. Show your customers some love by adding their testimonials to your website and creating case studies that show off how amazing their website now looks.
  12. Make yourself easy to get in touch with. Publish your hours of availability on your site and in your email signature line. Offer customer service through your site as well as social media. And provide self-support options like an FAQs page on your website or in the backend of their WordPress installation in case they’re unable to reach you.
  13. Make the process of working with you a super convenient one. If you haven’t done so already, I’d suggest running much of your WordPress business from your website. Clients can take care of recurring payments there and schedule time to talk to you about additional services.
  14. Simplify, streamline, and automate as much of the WordPress backend for them as you can. Even if they’re not ready to sign up for more work right now, you can leave a lasting impression by making it incredibly easy for them to get into WordPress and focus on what needs to be done; not on issuing the latest core update, monitoring for spam, etc.
  15. Don’t just use your blog, newsletter, or social media to push your personal agenda. The content you produce and share through these platforms should be relevant and valuable to your clients so that, when they do see it, they remember why they trust and depend on you as much as they do.
  16. Anticipate your clients’ needs and offer a well-rounded set of services that touch on all their WordPress needs. The more you can help them consolidate their spending and the effort they expend on working with a third-party to support their business, the more likely they will be to stick with your service.


Running a business is hard no matter how long you’ve been doing it. And part of the problem is not having enough hours in the day to do your actual work—consulting, designing, writing, whatever your WordPress specialty is—in addition to everything else you need to do, not only to keep your business afloat, but to make it thrive.

And that’s the key here: you want your business to thrive and survive long past when the statistics say you shouldn’t. By prioritizing a client retainment strategy, you will be able to do this much more effectively in the years to come.

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Suzanne Scacca

Suzanne Scacca is a freelance copywriter whose work has been featured on WordPress and web design blogs like Elegant Themes, Pagely, and A List Apart. She believes in the power of good quotes, timely statistics, and simple, easy-to-follow language that speaks directly to the pain of the audience.

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