One of my missions in life is to help web designers build recurring revenue streams. After all, my first course was a behind the scenes look at how I built and ran my maintenance and hosting plan which got up to nearly 5k/mo.

Hosting, maintenance, support and care plans are all variations of this important, core recurring revenue stream for web designers but there’s also a HUGE opportunity for you as a web designer to build even more recurring income…growth plans.

But growth plans can be tricky, open-ended and vague for both you knowing what to offer and for clients to understand exactly what you’re doing month to month.

That’s why I’m excited and a half to welcome back to the podcast, WordPress agency legend Troy Dean who shares exactly how you can offer growth plans anywhere from 2k to 10k+ per month for your clients. As the founder of AgencyMavericks.com Troy and his team oversee hundreds of agencies of all sizes with a core focus on growth plans and paid discovery so he knows what’s working TODAY, what rates people are charging and what services get results for clients.

In this meaty, recurring revenue masterclass convo, we cover:

  • How to offer and sell growth plans
  • How to sell digital strategy
  • Why support plans are a better term than “care or maintenance plans”
  • How and when to sell recurring growth plans
  • How to do paid discover

And OH so much more.

On a personal note, how amazing it is that (through this podcast) we get to learn from industry experts who are building 6 and 7-figure agencies?

Troy and I are going to be collaborating more and soon we’ll have some additional training on this topic in more depth inside of Web Designer Pro™ so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

In this episode:

00:00 – Building Recurring Income With Growth Plans
04:17 – Importance of Recurring Revenue Plans
10:44 – Fractional Digital Strategist Business Model
19:35 – Digital Strategy and Paid Discovery Process
22:38 – Website Design Strategy and Planning
32:54 – ‘Recurring Revenue Strategies for Web Designers
42:33 – Effective Agency Growth Strategies
54:14 – Implementing Growth Plans in Your Business

Take Your Agency To The Next Level with Three Days of Speakers, Workshops, Networking and Implementation at MAVCON LIVE


Free templates Troy mentioned:

Connect with Troy at:

Episode #324 Full Transcription

Troy: 

You sell paid discovery for $1,200 up front, versus trying to pitch them an $8,000 website or whatever it is right. You’re selling them a $1,200 workshop up front, so your conversion rate’s way higher on the front end because you’re selling something cheaper. But then what we’ve learned is that if someone buys paid discovery, they’re converting it 85% plus into an ongoing growth plan.

Troy: 

Sure, I could see that for sure, because they’ve already got skin in the game Like they’re already. They’re, they’re invested in it and you’ve you’ve had an opportunity to provide so much value and build so much trust that they’re like well, of course you’re the right person to do this and your process is so nailed down. They’re like great, let’s go.

Josh: 

Welcome to the web design business podcast, with your host, josh Hall, helping you build a web design business that gives you freedom and a lifestyle you love. Welcome, friends, into a very important episode here for the web design business podcast. I think this is one we’re going to be linking back to a lot moving forward in the future, because we’re going to talk about offering growth plans and, more specifically, how you, as a web designer, can build a lot of recurring income with a growth style service for your web design business. Now, if you’re new to the podcast and you have yet to gone through my business course, my framework and what I teach is that you have all of your services in three main categories build, support, grow. You have all your web design services and your build category. You have all of your care plans, maintenance plans and support plans and hosting in your support category, and then you have a growth category and you could do a number of services in your growth category, but it kind of depends on what you want to offer and it could be very loosey, goosey and kind of confusing as far as what you want to do in this growth category, but it’s key for building recurring income and keeping your clients coming back and, more specifically, helping your clients build their business with the website as the core, but you need to have some growth services. So, all that to say, we’re going to take a deep dive into growth services with somebody who may be the best in the business to learn from on this.

Josh: 

Troy Dean is my special guest for this episode. He is going to be sharing what works for his members and students over at Agency Mavericks, which is an incredible coaching and community platform for agencies, and their big thing are growth plans and, as you’ll find out, we’re going to talk in this one about paid discovery, how to offer growth plans, how to offer strategy and get paid for it, what to call yourself if you’re not just a web designer, how to frame these services specifically for recurring income, how to build retainers and all sorts of services in this growth category. All of that and more is covered in this one. So, my goodness, I’m so excited to share it with you. I’m going to get out of the way without further ado.

Josh: 

Here is Troy Dean, founder of Agency Mavericks. Let’s have some fun in talking growth plans. Oh, before we dive in, there was a lot of links mentioned. Go to the show notes at this episode, joshhallco slash three to four and there will be all the links that are mentioned in this one for you. Some were some free downloads, some are some additional resources, so head over there After this. Here’s Troy Troy, round two.

Troy: 

Good to have you back man, thanks for having me back on the show. How many, I’m curious, how many guests do you have back? Like, am I? Am I special, josh? Or is this something you do for everyone? You’re?

Josh: 

pretty special, especially since I’ve been trying to get you back for like six months. I know, uh, look, you’re in Australia, I’m in the States. Time zones are an issue, but uh, yeah.

Troy: 

And also last year, like full transparency. Last year was just a pretty some health issues with my kids, which are all good now. Everyone’s in a great place. But I must say and I know we’re going to talk about this and so I’m not trying to tee this up too much but I sort of stepped away from the business last year in a big way. But the fact that the business runs on recurring revenue allowed me to do that and I’m back now. I’m running the company again, I’m back in as CEO and I’m super excited and things are going really well and everything’s moving in the right direction. But last year I was hardly here, man, because I had to take care of my family. So I was very fortunate to be able to do that. So that’s probably why you’ve been chasing me for six months.

Josh: 

You said it, man. I mean no segue needed. You teed it right up Recurring income, that’s. That’s one of the main reasons for it that I found Like I don’t know if you knew this, troy, but when my first daughter was born I have three kiddos Uh, we spent 56 days in the NICU, which is the newborn intensive care unit.

Josh: 

Our maintenance. My maintenance plan that I had was literally what got us through those two months, like I had. You can imagine I had the hardest time working, working. I had just started scaling my little studio agency, barely um. So I did have a little bit of help during that time, but it was. I think I was bringing in about five thousand dollars a month at that time in our maintenance plan and that was enough to at that time, cover the bills and keep keep the lights on. So I mean, that’s really what it’s all about stability, security, bottom line.

Troy: 

Any other reasons other than that, well you know well, here’s the thing like you, I mean, so you know this now, right, that like it’s when, when you are dealing with you know any kind of issues with your kids, it’s it’s impossible to concentrate on anything else, right, and it’s just so anxiety provoking. But the other thing that is super anxiety provoking is financial pressure. So if you imagine being in that situation, and I like, when Oscar was born, he was in NICU for less than 24 hours, dude, I cannot imagine what it must have been like being there for 56 days. That just sounds like an absolute. I just can’t imagine how you got through that.

Troy: 

And so, full respect to you, brother. You imagine being in that situation and having no recurring revenue, right? I, your brother, you imagine being in that situation and having no recurring revenue, right? I mean, that is just a recipe for disaster. And when we had both of our kids, I saw families in the hospital who you could tell were not only stressed out about their kids but they were stressed out about money, right? I mean, to park in the hospital here in Australia, in the children’s hospital, is like $28 a day to park in the hospital, right Now a lot of families, that’s I mean.

Troy: 

and yes, they get some concessions because if you’re there for a long time they give you a free parking ticket. But you can just tell there’s a lot of dads there who are going off to work and trying to work the shift and they’re under a lot of pressure and the whole time I was like man, I’m so lucky that I’ve got this money just coming into the business every single day because we’re providing value to our clients. The team are doing a great job. I just didn’t have to worry about it. And financial pressure and family pressure are the two kinds of pressures that will just eat your mental bandwidth and not allow you to concentrate on anything. So I just cannot be more grateful for the fact that I made a decision 15 years ago that everything we do is on recurring revenue and if we can’t make it work, then we don’t do it.

Josh: 

Well, yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I I wasn’t expecting that for sure, but it was. It was like my maintenance plan had just got to the point where it’s reason. It’s the reason I created my first course on maintenance plans, sharing everything I knew, because it was literally a life changer for me and my family, and it wasn’t anything huge. But at that point 5K a month it got us through.

Josh: 

So I think, once people get a taste of recurring income and ongoing retainers and growth plans, which I think we’re going to touch on here it changes the game completely, but that’s just it.

Josh: 

I feel like there’s a few different categories of recurring income. You’re in a really unique position, troy, because you’re overseeing agencies and, from what I know, I mean like you said, I think it’s basically all about growth plans and recurring income. Right, I mean, that’s one reason I’m really excited to get your take on this, because I share everything I know and that I’ve learned with my maintenance plan, which was just a typical standard WordPress hosting and maintenance plan with a bunch of different value ads on different tiers, and that’s enough that I’ve found to get most of my students up to five to 10 to maybe 15k per month. But I know there’s a level after this and this is what’s really interesting, and I don’t have too much personal experience in those growth plans and retainer work. So I’d love to just kick us off by like what are the type of things that are included in recurring revenue plans that are growth related and retainer related?

Troy: 

Yes, and this is a great question, because I think there’s a big miss that, in order to increase your pricing of a recurring revenue package or whatever it is and we’ll talk about the names in a second but in order to get people to pay me more per month, that I have to deliver more per month. Right, I have to add more services. I have to, like, learn SEO. I have to figure out how to run Facebook ads. I have to learn conversion rate optimization. I have to split test their landing pages, right, whatever, and the reality is you don’t have to do any of that.

Troy: 

The reality is that and I’ll talk about how to position this in a minute that what clients at that level, what clients really want you to do is clients want you to think for them and they want you to help them figure out what they should do next in order to get closer to the goal they’re trying to achieve or the problem they’re trying to solve, because most small business owners and medium enterprise marketing departments or CEOs are completely overwhelmed.

Troy: 

They have a list of ideas and things they want to do which is, you know, 800 bullet points long. There’s no way they’re going to get to any of it and what happens is they don’t do anything because they look at their to-do list and go well, I don’t have time to start any of these projects, so therefore, I’m not going to start any of them, and the problem still persists. Right? And so the way that? And let’s just unpack some of the names and some of my preference for what we should call this thing right, I’m going to call it a growth plan for, like, an umbrella term, right? But what is it actually? Well, it’s not just a maintenance plan or a care plan. It’s a little bit more than that. It’s not a retainer, because a retainer is traditionally time for money.

Josh: 

Like a bulk of hours.

Troy: 

Right, exactly, if you’re selling a retainer. There’s two problems with that. One is well, what happens if I don’t use all my hours this month? Do they roll over? And that’s a really complex and yucky conversation to have, because then you’ve got like air table spreadsheets, with everyone inclined and how many hours they’ve used, and it’s just a nightmare. And the second question is well, you know, okay, well, I bought this block of hours for this March. That means your hourly rate is $120 an hour. I want it to be cheaper, I want it to be $90 an hour. This is what the client’s saying, right? And so now we’re just arguing over how much my time is worth. So I don’t call it a retainer.

Troy: 

In the old days they would have what I’m talking about here. In the old days they would have called it a consulting retainer, right? I don’t like either of those words for the reasons I’ve just said. And also I don’t like consulting because consultants generally have to do a lot of stuff, right? Like coaches tell the swimmer how to swim the laps and how to manage their nutrition and their workout routine, a consultant gets in the pool and swims the laps for the swimmer, right? I don’t like consulting because it’s too much done for you.

Troy: 

So what we’re really talking about here, to simplify for people, is people might be familiar with the fractional CMO model, right, a fractional chief marketing officer. The problem with that is that if you’re operating as a fractional CMO, a client can come to you and say and I’ve had this happen hey, we’re going to this trade expo in six months time. We need a booth and we need everything designed and we need the printables and we need the booth display and the brochure. I’m like whoa, hang on a second. If it doesn’t happen on the internet, in my world it doesn’t exist. I don’t do print media, I can’t help you with any of that.

Troy: 

And so the way that most of our agency clients are positioning a growth plan, the way they’re selling it to clients, is they’re positioning themselves as a fractional digital strategist. And the reason those three words work is because digital means it’s anything that happens online, anything that happens in the digital space. Strategist which we can unpack is. This is not about implementing a whole bunch of tactics. This is actually about designing a strategy that’s going to help the client get towards their goals, which is the most valuable part of the whole relationship, by the way, and fractional means it’s way cheaper than hiring a full-time digital strategist. So it’s a fraction of the cost for the client, but you get access to the digital strategist plus their network, their team, the network of other agencies that they know. And the real advantage of doing this is, if I’m a fractional digital strategist and a client hires me, I get to see inside dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses throughout the year, and I know what’s working and what’s not, across any type of vertical, any geography, right? If you hire a full-time digital strategist, within six months, that person’s trapped in a silo, which is your business, and they don’t have access to what’s going on in the real world, and so they’re not making decisions based on a broad knowledge, right? So there’s a lot of advantages of presenting yourself as a fractional digital strategist to a client, and here’s the, because I can hear what everyone’s saying. Well, okay, well, you know how much is that worth and what do I get? So here’s the kind of quick and dirty version.

Troy: 

Most of our agencies are charging anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000 a month to operate as a fractional digital strategist, and most of them are spending most of their time thinking for the client and helping the client figure out what to do next, and that is across web development agencies who don’t do any marketing services. We have web dev agencies getting paid 6k a month to operate as a fractional digital strategist. They don’t do any. They actually don’t do any seo or or marketing services in-house, right. They just do web development integrations. They build microsites. They build like really complex gravity form conditional logic API integrations. If the client needs SEO, they will then refer or partner with one of our other agencies to do the SEO, which is an additional cost, right. We also have social media agencies doing this. We also have SEO agencies doing this.

Troy: 

We have an SEO agency who’s over $3 million a year in revenue who is now rolling out this model because they’ve realized that their problem is that they’re kind of capped at clients paying $1,500 a month. Right, they just don’t want to take on any more clients at $1,500 a month because you imagine, you take on another 20 clients at $1,500 a month to grow your revenue, you got to hire another. You know a couple of people. So the way they’re growing their revenue is to actually grow the spend per client. So they’re getting their clients to spend more per month and what they’re delivering, for that is the strategy. It’s not the done for you, tactical execution, it’s the plan which is. You know, that’s what a digital strategist does, is they map out the plan for the client and then work with the client to make sure that the plan gets executed.

Josh: 

My biggest question on all this is when do you sell this? Because I always found that websites were the perfect lead in for everything. Even when I was on your show last year, it was like all roads led to websites and it was so easy for me to say I’m a web designer. Inevitably, I would get asked well, can you design this and do our social media and help us with our emails, like it? Just it opened the door for everything. If I were to I’m trying to imagine myself and I’m just playing devil’s advocate here 100% go into a networking group and saying I’m a fractional digital strategist, the looks that I would get from business owners in Columbus, ohio, would probably be like what does that mean? What did you just say? So is this something that you offer primarily on the backend, as a web designer or as your main service, or when do you sell this?

Troy: 

So our recommendation is the first thing that you sell a client is paid discovery. Obviously, we don’t call a paid discovery to the client, we call it. Our terminology that we use is a digital roadmap workshop, and I’ll give you an example in a minute. When someone because I had this, I had one of our clients ask us last week I’m getting all these incoming leads, People are saying you know how much for a website I’m like cool, here’s how you answer that question, which I’ll mention in a minute.

Troy: 

So the first thing we do is we sell a paid discovery workshop which we position as a digital roadmap workshop, and then, off the back of that, we pitch a growth plan. So essentially, what happens is a client will pay anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000 for a workshop. At the end of that, they get their strategy for the next 12 months right. If we were going to work together over the next 12 months, here’s exactly what we would do for you or with you. Here it is. Here’s the plan. You’ve paid for it. You can go execute it yourself. You can hire another agency to do it, or you can hire us and we’ll help you get it done. There you go.

Troy: 

The reactions on the new Mac are coming up, yeah because I’m a hodler, Thumbs up yeah, and so then they either, and what happens is, as part of the plan, over the next 12 months, we may rebuild you a website. We may build you a brand new website, we may redesign your existing website, we may just improve the conversion rate of your existing website. We’re not sure yet, but over the next 12 months, this is what we’re going to work on. Now I need to say this If your current business model is not broken, don’t fix it. Don’t do this just because you heard some weirdo from Australia with a middle-aged Mohawk talking about it on Josh’s podcast. You don’t need to do this. If your current business model is working fine, then don’t fix it if it’s not broken.

Troy: 

What we’ve seen, though, is that this is the fastest way to grow recurring revenue. We had an agency join us, had zero recurring revenue, went to 12.5ka month in recurring revenue in about four weeks, is now at 24k a month in recurring revenue within about six months of working with us, and that’s been a game changer for him, because he’s like well, now I can really pick and choose the clients I want to work with, because I’m profitable just from recurring revenue. So we found the fastest way to grow recurring revenue is to pitch growth plans and as part of a growth plan, you might build a website, but we might not. And here’s when someone comes to us and says hey, I need you to run our ads, or we need social media, or we need SEO, we need you to redo our website. The first question we ask is great love to give you a proposal for your new website. Can you send me a digital strategy for the next 12 months so I can see how the website fits into everything else you’re doing? So then I can give you a really accurate proposal on how long it’s going to take and what the costs are and all the moving parts. And at that point point they open the top drawer on their desk and go where is that did?

Troy: 

I’m sure we had a digital strat. Where was the digital? Does anyone know where the digital strategy? Of course, 95 of clients don’t have a digital strategy. Yeah, and so if you take on a new client, you would know this. You’re taking a new client to put a website. You’re going to have to kind of work that out for them in the initial.

Josh: 

I was just going to say for anyone who’s like, I don’t know if I want to do this. You’re already doing digital strategy for free.

Troy: 

Correct, exactly, you’re already doing it for free as part of the project, right? So what we do is we just slice that off as a standalone product. We call it paid discovery internally. We pitch it to the client as a digital roadmap workshop, two or three hours on Zoom. You get all the key stakeholders. You run them through a series of questions. In fact, I’ve got a free template pack I’m happy to give you all guys. It’s a fully white-labeled workbook and slide deck they can use to run paid discovery workshops and you ask them a bunch of questions.

Troy: 

Your job during paid discovery, by the way, is not to be a magician and answer their questions and give them a bunch of advice. Your job is just to be a general practitioner, like a doctor. Just be that annoying six-year-old who asks them so many questions that it drives them crazy. Collect all the data, then go back and collate and go right. What would we do with this client over the next 12 months if they were to say yes, here’s two and a half grand a month, let’s go. What would we do over the next 12 months? Map it out. I use a Kanban board to map it out so I can show them visually what we’re going to do, go back and present it to them and say, based on what we learned, here’s what we do over the next 12 months. Watch them nod and go yeah, that’s great, that sounds perfect, that’s exactly what we want.

Troy: 

And then go what do you want to do? And they’ll say well, how much does it cost for you guys to help us do this? And you say two and a half a month or four grand a month or whatever your price point is to be profitable? And they say, great, let’s go, or they don’t. So what’s happening is the conversion rate. Imagine you know you sell paid discovery for $1,200 upfront, versus trying to pitch them an $8,000 website or whatever it is right. You’re selling a $1,200 workshop upfront. So your conversion rate’s way higher on the front end because you’re selling something cheaper. But then what we’ve learned is that if someone buys paid discovery, they’re converting it 85% plus into an ongoing growth plan.

Troy: 

Sure, I could see that for sure, because they’ve already got skin in the game, like they’re already. They’re invested in it and you’ve had an opportunity to provide so much value and build so much trust that they’re like well, of course you’re the right person to do this and your process is so nailed down. They’re like great, let’s go.

Josh: 

Also, one of the keys that I found in selling websites for me was selling a vision, like giving them a vision of what we could do even with just a website not even marketing or a growth plan. With just a website, not even marketing, or a growth plan yeah, so if you give them an idea of what they could do, a roadmap for the next year and how you could build a website and implement it and clean up the SEO and do this and this and whatever you want to offer in that growth plan which I definitely have some more questions about that, I feel like, is the true gold, is like sharing a vision and getting them inspired and pumped up, because suddenly they’re not focused about themselves where they are now. They’re seeing where they could be in a year with your help.

Josh: 

So I think that’s the biggest shift between just selling a website and selling like business success online. That’s right.

Troy: 

That’s right, and and and. So let’s just look, let’s just think. Let’s just talk about web design for a minute, right? If you’re designing websites and developing websites, you don’t do SEO. You don’t run ads, you don’t want to, that’s okay, it’s totally fine. You don’t want to manage social media for a client? I get it. And your skill set is designing websites and developing websites, and you’ve got your tech stack down and everyone’s happy, right? How do you split this up? Well, if you look at what does building a website include, right?

Troy: 

What I learned over the years is that every page on a website should have a goal. It should be designed to get the user of that web page to do something, and maybe it’s just click through to another web page, right? So let’s think about a categories archive page on a good old, standard WordPress website. What is the goal of a categories archive page? It’s to get the user to click a link and read more. It’s to get the user to click a link and read more, right? So how do we know that that categories archive page is actually achieving the goal unless we have a look at the analytics and see how many people are clicking, read more and try and get an improvement on that. And then, what’s the purpose of the blog post that they’re reading? Is it for them to opt in and download a free resource and get into the email campaign? Is it if you’re dealing with clients who work on an advertising model? Is it just page views, because the more people that view the page, the more they get paid for ad sense? What is the goal of the blog post? What is the goal of the contact form? What is the goal of the landing page? What’s the goal of the homepage? Right? And so if you start to think about what is the, you know the goal of this landing page is to get people to opt in. Maybe we should remove the navigation menu from the landing page and just have the logo right. Maybe we can run a test and do that. So you can, and I’ve seen this happen. I’ve seen straight up web designers write themselves three years worth of work with a client without adding any services to their offering, just by getting super granular about working out the goal of each page.

Troy: 

And I think of a website really as a bunch of Lego blocks. In fact, I think of a growth plan as a bunch of Lego blocks. We’ve got a. We published a video which I think we’re about to put on YouTube. I’ll make sure you get a link and everyone can go watch it. Simon Kelly breaks down, who’s one of our clients and used to also be a coach here. He partnered with another agency. They’ve just hit seven figures a year and their whole model now is paid discovery into gross plans. Right, that’s their whole model.

Troy: 

Someone comes in and says we need a website. They’re like okay, before we do anything, you have to go through a workshop. We’ll get you on a gross plan. We may build a website, but let us decide that because we’re the experts. Don’t come to us and tell us you need a website. It’s like going to the doctor and going well, I’ve been on Google and I think this rash might be cancerous, we need to operate immediately. And the doctor says let me be the judge of that Exactly. So we published a video where Simon shows the template, the Google doc template, which he gives away. I’m happy to share it with you guys how he structures the strategy doc at the end of this and presents it to the client. And he’s really smart. What he did is at the end of the doc.

Troy: 

He basically listed out all of the things they could do in the future. Now they do marketing services, but you don’t need to. We’ve got plenty of agencies who just do web design and web development. You list out all the things we could do in the future. Right, we could analyze whether or not this page is converting and then we could make some changes to help the conversion. If you just list out all the things you can do, the client looks at it and says, oh well, we want to do that and we want to do that, and you go great, let’s do this in the first three months, then we can tackle that stuff later. And that’s how you write yourself at least 12 months worth of work, because, of course, the client wants that. Who doesn’t want all that stuff? You know.

Josh: 

Well, and it makes sense too. And one of the questions inevitably I had for you was like what if somebody doesn’t do ads or doesn’t have any experience with much email marketing or anything like that, that may be in a growth plan. You’re totally right, you could absolutely start with conversions, start with basic user experience on websites, then naturally that’ll probably lead to content messaging, seo, and then that’s probably six months right there, potentially, so you could just keep on buying yourself more time in that type of situation, I imagine.

Troy: 

Now what happens if you’re a technical agency, right, and you don’t do any marketing services at all? So Mara Malani from Mara Mayo Design and the other guys, jj Toothman, who’s a WordPress VIP agency I can’t remember the name of their agency, they are and Brett Stone from Stone Digital here in Australia they’re technical web development agencies, right? So Mara’s problem was, she came to me and this was the first time. This was 18 months ago. She came to me and this was the first time. I said, right, we’re going to actually crack this nut for agencies that don’t offer marketing services.

Troy: 

She said the problem I’ve got at the moment is I sell a block of hours to this client. Her clients are research organizations. They publish research. They don’t do marketing. Their biggest challenge is finding good researchers, right, they’re government funded. That’s their business model.

Troy: 

So she said the problem is these clients just give my team all these tasks and I watch my team doing these tasks and I’m looking at it going. Why are they doing that? It doesn’t make any sense, right? They’re incurring so much technical debt because they’ve got all these microsites built on these different frameworks, and she’s like this doesn’t make any sense. She said I want to be involved in the decision-making process with the client before they give my team all this work. I said great, so go pitch yourself as a fractional technical CTO or a fractional technical strategist. Right, and so she did. So she’s getting paid mid four figures a month. I’ll let you figure it out Somewhere between three and 10 grand a month just to be a fractional technical strategist, and her job is to help the client figure out how to brief her team, who then get paid extra for the implementation.

Troy: 

They’re not doing any marketing. They’re saying we’ve got this conference coming up or we’ve got this research thing coming out. We need a really technical conditional logic gravity form that then sends all this data off to all these third party tools via API. Right, she’s helping them figure out the brief before her team gets the brief, which she then charges extra for her team to implement. So I just want people listening to this to understand this can be done. If you’re not, this isn’t just about marketing services.

Josh: 

Well, the other importance here with being any sort of fractional strategist, consultant, all these different terms that could fit that title I’ve found typically clients will have an idea or a need and then the web designer or the agency owner is going right into work mode and strategy is like an afterthought, it’s like, oh, okay, we could do this.

Josh: 

It’s like an email, like maybe one email, one half an hour call and then you’re right to go into work. There’s so much value For anyone who’s a little bit opposed to this or thinking like, is this person just a glorified project manager or an idea person who’s just making somebody else do the work? There? There’s so much importance and value on strategy and I dare say, as I’ve looked back over the past few years cause I’ve had some very low lows over the past few years and very high highs the best parts of the last few years for me have come when I’ve just sat and thought and strategized and really made a vision and made a game plan. That’s like that’s so much of the work, because you’ll end up doing that half-ass when you are trying to catch up with projects and doing all the work.

Josh: 

And then, oh, I had this idea. I wish I would have thought about that in the beginning, just to make sure everyone understands the importance of this role.

Troy: 

Totally, and I’ll give you two very practical examples. When I was back in the day, we were doing a lot of e-commerce websites and our design design team, who are an external studio, they would build these beautiful interfaces and then our developers would go build it. And the developers would always come back. They always come back with this question um, what happens on the thank you page? There’s no design for the thank you page. I’m like what do you mean? So we’d go through woocommerce, right, and we, you know, do a test order, land on the thank you page, which just looked like the theme, right, it wasn’t designed. Because they’re like well, the design team haven’t designed the thank you page. Like, oh, that’s because no one sat down and thought about it. What did we put on the thank you page? Right, it always gets lost. So the development team would just have to kind of mock up a thank you page based on what they thought. Right Now, the thank you page for any kind of transaction should actually it is an opportunity to tell the customer what to do next Shopify have great thank you pages. It’s like hey, put your phone number in here and get text updates on the delivery. I’m like thank you very much. They’ve now got my phone number for future marketing. Very clever, but also there’s value in it for me.

Troy: 

The other page that never gets designed and is a great strategic opportunity is the unsubscribe page. What happens when I unsubscribe from my notifications? A link has to go somewhere, so the link that I click to unsubscribe goes to a page that says thank you, you’ve been unsubscribed. Our unsubscribe pages have a call to action to book a team. Book a call with our team. Yet we know you want to unsubscribe. Who wants emails? If you just want to move fast and ignore all the fluff, book a call with our team and we’ll just help you move fast and we can stop emailing you because we’ll just help you get the thing done right Again. Who’s got time to think about that? Strategists have time to think about that, and so the idea is help your client, do less but do it better, and that’s what strategy is.

Josh: 

Those little examples there, troy too are just great ideas and examples of what you could do in a growth plan, because that could 100% be added to a website or included in a website ongoing, and those may evolve and change as lead generators are posted and new resources are added to the site.

Josh: 

I have to ask this burning question, though, and that is what is the difference between, or if there is a difference between, a care plan now and a growth plan? And before I turn it over to you, my recommendation, my framework that worked for me and that I tell my clients now, my students now, is I recommend that you have three categories Build, support, grow. Your growth plans are fitting very nicely with what could be in what I’m going to teach my students now with growth plans and the different ideas and ways to do about it Go about building websites, supporting them with maintenance and basic care and then having some sort of growth plan. The only reason I personally unless you changed my mind here the only reason I like having a care plan or a support plan separated is if they ever turned off the growth plan. I don’t want them turning off hosting and maintenance for the website. What’s?

Josh: 

your thoughts on that.

Troy: 

Yeah, totally. I think it’s smart. My personal I’m just at a point so full transparency. I’m at a point in my career now where I don’t really need a lot of clients, right. Agency Mavericks is in very good shape. It’s doing very well. I have a handful of private clients just for fun and also just to keep my source sharp so that when I’m teaching my clients, it’s not just some dinosaur talking about what happened 15 years ago, that I’m actually still doing it right. So and again, I don’t mind being fully transparent I’m at about 20K a month recurring now, just for some private clients that I kind of act as a fractional digital strategist and they pay me anywhere between three and a half and 5,500 a month, right, so I think I’ve got four private clients at the moment. I don’t do anything for them, really, I don’t implement anything for them. I might give them some copywriting frameworks, I might help them write some emails. I certainly don’t log into their Google analytics or log into their website or anything like that, right, I just I’m more an advisor.

Josh: 

They’re not calling Troy when their email goes down.

Troy: 

No, exactly so. So I don’t have care plans now because I just, I just I don’t want to manage that, right, but I it totally makes sense to me. The way I would position it is hey, if you’re on a growth plan, all that stuff in the support plan, we just do it for free, okay, right. But if you ever turn off because you’re a vip client, but if you ever turn off the growth plan, we’ll just downgrade you to a support plan.

Josh: 

sorry, the thumbs are coming up on the screen again I actually wondered I was in circle and that happened and I wondered if it was in circle. I didn’t realize it was mac related.

Troy: 

It’s a new. It’s a new mac, it’s a new mac operating system thing that if you put your thumbs up, it makes you know. Yeah, they’re called gestures, they’re called reactions. So if you ever, if you ever and I speak with my hands, man, I’m animated.

Josh: 

So let’s go. It’ll be on YouTube too. We’ll make it fun.

Troy: 

Exactly so. If you ever turn off the growth plan, then you just downgrade your support plan and you know and that’s where you’re occurring is. Now let me say this here’s something we can learn from other business models. Right, I’m and I know a lot of people might turn this off immediately when they hear me say this but I’m deep into the high-level world these days. I’ve become a big fan of the high-level software. I am a sponsored high-level. I’m an endorsed entrepreneur, so they sponsor my YouTube channel at the moment. I’ve been talking about high-level long before the sponsorships. I’m not just doing this for the money, although the money helps, but the reason I love high level and I think you can do this. I know you can do this with WordPress. Right, like, forget about it. It doesn’t matter.

Troy: 

The tech stack is irrelevant. If you’ve got a good tech stack of WordPress and you know ActiveCampaign and ConvertBox and you know Google Tag Manager, you’ve got your tech stack really dialed in. You should be positioning that to the client as their software. So here’s your software. It’s $197 a month, which is, by the way, the minimum. What most people are selling high level for is $197, $297 a month, and the two business models with high level is you sell it as a software or a managed service? A managed service is like a growth plan, but then if you ever turn off the managed services, you’re still paying me $2.97 a month for the software. Forget that, it’s high level. You should be doing that with WordPress, activecampaign, convertbox, because you’ve taken the time to get that tech stack dialed in right. You manage the plugins, you manage the updates. You’ve taken the time to figure those problems out. Sell that instance of your tech stack to the client as software right, instead of calling it maintenance. That’s their software solution. We’ll manage this for you and help you grow. You’re at $2,500 a month If you turn that off. You’re at 2,500 a month. If you turn that off, you’re at 297 a month.

Troy: 

You know like if you in my mind, if you, if you’re selling maintenance plans now for you know less than a couple of hundred bucks a month the fastest way to grow your recurring is just to repackage it as as managed software Right and and you’re done. It’s like cause. The problem is. The problem I always found with maintenance is Chrome. My browser just gets updated automatically in the background and I don’t need to pay for it, and so I always kind of found that the clients don’t want to pay for maintenance. They expect it, which is why I’ve kind of repositioned it to care plans and now I’ve repackaged to growth plans because I want to pay for growth. It’s. You know, I think support is actually probably a better word than maintenance.

Josh: 

Yeah, same here. For years I’ve bounced back in between. Well, when I sold, at the height of selling my plan, which we top in, was about the 5K range, I said security and maintenance, but this was back in 2018. The landscape even looked different back then. Oh, definitely Now. I agree, maintenance plan is a bit of a dated term. Care plan sounds sweet and nice, but is a client going to really want to invest in that support though? I think that term support it explains so clearly that you are in the corner and you’re totally right, troy Like there’s a lot more than just clicking update on plugins or using ManageWP to automate your plugin updates. Like there’s so many things you could do in your support plan, from optimization, from calls with your clients, which all lead into growth plans. So what I’m teaching right now is kind of like a well, we’ll keep on rolling with the term fractional. I’m like a fractional maintenance plan.

Josh: 

Teacher teaching growth plans kind of in between there. So the line kind of blurs.

Troy: 

And I’m not trying to devalue maintenance plans at all. I mean, one of our top ranking blog posts back in the day was I think we wrote it in 2014 was how to sell WordPress maintenance plans right, and that that one blog post generated a lot of business, and but what I’m saying now is like, internally, when we’re hanging out in our Facebook groups, that are our WordPress conferences. Right, you and I are going to talk about maintenance plans. We’re going to talk about paid discovery. We’re going to talk about all that kind of stuff. When I’m in front of a client, I just use different language, because you know that that, like that, no one wants to pay for discovery, so I would never tell a client this is a paid discovery works. I want to pay for discovery because everyone else does discovery for free, so it’s just a.

Josh: 

I was going to say for the average web designer it to be hard to make six figures with a maintenance plan, unless you’re doing things at scale, even a two to three hundred dollar monthly plan, it’s going to take a lot.

Josh: 

It’s going to be very difficult and inevitably, what you’re shedding light on here is so genius because inevitably you become the strategist after that. That’s right. I found myself in that situation, so help us if we can clarify a little more on these growth plans. Troy, I love, oh, and actually one thing I don’t want to overlook is I was curious to get your thought on the movement for subscription web design and I wonder. I’d imagine this could totally fit in with a growth plan for 12 or 18 months.

Troy: 

Totally.

Josh: 

What’s your thought on that? Yeah, totally Adding it all.

Troy: 

So the problem, what I don’t, what I’m not a fan of, is saying hey, you know websites 15 grand, we’re just going to put you on a 1200 a month payment plan, right? Uh, because you know the the difference between? It’s still transactional. They get the website, they resent you for the next 12 months because they’re paying this bill, they pay it off, then they go great, thanks. It hasn’t really done what I wanted it to do. That was kind of a waste of money, and so what I like to do is I like to keep the relationship with the client going every month, because that’s how we can really add value to the client. And let’s not forget, if you want to get to serious recurring revenue, like life-changing recurring revenue, you got to add value to a bunch of clients and figure out a way to do that in a leveraged model that is profitable and the internet, like everything we need to do. That is here, right? So, for example, convertbox is one of my favorite pieces of software for managing pop-ups on your website. You have a ConvertBox license I don’t even know what it costs you these days like four or 500 bucks as a one time. You can sell that to an unlimited number of clients right, and so that’s a leverage point because of the internet and because we, as developers and designers and kind of integrators, know how to use this technology. That’s the value that we’re offering clients. The alternative is you give ConvertBox to a client and go here, you go, go figure it out, they log in, they’re overwhelmed very quickly and they go. I don’t know how to do this Right, so that’s why you’re paying me, and so I want to keep.

Troy: 

What a growth plan looks like is we? I meet with my clients every two weeks for about half an hour to 45 minutes, and I have a structured agenda it’s actually the growth acronym, which I’m happy to unpack and I walk them through that agenda every two weeks and the the. The purpose of that meeting is to help them stay on track. So the very first call will be longer, probably typically a 90 minute call to begin with, and during that 90 minute call we plan the work for the next three months, and then every meeting for the next three months we work the plan, and then every three months we cut a new plan and we go right, what’s the plan for the next 90 days?

Troy: 

We plan the work, and then every two weeks we meet so that we can work the plan right. So we plan the work and then work the plan and in between those they have access to me and Slack. They can ask questions and my team, or the people I refer them to, will go implement the thing and they will do whatever they need to do on their end. And then we meet every two weeks and go right, where are we at? What’s next? How are we going? Where are we stuck? What do we need? And we roll on right. So that’s what a growth plan actually looks like from a practical point of view.

Josh: 

So for those who this is brand new to which this is opening my eyes to what could be included in this as well. I love thinking about things in threes and I almost foresee like a three-tier growth plan, one being fairly stripped down. Just a few of the service, even if we just started out with conversions, website work, additions, seo, basic SEO. The next level up could be potentially email marketing could be involved, social media, whatever you want to add, overall digital strategy, copy messaging. A top tier, maybe more intensive If we want to do some of the work is. Would you advise that type of mindset If I wanted to flush this out into something that could be very hands-off, versus, if it is something I want to do or my team wants to do, have a higher tier for it? I guess I’m just thinking about how do we structure these growth plans to protect ourselves, but also, if it is something we want to actually do instead of just push off to another agency, how would we phrase that frame? That?

Troy: 

Let me give you a couple of ways to break this down. Agency. How would we phrase that frame? Let me give you a couple of ways to break this down. There’s you can. You can break down the mode of delivery and into three different tiers. Or you can, if you’re just doing done for you, if you’re like a typical agency, just doing done for you for a client, you can break down what you deliver, right. Let’s break down the mode of delivery first.

Troy: 

So we have very successful email marketing agencies who service e-commerce stores right, multiple seven-figure-a-year agencies. And on the other spectrum, we have a seven-figure-a-year agency who’s effectively a training company. They train their clients how to do social media and search marketing. Both of those agencies are now rolling out different modes of delivery in order to grow their revenue. Because if you’re a done-for-you agency and you get to $2 or $3 million a year in revenue, the only way to keep growing is to employ more people, more bums on seats right, and it becomes chaotic. It’s very stressful. Once you reach 20, 25, 30 staff, you need to start employing HR people to manage the staff and it becomes. You know, I’m talking to agency owners now who feel like they own a daycare center, and I mean that respectfully. But like once you have 30 staff, you’re just dealing with someone’s broken up, someone’s you know, going through a divorce, someone’s kid is sick.

Josh: 

It’s like you’re just dealing with human beings and human beings Someone’s hooking up in the closet or something. Correct Exactly.

Troy: 

Someone’s photographing their ass on the photocopy machine, right, and so the different mode of delivery is you can have a done for you model. You can have a done with you or do it yourself, and so if you’re a like you have a, uh, a do it yourself model because you teach people how to do it right. The done with you model is coaching. So, hey, here’s how to do that. So my email marketing agency that we’re working with, they’re done for you, but they’re starting to roll out. Done with you, which is hey, um, I’ll give you access to all of the frameworks that we use on our clients that pay us, you know, three or four grand a month. Give you exact same access to the same frameworks and the training and the curriculum that we use on these done for you clients, but you’ll pay us 1500 bucks a month and you’ll be in a Slack channel so you can do it yourself and ask us questions when you get stuck.

Troy: 

Right, that’s a done with you model. And then the do it yourself model is hey, for five grand, you’ve got lifetime access to my online curriculum here. Just go and learn the same frameworks, but you don’t get access to the team. So that’s it. That’s an online course, essentially right. So you’ve got online course coaching agency. They’re the three modes of delivery, right? Same stuff. You don’t have to change what you do deliver. You go look, I don’t run ads, I don’t do SEO, I just do conversion optimized websites and I’ll do it for you. So we’ve got another agency who’s a YouTuber, actually, and he gets all of his leads off YouTube and he’s a funnel architect, and so he builds funnels for clients. He’s now starting to draw funnels for clients that they can go implement themselves. So that’s a kind of a done with you model, and eventually he’ll package that up into an online curriculum and then he has a do it yourself model. Right, so it it’s three different ways of delivering, the same outcome, but three different modes of delivery yeah, I love that.

Josh: 

It’s genius. So, these growth plans, are they typically 12 months or what? An 18 month type package where? Or do you do like 12 months and you can go month to month after that?

Troy: 

what’s well so my personal uh, my personal preference is to a 12 month. So my personal preference is a 12-month agreement at a time. So I have clients who are in their third or fourth year with me now. But initially you can, if the client doesn’t want to sign a 12-month contract, you can do a three-month sprint and just add so much value in that first three months that they’re then in for 12 months. So that’s typically the way I reduce risk on the front end is hey, let’s do a three-month sprint, get to know each other, because also after three months I might decide that I don’t want to work with a client because they’re painful, right. But once we’re good, then let’s sign a 12-month agreement and then we roll in 12-month sprints. I just want to talk about the other mode of the other way you can protect yourself and restrict the scope of this is you have say you’re just doing all done for you.

Troy: 

What I like to do is think about what I do and I come up with what I call the three pillars of transformation, right? So when I’m coaching agencies, it’s sales and marketing, team operations. They’re the three big pillars that we work on, and so we have a three-month accelerator program where all we do is help agencies grow their recurring revenue. Don’t talk about team, we don’t talk about operations, we just help them grow their recurring revenue. So I’m limiting the scope of what me and the team do by just it’s still done with you, right? There’s no done for you. It’s not an online course, it’s one-on-one mentoring and coaching. But all we’re talking about is our first pillar of transformation, which is helping you grow your recurring revenues through better sales and marketing. Once you graduate from that, let’s come and hang out in the mastermind and talk about team and operations and we open the gates right, gotcha?

Troy: 

So, from a web design point of view, I’ve been working a lot with our agencies over the last 12 months to come up with, like a generic hey, I don’t have three pillars of transformation, but I’m a web design agency, how do I communicate this to my clients? And so what we came up with I’m a web design agency, how do I communicate this to my clients? And so what we came up with I’m happy to give this to you guys now is there’s really three pillars that a web design agency works on. And because I like an alliteration, josh we came up with trust, traffic and transformation. So trust is about making sure that you’ve got a good user interface and a good user experience on the website, that it’s mobile responsive. You got lots of five-star reviews on Google. You’ve got a good Google my Business listing. You’ve got some social proof on the website. The website just breeds trust by using it right. You could just spend three months fixing that for a client and go, hey, we’re just working on trust for the next three months?

Troy: 

right. Then we need to work on traffic. Now I don’t do SEO or ads, so I’m going to partner with someone who’s going to come in and help drive some ads and do some SEO to start getting some traffic. But I can tell you now, if you fix GMB, fix Google, my Business and reviews, you’re going to get more traffic anyway. Right, so we might spend the next three months working on traffic. Then we might spend the next three months working on transformation, which is another word for conversion.

Troy: 

How do we take this traffic and the trust that we’ve built and transform that traffic into leads, clients, donations, ambassadors, applicants, whatever it is we’re trying to convert? For Now you don’t have to do them in that order. I started working with a client who had great trust, tons of traffic, just no conversion event, right. So all we did was set up a lead capture form and an email sequence, converted that traffic into a bunch of customers. Now we’ve gone full stream and now we’re working on the trust element. So these are like Lego blocks that you can pull in and use whenever the client needs it, and your job as a strategist is to help the client figure out what they need next.

Josh: 

There it is. That’s the model right there. This is great, troy. I am curious tactically is the title in the email description for somebody, or the email signature? Is it fractional digital strategist? Is that what you know? The blue collar construction company owner? Is that what he’s or does it not matter? What’s the? What’s the tagline?

Troy: 

Look, I don’t think it matters. What I like is I like to pitch. After paid discovery, we go back with our recommendations. Our Kanban board of this is what we’re going to do over the next 12 months if we work together and eventually they say, all right, well, how does this work? And that’s when we say we explain the concept of a fractional digital strategist and the way we explain it is, at this point in the relationship, it’s a straightforward conversation to have with the client and say, hey, look, do you think if you could afford to hire a digital strategist full time and explain what a digital strategist does? A digital strategist will take everything that we’ve spoken about here and make sure the job gets done right. If you could hire a full-time digital strategist, do you think that would be a valuable hire? And if you’ve explained what a digital strategist does, they will say, yeah, man, if we could afford a full-time digital strategist, that would be great. And you go great.

Troy: 

Well, unfortunately, a full-time digital strategist is going to cost you $120,000 a year, plus benefits, plus they’re going to have to hire an agency and freelancers to help implement, plus this, plus this right. So you’re looking at $200, $250 a year just to have a full-time digital strategist to actually manage the strategy and get it done. The good news is we offer a fractional digital strategy plan, which means it costs you a fraction of the cost. We work a fraction of the week on your project, but you get access to our network, our team and all of the experience we have across multiple clients. So it’s going to cost you about a third of that. So it’s, you know, two and a half grand a month or three grand a month, or whatever it is Right, and so that’s usually how we pitch it. We don’t usually talk about fractional digital strategist until the client is nodding and agreeing and just wants to know how it works.

Josh: 

Totally, totally, and the cool thing about this is this is a cap on. This is for anyone who’s thinking this, selling this is going to be so much different, how am I going to have time to do as many onboarding workshops or whatever we call the initial phase here? The reality is, though, I imagine, you don’t need too many. You don’t need to sell much If you have this model. You get like half a dozen clients who are paying you two to 5k a month, or 10k a month. You got a quarter million dollar business overnight, potentially with a handful of growth plans.

Troy: 

The math. So I break down the math. I published a video about this and I break down the math. The path to seven figures is 28 clients at 3K a month, that’s $84,000 a month. Right, 28 clients at three grand a month. We have a social media marketing agency where their goal is 14 clients at 6K a month 14 clients, totally manageable at 6K a month. We have a social media marketing agency where their goal is 14 clients at 6K a month 14 clients, totally manageable at 6K a month. I know that sounds unbelievable until you get your first client to pay you 6K a month. Or you know someone who’s getting paid 6K a month and then you’re like, oh, it can be done. I just need to do it 14 times and I’ve got a million dollar a year. Business based on recurring revenue and I’m actually doing less work for clients. I’m getting paid to think it’s a beautiful business model.

Josh: 

But even to half a mil.

Troy: 

Half a mil is 14 clients at 3K a month. That’s a $500,000 a year recurring revenue business. That’s significant.

Josh: 

Well, troy, I have to thank you publicly, man, because I’ve really been thinking about how I can serve my members of my community Web Designer Pro better with these growth plans. What’s involved with marketing? But somebody doesn’t want to be a digital strategist or a digital marketer. This is it Growth plans are the answer.

Josh: 

So, man, thank you so much for shedding some light on this. I know we’ve just scratched the surface in many regards, but talked about some resources. I’ll make sure I get the links from you. The strategy doc from Simon. You said you had a free template right For.

Troy: 

Yeah, I’ve got a template for the paid discovery workshops. I’ve got a template pack. I’ll make sure I get you that and I’ll get you the training on the paid discovery from Simon Kelly I’ve also got. We’ve also got a template, a notion template, on how one of our coaches manages growth plans.

Josh: 

So I’ll make sure we get that with the video as well. I’ll give you those links you can pop in the show notes. Okay, awesome, I wrote it all down, so we’ll have that included. Well, troy, round two. Man, this was a doozy. I’m already pumped for round three. Who knows what we’re going to cover in round three? Cause this was this is going to be tough to beat, man. That was great. Thanks for having me, man. Good to see you again, man, thanks, awesome. So again, I hope you enjoyed this one.

Josh: 

Friends, there’s so many things you can do in a growth style service, but what Troy dished out really is the best way to do it profitably and to make it potentially your main service. So I hope you’re pumped about this. I hope you’re able to implement a lot of this in your business. I’m actually going to be doing more and more inside of Web Designer Pro on expanding different options for growth plans, and Troy and I actually even talked about some potential collaborations to get some agency maverick resources inside of Pro. So I’ll keep you updated on that.

Josh: 

Again, go to the show notes for this episode to check out all of the links that Troy and I mentioned. Josh, hallco, slash three to four is where you’ll find all the links that were mentioned here. There’s also a full transcription there for you. And again, check out agency Mavericks if you’re interested in working with Troy and the team. And for now, I hope this helped prompt some ideas and give you some really good ways to implement some growth plans. If you are not doing any sort of growth service for your clients, you’re missing out. Friends, best place to start is my business course, which you can find inside of Web Designer Pro. That’s where we’ll look at all of your offers and pricing and get that in shape, and then, when you’re ready, we’ll have more and more resources from Troy and his team to offer growth plans. All right, friends, make sure you’re subscribed and I will see you on the next episode. More hot ones coming.

Web Design Business

The Web Design Business Podcast is available anywhere you listen:

Enjoying the show? Leave a podcast review 🙏