in Business

Crafting meaningful customer relationships

When setting up a service or product-based business, there is a concept referred to as “lock in”, where the customer buys in to your ecosystem and, as they add products to their purchase history, it becomes increasingly more difficult to switch away to a competitor.

While corresponding over an email chain with friends this morning, we started talking about software licenses and how to interface between clients and purchasing software licenses for use on client projects (in particular, referring to licenses for WordPress plugins and themes). The topic of multi-site licenses came up, with the idea that the license can be purchased once and re-sold to several clients who can each cover a portion of the maintenance code. On the surface, this looks like a great idea, as each customer gets to pay a bit less than the overall fee, and doesn’t have any responsibility to maintain the license and pay the renewal fee each year.

Here’s why I disagree with this approach.

Customers should have a full understanding

As website and web application developers, it is our responsibility to educate our customers, such that they fully understand the responsibility of owning and running their websites. This helps the customer to see real returns from their website, which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of every business.

It’s also important for customers to understand the pieces which make up their website, how they fit together and the benefits offered by each.

Regular upkeep is important

If your customer is responsible for a recurring license cost, they retain a sense of ownership and responsibility over their online presence, which is a key success factor in crafting a meaningful website for their business.

This also helps to share responsibility between yourself and the customer, ensuring a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Open to evolution

A website is an evolving entity. Keeping licenses separate and individualised helps the customer and yourself to work together to choose the best tools for the specific use case for the customer and the website, rather than the tool you’ve already paid for a multi-site license for, and somehow need to recoup your costs on.

Demonstrating real value

Your customer should feel as though they can leave you at any time. If that sentence doesn’t fully make sense, read it again.

If your customer feels free to leave you for another developer, they can begin to see the true value you bring to the table. This also helps you to stay on your toes, demonstrate meaningful value to your customer and form a long-lasting customer relationship, over time.

Executive summary

Relationships with customers are the most important aspect of the interaction (note: not the website or the payment). Foster a real relationship, demonstrate value and prove to your customer, each day, that you are worth their time. You’ll see soon enough how your customer will begin to do the same.

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  1. Hey Matty, I agree. The initial concept sounds like a benefit to the client, but I appreciate you spelling out why it doesn’t work. For as long as I have recommended premium themes, plugins and extensions to clients, I learned early that it was best for them to have their own full license for the exact points you have listed. Each. One. Of. Them.

    Thanks for the great post and hopefully this gave some good food for thought with the discussion you were having… cheers!

    • Thanks Bob! It was a really useful discussion.

      One topic which came up is customers who don’t actually want to take the time to understand the inner workings of their website, or to purchase the license key themselves.

      In this case, I’d say purchase the license key on behalf of the customer, charge the customer the appropriate fee for the license key and then hand it over to them. They’ll be thankful later. 🙂

  2. I’ve also seen some developers happy to recommend clients getting their own licenses via an affiliate link. You can make some money and still have the client’s best interest at heart. 🙂

    I remember doing that with WPEngine back in the day.