How to Gain Clients for Life with Stacey Harris

Have things been slowing down in your business? What if you could start each year knowing that you have the majority of the revenue you need locked in?

Many entrepreneurs have noticed a recent slowdown in their businesses due to consumer anxiety surrounding the economy. The natural reaction to that is to market to attract new people and bring them into your business to boost revenue. But are you neglecting an easier way?

As a podcast producer for service-based businesses, Stacey Harris has noticed the downturn trend and gotten ahead of the curve. She and I have had a conversation about this recently during a retreat. But instead of putting all the attention on the front end, she’s helping others get set up for continued success (regardless of what happens with the economy), focusing on gaining clients for life.

And now, we’re bringing our conversation to you. In this episode of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, you’ll learn about how you can focus on bringing in more revenue by paying attention to the people who’ve already paid you. We’ll tell you about the small things you can do and shifts you can make to take advantage of this small business gamechanger.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

7:52 – Some businesses like cable and cell phone companies keep making this mistake.

10:16 – What’s the difference between a repeating customer and a lifetime client?

16:04 – I give examples of how consumer-facing businesses can provide extra value to existing clients in times of economic uncertainty.

22:01 – We run a people-over-profit business here at The CEO Collective, which helps us stand out. Here’s an example of how.

26:12 – How can you make things even a tiny bit easier for your clients? Stacey talks about how she’s doing it for podcasters.

28:56 – One of the biggest shifts in my business recently came from an unexpected source.

31:38 – What’s the real linchpin to gaining clients for life? And how have I used it to evolve my business since the beginning?

40:01 – You can bring all of your expertise to the table to make money in multiple ways. Stacey discusses a recent example of how she did it.

43:04 – Stacey reveals the hardest part about communicating in client relationships.

49:07 – What else happens for your business when you retain clients? It makes business growth so much easier.

Mentioned in How to Gain Clients for Life with Stacey Harris

Racheal Cook: When you think about sales, usually we think first about going out there and finding brand new people, brand new clients to come work with us in our business. But what if you could start the year knowing that 80% of your revenue is already on the books? It's already going to happen because you have set up your business to create clients for life? Keep on listening because today, I'm joined by my dear friend and podcast producer, Stacey Harris, of Uncommonly More to talk about why our philosophy of clients for life is such a game changer for small businesses.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back to another conversation all about making more sales. This has been such a great topic to deep dive into this month on Promote Yourself to CEO and it truly is a topic that I feel there is a lot more nuance in this conversation that we need to have about making more sales as in making more revenue in your business because most of the advice that you're going to hear out in the business world is very much focused on the front end of making more sales.

It's very much focused on, if you know my framework: Attract, Engage, Nurture, Invite, Delight, a lot of information, a lot of the training, a lot of the education, a lot of the conversation is all on the front end, it's all about Attract, Engage, Nurture, it's all about getting new people to find you in your business, getting them to engage with you in some way, so either doing the request for proposal, request for consult, getting onto your email list, starting to learn more about you and how you work.

Those three key phases on the very front end of your systems to scale, and what happens then is they talk about sales, getting that client in the door, and there's nothing in the conversation afterwards, which is why we did a whole series by the way on Delight on customer experience, which is different than customer service. Again, if you didn’t listen to that series, I highly recommend that you add that to your list to listen to.

But today I wanted to have a conversation with my dear friend, Stacey Harris. Stacey Harris and I have known each other for a decade now, I think at least a decade now. We go way back. She is one of my dearest friends, one of my business besties, one of the people that when I'm mulling over something or need to talk through something, I get on Voxer with her because she totally understands me in the way that I operate, in the way that I think about the work that I'm doing.

She has, of course, just this amazing, amazing marketing and business brain that you might not know about if all you knew about her is that she's my podcast producer.

Today we are bringing the conversation to the forefront about how both of us focus not just on the front end of our business, not just on the Attract, Engage, Nurture but how we create clients for life and continue to bring in more revenue in our business by paying attention to the people who've already paid us, by paying attention to the people who've already signed up for our program, worked with us in a consult call, or have paid us in some way to do something with or for them, and how this philosophy has given us both such stability in our businesses.

So much stability that even during a time like as of the time that we're recording this, there's a lot of economic uncertainty right now and a lot of people are very, very freaked out about the future of their business because people aren't buying things as frequently, they're a bit more discerning with their buying decisions, so if all you're doing is focusing on the front end of your business of brand new people, you don't have established client relationships, you're probably on the struggle bus. You're very vulnerable. Your business is very vulnerable to economic changes.

I'm going to say that again, if you do not have a way for clients to continue working with you, if you don't think through clients for life, this philosophy that we have that we're sharing with you in this conversation, your business is going to be very vulnerable when things happen that are beyond your control, when the economy changes, if we have a recession, if we have an election.

There are so many times, the beginning of the pandemic, where we really saw how vulnerable many small businesses are and often, it's because they don't have the experience piece in place, they don't have the philosophy that we need to trademark this clients for life that Stacey and I are about to talk about, so I'm not going to hold off this conversation anymore.

I want you to get into it and I hope this really gets you thinking a little bit differently about the way that you are approaching making more revenue in your business by thinking about how you can just continue to show up and serve the people who've already been inside of your business.

Hey, CEOs. I'm so excited to have this conversation with my dear friend and very long time podcast producer, Stacey Harris. Welcome, Stacey.

Stacey Harris: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to have this conversation too because I feel like this is one of those conversations that you and I have over wine at retreats in the corner on couches. We really need to have more of those in a way that other people can hear them.

Racheal Cook: Exactly, exactly. I'm like, “Everybody wants to know what we really talk about. These are the conversations we have,” because there is so much hype out there that is making business harder than it needs to be.

One of the things that Stacey and I were talking about recently as we were planning out this month's podcast content all about sales—and this is why, by the way, just totally unbiased pitch for Stacey here, except biased because I've worked with her forever, this is why you work with someone like Stacey because she helps me map out this content and shares her thoughts and this is one of her thoughts when we're mapping out all this series around sales was “Let's talk about what it means to have clients for life.”

Because there are too many people out there who all are talking about to small business owners and entrepreneurs is just how to grow, grow, grow, sell, sell, sell sell and they forget that if you're only looking at the front end, you have people coming in to work with you once but you don't have a way that they can continue to work with you, you're always going to be in hustle mode in your business. So let's get into it, Stacey.

Stacey Harris: I love this. You know what, I think we should start this with this idea, literally while you were saying this, it made me think of it, I always get mad, well, now I don't get mad at cable companies because I don't have regular cable just to date me here but cell phone carriers have always been really bad about this but you see these new customers get such and such and such and such a deal, they're like, “Well, what about me? I've been paying you for 10 years.”

I'm going through this right now with a company that I will not name and we are making a big change inside the business because one of our tools was like, “We're just going to not care about these people who have been with us for eight years who have affiliate safe sent our way for seven years. We're going to be so focused on this bringing in the new that we forget that there's a ton of value, much more profitable value in those people we're already serving and we're already in front of.”

Racheal Cook: This is why this conversation is so important so anyone who knows my framework knows that we talk about Attract, Engage, Nurture, Invite, Delight. The Delight stage, I know we're talking about sales this month but really when you're building customers for life, you have to be thinking through customer experience and the value needs to be there because let's face it, loyalty is not a thing like it used to be.

There are some businesses out there like the cell phone business or cable business who they just know that by default, the hassle of changing providers is the only reason why people are still with them so they have really no incentive to work harder on their customer experience because they know already like the hassle of changing providers is what maintains their business.

The bar is on the floor but for businesses like ours, service-based businesses, it is so important to think about in your business, in your business model how once somebody works with you, how can you keep that person as a client and have them not just pay you once for a one-time thing but truly build a relationship with them like something that is mutually beneficial, it's a win-win for both people, and you grow together.

I think this is where a lot of the business advice right now is just missing a huge opportunity to truly help their clients but for both of us, we have clients who have been with us for years and years and years.

Stacey Harris: Like a decade. When I say years and years, we're not talking about two and three years of like, “Oh, they repeated their cycle.” I think my longest client who will end her contract with me once and for all this year because she's retiring, like that was the end of our relationship, will have been with me 10 years by the time she retires.

In fact, she cycled back to me the other day with a project that was similar to how we first started working together. She's like, “I just need help with this,” and I was like, “Oh, it's fun. It's like when we first started working together,” really close the weird loop for me in my brain but yeah, years and years is not “Oh, I got them to renew one time.” When I talk about years and years, when I talk about a lifetime customer cycle, I'm talking in 5, 10, and 15-year increments.

Racheal Cook: Absolutely. I think what happens in your business, for anyone who doesn't know Stacey, I'm sure I will record this in the pre part but Stacey's a podcast producer so once you work with her, she's producing your show every single month, every single week if that's your frequency, and when you are able to work with people that long and provide the level of support you provide, not just on the technical side but also on the strategy side, which is really why Stacey is worth every single freaking penny and I literally did back of the napkin math, I have paid you six figures over the years.

This is where people forget and they don't think about when we're talking lifetime customer value, there is a massive difference between a one-time pay of $500 or a couple of thousand dollars versus somebody who over the course of years is paying you six figures.

Stacey Harris: I think there are things we can put in that make that easier. I re-enroll my clients every quarter because every quarter, we sit down and we have the call that inspired this conversation where we reconnect, we re-engage, and we get excited about what's happening.

It's not just, “Oh, yeah, Stacey is doing the work of pushing the buttons and the podcast goes out and woohoo,” no, it's “Stacey is a ride-or-die in my business. Stacey sits alongside me and helps build the strategy that gets results, that generates leads, that educates leads, that converts leads.”

Racheal Cook: Opposite of the cable company who is happy to let that auto pay just run every single month and they don't provide value beyond, again, bar on the floor, the bare minimum of what they promised you, if you're a service-based business and if you are not coming up with a way to continuously be valuable, to continuously be thinking not just about the thing you do but how the thing you do can continue to drive results for your clients, you're missing out on a massive opportunity now.

Because instead of needing every year to bring in however many new clients, you now have built demand where you go into each year knowing that 80% of the work is already done. Your income is coming already because you've built that client base and they are committed because they are continuously getting the results that you provide.

Stacey Harris: If we bring on four new clients a year, we see record-breaking growth for most companies, four. I have to bring in 4 clients in 12 months to break records for most people's growth just to give people an idea of what this can look like. It doesn't have to be “I've gotta go start at zero every year.”

I think when we're in a time like we're in right now, the economic shifts we're seeing in 2023, I didn't come into this year like a lot of service providers who said, “Well, crap, I've got to have a low offer item and I've got to go find all these people who are maybe in more of a startup stage and sell them at how to launch a podcast program.”

No. I went, “You know what, how else can I be of service this year to the clients we already have to the people who are already in relationship with us so that if we need to make up some cash, if we need to fortify the cash-on-hand, I can go, ‘Hey, this will be a win for you, this will be a win for me,’ and I'm not going out and finding new people and having to start relationships from scratch in a time where people are already getting a little more conscientious about how they’re investing and how they’re spending.”

Racheal Cook: Yeah. They're going to be more discerning about where they're spending their money. This is why I think if you are a service-based business but an expert in your field, if you aren't paying attention to what is currently happening with your clients and can be ahead of the conversation, then again, you're missing an opportunity to provide tremendous value.

Stacey and I have been talking about the economic downturn and how people's mindsets are changing, how buyer behavior is changing, and how that relates to my podcast and the topics I bring to the show, which is why we're sitting here talking about clients for life because when the economy changes, if you're drastically shifting your model, because now everything you were doing is a nice-to-have versus a must-have, if your business is essentially a commodity and easy to sell things when things are easy to sell like during a boom market, people have money to spend.

They're not going to be as discerning as they are going to be in a recession when the economy changes. That's why you need to make sure you're ahead of the curve and providing that extra value. I want to say we're talking to business owners, both of our businesses work with business owners, but I even have had this conversation so many times with my clients who are not working with business owners, most of my clients don't, most of my clients are very much consumer facing and so I want to give some examples for that.

I have a client who is a chiropractor and for her right now, she knows that if times get tough, her clients might decrease their frequency, but how can she make sure that they know how incredibly important it is for their health, for their stamina, for their ability to show up and do whatever it is they need to do in their life? Show up and be the mom they want to be, show up and be the caregiver they need to be, show up in their work.

If you end up in pain, you're not showing up the way you want to show up so she's making sure to continuously like reinforce like, “This is part of how you do that and it's not selfish to take care of yourself. This is actually the foundation for how you can do all the other things in your life.”

I've talked to people, because we just hosted The CEO Retreat, I'm talking to people who are so stressed out about new people not wanting to buy things but I'm like, “But think about how you can continue to talk to your existing client base even your mom's a hair stylist so you probably saw this all growing up like when your mom's a hair stylist, people don't just stop going to get their hair cut when times get hard generally speaking. It's still something that they're still going to get their hair cut, they're still going to see the doctor, they're still going to get their teeth cleaned.

There are so many businesses out there that they truly depend, they are built on these regular clients who they know are going to be in their calendar on an ongoing basis and things might shift a little bit.

I actually read recently that there's been a shift from the platinum blonde trend to more of like a honey blonde, medium darker blonde and it's because it's more expensive to be platinum blonde but they're still going to be blonde. They're still going to spend the money to go do it. They might change what they're doing a tiny bit but they're still going to show up.

Stacey Harris: The maintenance cycle shifts.

Racheal Cook: Yes. You want to think like that if you're consumer-facing. Your clients still need you. You just are going to have to adapt to what they need a tiny bit if you have those people who are consistently coming back to work with you. Things might need to tweak a little bit but if you are ahead of the curve, imagine you're that hairdresser and you've been seeing all these platinum blonde people and the first thing they do when they sit in the chair now is “Oh, gosh, it costs so much to maintain this,” “Hey, no worries. What we can do is this.”

Be proactive, be the expert, provide that value, and you can do that in literally any business, any field, anything. Just own your expertise and be proactive in helping your clients so that they continue showing up for you because now they look at you as somebody who's got their back, who’s not just looking at them as a paycheck.

Stacey Harris: Yeah. I'd even shift that word from value to education. This is a shift we've been making a lot. You and I have talked a lot about this in our quarterly calls like, “This is a real shift I'm starting to make,” because I think value so often is “I'm trying to make them understand that I'm smart.” That's different than education.

Education is “How can you be making the most of your investment with me?” Let's use our hair stylist example, “This is an opportunity for me to actually sell you something that's more profitable for me.” Because here, let's tone it down a little bit, let's do something else a little more rudy, easier to maintain, but here's some products that are going to help you go a little further between appointments. So now I'm making a more profitable sale.

I'm in a situation where I'm making more money without having somebody in my chair longer so I have time for the referrals that are now coming in because I'm taking care of my existing clients in a way where it's easy for them to say, “Oh, I know your stylist is hammering you about how you have to stay platinum blonde and you have to come every four weeks because that's how you maintain this, I'm working with Stacey and she actually helped me understand this because blah-blah-blah.”

This is why we have to be looking at how are we educating our clients about why they work with us, why we're different, where they can get the most value out of our work together, out of their investment with us. Again, this is why we have those quarterly calls. Yes, they're a huge service to the client but they're also a huge service to me. They let me know where my client is in their headspace so that I can get ahead of it.

We have clients who we were planning Q3 maternity leave situations in January because we were able to get that conversation ahead of time and go, “Cool, how do we get ahead of this so it's not stressful two weeks before you have a baby? And oh, by the way we know you also have a toddler running around.” There's all of these pieces here that you have to understand.

I can hop on the call and say, “Hey, how are you feeling? How are we with our run-up? Where are we?” The same is true for vacations or time off or “I'm feeling the stress of this investment, how can I make a shift?” It's not a yes or no, it's not an “I pay you or I don't pay you,” it's “I pay you this or I pay you that so that I can manage my finances personally or inside of a business through some shifts I'm figuring out.” I'm being proactive and coming to them and saying ahead of time, “Where are we? What do we need to do to make sure that we're delivering what you need right now?”

Racheal Cook: Absolutely. This is where, again, our business models are a little bit different. One of the big shifts we made, we are very much a people-over-profit business, you are too. I think in the space I tend to operate in, there are a lot of people who are very much the opposite even if they say they're people-first…

Stacey Harris: Sometimes it's just a good slogan.

Racheal Cook: It's a good slogan for them but when you actually look at how they handle situations, that is not the case. One of the policies we've put in place that I think this is what makes us different—and this is not something you're going to find on a sales page or anywhere but this is just a peek into how we think about things—we've had clients who, because life happens, something unexpected happens, and it does not feel in integrity to me if I know someone is going through a crisis in their personal life to be like, “No, no, you promised to pay me x amount for the next period of time,” because I know the best coaches I've ever had are the ones who I was just upfront with and said, “This thing happened and I am scrambling right now. Can I postpone a payment? Can I split this payment in half? Is there something we can do? Because I know I need your support so badly right now.”

There are coaches who are like, “Nope, you signed on this and that is the end of the story,” and then there are people who are, again, people-first and they're like, “Oh, you had a death in the family? No problem. Let's pause for a minute,” and then they check in on you. “Oh, your partner just got laid off and you guys need a minute to figure things out? Okay. Let's work together.”

We just had a situation where an amazing client, one of our biggest clients, canceled on her and gave her no notice. Now she's like, “What do I do?” that's when they need me the most and this has really been drilled into me ever since the pandemic has started because we saw at the beginning of the pandemic so many people and businesses, there was so much uncertainty and so much out of our control.

If you had the opportunity as a business owner to look to your clients and say, “You know what, we get that this is out of your control and you need a minute to figure sh*t out and we're going to give you that.”

Because we run our business well enough to know that one, we have the capacity to do that, we're capable of doing that because we're running sustainable businesses, and when you run a sustainable business, it's not a make-or-break situation for you to actually take care of your clients, you're set up so that you have that flexibility, you have that extra buffer in your own coffers so that you can make these calls on a case-by-case basis.

But what also happens is when you show up for people like that, now you have taken this relationship from transactional to truly a relationship, to truly a “These are people who got my back, who genuinely care in my best interest, and aren't seeing me just as another deposit from Stripe. They truly care if something's happening for me.”

To me, this is just how you operate, it's just how we operate, and there are so many who aren't thinking that way that I really want to, we're going to see this just like we saw in the first few months of the pandemic. Right now we're seeing a lot of people who, their instinct when the economy shifts is to look through their budget, to look through where they're spending money, and to start making cuts as quickly as possible.

The fastest way to lose clients is to hide and say, “I'm just going to wait and see.” The best way to keep clients for life when something is happening is to be, “Hey, I'm here,” and like Stacey said, looking for “How can I support you? How can I educate you? How can I problem-solve with you, help you get through this, and be on the other side?”

Stacey Harris: Yep. We know that our clients are having to make cuts right now. One of the things we've done, and Rach, you’ll find out about this later, you haven't found out about this yet, is we're adding some things on that are easy for us to do. Our clients are starting to get additional marketing assets for their shows because I know that a lot of our clients are having to strip out maybe a graphic designer or streamline their hours with VA support.

We're starting to package on, as we move into this next, or by the time you hear this, last month, but we're starting to package in some additional marketing assets for episodes so they have a little extra so they can be doing what they need to do to market their show through this time where maybe things are feeling a little tight for them.

It's not a huge lift off our back. It's not nothing, it takes some more effort, it takes some more time, it is definitely us over-delivering right now but it allows us to go see that things might be tight. I see that things might be tough, I'm acknowledging that, and here's a way we can help you where we're already supporting you.

This wasn't an email we sent and said, “Hey, do you want this additional package?” it's literally been as it's been added in a little message in our dashboard that says, “Hey, by the way, there are some additional assets starting with this episode so you have some additional marketing materials. It's a little easier for you to share your shows in places.” Because it's a thing we can do to say, “Hey, we see that it's hard, here's how I could make it one percent easier.”

Racheal Cook: A tiny bit easier. That's so incredibly insightful, Stacey, I love that you said that. When you understand what's going on for your clients and think through how this might impact their work with you, I'm thinking I have so many health and wellness people right now, and I will never let go of my health and wellness support team because they are the ones who truly make sure I can show up and do what I need to do.

I'm in an extreme case because I do have chronic illnesses so I have learned what happens. When I try to cut back, I'm going to be in pain in a minute, but where they're incredibly valuable is when they say stuff like this. When they're like, “Hey, you're going on a trip? We actually have this great CBD pain cream that is going to make it so much easier for you to travel.”

When they come to me and they're like, “Hey, we know you're maybe considering letting go of your meal prep level you were at, here are some of our favorite easy ways even though you're maybe changing your price point. Maybe going from 10 meals a week to just 5.” When they're ahead of the curve on that, it's so valuable and it means I'm not leaving. Maybe the way I'm working with them is changing slightly but I'm not leaving.

Think about this in your business. One of the biggest shifts we saw, it's so funny at this most recent CEO Retreat and we have so many conversations where I'm just constantly feeling like I'm reminding people like, “Yeah, me too. I feel this too. It happens to me too,” there have been a lot of people in the last few months who are like, “Gosh, people aren't buying things like they used to, things that I thought were going to be what brought in the money aren't what brought in the money.”

I was like, “Yeah, me too,” and what's funny is we were ahead of our revenue goals in Q1 and it's not the way I thought it was going to come. It wasn't from a huge explosion in new clients. It was return clients coming back and doing something else with us, and having those channels for those people to do that, having that constant communication.

It's so funny because I've had people reach out to me who have been working with me over the years, I just had somebody reach out to me who's like, “Rach, I did The CEO Retreat with you and then I did the Collective with you and now my team has grown. I think I actually need you to come do the retreat just for the whole team so more like an executive retreat now, not just me as a CEO but me with my whole team.”

They came to me and pitched that. Now I'm like, “Well, that's really smart. Who else can I go to who I've grown to the point now where they have a team and the team needs to be on the retreat? Who can I bring that to?” I had to do zero marketing, there was no sales page, there was no launch, there was no anything, it was literally just paying attention to your clients and making it a relationship where they know that they can come to you, you can come to them because you're always thinking about how can I best take care of them.

Stacey Harris: I think this is something we did a lot last year with our private podcast. We set up private podcasts for very nearly every client we had last year because it was like, “Hey, it's an easy add-on.” We essentially added probably the total revenue last year as if we had an additional client with our current clientele.

As we start looking at them making changes now, needing to make shifts, or even where we're making shifts, this is something I think is really important, I have clients that I've been working with for nine years, I don't do for them what I sell now, there have been things we've been able to add in of what we sell now but we've maintained those relationships in a way so that I can deliver what I did in a systemized way to the clients who are still a fit personality-wise with our largest structure and who are a pleasure to work with and then we add on the things as we've extended our skills.

I think so often, when we think about making changes, we think we can never go to a client we've worked with before. But I have clients who are production clients now who have been with me since we launched the agency who started working with me in 2014, 2015 on single-session social media strategy calls but we built a relationship.

They know I understand their business, they know I understand their marketing so as my services evolved, it was an obvious fit who they would choose because we already had a relationship. Now we've had a working relationship for eight years because our work has evolved together.

It doesn't have to be I can never talk to anybody who was in that offering from eight years ago because what I do now is way more high level, way more advanced, or has completely shifted. I don't do anything with social media now outside of providing marketing assets for our production clients but I have the relationship because that approach to relationship building with our clients is the thing that's always there regardless of what our services are or regardless of how they've evolved.

I can go to them and say, “Hey, a great example of this is literally how my agency started.” I had built a social media strategy for a client, they had had it, like a couple of other people, semi-implemented by somebody else but I didn't offer implementation at the time and so when it came to, “Hey, I want to make a shift, I want to launch an agency,” I was able to go to some of those clients and say, “Hey, I'm thinking about doing this. What do you think?” I send that email on a Friday, by Monday we had an agency because I had clients going, “Yes, please.”

Racheal Cook: Because they were like, “Yes, thank you because I've been trying to figure out implementation on my own or I've been trying to hire people and they don't understand the strategy.” Yes, absolutely.

Stacey Harris: Because I stayed in relationship with them, I knew it hadn't gone well, because I stayed in communication with them after their one-time payment to me had cleared, the check is clear, we are done because I stayed in a relationship because I have systems in my business to keep us in communication, I was able to go and say, “I'm thinking about doing a thing.”

I launched this agency with very nearly six figures in retainer revenue because I could go to clients who didn't even want services I had provided them previously because we'd built relationships, stayed in communication, and I was anticipating what they might need because I was aware of what was going on for them. I think that's the linchpin is that communication, that conversation, that humanity of it all.

Racheal Cook: It's the humanity, it's putting people first, and I think people over-complicate this. People over-complicate how do you keep up with clients, how do you see what's going on for them? If you are playing a huge volume game, yeah, it's going to be pretty hard to keep up with tens of thousands of people, but most of us aren't doing that. I have so many business owners I work with who are running multiple six, seven, even eight-figure businesses with less than 500 clients, sometimes less than 200 clients.

Stacey Harris: Less than 100.

Racheal Cook: Less than 100 clients, you can have a seven-figure business. You have to really intentionally design your business that way and ignore all the hypey stuff out there, ignore the hypey stuff out there, care about your clients, keep those clients for life, and know that when you put that relationship first—and if you're still like, “How do I do that?” go back and listen to the whole customer experience series we did—put the relationships first and think about how you can build your business in a way where you're, in some ways, letting your clients lead.

I feel like every iteration of my business, and those who've been following me for forever, I started as the Yogipreneur, then we moved into Racheal Cook because I saw that my clients were shifting and who I was reaching was shifting, and now we're The CEO Collective. I hosted a CEO Retreat with CEO Collective members and a handful had been with me in some way, shape, or another since I was the Yogipreneur. They keep returning and people keep circling back.

The biggest thing for me over the last few years was shifting—and this is where I've had to eat my own dog food in a lot of ways—shifting away from courses to going back into more of the consulting. Because I found that while courses seemed very exciting, passive, and blah-blah-blah, one, they don't fit me because I'm just very much a relationships person and I used to get so frustrated not knowing where people are in the course. Are they getting the results from the course?

Then I was adding in all this support and not getting compensated for that support because they'd only paid me that one time and here I am, sometimes years later continuously showing up and supporting people. Making that shift back into consulting and more of a consulting-based model has made it possible so that it's more of a win-win on all sides.

I'm continuously moving in a direction that my clients are moving. We're growing together, we're evolving together, and because I'm responding to their needs and putting things out there that are aligned with both of us, with what I need and with what they need, I don't have to have new clients come in and I'll still have the best quarter ever because the same people are going to come back and work with me again and again and again.

Stacey Harris: Yep. I love that you said that because I've definitely been there too. You remember I'm sure I ran a membership for four or five years, I sold courses, I did that and I ran into that same problem you ran into. I had such a hard time untying my attachment to their success, not even their success in the course but literally in getting them to consume any of it. It’s so hard.

Racheal Cook: It was literally just like we give a sh*t and we see when people join The CEO Collective, join The CEO Retreat, or anything, the first thing I'll start doing is if I don't know their name already, I'm looking them up.

Stacey Harris: Oh, lightly, loving you like non-creepy ways, I'm stalking you on the internet.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I'm like, “If you sign up to work with us, just know I've checked out your website, your social media, I'm looking for who are you. If you're coming here to get business support and I can't find that information, then we have a lot to work on.

Stacey Harris: We know exactly what we're covering in that first call.

Racheal Cook: We know exactly what's happening. But it genuinely makes me happy to see the evolution of my clients and to know that they know, because of the way that I have intentionally designed the way that I work, that once they're a client, they're always a client. There is always a line of communication.

If they're currently in a program, they're getting x amount of support. If they have finished up, they know there's still a line of communication. They can still reach out to me and I have people reach out to me all the time who they're not currently engaged with us, they're not currently in The CEO Collective, maybe they are already through a year or two of it but they continuously reach out like, “Hey, can we have a check-in?” “Hey, can you work on this with us?” “Hey, can you do that?”

There's magic there. It makes you feel so amazing knowing that people trust you that much, that even if you haven't officially worked together in a few years, they still think of me as I'm their mentor, I'm their strategist, I'm their coach. I'm still in their corner.

Stacey Harris: I love that. It reminded me, so we launched a Podcast Strategy Intensives, we're just the strategy part of our production work, people can do it quarterly, a couple of times a year, we launched it late last year and I had somebody who had been a member in Hit The Mic Backstage, which was my social media course membership reach out and be like, “I don't have a podcast but I would love to do an intensive around just marketing because I know you have such a good marketing mind. I've learned so much from you.” I was like, “Absolutely. Your deliverable is going to be different, let's have a call.”

Racheal Cook: Yeah, we can change that up.

Stacey Harris: Your deliverable needs to be that it’s going to serve you. But I was like, “Yeah, we can absolutely sit down.” I still have, I will always offer one-hour calls, they only really get offered to former clients but they’re people who are like, “Hey, I still want your feedback, I want your opinion.” “Hey, can we hop on a one-hour call and review this email funnel I’ve written out?” Because that's part of my expertise that we worked on at one point in time and we sat down and we did that.

I will always have these things where even if it's not necessarily what I sell and deliver day in and day out now, it still lives in my expertise and if you need help with that, if we've ever worked together, yes, I'm going to help you in whatever way I can help you. We’re here.

Racheal Cook: Yes. I think that's the bottom line is to build a business where you're truly invested in the support and the success of your clients. There's only so much of this we can teach. I can't teach you to care about people but if you naturally care about people, then probably the way that Stacey and I are talking about running your business is going to feel more aligned than being like all black or white, all or nothing, if you're trying to scale, the only thing you can do is fit in this box.

What we're trying to say is put people first because when you put people first, they're going to come back to you again and again and again. Sometimes, they're going to be the ones to reach out to you.

When Stacey decided to shift from social media to the agency, it's literally now you have a database of people who you've built great relationships with, you're paying attention, you're listening to what they need, and you're hearing it enough to go, “You know what, wow, out of all these people I've worked with, there's this great segment who really is telling me they need this thing. What would happen if I reached out to them and moved in that direction?” and like Stacey saw, you pretty much had an instant agency within, I think it was like a week or something.

Stacey Harris: It was in a fun yet stressful amount of time.

Racheal Cook: But how amazing is that, that you can make that kind of shift in just a very simply no-crazy launch, you didn't have to make a funnel, you didn't have to do a three-part video series, you didn't have to do anything other than listen and respond, listen and respond, listen and respond.

Stacey Harris: I'll say that respond part is the one that maybe is the scariest. Admittedly, I'm going to go shake my cup at these old clients and be like, “Please, will you give me some money?” That was a legitimate fear I had in my brain but no, it was me going and saying, “Hey, I think I might be of service in this new way, would this be of service to you?”

It's easy to get in your head, I will admit. I don't want to blow that up. It’s easy to get in your head about going back to clients who paid you 6 months, 12 months, in some cases, it was 18 months since I had last worked with them and I was like, “Here's the thing I'm doing, what do you think?” It was scary, it was absolutely scary but it was also of huge service to them.

As scary as it was for me to do it, not doing them, not doing those emails, not sending those messages, not showing up for that discomfort would have been a huge disservice to literally every client I have now because it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't have made the scary ask.

So I will say yes, it's scary to sometimes reach out because it's not always going to be them coming to you. Like this year as we go through and we're going, “Hey, I know some clients have some projects that they've talked about in the last year, how about instead of me going and getting a new production client, I go to my clients say, ‘Hey, are we ready to make a move on this? Hey, is now the right time for us to make a shift to a different kind of working with us, an add-on we've talked about, or whatever that may be?’”

I gotta make those asks because they're not going to remember we talked about that eight months ago. I don't have the system that knows that. We have to make those scary asks.

Racheal Cook: Honestly, it becomes less scary when you just know the people and you know that this is coming from you listening and paying attention to what they said they need. I think that's the biggest thing that people forget is your clients want you to succeed and when it's a mutually beneficial arrangement, they're always going to be there for it.

That's why I have clients who know if they reach out to me, I am here for them and 9 times out of 10, we're going to find a way to support you in the way that you need right now and it's just because, again, we care, we're people-first, and we weave that in through every part of once you start working with us beyond, you don't just sign up to work with us and then everything drops off a cliff.

Because that’s what most people think it looks like to run a business, you spend all of this time and energy on the Attract, Engage, and Nurture, there's a huge production in the Invite because you're doing a launch or a three-part video strategy and making all these big promises, but the minute you sign up, crickets.

You might hear from them, you're most likely not going to hear from the person who was the face that sold you the thing, it's just like you're just another transaction. That is not the way that businesses last for decades plus.

Stacey and I have both been in business for over a decade, we know that when you put people first, you build clients for life, and you're paying attention and responding to what's happening in the market, in the world, just how people are genuinely feeling right now, and you're paying attention to your specific ideal clients, you can navigate, it's just never going to be a black-and-white situation, you're always going to have to be thinking on a more holistic level about how your business moves forward.

Stacey Harris: It's not always the big stuff. Sometimes it's the little stuff. As much as it looks like, “Oh, hey, I know the economy is stressing us all out right now,” sometimes it's like, “Hey, it's June, I know we're looking at some summer vacation, I know maybe if you have kids, kids might be home, activities they're usually in aren't going on, or there are activities they wouldn't usually be there. I know our schedule is weird.”

So when we do our Q3 calls, we're talking about, “So what does our time off look like this year?” because I know that's an important thing for my clients and it's also a thing, Racheal, that we all forget.

Racheal Cook: It is a thing that we all forget.

Stacey Harris: We blow off or we push. We've both been guilty of this at some point in our businesses and our careers. There are still times where like, “No, really I have to go on this vacation or just unplug from my phone for 12 hours.” As much as it's the big stuff, it's often the little stuff, it's often those little moments.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. This is why when I talk about the Delight, I'm always driving home that when you focus on this piece, you retain your clients, meaning they don't just buy your thing and then churn out as quickly as possible, they actually complete the thing they bought from you, reminder, most of the people out there teaching sales and marketing, yeah, they might be having these massive huge launches that sound very sexy but they're losing upwards of 20% or 30% because people churn out before they even finish that program. They ask for refunds. They cancel.

Stacey Harris: Payments fail.

Racheal Cook: Payments fail and they never come back on. Sadly 20% to 30% is the norm. Meanwhile, Stacey and I are over here, I think we have like a 0.5% churn rate if we look at it. Stacey has like zero.

Stacey Harris: We tend to retain clients. I lost one client last year.

Racheal Cook: Once in a while, we'll have somebody who it's like they come in and we do have a whole application process to try to make sure it's the perfect fit, but sometimes it's not a perfect fit and so it's like, “You know what, bless and release. It's fine.”

Stacey Harris: But sometimes they're complete. They've finished their cycle, they got what they needed, and it was like, “Cool, go on your way.”

Racheal Cook: But retaining your clients, it’s so much easier to retain your clients than go out there and find a bunch of new ones. When you retain your clients, the magical thing happens, they get the results they're looking for. When they get the results they're looking for, they want to work with you again so they become repeat clients. If they're getting great results and they're having a great experience, they go out there and tell people. They become your biggest evangelists.

They're the ones who are out in the world, people are going, “Oh, wow, something's changed about whatever,” like your parenting has changed, your relationship with your spouse has changed, you seem happier, you seem healthier. They are having this amazing experience that is getting them results so they start becoming literally a walking referral source telling people how much they loved working with you.

Again, talk about the cost of acquiring a new client and maintaining those clients. When they're coming from referrals, that's a win because the cost to acquire clients is another thing no one talks about. They just say go run ads. Well, what if it costs $1,000 to acquire a client that way?

Stacey Harris: And you're selling them a $297 program.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. Meanwhile, you could have had referrals coming in that cost you basically nothing more than taking great care of your clients. Stacey, thanks for having this conversation. I hope everyone really takes away that there is a lot more nuance here in these conversations about sales. It's not just about more, more, more, it's not just about, “Well, if you want to scale or you want to have passive income, you have to do these things.”

People who are just talking about if scale and passive income is the first thing that starts to come up and then they start saying the only way to do it is through courses or through XYZ, I'm here to tell you they're wrong because you can scale, you can have incredible client relationships, you don't need to have terrible taglines “reach and serve millions.”

You're not at McDonald's, you don't have to treat your business in that way, you can show up as yourself, take great care of people, and just actually love the people that you're serving that you're working with.

Stacey Harris: Can I just say the best thing I did for my business, the reason my business existed post-2018 was because I stopped offering courses?

Racheal Cook: Me too. I was really, really getting done with it. We have to learn the hard way. We have to learn the hard way that you have to be wired a certain way to be okay with your business operating in that manner. I'm not saying it's good or bad. I'm just saying for people like us…

Stacey Harris: It's a different business model and it's not a one-size-fits-all.

Racheal Cook: It's not a one-size-fits-all and if you deeply care about results and seeing your clients through, and if you're the person like us who a sale comes in and the first thing you start doing is going looking that person up so you can learn who that is, chances are that this thought process and these ideas about your business model is going to be a better fit than the churn-and-burn, scale-at-all-costs BS that's out there in the world.

Stacey Harris: For me, I wanted to spend more time doing what I'm actually good at and what I enjoy in my business and not spend 12 hours of my week just trying to get the next client instead of spending that time delivering and doing the work I really like to do and getting to spend time on quarterly calls with my clients and in the thing I actually care about and do instead of the business of running the business.

Racheal Cook: Absolutely. Thank you, Stacey, for joining me today and for coming up with the idea for this podcast topic because, again, like we said at the very beginning, these are the conversations we are having that we're not hearing in other places which is why we want to have more of them here on the show because you shouldn't have to know me personally in order to hear the thought process behind why we're doing the things we're doing. Because I'm hoping that by listening to these conversations, it's getting you to think a little differently about how you are making these decisions in your own business.

Stacey Harris: Thanks for having me.

Racheal Cook: Always, always.