The only constant is change.
That same principle applies to your business and the offers you have within it. But when change comes, it might mean that it’s time to retire (or sunset) a program or offer.
You may realize that you don’t have enough people in your mastermind to support those within it.
You might have had a change in family circumstances and are realizing your offers need to require less from you.
You may be in the process of a larger rebrand and need to make sure your offers are fully aligned with your new direction.
For whatever reason, you know it’s time to say goodbye to your program or offer.
The decision to retire a program, membership, or other offer isn’t an easy one. You worked so hard to bring it to life, but it’s just not working out anymore. You likely had weeks, even months, leading up to this decision — and you know it’s best for everyone if you move on.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to close the doors right away. If you want to effectively (and ethically) sunset a program or other offer, you’re going to need a lot of preparation, planning, and communication to make it happen.
Give yourself a few weeks to plan the transition
Obviously, you don’t want to wake up one morning and decide to call it quits. It’s rarely, if ever, as simple as that. Not only will it leave you scrambling, but it’s unfair to your clients or customers to be surprised that way.
Standard practice is a 30-day notice, but I’d argue that three months is a fair heads up for sunsetting your program. In 30 days, there’s still a high chance someone could miss your emails or social announcements, but three months leaves minimal room for surprises.
And BEFORE you announce the change, have a plan detailing what happens after your program’s closure. Include where your focus will shift and any organizational and operational changes that need to happen.
People don’t want to be lied to or feel that they are being misled. Today’s consumer is smarter than you think, and they can tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
If the program didn’t meet your expectations, be honest about that. If you are unable to support the program due to health or family reasons, say that. If you’re burnt out and it’s no longer serving your business or your clients, let them know. You don’t have to go into deeply personal territory, but be open and transparent about why things aren’t working out.
And make sure you do this without wiggle room. You’ll need to let them know:
- When things will be happening
- What exactly will be happening
- What their choices or alternatives are
For example, if you’re canceling a membership program, you might say, “The last day of our membership program will be October 31. If you are in the upper-level package, you can expect a full refund, plus a parting gift from us to you. All other tiers will receive a full refund as well.”
And you want to communicate this to your team as well. Sunsetting a program can throw a HUGE wrench in a team’s plans or operations if you aren’t careful. Let your team know how their tasks may be shifting or how priorities may be changing. Your team should be in the know before anyone else.
I highly recommend issuing refunds instead of a “gift” equivalent. Gifts are a nice thought, but people signed up for your program and are there for the program, not a consolation prize. You have a contractual obligation to deliver, and they shouldn’t be paying for something they’re not getting. Things didn’t go smoothly with this program (aka, it’s not turning out how you thought), but do your best to make the situation right.
However, there’s nothing saying you can’t do both. A little consideration goes a long way!
Have a backup
If you’re not closing your business or completely changing the products or services you provide, consider having an alternative program ready to go. This gives people an opportunity to apply their refund to your new program or to other offers. But give them the chance to decide if they want their full refund back in cash value or to be applied elsewhere.
Whether it’s an advanced or junior-level program, this will help people feel like you aren’t just leaving them high and dry.
Switching program models in my own business
A good example of this was in my membership, the Profitable & Productive Party. We didn’t sunset the program entirely — instead, we switched program models (where the same advice I mentioned above could be applied).
We, at one point, offered monthly tutorials, training, and different marketing and operations resources as one of the membership benefits. However, we noticed, that while people loved them, they weren’t utilizing them. Turns out, it was information overload, and people weren’t able to make it through all the information offered inside.
So, we switched to a model where they could instead get a 1:1 session with us every quarter, with half an hour to talk through issues and offer personalized resources.
We stopped creating things for the sake of creating them…and it opened our time up to deliver resources our people found to be more helpful. And when we did all of this, we still had to clearly communicate and define what would be changing. Surprisingly enough, we actually ended up lowering the price a bit to accommodate these changes.
It pays to be prepared
If you’re sunsetting a program or offer, the biggest thing is to do it effectively (and ethically) through preparation and communication.
If starting a membership or program was a lot of work, closing it down will be too. You have to consider multiple angles — how refunds will be processed, what buyers might get instead, closing out member accounts, and sending out resources so they aren’t lost forever.
It can be a little difficult to manage, to say the least. But this is where I can step in to help!
I’ve helped small businesses in a variety of industries launch their memberships, close them, switch program models, and even switch business models entirely. And while I can say that it’s a lot of work, having someone to partner with you and help you navigate the change can make things less overwhelming.
If you’re interested in what a strategic business partner can do for you while you retire offers and build new ones, follow me here to learn more about my 1:1 services.