My onboarding process has changed dramatically over the 12+ years I’ve been in business. I like to keep it as simple and streamlined as possible while still making my new client feel like they made the best decision in the world hiring me.
Many people mistake onboarding with signing up a client and getting their payment information. In reality, onboarding involves a whole lot more. Onboarding is about establishing a relationship and retaining a happy client. With an organized onboarding process, you’ll put your client at ease and help them feel confident their desired outcome will be met. A happy client is a loyal client.
Now that you’ve seen my process, I’ve also put together a list of other ways to onboard your clients. I’ve helped dozens of entrepreneurs create step-by-step onboarding processes over the years, and just because I don’t do all of these myself, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you!
Don’t just rely on your client’s input about them or their company. Before you begin your onboarding process, take time to investigate their online footprint. Through their social media accounts and other online avenues, you may notice something original or unique about them that they have overlooked and could be an asset to highlight or include in their business.
Also, search for some personal information about them to make the process more personal. No doubt, you’ll find information about their favorite vacation getaway, favorite sports team, or a family milestone, such as a special birthday or anniversary.
New clients need reassurance, and testimonials from happy clients provide the social proof that they’re looking for. Do you read Amazon reviews before purchasing a product? Consider these testimonials reviews of your services. Get in the habit of asking for testimonials from everyone who walks through your door who has a beautiful experience. Publish some on your website and save others to add to your Welcome Kit. By requesting and following up with clients for their testimonials, you’ll have a steady flow of accolades ready to share with the world.
Since you’re developing a 2-way relationship, ask for your client’s feedback periodically. Using a questionnaire or survey format is easiest, or you can conduct this research interview-style during a meeting.
Don’t confuse feedback by asking for permission to do things. You don’t need permission to do your job. Use your expertise to guide the client toward action tasks, but when it comes to feedback, use this opportunity to gather customer information and clarify their specific goals.
The following are a few questions that may be useful for business coaches to include besides name and email: Are you the primary decision-maker? Share a bit about yourself. What kind of work do you do? What’s unique about your business or company? What’s the #1 business problem we can help you solve? Do you currently have a budget to invest in business growth? Do you already have a document to send that describes your needs? As you progress through your coaching sessions, ask for feedback about the process, if they’re happy with the progress they’re making, and ask if there’s anything they would like to change about the coaching process. If you don’t ask and your client is unhappy, they may cancel their program instead of asking for changes.
Whether you work alone or with others, take time to evaluate a project summary. What would make this project a success for your client? What is the rough timeline for the project? Review any client research you have, and decide if you need any additional information to begin. If any team members will be interacting with clients on your behalf, make proper introductions, and explain their roles, so your clients will understand why you’re not calling or interacting yourself.
Customer relationships are what keep your business afloat, so you want to take every action possible to keep those relationships happy. Instead of relying on sticky notes or the too-small contacts section in your smartphone, consider investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) app or software. Hubspot, Keap (formerly Infusionsoft), and Dubsado are just a few of hundreds of CRM platforms available today. Each system is uniquely different with the types of features they present. Consider this your contact list on steroids. You can segment your contacts into lists; you can group those who work in the same company, and you can create automated workflows your whole team can use based on the programs your clients are purchasing.
The beauty of creating an onboarding process from scratch is you can build the process from the ground up, and extraneous steps will be evident during the building process. Making changes to an existing process is a bit more complicated, especially if your team is used to doing things a certain way for a long time. But making changes is not impossible. Make it as simple as possible to sign up clients, schedule a kickoff meeting, and book your coaching sessions. When things get complicated is when clients get frustrated and decide coaching isn’t for them. If you see clients getting overwhelmed, help them sort through the important stuff.
After your initial meeting, providing your clients with a welcome package helps reinforce your client’s decision to work with you and will make them feel special. What should you include? A business info sheet about your company with contact information, business hours, typical response times, and any other FAQs tailored to your company. Have you delivered great results for another company?
Consider including a case study that details their story working with you. Creating a welcome video to introduce you and your company could be another great addition to your package. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. With a bit of research, you’ll find plenty of templates for onboarding documents already online. HubSpot offers five customer satisfaction survey templates you can customize in Google Forms format: hubspot.com/resources
Or assign this to your VA. Create a list of all your onboarding steps, including a follow-up outreach schedule once your project is over. This will help guarantee everything is covered. If you work with a partner or team, keep this online as a dynamic file that others can update as needed and make special notes of who is assigned to which onboarding task. Understand that this type of data is fluid and will require changes as you grow bigger, increase your program offerings, or as client feedback dictates.
Have a layout designed with graphics that represent your welcome package documents and files. Make sure you include your branding and make it artistically pleasing, whether serious or fun, depending on your style. Have this made into an interactive PDF. When used by the client, they have all the links to your welcome package items all in one well-designed and organized place.
In today’s electronic age, it’s even more meaningful to receive something physical in the mail than a standard email. If you’d prefer not to write a note yourself, a service like Handwrytten will send cards that are handwritten in ink by custom-designed robots and produced in a handwriting style of your choice.
If you want to include a physical gift with your Welcome Kit, there are a plethora of promotional items you could brand with your business identity and send to your client. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Quality Logo Products (not an affiliate link) and I have loved working with them. Their branded thermal mugs and my favorite G2 pens are my go-tos, and I have to laugh every time I get an email from them. To add even more value, send a logo-branded flash drive to new customers that includes resources that may be helpful for their business, including specific business-oriented websites, sample files, and client case studies or testimonials.
“Scope creep refers to a project that has seen its original goals expand while it’s in progress.” – Techopedia.com In the coaching world, scope creep is all the extra stuff clients ask for that are above and beyond what they’re paying for. It can appear in the form of after-hours texts, research requests, free resource requests, or any extra work on your part. The only way to avoid this situation is to address it in the kick-off meeting and immediately after the first request is made. It’s much easier to nip it in the bud, pointing to the signed contract, than to do the extra work and decide later on that it’s too much.
Design a handful of unique social media post graphics with inspirational quotes and key into those that are most relevant to your clients’ businesses. Use a border design at the top or bottom of each graphic that contains your logo. As a bonus, provide original .psd files or editable PDF documents so your client can reuse the designs with their company mark. Include in your Swag with Purpose or Welcome Package. To make things easy for your client, send them a short video showing them how to add their logo or how to make other changes to the original image.
The timeline is up to you, but a phone call with your client within 30 days is recommended to make sure that everything is running smoothly. This will help make sure that no balls have been dropped in this onboarding process and allow your client a chance to connect with you personally and address any concerns. Some clients are hesitant to notify you if things go wrong and appreciate the opportunity to talk about the issues. Other clients are less patient and will cancel the contract if they feel that you don’t care. Being proactive is a good trait, even if the ensuing conversations are difficult.
Even the best-laid plans will experience a hiccup occasionally, so if a client mentions problems or is otherwise unhappy, try to look at each case objectively. Review each client’s onboarding process. Did anything go awry? Were there additional questions you needed to address in your questionnaire? Are you still waiting for the client to provide anything to you? Yes, this is your company (your baby!), and you put together this onboarding process, but improvements can always be made. Listen to your clients, then work to make the process even better. Your clients will be impressed that you moved quickly to resolve the issues.
No doubt, you’ve already looked at their social media accounts during the qualifying phase, but during this onboarding phase, it’s just another way to build a relationship. You’ll have front row access to what they’re posting, and you’ll learn more about them as a person as well as a businessperson. Depending on your confidentiality agreement, you may not want to publicize your working relationship, but you can undoubtedly become one of their loyal followers with no explanation.
Making your new clients feel welcome and important is key to starting this relationship. A small welcome sign with their name in your lobby or conference room is a nice touch, showing that you’ve put forth some extra effort. If you work strictly online, you can do the same thing. Send a welcome email greeting along with a reminder of your online kickoff meeting. Or create a welcome graphic and post it in your Zoom room before your kickoff meeting begins. It’s the small things that are most memorable.
Show your sense of humor to lighten the mood. New clients may be unsure of how to interact with you and may be cautious of not offending or asking too many questions, only because they’re still getting to know you. Lighten the mood with some self-deprecating humor or with a funny meme. Recall some funny stories (NOT about past clients, however) or ask about their funniest vacation memory. Yes, you’re embarking on a new professional relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good laugh.
Do you have a company set of core beliefs or values? If so, include them in your onboarding Welcome Package. If you haven’t created them yet, Zappos may provide an inspirational springboard to help you write your own: 1) Deliver WOW through service. 2) Embrace and drive change. 3) Create fun and a little weirdness. 4) Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. 5) Pursue growth and learning. 6) Build open and honest relationships with communication. 7) Build a positive team and family spirit. 8) Do more with less. 9) Be passionate and determined. 10) Be humble.
Develop a specific mission statement for your onboarding goals. Consider including details about your intention to create an efficient and positive onboarding experience for your clients by providing excellent customer service, serving as an invaluable resource, and building and maintaining positive relationships with your clientele. When you share this mission with your clients, they will have a better understanding of what you’re striving to achieve in your own business.
A vision board is a visualization tool that refers to any board used to build a collage of words and pictures that represent a client’s goals and dreams. Some prefer the traditional way of making them, with old magazine photos and glue, or the modern way to create this tool is via apps. The top 5 apps for electronic vision boards are Jack Canfield Success, Astraport Vision Board, Corkulous, The Vision Kit, and Dream Cloud.
Another suggestion would be to create a private Pinterest board specifically for your client. Of course, not every client will buy into this process. Some may even think of it as “woo woo,” but any way they can visualize their own goals can help keep their motivation high.
By creating and using an onboarding process, your business will benefit from faster processing times, more efficient information gathering, and online record keeping. Businesses of all sizes benefit because you’ll have all your paperwork organized plus, you’ll have client goals spelled out before you begin your coaching sessions.
Not only will you benefit from onboarding, but implementing and welcoming clients “on board” will result in a happy experience for your clientele and build trust and added confidence in their decision to work with your company.
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