Client onboarding is one of – if not the most – crucial parts of your business. Why? Because it really sets the entire stage for the experience a client will have with you, starting from when they first come into your program and onward. It adds color to their entire experience!
So what exactly is client onboarding?
Client onboarding is the process by which new clients are welcomed into your program, course, or service.
For the most part, I work with coaches who have either a program, mastermind, some type of live program, and/or digital courses and some of them work one-on-one with people. Here is what a general breakdown of a client onboarding process might look like for them:
Client enrolls —send agreement—agreement signed—send welcome email—send access to program/service.
This is an overly simplistic overview as client onboarding obviously gets a lot more detailed than this. A lot of your clients will view their enrollment up until they actually receive their first result from working with you as client onboarding.
What we are going to focus on here is the initial piece: from when they enroll, make their deposit or payment, and gain access into your program or course through to the kind of access they receive and the delivery point.
Why is client onboarding so important?
According to research and advisory company, Gardener, 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its current clients. That means the majority of your future revenue is going to come from the minority of clients that you already have.
You have also probably heard the saying that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current customer (not sure who the correct source of this saying is but it certainly rings true!)
Can you see now why it is so important to create an amazing experience for your clients right out of the gate? Think of when you go to a restaurant or store for the first time. That first impression you get from that service provider sets the tone for the entire relationship- it can very well be its make or break.
That instinctively leads to the 3 phases of client onboarding.
The 3 Phases of Client Onboarding
Phase 1: Setting the expectation
So you are on the phone with your client who has decided to join your program. You are both beyond excited. Your next step is to let them know exactly what to expect and when they can expect it. Why? Because there is that window of time after the enrollment process when your client will start having second thoughts about their decision:
How am I going to make enough money to cover this investment every month?
How am I going to explain to my partner that we are going to have this additional expense? or
Is this the right coach for me? Am I really going to get results?”.
Second-guessing at this stage is normal, especially if it involves a sizable investment (hiring a coach could require an investment of $10,000 a year or more). But setting their expectations before-hand (they need to know when their payment will be processed when they will get their agreement and when they will get their welcome email) minimises the possibility of backtracking.
Phase 2: The Delivery
This is the phase where you welcome your client(s) into the program, giving them all they need to get started, including access to the program. This process is called “the delivery”.
Ask yourself how many touchpoints your client needs to feel supported. Then, deliver on those touchpoints, deciding which ones you want to be personal or automated.
To do this effectively, you want to keep in mind who your ideal clients are and how you would deliver the service information (confirm their enrollment, outline what they have received, and give them access). The most common way people deliver this information is through a welcome email. I have been in quite a few programs and have helped build even more programs and typically, all of the information is all in the welcome email.
Phase 3: The Follow-through
This is the phase that includes orientation, gathering of information, and communication. In this phase, you are ‘following through’ on the promises made in the service information you delivered.
Just because you have sent someone a welcome email does not mean that they have consumed, absorbed or understood that information. Providing an orientation touchpoint can add that extra little support just to make sure that they have everything they need to feel confident that they made the right decision (remember that second-guessing phase?) and be successful. You want things to be as simple for them as possible and you want to follow through on your promises as completely as you can.
This is also the phase where you get them acclimated to all the resources that they have as well as answer any of their questions. This is where they start to build a relationship with you and perhaps other people in the program (if it is a group one).
You can deliver an orientation by holding a one-on-one call on zoom or a simple phone call to the client. On the call, you walk them through all the program details, make sure they received the welcome email, have the required logins, generally know where all of the resources can be found, and don’t have any lingering questions.
You can also hold a virtual group meeting (perfect group programs). This is a great way to initiate a connection among your new members.
This is another really important step in the follow-through phase that sometimes gets missed. This is where you assess where your clients are at the point of coming into your course or program and what you can do to help them be successful.
All you need to do is ask them. People will tell you. Why is this important? Because assessing where your clients are will help you anticipate who might need extra support and whether your support system might need tweaking to make sure they get what they need.
Gathering information will also help you think a few steps ahead and anticipate things like what level they will be at the end of the program and how you are going to measure theirs and the success of your program.
And for the hattrick, this information also informs your marketing. Knowing where people are most generally at when they are ready to step into your program can help you target other potential clients who are at exactly that same stage!
To determine how you are going to provide consistent communication throughout the time they are in your program, you need to know how your clients consume information. Are you going to have emails that get sent out intermittently with different points of information? Are you going to send emails and maybe make a call?
Also, consider having a check-in point to make sure your clients are on track. Having a process for this and fostering that open communication both internally (with your team who would probably cascade the information to you) and externally (directly with the client) is really important.
Now that you know the different phases of the onboarding process, it is important to also know the key points to consider as you develop your process.
- Client onboarding is not really about logistics (though it might seem that way), at least not for your clients. It’s really about the experience you create for them. How do you want your clients to feel? Excited or like they made a mistake? On fire or unsure? Do you want them to feel ready to get into the program and kill it? Do you want them to feel clarity? That is what the client onboarding is about.
- How many touchpoints do your clients need to feel supported? This will determine when and how you then deliver those touchpoints- whether personal (customized) or automated.
- You need to anticipate your client’s questions and concerns. It is really easy as creators to walk through a process we ourselves created- we know all of the information because we created it. Your clients, on the other hand, are probably not going to be familiar with those processes and that is bound to lead to some questions and concerns. To rightly anticipate those questions, have your entire team go through the onboarding process you have created because each person is bound to have a different perspective.
If you are a solopreneur, then have a peer or even a family member walk through your onboarding process. This might even work out better for you because they probably will not know all the ins and outs of online programs and groups and may think of really basic questions that may not have even crossed your mind.
- How does your client like to receive and consume information? Is your client someone who is tech-savvy and is fine with information in different locations or would that make them feel overwhelmed? Are they active on Facebook and take to being in a Facebook group? Would they prefer to receive information by video or text?
- Consider creating an actual onboarding document. That could be something you attach to the welcome email that your clients can print out and refer to later.
- Ask your clients what they need to be successful. People need different things to succeed. Some require more accountability; others, hard resources. Being able to get that information from your clients is a really great way to know how you can best support them so that they can get results.
Write down your process. I have worked with so many people who did not have a written process for their client onboarding process, at the point I came into their business. Having a written process that everyone on your team has access to means things do not get missed. This is also known as an SOP or Standard Operating Procedure.
Even if you’re a solopreneur without a team, having an SOP means you will not miss a step and have to deal with a possible breakdown in your client’s onboarding experience.
Be sure to tweak this document as you get feedback from your clients and team.
If you need support with this, I have created a plug-and-play onboarding process template, complete with the step by step process. And it’s yours to download for free at laralasala.com/onboarding.