For a business to bloom, there are many puzzle pieces that need to fall into place, and the more you educate yourself on the process, the more likely are you to succeed. Success does not happen overnight; it does not fall on some lucky business owner’s head. No, instead, you are looking at a long dark road with many potholes, but with preparation and education, you come to acquire a flashlight to safely navigate around the obstacles. It is ultimately up to you, whether you want to succeed or not, and it all depends on how much work you are willing to put in.
Let’s talk about a crucial aspect of acquiring new clients – onboarding. If you already know what it is, great! If you are already an expert on implementing proper onboarding processes, even better! If, however, you are someone who is looking to further grow your business – this is an article for you. Keep in mind that there is always more to learn, regardless of whether you are a just starting out, or already an established businessman or woman. What is your process for working with a new customer? This is a question worth thinking about because there might be room for improvement.
What Is Client Onboarding?
The name itself, “Client onboarding,” indicates that the process is related to what happens once the client has hopped onboard your business train. First, we have the client intake process, which is what takes place before the client has said yes to working with you; before they have become convinced that you are someone they want to pay to provide them with a product or a service. It is your strategy to make them want to work with you. What comes after – once they are officially yes saying (and paying) clients and customers, is the onboarding.
Client onboarding is all about creating a substantial relationship with the new client; about making them feel welcome and have them want to stay onboard. First impressions are everything, and unless you get it right already from the start – you are up for an impossible task when it comes to keeping your client satisfied. Satisfied clients lead to long-term business relationships, and long-term business relationships lead to referrals. This, in turn, can lead to more clients and an increased income for you.
Why Client Onboarding Is So important
The process of onboarding a client is what shows him or her that you care, that he or she is important to your business and that they have made the right choice by paying you for whatever service you have agreed to provide. It is a challenge that often proves even bigger than getting a client to say yes, since it is ultimately what determines whether they stay or go. A client who does not come back, or stay with you, is often a result of a weak- or non-existing onboarding system.
Right here is where you set up expectations; both for yourself and your client. What do you hope to get out of this working relationship? What can your client expect? Once you have that established, you can focus on a plan to make that happen. It all starts with the onboarding.
Setting Up a Client Onboarding Process
The key to success when it comes to implementing a client onboarding system is to have a clear structure and plan of action. When a new client comes in, you will already want to know which steps to take, because when there is an air-tight system in place, it becomes less likely for things to fall through the cracks or be forgotten. The first few days of communication are crucial, and it sets the bar for the upcoming work relationship.
What you want to do is to make your client feel like they are in good hands. You want them to trust you, and to feel at ease knowing you will handle things. Here are a few suggestions for what you can consider including in your client onboarding system plan:
1. A welcome package.
Send your client a document or a file with detailed information regarding how things will work, what you need from them and what they can expect in return. Explain how your service works, any deadlines there may be, how for them to best get in touch with you with questions and any other information that could be considered relevant for a mutually positive experience. Set clear goals and try to cover everything, in order to avoid misunderstandings further down the line.
It is a good idea to create a standard version of the welcome package, since that way you won’t have to do it again every time a new client comes along, but just make sure to personalize it with the client’s name and specific details regarding the work you will do with- or for them.
How this welcome package looks and how complete it is will say a lot about you and your company, so take your time to create something which both looks good and fills its function. If you have designers on your team – have them ship in with a few final touches! Or pay a freelancer to help you enhance the final version of the welcome package. It is easy to find a freelancer for a one-time gig through freelancing platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer, or if you prefer to do it yourself but lack the creative skills to make it look good – us an online agency tools! Perhaps Visme or Prezi could help give your client welcome package that ultimate twist for it to stand out?
2. A personal presentation.
Put a face to the name! It is easier to create a connection; a connection your client is less likely to break if they know who you are. Attach a photo of yourself in an email or go the extra mile and record a presentation video. What you are trying to do is to make the client feel special, as if you care and appreciate them for having chosen to work with you, because nobody wants to be just another money goose in a flock of nameless birds. Send out an email, or record a short video clip saying hello. Be approachable.
3. Hold a meeting.
Offer the client an opportunity to sit down (or, if not possible, hold a video conference call) with you and discuss what is to come. You might not feel it is needed, but you would be doing yourself a favor by at least offering the chance of a meeting. Clients have questions, and questions need answers. Be the one insisting on answering their questions for them and you will quickly establish that solid relationship which you will need if you want them to come back in the future as well as refer you with friends and family.
This is also a great opportunity to introduce a team if your client will be working with more people than just you, and to show your client just how reliable and capable your team is.
If you are unable to hold a physical meeting, there are several online providers available for hosting a quick conference, a consultation, or a longer presentation. Use Skype or Google Hangouts for simple video- and voice calls, or turn to a webinar service such as Zoom, Adobe Connect or GoToMeeting, where you can set up online presentations and share screens with your clients. All these options are available online, as well as for your phone or tablet – all you need to do is download the apps. If you use an iPhone or an iPad, you will find them in the App Store:
4. Stick to your word.
If your clients were promised some form of a reward for signing up for a service; such as a free trial or a courtesy freebee – make sure you give it to them right away. Hold up your end of the deal. Before you mention anything else, no matter how relevant you think it is, first let your client know how and where they can collect the recompense they were potentially lured in with. This creates trust, and trust is the cornerstone of client onboarding.
Simple ways to do this is to include it at the top of your personal presentation email or clearly visible in your welcome package.
5. Surprise the client!
The onboarding process is a great opportunity to make your client feel spoiled and well cared for. If you promised them a free t-shirt – surprise them with an additional keychain! If the deal was a discount on their first purchase – surprise them with the same discount for their second purchase as well. It does not have to cost you much, so think of the future financial benefits a loyal client could bring along, and act accordingly.
6. Make yourself available.
In this critical state of a business deal, it is important that you make yourself available to the client, and that you let them know you are there to answer their questions and to address any concerns they may have.
Include information for how they can best contact you in the welcome package, set up milestones and make sure they know when you will speak next, or when the next step will be initiated. A quick solution is to give your clients access to an online task management system such as Trello or Asana, where you can set up important dates and milestones. Also, make sure you keep track of the client onboarding process using marketing agency software.
Necessary Steps Before Initiating the Onboarding Process
There is one small thing you will want to make sure of before you roll out your thought-through and meticulously developed client onboarding plan. You want to be sure that the client is actually onboard, and that they have – despite how it may sound – already paid you or at least signed a binding contract. If not, you risk spending a lot of time and money on a client who might not follow through in the end, which is in no way beneficial to the economy of your company, nor to your mental state.
Save yourself the heartache and migraine by making sure a payment has been made or a contract signed; double check so that you are not still in the client intake process (before the yes) when you think you have already advanced to onboarding. There are no shortcuts, and each step has its value when it comes to creating strong bonds with your clients.
Worth Thinking About
As already mentioned, this process should be implemented once the client has already said yes and accepted to pay you for a service. It is what reels the clients in, ties them to you and makes them feel comfortable, so give it your all because once you have gotten a client this far – you can’t afford to lose them. Anyone who has run a business knows how hard it can be to sign with clients, so you want them to feel like they have made the right choice by coming to you. But I’m curious: What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
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