How to do onboarding right.

Keeping hold of customers and selling again and again: how to do onboarding right, no, perfectly.

Finding new customers to sell to is always going to be part of every business owner’s POA. The more you sell, the more money you make after all. 

As you’ve probably already discovered though, it’s easier said than done. 

But the good news is that by increasing customer retention by as little as 5%, you can push your profits by 25% to a whopping 95%. 

And here’s the shocking reality: acquiring a new customer can cost as much as five times more than keeping hold of an existing one. 

What’s more, the success rate of selling to an existing customer tends to be around the 60-70% mark, whereas it’s just 5-20% for new customers. 

You get the gist. For most businesses, retention is far more powerful than acquisition. 

So how do you keep hold of those people who you do manage to convert in the first place? How can you ensure the money you spend and work you put into finding new clients turns into more money in your bank account later down the line? 

It’s all about starting off on the right foot with an effective onboarding process. 

What is onboarding?

In the sales automation circuit, we call the process of starting to deliver a new sale “client onboarding”. Think of the true sense of the word and you’ll see exactly what I mean. 

Picture your business as a ship, go on. Every time you win a new bit of business, you get an opportunity to bring that customer safely on board.

Treat them well, give them the full guided tour, settle them in and show them exactly why hopping onto your ship was a terribly good decision. 

The more comfortable and satisfied they feel in those initial moments with you, the more open they’ll be to hearing from you in future. 

And, ultimately, the more fulfilled your customer feels, the easier and less expensive they are to look after. In truth, a decent onboarding process has many benefits: 

  • You can turn every sale in to a platform for perpetuating future business growth
  • You can stand out from your competitors
  • You form a relationship with your customer that leads to loyalty later down the line
  • Which gives you an excuse to remind them of upcoming events, new products and your best offers
  • You make your business look reliable from the moment of the sale, all the way to the inbox and beyond
  • You make more sales and you get more referrals

So how do you do onboarding?

Successfully onboarding a client is easy enough to do, once you know how. And thankfully, the process can be replicated and used again and again, through both automated and in-person techniques. 

Frequently, businesses make the mistake of thinking that selling is simply a matter of fulfilling an order that’s been placed. 

You take the money and you get the product from the warehouse to the customer and hope against hope that no damage occurs in between. 

But smart businesses? They’ll invest time and effort into the onboarding process, because they understand the plethora of benefits they can reap. 

So they’ll start by sending an email to their customer, thanking them again for their order, letting them know it’s on its way and how they can track it. 

If they’ve really got their heads screwed on, they’ll include a picture of one of the warehouse staff, perhaps sending the email “from” that member of staff personally. 

In other words, they make friends with the customer.

Take things a step further and that new friend will send another email a day or so later, maybe suggesting a couple of ways to make best use of the product once it’s arrived. 

The more personal and relevant these communications are to the purchase, the better. 

And the smartest businesses of all? They’ll write a bunch of these emails, a slightly different set for each product, and they’ll set up automations to ensure new customers receive them every time they buy. 

Where does it all start?

Your onboarding process begins with that initial email to say the order’s been received, loud and clear. In all likelihood, this email is going to get your best open rate of any email you send after that point. 

The customer wants to feel sure that they’re getting what they’ve paid for, after all, so they’re pretty likely to open your confirmation email. 

So use it! While you’ve got their attention, start a conversation that’ll pique their interest and show them that emails from your company are the sorts of emails they want to be opening. 

Obviously, you’ll want to manage their expectations by mentioning delivery times, but you should use to-the-point, engaging copy to reassure them that they’ve made a great decision too. So look for ways you can use that initial email to build that trust they just decided to put in your company. 

You could try any of these ideas for starters…

  • A relevant link to your blog, to help them find more information about what they’ve just purchased
  • Videos of the product in action
  • Subtle, non-salesy references to associated products that you sell
  • Links to profiles of other staff involved in the delivery (friendly faces always go down well)
  • Personal messages from the business owner, perhaps with a bit of back story
  • An invitation to join your customer membership site to access free stuff

Of course, you don’t need to put all of this stuff into that first email, of course you don’t. In fact, if you did, it’d be a heck of a lot longer than most of your customers would be prepared to read.

But with some strategic thinking, you’ll be able to pinpoint the things that would be most relevant and engaging for your customer, based on the thing they’ve bought. Those are the things you want in email number one, and all the other “bonus items” can go into follow-up emails. 

What if I sell a service, not a product?

Most service providers can make great use of each and every one of those ideas I’ve just listed, but there are plenty of other opportunities for a fantastic onboarding process here too. 

Generally speaking, most service sales will need a bit of scheduling. Think consultancy, training, support; diaries have got to be cross-referenced, rooms booked, the whole shebang. 

Syncing up diaries creates the perfect opportunity for you to show your customer how high a standard they can expect throughout the service provision. Get this bit right and you can turn that customer into a raving fan before you’ve even seen each other face to face! 

The five most important things to remember when you create your onboarding process

#1 – Personal is everything

Personalising the entire onboarding process is crucial and – thankfully – it doesn’t have to mean every bit of communication you send needs to be done manually. 

Combine automation with auto-propagating contact properties to make messages look personalised to the customer. And don’t forget to be “personal” at your end too! Put a name to your emails, even better, stick a face in there too. 

#2 – Educate

Not only should your onboarding emails leave the customer in no doubt as to what’s going to happen next in their purchase process, but they should be peppered with information that the customer will genuinely find useful too. 

Use links to blogs, videos and other resources to create a full picture of the company they’ve bought from and show them how you’ll be moving forward together.

#3 – Don’t annoy the customer

No-one likes to repeat themselves, so put processes in place to prevent a customer having to do so. For example, if they’ve clearly stated something at the point of purchase, make sure they don’t have to say it again. 

To do this, you’ll probably need a mechanism for transferring client information to different people in the business, like up-to-date contact records in the CRM. 

#4 – Don’t stop after one email

Onboarding should continue well beyond kick-off day. Remember what I said about the value of retention and the benefits of decent onboarding and you should see that your process needs to do more than send a simple thank you email. 

Even after the product has been delivered, you’ve got plenty of opportunity for follow-up emails or calls, where you can check everything’s going okay, and remind your customer who to contact should they have a problem. Do things really well and you’ll then drop them into your weekly nurture emails to continue the conversation, well, for ever! 

#5 – Good planning makes all the difference

Now you know all the reasons to put your time and effort into a smart onboarding process, the best thing you can do to get going is to sit down with a hot drink. 

Oh, and then write down the various stages your customer will go through during the sale, looking for every opportunity where you can contact them to say hello, show what you’re about and reassure them that they’ve made an excellent decision by buying from you. 

If you’d like any help with the planning or the execution of your perfect, profitable onboarding process, give us a buzz on 01242 375000. And if you want more useful content like this sent straight to your inbox, drop your email address in the box below. 

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Nice bloke with practical ideas. Former Procter & Gamble, Kraft and IBM sales and marketing executive. Became a business owner 20 years ago. Started multiple businesses including EXELA which is the most successful Keap® & Infusionsoft™ reseller in the EMEA region.

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