For anyone running a membership website, a good onboarding process is one of the most important things that you can have in place to ensure that your members get off to a good start, and get results, with your membership.
The most successful membership websites invest a lot of time and effort into new member onboarding.
They recognize that this is key to long-lasting customer relationships.
And, while we might not typically think about having a similar onboarding process for your freelancing services, incorporating elements of member onboarding into your client work can help to turn one-off jobs into long term relationships, and lead to a more fulfilling working relationship for both you and your client.
Hang on, what the heck is “onboarding”?
If you’re not familiar with the term, onboarding is the process by which you give your members (or clients) the knowledge and skills that they need to make the most of what you’re offering – rather than just taking their money and leaving them to figure it all out for themselves.
You’ll already be familiar with the process if you’ve ever signed up for any kind of online software or social media account.
That process Twitter takes you through when you sign-up and it gets you to fill out your profile, follow some accounts, send a tweet etc? That’s onboarding.
If you’ve ever joined an online course or membership site then you’ve likely been through a similar process. Maybe you were sent some directions of where to start, shown a tour of the website or guided through your first module of content.
There’s a lot of different ways that onboarding can work, there are no hard and fast rules. The important thing is that the process helps someone to get from “what is this?” to “this is awesome!”
Your Most Important Onboarding Steps
There are certain key stages that are crucial to any successful member onboarding strategy; and you can apply these principles to your client onboarding process for your own business.
Step 1: Make Your Client Feel Welcome
When you’ve just signed up to something and you’re excited, and maybe even a little bit nervous, the last thing you want after you’ve parted with your hard earned cash is to hear crickets.
With a membership site making the sale is just the start of the journey, and the hard work actually starts after someone hits that purchase button.
You want to build a relationship with your member, and the best way to start that relationship is by making them feel welcome and like they’ve made the right decision by choosing you.
Let them know you’re grateful for their business, that they can contact you with any questions, and most importantly what their first steps are.
First impressions count, and giving someone the warm fuzzies after they’ve just paid you money can go a long way.
If you’ve gone through Leah’s Stress Less & Impress course then hopefully you already have this step nailed and are sending out a welcome packet to your new clients.
If you’re not, then think about how you can make a new client feel welcome straight away. It might just be a simple thank you email, it might be some useful resources, it could even be a free gift.
Step 2: Tell Them What They Need To Know
A good membership site will often consist of several different components – courses, webinar, a community forum and so on. It’s important to make sure that a new member is aware of everything that’s available to them and also how to actually get the most from their investment.
It can be easy to assume that it’s obvious what someone should do. It’s not. And as the saying goes ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.
Have a certain order in which things need to be done? Make it clear. Want members to use your site or system in a certain way? Show them how.
Take them by the hand and lead them through the key processes. Don’t just drop them in the deep end and expect them to figure it all out themselves.
Always presume that you’re dealing with someone who has never been in this situation before.
You might think that it’s obvious that your client needs to give you website copy before you can finish their website, or that they need to tell you certain details before you can actually create Facebook Ads for them.
But if someone hasn’t ever used your service before then they are dependent on you to tell them how it works and what you need from them.
Be as clear as possible and communicate with new clients regularly. You might know that you’re beavering away in the background, but they don’t. Check in with them and let them know what’s going on and what to expect.
Step 3: Give Them The Next Steps
The goal of a membership onboarding process is to increase the chance that someone will remain a member for months and years to come.
So once you’ve introduced someone to your site, it’s important that you clearly lay out what their next steps should be.
Should they sign up for the next live call? Is there a new course coming out in a couple of weeks that they should stick around for? Should they move on to the next section of your course?
People like to know what lies ahead and what they should do next, rather than being left completely to their own devices.
The same is true for your clients. If you’re typically offering a ‘wham bam and done’ service, then you’re probably leaving your clients behind a little bit.
Once you’re coming to the end of your work with a client, let them know their next steps. If you’re handing over a website to them then let them know about things like updates and maintenance. Or if you offer a maintenance service to do it all for them, let them know about that and see if they’d like to prolong the relationship with you.
Provide a little after care for your clients. Even if you don’t have another service to offer them, check in with them a little while after you’ve delivered your project to see if everything is okay and if they have any questions.
Not only does your client know what to do next, they feel cared for and they’re more likely to remember you next time they need more work doing. They’re also far more likely to recommend you to someone else.
It Doesn’t Take A Lot To Add Onboarding To Your Business
If you don’t already have a client onboarding process in place then hopefully you now have some ideas of how you can implement one in your business.
A good place to start is simply by seeing what questions or issues consistently arise with your clients.
Do people struggle with your project management system? Create a quick walkthrough video.
Have clients hitting up your inbox wondering where their project is at? Give them a step by step timeline when they start working with you.
Onboarding doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious. Even just a simple welcome email can go a long way towards making a huge difference to your clients experience of working with you and increase the potential for both ongoing work and referrals.
What’s not to like about that?