The Power of First Impressions for an Unforgettable Client Experience

Imagine stepping into a fine dining restaurant for the first time. You’re immediately greeted by a friendly host, your coat is taken with a smile, and you’re guided to a perfectly set table. You glance at the menu and find your dietary preferences already considered. Your evening has barely started, but you’re already looking forward to your next visit. Just like that, the restaurant won you over with an exceptional first impression.

The OBM world isn’t all that different. Like the restaurant, your first interaction with a client — the onboarding process — sets the tone for your entire relationship. The way you welcome, guide, and engage clients during this initial stage can significantly impact their perception of you and your services. Therefore, it’s essential to perfect this process and transform these first impressions into lasting, positive relationships.

This episode shares:

  • Onboarding as Relationship Builder: Turning onboarding into a tool for nurturing client relationships
  • Value of Information: Enhancing client engagement by keeping them informed
  • Simplicity and Structure: Streamlining onboarding into digestible, orderly steps.
  • Six-Step Onboarding Process: Unpacking a practical onboarding framework
  • Communication: Prioritising transparency and regularity to boost client trust

The Power of Onboarding – It’s more than just a Process

“I believe that client onboarding is the process that can make or break an entire relationship with a client.”

Onboarding isn’t just a series of steps your clients need to follow. It’s an opportunity to show your clients that you value them, that you’ve heard their needs and concerns, and that you’re committed to supporting them. It’s an opportunity to make them feel seen, heard, and secure. And it’s an opportunity to set the tone for a positive, supportive, and respectful relationship.

Onboarding is a chance to show clients not only that you’re capable and efficient but also that you’re caring and attentive. It’s an opportunity to make clients feel that they’re not just another account number, but valued partners in a business relationship.

Taking the time to reflect on what made past onboarding experiences successful can be highly instructive. Was it the extra effort you put in at the beginning to make everything clear and easy to understand? Was it the personalised attention to detail that showed clients you were listening to them and valued their input? Or was it the sense of security you provided, giving clients confidence that they were in good hands?

Action: 🎯Take a moment to reflect on successful onboardings you’ve managed in the past. Identify the key components that made these experiences stand out. Then, integrate these successful elements into your future onboardings to replicate that positive experience for all clients.

The Cost Considerations of Creating Client Experiences

Creating client experiences may not generate immediate revenue, but it does offer significant long-term benefits. The investment of time and money into client experiences can seem daunting, but the payoff is worth it.

The biggest cost is actually time. We all have a finite amount of time, and we have to use it wisely. So why should we spend some of our valuable time planning out client experiences? The other cost, which is less than the time investment, is the investment of money. This one is somewhat more flexible because you can control it and there’s lots of different avenues you can go down and you get to choose whether it will be very expensive or not so expensive.

Tip: 💡 Consider the long-term benefits of investing in client experiences, such as increased brand reputation, organic referrals, and the opportunity to charge higher rates.

Crafting an Onboarding Process that Resonates

Creating a robust onboarding process is like crafting a personal welcome message that speaks directly to your clients. It’s more than just steps and procedures. It’s about making clients feel seen, heard, and secure right from the get-go. The magic recipe? Informative communication.

“We need to tell people what to expect. We want to let them know what’s coming up and how this is going to work”

Essentially, the mantra is to keep clients in the loop. They should know what’s coming, how it works, and when to expect it. By providing a clear roadmap, you’ll boost their confidence and keep any anxieties at bay.

Tip: 💡Be the guiding light in your client’s journey. Let them know the stages, their roles, and the timelines. Also, stay open to their unique needs and preferences. After all, onboarding should feel like a warm handshake, not a one-size-fits-all protocol.

The Onboarding Process – Keep It Simple and Structured

Contrary to popular belief, an effective onboarding process doesn’t have to be complex. Sometimes, simple is all you need. The primary objective is clarity and ease of understanding. A complex process can be intimidating, while a simple, well-structured process feels easy and inviting.

Review your process with these questions:

      • What can flow better? 
      • What can be communicated at a different time? 
      • What can be done differently? 
      • How can the client feel better about this process?

Your goal should not only be to address the practical aspects of the process but also to add elements that make your client feel valued.

Action: 🎯 Break down your onboarding process into simple, easy-to-follow steps. Create a checklist or a roadmap that can guide your clients through the process. It provides clarity, direction, and a sense of accomplishment as they tick off completed tasks.

6 Steps to Success – Unpacking the Onboarding Process 

Understanding the onboarding process is critical to any business endeavour. It’s more than just a formality; it’s an opportunity to instil confidence in your clients, showcase your professionalism, and cultivate long-term relationships. Here, we break down this seemingly complex process into six integral stages that are simple to implement: 

STEP 1: Map out the process at a high level

The first step is to create a holistic view of your onboarding process. This high-level blueprint helps in visualising the journey from the initial client interaction to establishing a solid business relationship. This could include timelines, client engagement strategies, communication methods, and more.

STEP 2: Group the process into stages

Once you have an overarching view, it’s time to segment the process into manageable stages. These stages should be clearly defined, logical, and progressive to ensure a seamless transition for the client. Stages could involve steps like initial discovery calls, contractual discussions, or client orientation.

STEP 3: Transform these stages into a marketing tool

Now that you’ve laid out your process, leverage it as a marketing tool. Sharing an overview of your onboarding process in your marketing materials can attract potential clients and assure them of your thoroughness and professionalism. This transparency helps build trust even before a client has decided to work with you.

STEP 4: Incorporate your process on your sales page

Incorporate your onboarding process on your sales page to give potential clients a clear idea of what to expect when they decide to engage with your services. This step not only solidifies the impression of professionalism but also reduces the chance of misunderstanding or miscommunication down the line.

STEP 5: Create minimal onboarding documents

While details are important, it’s equally essential to avoid overwhelming clients with unnecessary information. Aim for minimal, concise, and relevant onboarding documents. These documents should convey the essential information clearly and quickly, enabling a smooth and efficient onboarding process.

STEP 6: Identify  missed opportunities

Finally, make it a point to regularly review and refine your onboarding process. Look for areas of improvement or opportunities that might have been overlooked. This step ensures your process remains dynamic, evolving with the changing needs of your clients and your business.

Remember, the key to a successful onboarding process lies in transparency, simplicity, and adaptability. Assure your clients of your professionalism, and pave the way for productive, long-lasting relationships.

Action: 🎯Take the time to map out your onboarding journey, transforming it into an artful experience that leaves a lasting impression on your clients. 

The Art of Communication 

The final, crucial step is reviewing your communication strategy.  Communication is the backbone and can either make or break the onboarding experience. Proactive and transparent communication reassures the client, keeping them in the loop about what’s coming.  

Miscommunication often arises from insufficient planning, but a small amount of effort can significantly clarify and streamline the process. Look at the communication map we’ve created, examining what, when, and how we’re communicating. Could we intersperse emails with a phone call, a text message, or share information via a professionally designed brochure? 

Enhancing the quality of communication also involves providing a clear roadmap of the future steps. 

“You are never going to go wrong by giving your client a heads up about what’s coming” 

Always give your client a heads up about what’s coming next in the onboarding process.  Regular reminders and updates not only prevent clients from sifting through numerous emails but also preempts their questions, saving time and energy.  This act of transparency can further build trust and open communication lines

Once you’ve planned it well, implementing this process will make for a smoother journey for the client, and they will appreciate your thoroughness. 

Action: Create a communication timeline that outlines when and how you will communicate with your client.

Wrapping It Up

Effective onboarding isn’t about introducing revolutionary changes but rather about refining existing processes. It’s about understanding the client’s needs, communicating effectively, and making the process simple, efficient, and valuable. By focusing on these aspects, you can transform your onboarding experience, laying the groundwork for enduring and fruitful client relationships.

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Follow along with the transcript

Creating Amazing Client Onboarding Experiences – How to get clients to love you from the get-go

[00:00:00] Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the Audacious OBM. I’m Leanne Woff, and today we are [00:01:00] continuing our series on client experiences. Today’s focus is creating amazing client onboarding experiences, how to get clients to love you from the get-go. Is it possible? Yes, it is. How do I know? Because I’ve seen it before.

So I wanna start this episode by sharing a story and I believe that client onboarding, Is the process that can make or break an entire relationship with a client. And this story highlights why. So I remember I had a new client, this is a few years ago, and they were wonderful, lovely, lovely new client, really awesome human.

And I was in the onboarding phase with this [00:02:00] client and I was just following my process. The way I’ve done every other time and focusing on what we needed to do, when we needed to do it, how we needed to do it and chatting to this client. So we moved through the onboarding process through all of my predefined deliverables in my process, and my client says to me, ah, I’ve referred you to one of my business friends.

I don’t know if it’ll be a great fit, but she needs someone. And I thought of you and I gave her your details. I hope that’s okay. And I was surprised and was just like, yes. This is incredible. Thank you so much. And then I ended up speaking to the contact and I actually [00:03:00] onboarded that client’s friend as well.

Now, the reason this has significance here is because I hadn’t actually done any work yet. We were just doing the onboarding process and my client was already referring me, and that had never happened to me before. So after that happened, I had to do a little audit myself to go, what? What did I do that was so good in this situation and how do I do that more?

And it was the onboarding experience because the tone of the relationship for the rest of the time was always positive and appreciative, and I really think it’s because of how much effort I put in front. And the time and the energy that I put into crafting what this onboarding experience would be and the things it should include and the things it shouldn’t, and the [00:04:00] time that I had taken to refine it as I went.

So that’s the purpose of today’s episode, is to give you some of the tools to create an onboarding process that rocks. So let’s look at what the purpose of a great onboarding experience is. I believe your onboarding process should do three things. One, make your clients feel seen. Two, make your clients feel heard, and three, make your clients feel secure.

We’re human beings, right? So we all want. To feel safe, heard, secure, seen, noticed, appreciated, validated. They’re just our nature and [00:05:00] we’re all built with those things inside. And I think if we can give people the security and stability that they need from the very beginning, that will flow through to everything else.

So it’s really important. That we pay attention in our onboarding process. Here is the time to get to know the people you are working with, to identify what really matters here, and to give them what they need to set the tone for the rest of the relationship. So how do we do that? How do we make clients feel, seen, heard, and secure?

It’s a nice thing to say, but in reality, what does that look like? Well, we do this by being informative, so we need to put our authority cap on and we need to be the guide. We need to tell people what to [00:06:00] expect. We wanna let them know what’s coming up and how this is going to work. We want to tell our clients how things are going to progress and when.

Explaining what we’re going to need from them and when, and keeping the process as clear and concise as we can. We do not want to overwhelm people from the very beginning, especially because we’re online business managers, so we can do process and we can manage lots of information. But generally our clients are coming to us, so they don’t have to do all of that.

They want someone who’s gonna do it with them and make it a little bit easier, and you are thinking at that level so they don’t have to. So it’s really important that that shines through here. Okay, so if we know that that’s what we have to do, what [00:07:00] steps do we take to get there? When I went through my audit of how I got this extra client, this referral from onboarding.

I mapped out what I did to create that process, and there were six things. If I sum it all up, there are about six things. And it’s a really great way to get started if you don’t have something in place or you are looking to improve your onboarding experience right now. So the first one is to map out your onboarding process at a high level so we can get overwhelmed if we try and think too deeply, or we try and plan too many things at once.

So the first step is to put down the rocks. What are the [00:08:00] things that have to happen that may not be glamorous, but you know, they need to happen? So it might be, I need to get details for a work agreement. It might be I need to create the work agreement. I need to get the client to sign the work agreement.

I need to work out invoicing. I need to have a kickoff call. List out all of those things, and at this point it’s gonna be a little bit messy, and that’s fine because this is just our planning phase.

Once we’ve had a look at it, when it’s all mapped out in front of us, you should be able to see where you can reign it in a little bit, and you’ll also be able to identify which pieces are for you and which are for your clients. This is going to help you then inform your client what’s going to be needed from there.

So we are looking high level. Once you’ve done that, [00:09:00] group that process into a few stages. So it might be okay. First we do all of the administration piece, then we do a deep dive call, and then we start taking action. Once you’ve done that, because it’s a lot clearer now, right? There’s only three things your client needs to see that’s happening and that’s easy to consume, and it’s, they’re easy to understand what those things are because they’re general things.

Don’t forget that onboarding isn’t a really strange unfamiliar process no-one follows. We do onboarding in our lives on a regular basis. It’s just called all different things. So we wanna give them things that they can relate to and connect to. Once we’ve done that, we wanna turn those stages, those groups in your process into a marketing tool.

[00:10:00] So a really great way when you are onboarding is to do the pre-onboarding in your marketing. And so if you start talking about, Hey guys, I’m an OBM. I work with rockstar Empire Builders, and when I get a new lead in, this is what it looks like. We go through three main phases. The first one is to sort out all the admin, get our contracts in place so everybody is covered legally, and we don’t have to think about that anymore.

Then we create a plan through a deep dive call, and we get to know all the ins and outs. Of our clients’ business, we get to know each other a little bit better, and we set some goals so that we can always be headed in a strategic, purposeful direction. And then this is the best bit. This is when the magic happens.

We start getting things done. [00:11:00] See how now it’s a marketing pitch, but if someone hears that and then they come to work with you, They already know a little bit about what to expect, and they’re excited. It doesn’t feel scary. It doesn’t feel intimidating. You’ve already told them, and that’s before they’ve even contacted you.

So we wanna build it in and use it as a marketing tool. The third thing is to put your onboarding process on your sales page. So you can do it in three chunks like that you can break it down into a little bit more detail. You can turn it into a story, but the idea here is to show a visual kind of map something people can see and it’s another way that they can feel secure.

It’s another way to cement. This is what’s gonna happen. This is what I can [00:12:00] expect. It’s not scary. It’s easy. Three quick steps and we’re in. That feels great. And it’s a simple way to do it. It just takes a little bit of thought in how you wanna articulate or how you wanna phrase that process, and don’t overthink it.

Sometimes. Simple is all you need. The biggest objective here is to make sure it’s clear and understandable, because we wanna make it feel easy – and complex never feels easy. So once you’ve done your process map or your three stages or your story, put it on your sales page, ‘cos again, you’re using it to help nurture those leads in your marketing.

The fourth thing I did is I created minimal onboarding documents. I found [00:13:00] that. When I first was an OBM, I had all these different forms or all these different things that needed to be done. I had a work agreement. I had a client onboarding form, and I had an email that went out to get different information from the client.

I had a list of tools I was going to need access to, and I just found that it was a lot, each of the pieces were necessary. But to be getting four different emails or five different emails with all these different things that you have to do, it is overwhelming and it is confusing, and I didn’t like it. I never had a client complain about it, but I didn’t like it.

It felt messy for me, and that is not the kind of experience I wanted to deliver. So I looked at each of these pieces and I looked at the purpose of them. And then I looked at my process map of when things happen and why, to see what could be consolidated, [00:14:00] what could happen maybe a bit later or in a different way.

And I recreated it. And I tell you now, I ended up with a client onboarding, like deep dive form, and it takes my clients at least an hour to complete it. And I tell them that upfront and because I’ve told them, they go, they expect it to take that long. The feedback I get from that form is amazing. Every time it is,

Oh, that form made me really think. I had to really think. And then I thought well, why aren’t I doing this? And maybe I do need to do this. Because my time and energy has gone into that form and I ask specific things to get my clients thinking so they can get results at the same time is giving me all that information that I needed.

And so that’s [00:15:00] become a really successful thing, even though it seems like, oh, but I could have had five little things or one big thing. Mm. It’s a lot of time to invest in filling in a form. I have all these stories in my head of why it could be a bad idea, but it has worked really well, and it means that then there’s less admin for me, less admin for them, and it flows really well.

All right. Number five, once you’ve done all of those things, So we’re using our process in our marketing. We’re sharing our process as a visual on our sales page. We’ve streamlined our collection of information and we’re looking at our high level map of what our onboarding process [00:16:00] is. Now, we wanna consider.

What opportunities we might have missed. So if we’re looking at this process and we see, hmm, we do these three things and then there is a gap for 60 days. Yes, I’m being highly exaggerative. There’s a gap for 60 days that probably doesn’t feel very good. What can we do? To pull that 60 days forward. Can we take something out from later and bring it forward a little bit?

What makes sense for this to flow a little bit better? What things can I be saying at a different time? What could we be doing in a different way? How can we make our client feel really great? And part of it is the [00:17:00] “surprise and delight piece” is we want to factor in not only the process and those practical things that need to happen, but things that we put in purely to help our client and to make them feel valued and valuable.

And so for me, When I’m doing this and I’m looking at my own processes, I think about where along the onboarding journey we are, what our, what my clients might be thinking, feeling, and based on the service, what it is that might help them in their journey. 

 And then once we’ve highlighted all our gaps, considered our missed opportunities, created a plan to maybe fill some of those opportunities. The final thing we need to do is review our communication. Now, this is a big one. [00:18:00] Communication is something that I think goes wrong a lot of the time just because it’s not thought out well enough.

And it doesn’t take a lot to improve it and to clarify things and to make the journey smoother, which is the purpose of this. We wanna look at that map we’ve created. And look at the different kinds of communication we have, what we’re communicating, when we’re communicating it, and how we could do that better.

So maybe instead of if we’ve got five emails in a row, maybe we need to have a phone call somewhere in there, or maybe we can send a text message or maybe we can put that information into a beautiful brochure. How can we upgrade the experience and the communication and are we communicating clearly what’s going to happen next for [00:19:00] every step?

You are never going to go wrong by giving your client a heads up about what’s coming. So great. Thanks so much for sending me this. I’ll be in touch in three days so that we can book in our call where we’re going to go through all of our goals and objectives, and then we’re going to get started. So it is just about reminding them and keeping them up to date so that they don’t have to try and remember everything, or they don’t have to dig through their email to work out what’s going on and what happens next when if you can preplan it, it’ll be quite easy for you.

And then you implement that as a process and they will love it. Let me know if this has helped you with your onboarding process, and I would be really, really interested to hear how you go [00:20:00] when you are reviewing it all. Have you found some gaps? Has it given you a different perspective? You can find me on Instagram at Leanne Woff, on Facebook, on LinkedIn.

But yeah, connect. Say hi. Let me know how you’re going. I would love, love to know. Next week we’ll be back and we will be talking about creating an amazing client service delivery experience. Speak to you then. Bye.