#202: Why Onboarding is Crucial (And Most Companies Ignore It)

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Is it hard to get a client?

Sure it is, but how many of us “lose” the client within minutes or days? We may not realise it, but without a very clear on-boarding system, clients simply get confused and leave. Or they feel unsafe and don't consume your product or service.

The question is: how do you get an on-boarding system in place and what does it entail? Let's take a sneak peek into what's possible.

Click here to read online: Onboarding is Crucial

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There are three distinct stages before we order a meal in a restaurant.

The first stage is when you're standing outside the restaurant, deciding whether to go in. The second stage is when you get welcomed into the new space. Finally, it's when you first get acknowledged after sitting down; you get a glass of water, and a menu. All of this happens so quickly that we don't realise that every stage is essential. More so, the very same steps have to play out when you're getting a client into a new space, like a membership site, course, or even an offline store.

The first stage is before they enter your site or course. The second is how you greet them and the third and equally crucial stage is how you make them feel within “minutes” of entering that new space. These three sequential steps are what you'd call “on-boarding”.

Every stage of on-boarding is vital because if we were to go back to the restaurant, would you be happy if no one received you once you entered? And having been assigned a table, how long would you wait before stalking off when you got no service?

All of these ideas and this very sequence seems particularly vivid when we think of restaurants, yet we fail to roll out these systems when clients sign up.

The importance of onboarding can be boiled down to a single term: safe zone

Standing outside the membership site, course or workshop, you are trying to gauge if you're making the right decision. Once you do get in the door, it's equally important to feel as if you're in a safe space. You need someone real to step up to you and take care of you.

Instead, what you get is an automatic e-mail that confirms you're in the membership site and then it's just a bunch of weekly e-mails that don't have the slightest personal touch in place.

Now wait a sec, no one is saying you shouldn't use automation

What's about to follow is how automation doesn't become a crutch but is a handy companion that allows a small business to keep in touch with clients and prompt them to consume what they've purchased. However, depending on automation alone is a mistake.

At some point very early after the client has shown up to your “restaurant”, a real person (that's you) has to make yourself available. If you're surprised at where this article is going, it's only because of how a large part of the internet works. They take a hands-off method and wonder why there's constant churn.

Which is why they then have to do constant advertising (which in itself takes time), joint ventures etc. to make sure their membership site doesn't look barren. At 5000bc, we like to see ourselves as a restaurant. And here are some of the things that we do within less than a month of a client joining the site.

• Tiny increment autoresponders • Cave Guides • Taking Action • Contact individually • Chocolate • Buddy • Country welcome • Video conference • Tags

In this episode, we will look at three things.

1. Tiny increment autoresponders 2. Cave Guides 3. Taking Action

1: Tiny increment autoresponders Have you noticed how there's a lag when you're talking to customer support on chat?

Let's say you get to a site. On the right-hand side, you see a little button that signals you can talk to someone. You click on the chat button and almost immediately you get a response. It may say something like, “Hi, I'm Maria”, how can I help? You automatically assume Maria is around and start to type your question.

It then seems to stall you for a while, asking for your name and possibly a phone number, just in case you're disconnected. Then, there's a lag after you type in your details. So what just happened? I'll tell you what. You were talking to a machine. All that “Maria bit” of chatter was an automatic back and forth and once you got past a certain point, it handed you over to a real person.

And for the most part, no one is wiser, or unhappy, but it allows the transaction to go ahead pretty flawlessly.

This is what automation can do well, if used intelligently.

Which is why we use autoresponders. It makes sure a client gets into 5000bc and then continues to gain from it. Some clients jump right in, introduce themselves and are off the mark right away. Others may not enter right away, and things go on the back burner.

It's easy to buy something these days, fully expecting to use it, but then other distractions take over. Hence the autoresponders.

There are seven that show up in the client's inbox, over a period.

  • The welcome
  • Meet others
  • Next step
  • Cave Guide
  • Handy tools
  • Two questions
  • What you expected

Every one of these autoresponders is meant to do something similar to what you'd experience in a chat.

They're designed to engage with the client. It means that in the early stages, you're giving a sense of what's where (it's mostly information). But as you go down the line, you're called to participate and given many options to do so. At every single stage, Renuka or I respond back to the client.

If you've ever gotten an e-mail from us, and replied, we write again and keep conducting a conversation, asking questions, etc. It's not just a “here you go, it's automation, and you're in a funnel”. Instead, the emails are designed to help us help the clients to consume what they've bought; to get use of the resources; to find others just like them.

Without the automation, it would be too much for a small business (or any size of business to handle).

It's a nightmare keeping track of who's been contacted, what they've been told, etc. The automation allows us to give the pertinent information to the client and then to work with them on an ongoing basis.

That's the starting point, and there are a lot more elements in place. The second primary factor is the Cave Guides. Why are Cave Guides essential? Let's find out.

2: Cave Guides When I first visited Paris, I got lost for several hours.

I thought I knew my way around, so one morning before Renuka was up, I stepped out for a walk.

I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because I couldn't find my way back. What made it worse was I knew Renuka would be up and getting ready to go out for some croissant and coffee, but she wouldn't know where I was, or how to reach me because we never have any data on our phones. Worse still, though I can read French reasonably well, I can't speak much, if at all.

It was nearing 9 am, when I had an idea. I walked into an Internet cafe, and typed in the destination. It worked out where I was, and where I needed to go. With a printed map I was able to make my way back in half an hour or less. Google Maps had calmed me down and helped me get back when lost in a new city.

Cave Guides perform a similar function in 5000bc

When you get to 5000bc, it's a whole new city, possibly a whole new world. At this point, there are hundreds of articles, vanishing reports, and over 322,000 posts of extremely valuable discussions. When a client signs up to 5000bc, they have a heightened sense of anticipation. However, it's very possible, despite their excitement, that they find themselves on an unexpected road, and get lost.

Which is where the Cave Guides come in. The Cave Guides are 5000bc members who volunteer to help those who are new in the membership site. A guide doesn't necessarily give any business advice, but instead merely gives you the chance to familiarise yourself with the city.

However, it's the feeling of safety that's more important than just familiarisation

When you and I get to a new place, we are apt to be uncertain and tend to make mistakes. Some clients will push through, but others may feel silly when they make a mistake. Others still, may not even attempt to make a move as they think they are guaranteed to make an error and be publicly called out.

And this fear could be justified as there have been numerous instances where people are made to feel small and insignificant, in the full glare of a large group. Having to deal with one person, and a person that's specially dedicated to being a guide, brings a tremendous amount of safety to the entire exercise. Even seemingly “trivial” questions are asked—and they seem “trivial” to the person asking the questions, but in fact they're huge barriers to getting comfortable in that new space.

It's an integral part of the onboarding process

Just like in a restaurant where someone is usually around to receive you, you need to have some guide to help you along. If you walk into an Apple Store, for instance, you'll see this level of guidance occurring as well. When I walked into the Apple store for the first time in 2008, I had been a Windows user for years.

Everything about the Mac was weird and unknown, if enticing in some way. However, because I could make a quick appointment with someone at the Genius Bar within the store, enabled me to get my questions out quickly and safely.

In a course, we have onboarding of a different kind

With the cartooning course, there's a fair bit of posting cartoons and linking to be done, which is why the entire first week is about slowing down the progress. The clients get assignments that enable them to get familiar with the forum and how to get their cartoons to display.

With headline course, or any other online course, clients are given extremely tiny instructions so they can get through the first week familiarising themselves with their environment and with each other. At a live, onsite workshop in a city, we have a meet and greet the evening before.

The clients are often told what to expect the next day, and wherever possible we take them to the room itself so they're comfortable and can show up having gone through a rehearsal of sorts.

Being a guide or having a guide is essential for a company

When you're selling a product or service, it might seem like a big bother to take so much trouble to get a guide system in place. It might seem that a guide might be betters suited for a workshop or course instead. However, every entry point is fraught with the chance that the client may get lost, sometimes for a short while, but often for hours, just like I did in Paris.

That one mistaken turn might put them off getting back and they've lost the chance to be part of your wonderful enterprise and you've lost a potentially fantastic client.

Which is why you need guides or at least a guided system that everyone follows. But that guide is still just one step. What's needed is a sense of comfort. How do you achieve this sense of happiness? We find someone who's familiar. Let's find out how it all works and why it's so imperative.

3. Taking Action

Way back in 2009, Mackay Rippey (a founding member of 5000bc) made a suggestion.

“How about a Taking Action forum?” he asked.

That was the start of a journey that's had a ton of ups and downs, but today is the core of creating a quicker onboarding. Why? Because getting into a new community is always scary. There are far more people than you want to deal with.

The Taking Action section forms a tiny little capsule where you (and just one other member) can create a bond and move ahead in tiny steps.

You'd think a taking action post would be easy for clients, right?

It's not. As Nobel Laureate, Richard Thaler says: It's not that people are dumb. It's that life is hard. And taking action is one of the hardest things that a person can do, but also one of the most critical steps for onboarding. Let's take the example of 5000bc first and experience the journey of a client, before heading out to see how it may work in other cases both online and offline.

In 5000bc, a client signs up to become a member

They do so for reasons of their own, but primarily are interested in relevant information, access to me, priority for courses—but also to be part of a community. The moment they join, they wander in, may add their details and photograph, look around and leave. Will they come back? Sure they will, but to get value out of their membership, they have to come back more often.

They have to not only absorb the information but implement it. This is precisely the point where things start to go off course. The client is often too unsure to ask for advice, and they lurk.

The key is to get them out of lurk mode, which is where the Taking Action forum comes in

At first, the Taking Action forum was just a place where you went and posted your goals. In time, the instructions got refined because it was easy enough to get started, but then lose track because of a lack of planning. When we look at the Taking Action Forum today, it has seven steps.

They read like this:

Here are the easy steps to play.

Step 1: Name your goal. Step 2: List what you'll do. Keep it restricted to 2-3 things. Step 3: List how you intend to do it. Step 4: List how much time you'll spend on it daily x 21 days (this is very important) Step 5: What resources you have/ What help or information you need. Step 6: Start date/finish date. Let's keep it for 21 days. Step 7: Don't miss this step: Get a buddy: It is always good to have someone nudging you along in case you start slacking off. Sean me an email me, and I will assign you a buddy: renuka@psychotactics.com

All of the steps are important, but there's one that surpasses them all

Naming the goal, the list, all of that organisation—that's all crucial to the success of the plan, but the most critical element of all is Step 7: getting a buddy. It's obvious when you think of it, right? What does a buddy do for you? You're in an unknown forum, a new membership site and are bound to get lost.

You can't depend on the power of the group, but another person—your buddy—is easy to lean on and learn from. Plus, it's easy enough to lose steam when you're trying to motivate yourself. When you have a buddy to keep you going, the very act of knowing someone is waiting nudges you on.

The Taking Action Forum works incredibly well in many cases

And the reason why it works so well is because it gives the newcomer a tiny space and a friend. That's usually all we need when we enter a website—or at least a membership site. However, the dynamics may change depending on the business itself. In the courses, like the Article Writing Course or cartooning course, the group size is larger at about 5-7 people.

The same applies to the group size in live, on-site workshops. And there's a reason why this is the case. When working on an individual goal, the input, often just the nudge from another person is enough. When it comes to learning a skill like writing or drawing, the higher the contribution, the better.

Also when the client is part of a group, they're able to see what the others are doing, and most importantly the mistakes they're making. This in turn, reduces their error rate, and it keeps the group going. However, the moment you start to go beyond 7 people in a group, you're asking for trouble.

About 7 is just right to create activity and keep the momentum going. Beyond 7 you merely have anonymity and it's not hard for clients to slip away.

No matter whether you have a membership site or something offline, you want to get them involved with a human

We get so gung-ho about technology that we forget that we're humans first. And that humans seek humans. But once they're done finding the other person, they also want to contribute. And this contribution needs to be towards their cause (their action plan) but also help the other person. The combination of settling in and getting moving is probably the more natural way for a new client to get going, without being too much in the spotlight.

The final question is: does it work?

For the most part, it does, but it doesn't work automatically. In our case at 5000bc, we make sure that we pair up clients. In the workshops and courses, it's the same. All of this requires a bit of groundwork on your part. When one of the pairs goes missing—and it happens—there needs to be a mechanism in place so that the client can get in touch with you and you can assign another partner.

It's easy enough to dismiss this activity as too much work, but it gets clients in and keeps them coming back. Which in turn means you don't have to spend all that time and money—and energy, I might add—trying to get new clients all the time.

Onboarding is crucial, and a big part of this onboarding is getting people to know each other and start working on a project. When we started out the forum back in 2009, based on Mackay's request, we had no idea how useful it would be. However, it's been one of the main areas for us and I suspect it will be for you as well.

Start up a Taking Action Post to take action on your membership site.

Oh and before I go

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