Build Milestones, Think Outcomes - Onboarding Never Stops, Says Panel

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After I finally decided to try Netflix last week, a welcome letter quickly emerged, simple but direct, "Watch as many TV shows & movies as you want." That was followed by covers of popular Netflix shows and a red box that said in big letters, START WATCHING. I was officially engaged.

Bill Haight (pictured left), president, Magna Publications, Inc., told his own onboarding story at the 2017 BIMS conference in Fort Lauderdale. He served on the 37 Tips to Improve Your Customer Onboarding panel with Barbara Weckstein Kaplowitz (center), president of Big Huge Ideas, and Christina Karabetsos (right), executive VP, QCSS Inc. - listen to the audio here.

"A night before I left to come down here, I signed up for our company's insurance benefits. I went through it with our HR company online, and I checked off which insurance plan I want and didn't want, and then got the dreaded red line of it not being complete. So I went back and finally got it done.

"The confirmation email started off, 'Whew, I bet you're glad that's done!' What did that tell me? Well, it made me feel good, and that the people on the other end are human. This was a good experience for me."

Here are other beneficial ideas for your onboarding process from the panel:

"Build milestones for your customers," said Karabetsos. "Have it mirror the way we approach milestones in real life, especially with our relationships. Why should B2B be different? How can we create those kind of milestones? Build in things to look forward to for your customers."

"Take a look at all of your welcome letters," Haight said, playing off his story. "Your confirmation letters, instruction letters, and have your very best copywriter go through them and personalize and brush them up. A typical letter might say: 'Thank you. We have received your registration for the conference. Here's the date, blah, blah, blah. Please make sure you make your hotel reservations. See you in Orlando.' A really good copywriter might say, 'You should be looking forward to a life-changing experience coming up. We're so happy you took advantage of this. You're going to meet some great people..."

"Never overlook your customers' desire for outcomes," said Kaplowitz. "There's going to be milestones in their outcome, whether that's a data manager who successfully downloaded data three weeks in a row, or somebody in regulatory compliance who successfully passed an audit. Tie that kind of language into the way you communicate with them." She also suggested that an auto response may be better than something you set your own timing to. They do get opened.

Ask questions about about your product. "Customers who are engaged in helping to build our tools and features and what kind of content we created, they become invested in our product," said Karabetsos. "Your customers can help you more narrowly define your value propositions and come up with new and more interesting use cases. They may be using your product in ways you haven't envisioned, and their unique use case will often help to guide future development of your product."

Build up your champion. "There should be one person to spread the word about your institution," said Haight, speaking of his own university audience. "They're not going to renew if they're not using your stuff, so you have to keep reminding them. We send out a certificate to that person. It looks professional and valuable and something that shouldn't be thrown away." He'll remind them that "you are the group administrator, and it's your job to let others there know about the resources you have." If their job changes, make sure they let you know. "You're the champion of this product."

Welcome them in the channel they signed up with you, Kaplowitz advised. "Then you might want to encourage them to try another channel [that you're in]. "Welcome emails have excellent open rates. Try using welcome videos; they put a face to your company. Use your staffers to create the welcome message. "'I'm Chris and I'm here to help you explore the profit opportunities in the education market.' That's more believable than a generic TV voice."

Send best practices tips, Haight said. "Here's how other people are using this product." Use their name if you get permission. Also seek other volunteers there to promote your resources.

Remember, it's their milestone, Kaplowitz said. "'It's been 3 days, 6 days...'—that's a not a customer milestone in their eyes." But this is: "'Great news! You have all the information you need to avoid your next IRS audit or to sell the next big IT purchase to your boss.' If they don't access their information, 'here's what John Riley at XYZ is doing with that same information.'"

Share your product's success. People want to know how many people are using this product, and how often, Haight said. Some folks even want a list of the articles that each professor reads. We'll do it if we can.

Make it easier for people to log in, said Kaplowitz. "92% of people fail to log in because they can't remember the passwords. Allow them to log in through a social media platform. It's about what's easier for them more than what's important to you."

We'll end on that perceptive note. Listen to that session and others from BIMS here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…