How to Use Your On Boarding Process as a Marketing Tool
The Kate Show | Episode 70
As a home industry professional, you know how much your client's experience with you matters from day one. In fact, the ease with which you bring them into the fold of your company speaks to your level of professionalism even before your creative work has had a chance to shine. Not only will your on boarding process shape your client's expectations, it will also create a lens through which they will view your work, for better or worse.
Do you have an on boarding process? Do you know what an on boarding process is or why each step matters? I'm sharing all the details and resources for creating a stellar client on boarding process today on The Kate Show. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes / Google Play.
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The Purpose of an On Boarding Process
Whether you are launching a new interior design project for a homeowner, partnering your workroom services with a design firm, or implementing your staging expertise for a new real estate client, your client embarks on a journey once they agree to partner with you. Will that journey be pleasantly surprisingly or surprisingly unpleasant? The choice is yours.
The underlying purpose of your on boarding process should be two-fold: First, erase any buyer's remorse by establishing your credibility. Second, remove any fear of the unknown by anticipating your client's questions and answering as many of them as possible right away. This will help establish trust between you and the client, plus it's a great way to market for referrals. If your client loves your process, you can be sure they'll rave about you to friends and family long before their project with you is complete.
The Process of On Boarding New Clients the Right Way
A clear on boarding process makes you feel organized and helps your new client feel informed. If you struggle to remember when to send which document to a new client or find yourself scouring the inbox for bits and pieces of their information, yet you have a string of happy clients, you likely have a great process. You just need to get organized.
On the other hand, if your clients are often confused or alarmed by payment deadlines, meeting schedules, or project timelines, your on boarding process likely needs a makeover. Not only will this redo made you look professional and experienced (even if you are a home industry newbie), but it will also become one of your biggest referral marketing pieces.
Regardless of where you are on your on boarding journey, you'll do yourself a huge favor by automating as much of the process as you can, keeping it digital when possible, and working off templates instead of re-typing or re-explaining your process each time.
A good and effective on boarding process takes each new client through a series of meaningful steps which may or may not include the following:
Initial client inquiry
Discovery phone call
Intake form completion
Presentation of client binder or folder
In-person / onsite meeting
...which can transition nicely into your actual client process:
Review or approval of concept
Commence with project
Review project at predetermined stages
Revise per client direction and your professional input
Review final project
Install or complete the project
Invoice for final payment or wrap up whatever payment plan you use
6 Client On Boarding Tools for Interior Designers, Home Stagers & Workrooms
Client Inquiry Form
Make sure the contact form on your website captures the information necessary to weed out bad leads and fast-track the good ones. This means including questions about their project deadline, budget, actual services required, project location, etc., so that you can make sure you are fully informed before moving them to the next step.
If you require an in-depth form that may or may not request your lead to upload photos of their space, you should try using Typeform. Typeform makes it easy to build rather complex forms, but it is also great for creating simple, attractive forms as well.
A discovery call takes the place of any "free phone consults" you might be offering. Since you don't want damage or discount your services by offering free consults of any kind, naming your initial call a discovery call is a nice way to further quality your lead.
However, this doesn't mean you should email back and forth with that new lead until you get a call scheduled. Instead, use a tool like Calendly or Acuity to allow your lead to book a call with you when it works for them. Not only is this much more professional, but it also allows you to maintain more control over your schedule. You get to set your availability, and the client gets automated email reminders of your upcoming call, great for preventing no-shows.
Since contracts need to be signed before anyone can move forward safely, this step is of huge legal importance...yet can be simplified oh-so-easily. Instead of printing off your contract or sending it an a boring PDF to your client, upload it to HelloSign and have your client review and sign digitally. This means less paper waste and less time waiting. You'll be able to see if / when your client starts reviewing the contract and will be notified the instant they sign.
To avoid absorbing credit card fees, most of you accept personal checks from clients. This makes total sense, but it can be a drag if you're waiting for them to receive your invoice, then waiting for them to mail you a check.
If you haven't already tried issuing invoices from Quickbooks Online, now is the time to get started. You'll pay only .50 per transaction and significantly decrease the down time between contract and payment. You can even offer this payment option while meeting in person with your client.
Presenting your new client with a binder or folder of your branded materials is a great way to make a professional impression on both them and anyone they share it with - because you know they will share!
This client binder should include most or all of the following items:
Welcome letter that explains how they will benefit from working with you, plus a list of your credentials and affiliations for added credibility
Explanation of your process, because this isn't your first rodeo (even if it is...)
Frequently asked questions and answers to prove that you know your stuff
Testimonials for social proof
Samples of your past work to get them excited about what is to come