October 3, 2021

At our most recent Titans Mastermind meeting in early September, one of our speakers, Melinda Cohan, said something that resonated with everyone in the room.

I believe it resonated even more with the Titans because they are all marketers of a different breed…marketers that think impact and relationship over money and profits…and that’s without anyone in the group being a “nonprofit.” 🙂

Melinda is the founder of a business called The Coaches Console—which helps coaches with the technology and the back end of their businesses…so the coaches can do their coaching on the front end, playing full out, for their students, without worrying about those behind-the-scenes details.

But it’s much more than that due to Melinda’s leadership and smarts.

Note that “coaching” in this context is much more than the person who coaches your kid’s soccer team.

In fact, Dan Sullivan, the top coach for entrepreneurs in the world, often says that what management was to business in the 1980’s, coaching is to business today.

Everyone needs coaches…and dare I say much more than anyone needs a management consultant.

Now that we’ve established coaching as “management redefined,” the influence that coaches have in the marketplace is obviously huge…not just in marketing…and they need folks like Melinda to become even huger.

Melinda got to working on the back end of coaching by understanding the front end of all the businesses she coached and worked with over the years…which led her to the aforementioned quote:

Onboarding is not housekeeping

“Onboarding” is something to master in all aspects of our lives…it’s anything but an “anyhow” task …and in terms of marketing, if you don’t get it right, it will be a weak link leading to ruin for any business (and that is not hyperbole).

Merriam-Webster has three definitions for “onboarding”:

  1. The act or process of orienting and training a new employee
  2. The act or process of familiarizing a new customer with one’s products or services
  3. The act or process of converting data to digital form
I’ll mostly focus on #2 for the purposes of this post…but I’ll also touch on #1 and #3…because they are all related.

I guess that’s why Merriam and Webster thought to list all three for our consideration. 🙂

Regarding #2, simply “familiarizing a new customer with one’s products or services” is the absolute minimum of onboarding—actually it’s woefully insufficient…that definition is much closer to “housekeeping.”

For the purposes of this post, I will define housekeeping as doing the least you can do to keep your house (i.e. your business) clean…but far from spotless.

Here are some key elements of what I’ll call, “Extreme Onboarding”:

Create a success path for new customers…before, during and after

My friend Stu McLaren coined the phrase “success path” as one of the keys to his business…and many others that he coaches…which number in the thousands.

Your customers, students, readers, buyers, prospects (and even suspects) all need to see a bigger future for themselves every step of the way in their journey with you (and as you coach them).

And it’s up to you to remind them regularly with your unique brand of coaching and tools.

Onboarding is not a one hit wonder. It’s about getting them on board your boat with plus service and care…and then have them stay on the boat (with you as their captain) for a very long time.

It’s not bragging if you did it

Public acknowledgment and rewarding students who have signed up with you in any way, whether they have paid you or not–and are succeeding at a high level as a result of your coaching–is a mandatory requirement of any onboarding process that will stand the test of time.

Have your students brag…which of course is not bragging when it’s backed up by their successes.

And backed up with numbers too.

It’s not bragging if they did it.

Realistic aspirations on top of what they have already accomplished are also mandatory during their customer journey, running parallel with their success path.

It’s all part of extreme onboarding which goes way beyond the first encounter or sale.

And everything must be acknowledged at every step.

Secret shoppers are a not-so-secret way to create excellent onboarding

I’ve spoken about the importance of using secret shoppers in your business—folks you hire to go into the depths of your business, buy everything, break everything, make a nuisance of themselves…and then document their experiences by asking one question with every interaction with your employees and staff:

How did that make me feel?

The example I have shared previously was from world class marketer Dean Graziosi…whose company was selling a $15,000 coaching program for real estate investors…and when he sold it from the stage at a live event on a Sunday and there was no follow up with the buyers until the following Wednesday (as reported by a secret shopper), that was a leak in the selling (onboarding) process that needed fixing immediately.

Those customers went from having buyer’s remorse (i.e., too many refunds on Wednesday) … to surprise and delight on Sunday evening when all the buyers got an immediate coaching call and reassurance that they were a partner rather than just another “$15,000 buyer.”

Realizing you and your team are often too close to what’s happening “on the ground” is the first step to find out where your boat is leaking—in the onboarding process and everywhere else.

Third party input (kissing cousin to a secret shopper)

Don’t be afraid to seek out bad news about your onboarding—not just from secret shoppers who might know your business a little—but also from close friends, relatives and colleagues who can give you gut reactions (and some useful gut punches too) on what makes them feel good about your onboarding process…and everything about your customer service and fulfilment.

Technology can be used for evil rather than good

This relates to definition of #3 of onboarding:

The act or process of converting data to digital form

While I am not a Luddite, I am sensitive, almost allergic, to over-automation, both in the onboarding process and throughout the customer experience.

Automated emails, digital content, funnels of all kinds are here to stay and they obviously have their place…but nothing can replace the additional touch of personal emails, physical content and products, and funnels with designed “interruptions” (i.e. some form of personalization) …maybe even a surprise phone call or Zoom? 🙂

Pro tip (if you meet with your customers regularly or even occasionally): Always begin with a “positive focus check-in” with every interaction, allowing them to let you know what they are learning or accomplishing with your content, coaching or teaching.

It’s another chance for them to brag…and for you to acknowledge them. And to make sure you are both tracking towards a long term relationship with tons of success.

I am aware that going more personal is costly…but losing customers is more costly…and adding more TLC (within your cost structure) whenever possible should be at least a consideration (whether you pull the trigger on those elements or not).

You can even use them as an incentive to raise your prices so you can then spend more on your prospects and customers…with the extra attention adding to the lifetime value of those prospects and customers.

You get what you pay for.

As Melinda said in her Titans presentation, and I am paraphrasing: When you make conscious choices for your students, they will, in turn, make their own conscious choices…and you don’t have to rely on them only making unconscious choices based on the automation in your processes.

I believe that a customer who is on boarded as personally as possible—within cost constraints—has a better shot at becoming a customer for life rather than one for a month or a year.

The formula: Content (delivered in multiple ways) …to coaching…to community.

That’s a success path for your business.

Self-care is part of the mix

Melinda’s cherry on top during her presentation was a topic she has studied and implemented in every business she coaches…including her own business.

It’s the foundational concept of “self-care.”

And she described at least three types of self-care for everyone in business:

1. Self-care for yourself (as the founder, owner, teacher, coach, entrepreneur).

You are the million-dollar racehorse…you need to care and feed that racehorse with the utmost love and compassion.

Put another way, you must put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can serve others most profoundly.

2. Self-care for your employees (i.e., your team) …and this relates back to the #1 definition of onboarding (“the act or process of orienting and training a new employee”).

But self-care within Extreme Onboarding includes embracing new employees and existing employees—and it encompasses everything beyond orienting and training as well.

Keeping your team together for the long haul should always be a top priority.

3. Self-care for your students, customers, prospects, suspects…anyone who is (or could be) part of your world…and it can’t simply be “dusting around the edges.”

You can get a maid (housekeeper? domestic engineer?) for all of the aspects of onboarding discussed above, with the equivalent of a rag and a vacuum, just to get the basic cleaning accomplished.

A better idea might be for you to become the “On-Boarder-in-Chief” of your business, focusing on each one of the items above with laser precision.

Laser precision, at the minimum, is getting your processes equipped with a fully loaded success path, acknowledgement tools, secret shoppers and other expert feedback loops…and a big dose of your own personal touch…including self-care and empathy for everyone around you.

That seems like a much cleaner model don’t you think?



P.S. I was asked last week to participate in a birthday video for one of the greats of marketing, Bill Glazer.

Bill was a  pioneer in the brick and mortar world of a high end/high touch/blue chip customer service men’s clothing franchise…where onboarding was not about automation or a funnel.

It was all about personal touch.

He then took those lessons learned in that business and eventually became a coach, entrepreneur and leader in the world of direct response marketing…for businesses of all kinds… offline and online.

He’s had, and is still having, an outrageous career, with Outrageous being the title of his latest book.

What came through loud and clear in the birthday video was a constant theme from the 20 (or so) people who participated.

It resonated profoundly with me as a prescription for living and not just as a business philosophy.

But everything is related, no?

It’s also relevant to many of the points I made above about “onboarding” so sharing it here makes for a perfect P.S.:

Bill Glazer lives to create success for others

In other words, he has spent his entire career as an “Extreme Onboarder-in-Chief.”

And that’s whether you’ve paid him lots of money or paid him nothing…or whether you were a close confidant or a casual acquaintance.

In these Sunday emails, among other things, I look for, and like to share with you, business models that I find interesting, useful and applicable…that you can emulate partially or fully in your own businesses.

I also look for life models as well.

Please absorb  this one which is solidly in both camps from Bill Glazer.

Apply it to everything you “onboard” in your life from this day forward.

Simply put, you can never go wrong when you make everyone around you more successful.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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