Design Your Community Onboarding Systems
All an onboarding process is, is this series of steps that you're asking new members to take to help them feel more invested and committed to the community, to create those habits, to help them understand what being a great new member is, and to help them use the community. So, all those things that we just talked about, this is just the step-by-step process by which they do it. Is there a right way to make those steps happen? Probably, but you're only gonna find it through experimentation. There's nothing I can tell you today other than do the harder stuff first. It's gonna make it work. So, this is not a formula. It is just a visual representation of what I just said, okay? (laughs) I don't want anyone to be, like, "Tara, can you show that graphic? "I didn't quite get the step one, step two, step three." It's not like that, okay? Like I said, the only thing that I can tell you about what the right order is going to be is that you want the harder stuff, the things that feel a little l...
ess comfortable maybe, to go first, and then ease your stuff later on. And again, the reason you put the harder stuff first is because when someone first joined something, when they make that decision, that's when they're the most motivated to do something. So, that first something you ask them to do better be good. (laughs) It better give them that initial hit that they need to feel committed to start that habit process, to understand what it means to be a great community member. Whatever it is, that first action is the action they're most likely to take and it's going to be probably the biggest action that they're going to take until they get into the swing of things. Does that make sense? All right, so at CoCommercial, we have two different ways of approaching onboarding and I would highly recommend also utilizing these two different ways of onboarding. We have an automated welcoming, which is that kind of series of emails that you're accustomed to getting whenever you join a new products or buy a new product, start a new service, whatever it might be. And then we also have hand-welcoming. I talked early on about how one thing that we're really craving out of our digital experiences is humanness, humanity in our digital experiences. And so, I've put a lot of investment energetically, financially, into making sure that there is a human element to our community right off the bat. I can't control whether Alice welcomes someone to our community, but I can control whether someone I pay, or myself, welcome someone to our community. And so we have a process for that. We call it hand-welcoming. I'm gonna show you what that looks like in a minute. It's super simple. We actually have a zap set up that takes a new member, zaps them into our Asana so that Kristen, one of our member experience specialists, can go through everyday and say, "Oh, these are the new people that joined. "Let me go send them a message." You don't have to do anything that fancy. Just watch your new members, tell them hey, okay? That's hand-welcoming. Automated welcoming, as I said, is those automated emails that go out and that's something that you can really, you can really get strategic with it. The hand-welcoming is gonna be way more organic. The automated welcoming is going to be that step-by-step process of getting someone invested, committed to the community, starting that habit process, getting them to feel the way you want them to feel, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, this is what our hand-welcoming process looks like. Kristen sent me a snapshot of just exactly how she direct messages someone in our platform when they join. She says hi and welcome. She introduces herself. She acknowledges, and this is so important, that it's normal to feel overwhelmed when you join the community. And she wanted to give some tips. So, one is say hello and introduce yourself. That's one of those first steps that we want people to take. And she also says, "We'd love to hear "what you do and what business challenges "or goals you're working on at the moment." She really gives a nice prompt for what we want someone to share. Two, she suggests attending one of our live events. When you attend a live event, you become more invested in and committed to the community. You also start to really get immersed in the culture of the community and understand better what it means to be a great member. The one that she selected as an example is our community compass event, which is our new member orientation. So, every couple of weeks, we have a new member orientation. We invite people onto a live call, and Megan, one of our other member experience specialist, actually walks people through, "This is how you use CoCommercial." Maybe you're still a little confused. Here's how you use topics. Here's how you use chat. Here's how you make a new post. Here's how you make your post prettier, things like that. And then she answers all their questions about actually using the platform. And then, we've got a whole bunch of posts in a topic all about actually using the platform, and so she sends a link to that too. So, just three things. People can kind of choose their own adventure, but really, this is all about starting a conversation with someone on our team who can help guide them because we know, again, if they have a relationship with someone, it can be a community member or a team member, it does not have to be someone you pay, but as long as they have a relationship with someone on the platform, they're more invested, they're more committed. Does that makes sense? Okay, great. Then we have our automated welcoming, so we have both. This is an in process flow chart of how we're working on, like, let's probably call it like Onboarding 5.0 (laughs) because onboarding for us is a constant learning process, which is to say that you don't need to get it right first. One onboarding email is better than no onboarding emails. It's like a hundred times better than no onboarding emails. Two onboarding emails is better than one. Three is better than two. But please, don't wait until you have the complete onboarding sequence prepared and perfect. Just stick it into your email provider or whatever you're using, to get that onboarding going. One email is good enough to get started, okay? So, if you're a new member and you didn't get all these emails, that's because they're not in there yet, (laughs) okay? This is what's coming. So, you can see we have a first email that's like a welcome, and here's what to expect. And there's gonna be a Welcome Kit in there and we ask them to take action in that email. On day two, we send them an email more about our culture at CoCommercial, which is that we're a human-powered network. It's really all about meeting people and understanding that there's always gonna be somebody out there that can respond to you. Email three is from Kristen and it's her favorite feature, so, a little bit more about using the community. The next one is more about the Welcome Kit, an invitation to the next community compass. Email four is about what's changing in our market and sort of more of the purpose and vision behind CoCommercial. Again, kind of speaking the culture and what it means to be a great member. And we go further and further and further, all the way to we're working on an email that will be in our onboarding sequence that actually comes almost a year after you joined to remind you that your yearly membership fee is going to be automatically deducted from your credit card again soon. So, hopefully you've enjoyed it and we just wanna let you know we're gonna take your money again, (laughs) okay? But that's part of this automated process, and all about making members feel the way we want them to feel. Any questions about this or anything we've covered so far? Maya? Click on the trigger.
Onboarding systems if you're going to have maybe a two-tier kind of community, so if you have, say taking CoCo as an example, so if you have like the basic member versus the leader circle member, how would that, or how would you think through that differently in terms of how much investment you want them to make, what kind of actions you want them to take, that sort of thing. What would be a good way of approaching that?
For us, the difference is mostly informational and also for us right now, the differences in onboarding a new basic member versus a leader circle member, we predominantly handle through hand-welcoming. So, Shannon is in charge of the Leaders Circle. She calls herself the Leaders Circle Concierge, which is pretty fabulous. (laughs) And so, they get the regular email sequence and Shannon will say, "All right, here's how you add "the Flash Masterminds to your calendar. "Here's what the Flash Masterminds are all about. "Here is what our Coworking hours are. "Here's what those are all about. "Here's when the next Work and Learn Day is. "Here's what that's all about." Those kinds of things, and we handle that more actively than passively right now. One difference that you'll see here is that in this onboarding sequence, we actually have built in an upsell to that next tier. This is something we're still working on. Again, it doesn't happen automatically right now. But we figure about 30 to 45 days in, if you're still loving CoCommercial, that would be a great time to up your engagement and add on that next tier, so you can get more of those live events and more of the access to our team and people who are doing things at a different level. And so we're actually building that upsell into onboarding too. So, onboarding, it's not just customer service. It's also marketing and it's also sales. So, if you do have add-on product or you add on coaching or consulting services on top of your community, or maybe you have a physical product that goes along with your community. A client of mine, Jenn Giles Kemper from Sacred Ordinary Days, they have a community called the Common House, but in the past, their core product had been a liturgical calendar planner. I hope these words are all coming out of my mouth in the right order today. And so, her onboarding process for the Common House should also include, and does include, a sales pitch for the planner, and a regular reminder of, hey, it's time to buy a new planner, it's time to buy a new planner. New planners are coming out. And so, that can be part of that automated onboarding process. It can actually be a sales process too. So, if you're starting to think through, like, "All right, this sounds really good, Tara, "but how does this fit into my business?" "Here's a sneak peek. "This is one way this can fit into your business." Often, a community is better served as an add-on to something else as opposed to making it your core offer and then having an add-on, sort of like a do as I say, not do as I do kind of thing (laughs) but it is an option that you have, especially if you have different tiers or some sort of different levels or different offers inside of your community.
You mentioned that for the higher tier, it's more of informational support and more active pushing up that information to them. What about getting them to take those actions that bind them to the community more? Do you find yourself thinking through or actually doing something more to have them make that higher investment or is that dollar investment that they make kind of make them actually more invested anyway?
To give you the sneak peek on the pricing segment of this class, (everyone laughs) that was actually something that we've just been experimenting with, as you know. We had been operating with a 30-day free trial and then we would charge you at CoCommercial and we changed the beginning of this year to an annual fee with a 30-day money-back guarantee because our hypothesis was that if we charged you upfront with that risk-free, like, "Try this. "If you don't like it, "we will refund your money, absolutely, just let us know." With that upfront financial investment, would they be, or our hypothesis was they would be more invested and committed to actually making use of the network? Yes, that is true. (laughs) It's true for us. I'm not gonna say it's true for everyone. I'm not gonna say that a 30-day free trial or a seven-day free trial or a 14-day free trial, isn't a great option for other people, but we've found that that initial annual membership fee investment so far has absolutely upped their likelihood of taking those initial actions we asked them to take. So yes, a lot of these emails appear very informational but they also include very specific prompts and calls to action. Sign up for an event, post about the obstacle that you've just run into, whatever it might be, those things are included in here as well.
When you have a small business, you’re always on the lookout for your next customer. They might pop up at a networking event, they could subscribe to your email list, they might fill out the contact form on your website.
Too often, knowing where your next customer is going to come from seems unpredictable at best and, at worst, like a huge gamble.
Luckily, there’s a way to ensure you always know where your next customer is coming from—and that your existing customers purchase from you more often—and that’s by building a community.
All sorts of businesses can benefit from making community-building part of their growth strategy and many can benefit from making it part of their business model, too. Whether it’s an informal community (like an email list or Instagram hashtag), a brand-driven community (like a free Facebook group that brings together people in love with the same brand and values), or a dedicated community (like a local group, interest-based social network, or a support group, your business can cultivate deeper connections with existing and potential customers.
Of course, an engaged community doesn’t just happen. If you want to reap the benefits of community-building for your business, you need a plan.
In Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business, Tara Gentile, the founder of the small business support & social network CoCommercial, will share the must-dos, nice-to-haves, and compelling extras you need to make the most of the community you build around your business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a plan for making community-building an integral part of your marketing strategy—and always knowing where your next customer will come from.
Tara will cover:
- Simple ways to generate community without a group or forum
- Why and how to level up into a dedicated space for your business’s community
- How to create a clear reason Why for joining or participating in your community
- The systems and procedures you’ll need to manage the workload
- How to avoid community management burnout
- How to plan to earn more through your community—whether that’s through charging for membership, selling add-on offers, or generating more word of mouth marketing
Stop waiting for your next customer to come to you and start building a community that brings new business your way every day.