7 Keys to Creating an Unforgettable Onboarding Experience
The first 90 days are make-or-break for new members.
Do you want to strategically and consistently educate and motivate your new clients so they feel like they’re getting incredible results—and so you’re getting a steady flow of referrals and earning positive social proof? Are you ready to not just deliver but over-deliver? If your answer is yes, then one of your most important next moves is to create a step-by-step onboarding process.
Onboarding means much more than simply welcoming new clients with a handshake and a liability waiver. It means drawing them into your company’s culture and making them feel like they’re a part of your fitness family. It’s about providing the accountability and support they need in order to be successful. It also means asking for referrals, soliciting feedback and gathering useful testimonials and reviews.
Most important, it means finding new, creative ways to deliver an unforgettable experience and create raving fans for life.
The First Step
Put yourself in your ideal clients’ shoes. Before you begin building your onboarding system, ask yourself these questions:
- How can I make my new clients feel welcomed and excited—and eager to tell everyone they know that they’ve just signed up for one of my programs?
- What do my new clients need to learn in order to be successful and get incredible results?
- What kind of support and accountability do my new members need?
- How do new clients feel, and how do they want to feel?
- What experience would I want to have if I were a new client?
- How can I exceed all expectations?
After answering these questions, you’ll be able to create a more thoughtful and impactful onboarding experience. Let’s break it down.
1. New-Member Orientations
Orientations are a fantastic way to welcome new members, make them feel comfortable and reinforce their buying decision. During the orientation, you have the opportunity to introduce them to your team and to other members, discuss how your program works, share important information (including what they can expect from you, and you from them!) and let them know you’ll be there for them every step of the way.
Depending on your business model, you can do orientations either one-on-one or in a group setting. Offer orientations once a month or as often as twice a week. If in-person meetings aren’t the best fit, create a video orientation and email your newcomers the link.
Orientations typically last 45 to 90 minutes, and they may include
- a 15-minute intro/welcome/icebreaker,
- a 10-minute screen (if applicable),
- a 10-minute dynamic warmup,
- a 15- or 20-minute workout;
- a 5-minute cooldown,
- a 15-minute nutrition session,
- a 10-minute goal-setting session, and
- a 5-minute closing where you answer questions.
2. Email Nurture Sequence
An email sequence is a series of messages sent at preset intervals. This onboarding element can be completely automated! Try crafting a thoughtful email sequence to “drip” out during the first 90 days. At a minimum, email new clients at least once a week with fun, entertaining and educational blasts. The more personality you inject into your content, the more likely people are to read the emails and connect with you and your business.
What should you include? Share case studies, educational information and additional offerings such as nutritional support—to name just a few. Email sequences are also a good place to remind people of your referral incentives. And don’t forget to also systematically ask for Facebook, Google and Yelp reviews.
3. New-Client Welcome Video
Creating a welcome video is easier than ever, and it’s a good way to help even the largest facility deliver that personal touch. You, or anyone on your team, can film a personalized 30-second welcome video for each new member. Text the video (if you have the client’s prior permission), or email a link. Here’s a quick sample script:
Hey [client name], it’s [your name] from [business name]. I want to personally welcome you to [business name]. We’re very excited to have you as a part of our fitness family, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to work with you and help you achieve your goals [insert goals here if you know them]. If you ever need anything, just call or email us anytime—that’s what we’re here for. Hope you have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you soon at [program name]!
4. New-Client Phone Calls and Texts
Do you want new clients to receive a phone call the day after their first workout? Great! How about a motivational text message on their seventh day? Or maybe an accountability/check-in call 30 days after their start date? These are all meaningful personal touches that seem “random” but are anything but! Check-ins, accountability updates, birthday celebrations, and milestone recognition are part of building relationships. They’re an excellent way to infuse motivation and inspiration into your onboarding procedure.
Create a defined framework for how often you’re going to call or text each client (create scripts and templates to make the contacts consistent). This will help you take your “new-client experience” to the next level. As always, first make sure your clients are open to being contacted in this manner.
5. Measurements and Check-Ins
One key to client retention is to have a system in place for how often you reassess each member. This applies to scheduling weigh-ins, calculating body fat percentage, taking circumference measurements, reviewing movement screen results, tracking daily habits, etc. Creating a process to track clients’ measurements, nutrition and habits is part and parcel of a prime accountability system, and maintaining it will ensure that the results are quantified. Determine what makes the most sense for your members and your business model, and put together a customized system. For example, track the data in a spreadsheet or a software program, or simply keep it on file for each member.
6. Mail Pieces (Yes, Snail Mail!)
Sending something tangible in the mail is a great way to over-deliver—and further separate yourself from the competition. People rarely get anything of value in the mail these days, so sending something personal goes a long way. Here are a few ideas:
- Send a personal card in the mail with a motivational quote and the client’s goals written on it.
- Send a welcome package (e.g., a T-shirt, wristband, water bottle and keychain that showcase your facility).
- Mail exclusive guest passes for your clients’ friends, and include a letter about your referral program.
- Send birthday cards, milestone cards, gratitude cards, and the like.
7. Create a Private, Client-Only Facebook Group
Most of your clients are already on Facebook, so why not create a place for them to connect, build relationships, ask questions and have a little fun! Use a Facebook group to welcome new members, celebrate milestones, share case studies, educate and motivate clientele and engage them in a new way. Post a variety of content to keep the value high. Ideas include running weekly challenges and sharing recipes and success tips. One of my favorite value-adds is to share at-home workout ideas.
Last, make sure you have a process to track your onboarding system—to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Whether new clients start tomorrow or 6 months from now, you want them all to have the same, consistent, high-level onboarding experience. Choose what makes the most sense for your business, and begin by implementing one new component at a time.
Leveraging technology can make this process as seamless as possible. Depending on how many clients or members you have, you can use anything from a free Google spreadsheet to customer relationship management (CRM) software that will automate tasks and send emails and texts to your clients and staff.
Creating a new-client onboarding system isn’t difficult, but getting set up will take you a little time. Start slowly, and then watch how implementing a new-client onboarding system can be a game-changer for your business!