Have you ever flown on an airliner? Gone on a cruise? If so, you experienced a form of an Onboarding System. On the airplane, it was called a ‘safety brief’.

But it goes back 50 years!

Its original purpose was to make you more comfortable because you understood more of what was going to happen on your trip. Cruise ships have the same required safety presentation where everyone gets to wear a life vest.

But a cruise ship also has an orientation, explaining how to sign up for dinner, different events, perhaps a massage, or the hours of the pool. This briefing is specifically to get your more comfortable with cruise life. Why? Two reasons: Comfort and Confusion.


People who are comfortable are happier. And happy people buy more, enjoy themselves more and tell all their friends. What company doesn’t want that?


Confused people don’t take action. If the ship’s guests are not sure how things work, who to call, or what to do, they buy less. It follows the simple rule “Confused people don’t buy”. So getting everyone onboard smart enough to get answers increases sales.

Nice stories, but what does this have to do with you?

In your business, you suffer from assuming too much about your customer list. That can be dangerous. You assume they know how to talk to you, how to have their problems handled, who to call with questions, and dozens of other concerns. They don’t. They need an Onboarding System, too, just like a cruise ship

What exactly is an Onboarding System?

It’s a business tool that reinforces a new customer or client’s decision to work with your company. It builds trust by communicating critical information in a personalized style. It removes doubt, tells them exactly what to expect, and outlines expectations for both the client and business. It has several steps to make sure it is not overwhelming and to allow the information to settle in.

Why use an onboarding?

The biggest reason is an Onboarding System will make clients ‘stick’ faster, build up trust quickly, and keep them loyal longer. And the investment is much less than the cost of acquiring a new customer.

Can it work in any business?

Absolutely. My wife visited a vacuum store (they still exist!) to purchase a floor steamer. Their Onboarding System started at the cash register and had 7 steps over 14 days including emails, thank you notes, coupons, and other personalized steps. I was amazed- my wife is now more loyal to that store than the Queen is loyal to England!

Is there a standard onboarding system?

Nope. The whole idea of affirming a new customer or client is individuality, trust building and getting them comfortable. So every Onboarding System is specific to that company. You can try to copy a few points, but the real meat, the part that does the work, is individualized to your company, customers, and clients.

Example: Millennials vs Boomers

You would never consider onboarding these two diverse groups the same way, right? The language is different, how they behave, make decisions, and relate to you are all different. There will be common factors, but a good onboarding speaks to your different ideal clients, well, differently!

What’s in an Onboarding System?

Anything you want. Emails, snail mail, Thank You cards, books, phone calls, texts, shopping bags- one of my clients sends out microwave popcorn!

What isn’t in an Onboarding System?

Selling. Absolutely no selling. Don’t put your business card inside any communication. Nothing impersonal, either. Use whatever tools you have to build a relationship with an Onboarding System. But don’t upsell, downsell, ask for more money, orders, or anything like it. These are people who have already bought and an Onboarding System is a trust building tool, not a short term selling tool. It will get more sales over the long run, but through other methods.

Where do I find content for an Onboarding System?

From your existing resources. Sources could include: Contracts (converted to plain language), books and articles (or excerpts) you may have written, blog posts, handouts from presentations, product samples, Points of Contact, Hours of Operations, Phone number lists, ‘How to’ lists. As long as whatever you choose is directly making the new client or customer comfortable it can be used. And here ‘comfortable’ means assured of their decision (sticky), more trusting, happier with their choice.

How many ‘touches’ should an Onboarding System have?

There is no limit. It can be as many- or as few- as you believe will accomplish the goal. More doesn’t mean better if it is a low quality touch. A few high quality ‘hot’ touches beat a lot of ‘cold’ ones.

This is a portion of a combined system prepared for a client by Take Control Marketing

What are ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ touches?

A hot touch is highly personalized and unexpected. A handwritten card in snail mail is a hot touch. A cold touch is something digital that is normally expected. A ‘Thank you’ note arriving after an online purchase arrives and the recipient knows it is computer generated. That’s cold. Auto-generated messages and communications, especially online, do almost nothing to warm a relationship. And an Onboarding System is Relationship 101.

Want proof of hot versus cold? Which would you rather get: An eCard for your birthday from your mother or a snail mail, handpicked and signed birthday card with a note.

My Company is small, do I need an automated system?

There are several options. Integration into a system like InfusionSoft® is one option. But any marketing automation system can work. Don’t have a system like this? An auto-responder can help at low cost and with a simple interface.

A simple card system using a file with 31 slots (one for each day of a month) can accomplish the same goals.

The importance of an Onboarding System is NOT how automated, but how warm it is.

A financial planner used a simple card file system and got great results. He then implemented a more automated system across his entire practice.

It’s implementing something, not the method that’s important. Remember the vacuum store Onboarding we talked about in the beginning? They do everything by hand.


Any business can do an Onboarding System that builds loyalty, trust, reduces refunds, and makes new customers stick to you like super glue. It’s cheaper than losses from refunds and, in the long game, allows more opportunities to sell. The longer a company is able to sell to an existing client, the lower the marketing costs. That means higher profits.

Once implemented, an Onboarding System is inexpensive to operate, with many steps automated (depending on any system you currently have).

What to do:

Start a simple plan of onboarding both customers and clients. Be deliberate, with planned communications that will bring them into the ‘family’, build trust in their decision to do business with you, and build loyalty quickly. Start by making a simple list of everything you would want to know if you were in their shoes.

Companies who are overwhelmed by the thought of preparing an Onboarding System can contact Mark@TakeControlMarketing.com to discuss options. Everything from merely outlining the plan on paper, like the summary you saw above, to writing all the emails, to a complete ‘Done For You’ Package.

Other Resources:

Have more questions about Onboarding, Appreciation Systems, or Marketing in general? Here are two resources you may find useful:

1.      www.TabletMarketingAcademy.com

A great list of easy to understand marketing topics. More each week, too. If you don’t have a marketing degree, this is the next best thing. And there are no student loans to pay back!

2.    Would you like a free, 1 on 1 conversation with Mark? Every Friday, Mark has appointments to talk problems, trade ideas, and offer motivation and specific solutions to people in business just like you. It’s not a sales pitch, it’s part of a ‘Pay It Forward’ that Mark does to appreciate all those who made him the success he is today.

You can sign up for a 50 minute phone call here:


Schedule already full? Check back as more Fridays are opened up!

Mark Mehling is an award winning direct response marketing consultant and copywriter.