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You have worked hard developing a growth strategy and keeping your funnel full of new visitors.

However, if you have noticed that your conversion rates are low, or you simply want to increase your ratio of visitors to customers, the next step is working on your onboarding process.

Onboarding typically refers the process of signing up a new member to your site, whether it’s to buy a product or become a free/paid member. You’ve sparked their interest and they are ready to sign on the dotted line. Don’t drop the ball now!

There are several different ways to onboard new customers, and it may take a little time to find the right path for your unique business. However, there are some basic best practices that you should be following.

Learn from the Best

Perhaps the easiest way to develop your own onboarding strategy is to learn from what the big guns are doing. Take some time and go through the process of signing up a few accounts on Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and other sites. Instead of just breezing through it as you usually would, slow down and take some notes.

Notice what kind of information they’re asking for. Which sites use social log-ins, and which don’t? How comfortable do you feel during each sign-up process? By taking some notes, you’ll be gaining valuable insight into what you need to do for your own processes.

Let’s move on to the next step, learning about what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to getting new customers to sign-up for your product or service.

The Best Onboarding Practices

Step 1: Make it extremely easy from the start. This cannot be stressed enough. Life is complicated enough and if you do not make it very easy to sign-up for your site, you will be losing customers. It’s honestly just that simple.

Take a little time and figure out exactly what you need to know about your customers – the bare basics. This is all that should be included in the sign-up process. Strip away any questions that are superfluous and pare down the process to the absolute minimum.

Step 2: Make your CTA compelling. No matter what niche you’re in, chances are you are facing some pretty stiff competition out there. What can you do to make signing up for your service a “must?” Take a step back and distill what it is that makes you unique into no more than two sentences. This tagline should be placed in a prominent spot on your landing page. You can look at it as the last kicker that decides a visitor in your favor.

Step 3: Save them time. How much spare time do you have? How much do you enjoy filling out lengthy registrations? If you answered not much, and I’d rather have a root canal, congratulations! You’re just like the rest of us. We don’t have a lot of spare time. We value our information and don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing a lot of information right from the start. Social log-ins are a great time saver that are appreciated by a vast majority of consumers. Sure, you’re going to have some people who do want to use this option, but you can offer a different mode for them. Pinterest is a great example of this. They have the option for a social log-in, or you can create a direct account – it’s up to you. Do the same thing for your visitors.

Step 4: Welcome them properly. How would you feel if you wanted to get into an exclusive store and you had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire at the door? Now, after completing all of that, how would you feel if you walked in the door and every single employee acted as if you didn’t exist?

An integral part of the onboarding process is making a new member feel welcome. You want to thank them for taking the time to join your site instead of ignoring them. If you don’t yet have a welcome email, create one. It doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, long. Rather, it should be warm in tone, fun and offer additional guidance if necessary. For example, if you’ve got a few videos available on how to make the most of their experience, this information should be included both in the email you send out, and their welcome page.

Step 5: Make it worth their while to stay. Why would you go through all of the hard work we’ve just covered only to push someone out the door? You wouldn’t! Once you get a customer or site member, it’s now up to you to do all that you can to convince them to hang around. While retention isn’t typically looked at as part of the onboarding process, it actually plays a very important role.

In fact, you can look at your onboarding process as planting seeds for future retention. You only get this one chance to make a great first impression and win a customer for life. How are you going to act? If you start looking at onboarding in this light, you will start to see just how important it is to invest some serious time and effort into fine-tuning it.

If you have a retention plan in place, such as a rewards program, now is the time to mention it to your customers. Let them know that you’re going to go above and beyond to make and keep them happy for the long term.

Step 6: Referrals in onboarding. Want to know a great way to get an influential person promoting your company? Start including the ability to refer friends in your onboarding process. For a great example of this, you can look to Facebook. There’s a reason they have billions of members. When you sign up and you’re getting your profile ready, you have the option to invite friends/existing contacts.

Who is more influential than a customer who is excited about what you have to offer and wants to be the first person to share it with their friends? If you don’t want to ask for their contacts, at the very least, you should make it easy for them to tweet and share with their friends.

The added benefit of a referral step in your onboarding process goes back to your growth funnel. It takes a lot to keep people pouring in to keep that funnel full. Why not save yourself a lot of hard work and let your customers help you fill it?

Step 7: Invest in streamlining your entire process. Before you take your onboarding process live, you’re going to have to have multiple people try it out. It may be super simple for you; however, it may not be super simple for everyone else. You’re going to need to invest both some time and money into streamlining your onboarding process. You can ask friends and family to go through it and get their honest opinions. You can also hire testers to assist you in highlighting areas that need work. Bottom line – you’ve got to be willing to take the time that it takes to do it right.

Don’t be Afraid to Test

No one gets the onboarding process perfectly right the first time they do it. It takes time and testing to achieve a process that the majority of customers will accept and enjoy. It is important to stay positive and keep trying different ideas until you hit on the one that works smoothly for your unique situation.

Evolution is important as well. Remember how difficult signing up for Twitter used to be? Look at how they do it now. Keep an eye out for new ways to get your customers onboard and have the courage to try something new. Keep innovating and keep your customers’ wants first – these are the keys to having a successful onboarding process.