We Discuss How To Develop a Better Onboarding Experience For Your Membership Website
Val Geisler has worked with some of leading online company’s connected to helping them with their Onboarding Experience. In this show we discuss how you the membership website owner can increase you retention rates by developing a quality email on-boarding experiences that will make your online business much more profitable.
Val Geisler is ridiculously obsessed with email. An Email Marketing Conversion Copywriter and Strategist, Val spent over a decade on the inside of companies from non-profits to 7-figure businesses to tech startups.
She brings her background in content creation, customer experience, and digital strategy to her incredible clients every day. Email isn’t dead, and Val is here to help you bring yours back to life. You can find out more about Val at www.valgeisler.com or follow her on Twitter at @lovevalgeisler.
You can get 25% WP Fusion by using this coupon code WPTONIC
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 339 and we’ve got a really great guest this week folks. It’s Val Geisler. Val, would you like to quickly introduce, my co-host is shaking her head, even though I practiced, I’m butchering our guest’s name.
Jonathan: Val Geisler. I do apologize Val.
Val: No, that’s all right. It’s not the easiest name. I’m not a Smith.
Jonathan: Actually, it is quite easy compared to some of them.
Val: I’m no Denwood.
Jonathan: Oh dear. It was all going so well. Val, can you quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Val: Yeah, sure. So, I’m Val Geisler. I am an Email Conversion Strategist and I work with B2C, software, and e-commerce businesses on life-cycle emails. So that looks onboarding campaigns, retention campaigns, anything is in that campaign cycle. Those are the emails I live and breathe for. I am weirdly obsessed with email and do everything I can to make it better and more human.
Jonathan: All right. I’d like to introduce my semi-cruel co-host Cindy Nicholson, but she was right as well. Cindy, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Cindy: It’s a good thing my last name’s easy for you to pronounce Jonathan. Nicholson, you kind of can’t go wrong with that one.
Jonathan: It’s becoming psychological now.
Cindy: Hi everyone. I’m Cindy Nicholson. I’m from TheCourseWhisperer.co where I help entrepreneurs who want to create online courses create raving fans from them.
Jonathan: That’s great. And before we have our main conversation with Val about emailing, onboarding, an emphasis on membership websites and course creators like yourself listeners.
I just want to quickly tell you about one of our great sponsors and that is WP Fusion. And what is WP Fusion? In your technology stack, you should have two main parts which should be your WordPress website and your CRM. And basically, what WP Fusion does, it puts the communication between WordPress and your CRM and WP Fusion supports over 40 different CRMs, is it put on steroids, especially if you’re dealing with a membership site. It enables how you can send different emails to different parts, people that go to different parts of your membership site.
It’s really amazing the different things you can do and it’s really easy to set up. So, go to the WP Fusion site and the great thing, they’re giving us a great coupon code which is only for you listeners and viewers. If you use WPTONIC, all uppercase, one word, you get 25 percent off any of the WP Fusion packages and that’s solely for you listeners and viewers. So I suggest you go over, buy one of those packages and start using it with WordPress and your CRM. So into the conversation Val. Emails with an emphasis, with people that have got a membership website, what are you seeing people doing slightly wrong? Maybe that’s a good start to the conversation. What do you think Val?
Val: Oh gosh. That is a can of worms.
Jonathan: Do you want to start with something else?
Val: No. I write email onboarding teardowns on my blog and I am an email hoarder. I collect emails. I’m the one that’s out there signing up for your list and investigating what you’re doing on your emails.
Jonathan: Oh, you’re that person.
Val: Yeah. I’m that person junking up your subscriber count. But I’m just one person, so it’s not too bad. But I do see a lot of good things happening in email and I see a lot of mistakes being made. I’m very careful to say that it’s not bad things that are happening in email. I’m not a believer in best practices, but there are better practices and there are better ways to do email and every person will tell you, every email expert will tell you something different about what works and what doesn’t.
Someone’s going to tell you HTML based templates and tons of images and a hamburger bar and looking like a website inside of an email, that’s the cutting edge of email and that’s what you should be doing. And someone else, like me, would tell you plain text emails convert a lot better. So I’m not saying don’t have images or gifts or videos or anything you want. Just make them more text-based because they’re more friendly, they’re more human. It’s received as a person reaching out to a person and not a business or a corporation that wants my money. It’s less transactional and more relational.
So I think that’s the biggest thing that I see happening. And even for e-commerce businesses or product based businesses where you have something physical you want to show off and even for courses. You want to show off this beautiful interface you spent all this time building and these worksheets that you had somebody create for you into PDFs and you have all the beautiful images and you want to show those off in your emails. I’m a big believer in knowing the difference between transactional and relational and those relational relationship building emails should really be text-based, so not text only, but text-based, meaning like 60 percent text in that email. And then, those transactional emails, the ones that are more sales focused or focused on a cart abandonment or even a receipt, those can be more image and graphics heavy. Maybe that’s 60 percent graphics in that case. But knowing the difference between the two types of emails you’re sending and then even striking a balance between those so you’re not only ever sending transactional and on the other side of it not only ever sending relationship based or you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.
Jonathan: That’s great. Cindy.
Cindy: So it’s interesting because when it comes to online courses or membership sites I’m intrigued by your specialty being in onboarding. So if we can kind of make the link to somebody signs up for a membership site or their online course that initial communication I think is really crucial to help the individual want to continue on and complete the course or stay engaged in the membership site. So based on your experience creating onboarding emails, what piece of advice would you give to course creators that want to create a really positive onboarding experience for their students?
Val: Yeah. So there’s no magic formula. It is different for every single audience and I swear that one day I’m going to give a keynote at an email conference and I’m just going to walk out and say, “It depends and test it.” And just walk off the stage because that’s kind of the bottom line with email is that you always want to be iterating and it really depends on your audience. However, I have a bit of a formula, something I call the Dinner Party strategy and it’s just a good way to think about email onboarding. So the Dinner Party strategy is applying what you might do if you were hosting a dinner party in your home to your onboarding experience through email. So that looks like you know when somebody comes over for a dinner party, you welcome them into the home, hopefully, you have your front light on, you take their coat and maybe offer them a drink. If they’ve never been to your home before, you let them know where the bathroom is or show them around a little bit and offer them a place to sit and relax and enjoy just being there. And that’s the way you want to start your onboarding experience as well. So that initial email is just a warm welcome.
A, “You are in the right place. I’m so glad you’re here. I want to get to know you better.” So you’re not going in with the sale right away, pushing any particular product right away. If they’ve already bought your course, because we’re talking about the onboarding experience of once they’ve made a purchase, so they’ve already bought your course, they’ve already signed up for your thing, so once they’re there, just welcome them. They’ve made the decision. You want to make sure they feel really good about their decision. They feel good about coming over to your house for dinner. So then, maybe you serve an appetizer and in the case of email onboarding, that looks like, “Here’s a little bonus piece, something I created that is maybe buried in the heaping pile of content you got inside the membership site that I want to make sure you get a taste of. And so, sending that over as, “Here’s a little taste of what’s to come.”
The next email, the next thing that happens at a dinner party is a main course is served. So everyone’s seated. You’ve had your appetizers, maybe your salads and you serve the main course. So now, this is the third email of the welcome services. Now you can really dig into the course materials. Where should they be in the process? What should they be experiencing? That varies depending on your particular product and whether it’s a membership site or a course. But you’re just now presenting the main concept that you’re tackling. So then, after the main course is served, maybe there’s some side dishes that go with that and side dishes to me are more like bonus content, “Oh, hey. You’re here in this membership site or you bought the course. Did you know I have a podcast or I have a YouTube channel? Here’s our Facebook community or here’s the forum section of our membership site.
” Those little bonuses that help them engage even more. So side dishes always compliment the main course so you want to make sure that it compliments something that they are getting more value out of. Then, there’s dessert, hopefully, there’s dessert at your dinner parties. So dessert in your onboarding strategy is just another way for them to engage. It’s that yummy little thing. Maybe you offer a bonus one on one call or some kind of bonus that they can get during that onboarding period only. And then, an invite back. So the invite back, just like if you have people over to dinner, hopefully, they enjoyed the dinner and you did too, you want them to come back. So you do the same thing in your onboarding sequence. You’re always encouraging them to come back in, experience the product again, experience more pieces of the course, more sections of the membership site and just continuing to keep them engaged.
So that’s like the initial onboarding sequence. Then there’s retention that goes beyond that. But getting those sets of emails out, that’s 6 or 7 emails, out early on will really establish the relationship as one that they can trust you. They know you’re not there to just push information down their throat. But that you’re there to be of value to them and serve them and that’s really what the Dinner Party strategy is all about.
Cindy: It’s true. I think it often gets overlooked. People worry about the content and all of the technology, but they’re not thinking about what they can do in those first initial stages of building that relationship. So the dinner party analogy is kind of a good way to think about it in terms of what stage are they at right now and what should I be offering. So that’s good.
Val: And you know it’s really about helping them get comfortable and I think as creators we’re so excited to share all of our knowledge, everything, “But I built all this information.” And especially if have a membership course or a membership site you’ve run for a period of time, you might think, “I have all this stuff to give them.” And they don’t want all of that stuff right away. They’ll get it over time. You just want to build that relationship so that they do stick around and keep wanted to get stuff over time.
Jonathan: That’s great. You’ve made me hungry Val. We’re going to go for our break folks. We’ll be back with our great conversation with Val Geisler and it gives me the opportunity to have a snack, won’t it folks? We’ll be back in a few moments.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. I was hungry. I’ve had a snack. Let’s continue the discussion. I thought that was fabulous what you said in the first half Val. It was a great explanation of a sequence of email and how you should approach. So, one of our sponsors is WP Fusion and you’ve got a lot now with ActiveCampaign, Drip, there’s loads of them, about segmenting your list. You’ve got any thoughts about that? Because the only thing is it’s a bit like running before you can walk. I think a lot of people get very intimidated by this new possibilities in a way. You’ve got any kind of ways, insights about how somebody should approach after they’ve done that series of 6 emails that you described in the first half, how they should utilize the CRM?
Val: So, a lot of people get very intimidated by the idea of segmenting and it tends to stop people before they’ve even started. Now, Email Marketing service providers have gotten our software to a place where we can do all of these things and it’s very similar to that Dinner Party strategy where you don’t want to overwhelm people with all the information right away. So if someone’s getting started with Email Marketing, just get started. Send to everybody. Don’t worry about segmenting. Just get some emails out there.
Get comfortable with emailing people, writing for email, all of those things that can help you feel like, “Okay. I’m seeing this email thing work and pay off and I’m building relationships. So now how do I take it to the next level?” And that is where segmenting comes in. So my first tip is don’t start with segmenting unless you’ve been emailing for a long time and maybe you’re starting to build out a new course or membership site and you want to build segmenting in from the very beginning. But once you’ve gotten started and you feel really comfortable with email, then you can look at segmenting.
And segmenting is simply sending the right message to the right person. So it’s saying, “The tag on these subscribers means that they don’t need this particular email or this particular message.” Some of these email service providers offer what they call conditional text where within one email, you can have different paragraphs for people depending on the tag that’s applied to them. And if hearing that sentence is overwhelming, then just ignore this whole thing of segmenting for now, right? But if it’s something that’s interesting to you, then start to think about how you might change your messages based on how people are tagged.
For instance, right before this recording, I sent out an email to my list about two different webinars that I’m hosting, one webinar, one workshop. And so, people who are already registered for the workshop got a different paragraph. In the middle of it, it says, “You’re already registered so you don’t need to do anything.” Versus people who aren’t tagged as registered. They got, “Here’s where you can register and save some money in the process.” So, thinking about that experience of the individual message and helping people feel, again, that it’s a relationship, it’s a one to one and segmenting can do that when you do it right. If it’s overwhelming and if it’s done rushed or poorly, then it can actually be harmful. So it’s better to just ignore segmenting if you’re overwhelmed by it.
Get some help, read some documentation, attend a webinar, ask somebody who’s an expert in it, before you do it, try some segmenting on a small group of people, see how that works out and then advance your skills from there. It was years before I tried that, like conditional text inside of an email. I just did segmenting entire emails before I got comfortable enough to know what liquid text was, how to change things. So, again, if it’s overwhelming, leave it and say, “That’s nice for everyone else. I’m just going to send an email.” And know that your software most likely has the capability when you’re ready for it.
Jonathan: Oh, that was great. Thanks for that. Cindy.
Cindy: So, again, I send messages out to my list, email messages. Sometimes I face that blank kind of screen and thinking what should I write about. Do you have any thoughts or advice around if you are facing that kind of writer’s block, how to overcome it when you go to send a message to your audience?
Val: Yeah. My favorite trick is to put a person’s name at the top of the email. Also, get out of your email program. So write in a Google Doc or something, somewhere that is more designed for writing and then you can copy paste into your email program. But at the very top of that document, put someone’s name. And so, if I’m writing an email to you, Cindy, I would literally type Cindy at the top of the document and then write a message to you. If I’m writing to you about my workshop, then I’m going to say, “Hey, Cindy.
I know I’ve talked about this before and you might have seen a tweet here and there, but here’s the details on this workshop. There have been some questions from some other people. So here are my frequently asked questions and answers.” And just write the email like you’re writing to an individual person. And then when you copy paste it into your ESP, then you just make sure you take that name out and do the personalization first name. But that’s the easiest way to get over the writer’s block of what do I even write because ultimately, we want to build that one to one relational experience and putting someone’s name on something is the best way to do that from your end.
Cindy: Yeah. No, it makes sense. It’s funny. That whole tip applies to a lot of things especially if you’re going to be on video or anything like that is just imagine that you’re talking to one other person, not sending it to multiple people and just have a conversation with them.
Val: Yeah. It’s just being human. Email is not complicated. It’s something we all do all the time. For some reason, sending an email to your sister or to even a business colleague, you can just dash off an email real quick. You get totally blocked when you go to send it to a list of people. You know some people say on MailChimp the little money high five is a little intimidating because it’s like, “Did I do good? I don’t know.” So just don’t think about it being thousands of people or hundreds of people, think about one person.
Jonathan: Great. I wanted to ask you a question about, I do see, like yourself, I’m not a connoisseur, but I do see clear trends and one of them, especially if you go to a possible course that you’re going to sign up and they’ve got either a free lead magnet or they’ve got a free mini-course and you sign up, you get a series of email. They’re long form, almost always text and you get one almost every day until you either unsubscribe or you sign up for some paid product. I see that trend almost everywhere. What’s your thoughts about it? It kind of puts me off a bit. I haven’t built that relationship that we’ve been talking about, that dinner party metaphor has been totally broken, but I see this all the time. Got any thoughts about it?
Val: I think it’s the places that you’re looking.
Jonathan: I’m just going to the wrong places, am I Val?
Val: It is a pretty common tactic and I tend to refer to it as the LinkedIn White Bro tactic. It’s very common in that space of online marketers, typically men, typically white men, typically men who are on LinkedIn all the time or Facebook, writing these long posts and they replicate that in email. It is a very hardcore Marketing strategy and it’s something that was taught to a large group of people. I don’t know the original method.
Jonathan: I just want to interrupt. I just call it the kind of ClickFunnel methodology.
Val: Yeah. Totally. I think that the reason that I see it so often with that particular group of people is that maybe it’s something that just feels more comfortable and this could be a male/female thing, but I know that men sell in a different way than women do and also men receive Marketing in a different way than women do. So part of it is knowing your audience and knowing if that is a tactic that will work for your audience. If that is your audience and that works really well, then do that. Follow that model. If it worked on you and you are your ideal client, then follow that model. People have swipe files for a reason. So download some of those things and collect those emails and see what that model looks like and try and recreate it in your world. I would say for the majority of people, even if you’re not a marketer by trade, people are getting savvy and we know when we’re being sold to, we know when we’re being marketed to and you have to be a little bit smarter than that. So there has to be relationship building. There has to be room to breathe in that relationship. It’s like going in on the first date and asking to marry someone. That’s selling right out of the gate.
If you have the right audience built in, you can sell right out of the gate. If you have the right relationship beforehand, before they ever sign up to your email list. But a lot of that is more top of funnel and lead gen, the way that you are interacting with people online in general. If you’re coming in kind of cold to a large number of people and just hitting them with that, I’m not against long-form emails. I think the length of the email should be whatever it takes to get your message across, whether that’s 12 sentences or 1,200 words. It can be anything in between. I’ve seen over 2,000 word emails come through and I’ve read every single word because each word led me to the next one and I wanted to keep reading.
Jonathan: I would never read anything that long.
Val: Right. But I wonder though if somebody who you really admired, who really had your trust and your interest sent you a 2,000 word if you would read the whole thing. Or maybe if they offer you an option to click through to a website, maybe you’re more comfortable reading it as a blog post. It’s not about the length of the email and the amount of words that are in it, it’s about the content and it’s about the frequency and you just have to test.
Some people’s email list can survive a daily email and that’s what they want and that’s also what they expect. You’re setting those expectations in that welcome email and saying, “I’m going to be in your inbox every single day.” And so, what does that look like. Setting and resetting expectations, knowing what they can “tolerate” and testing it, test a daily email, see if it works for them, for you. I have a friend who just went through this process and he was doing a daily email every day but Sunday and he found people weren’t opening his emails as often. His open rates dropped on Saturday so he stopped doing the Saturday. And then, he personally wanted to take a little break from the daily emails so he switched to a Sunday only.
And I’m sure at some point it’ll reiterate and switch back, but each time he’s resetting expectations with his current subscribers and then with any new subscribers on the opt-in form, what they can expect and I think that that’s the most important thing. Setting expectations, knowing what your audience and you can tolerate and testing it, seeing what works, going off of those open rates and the interest and clicks.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. We’re going to wrap it up with Val. You’ve been a fantastic guest Val. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion. We’re going to have some bonus discussion with Val which you’ll be able to see on the WP-Tonic website and our YouTube channel. Val’s been gracious to say she’ll continue the discussion for a little while. But Val, how can people find out more about you and your words of wisdom?
Val: Yeah, sure. I’m at valgeisler.com. It’s v – a – l – g – e – i – s – l – e – r.com. You can also search Val Email Conversion Strategist and find me. I show up at the top of Google searches for that. So you can head over there. I have, like I said, email onboarding teardowns there. So you can see what other people are doing and maybe what to do and what not to do. I talk about what works and what doesn’t work and a lot of them include swipe copy that I wrote for, here’s what I would write instead or where you can fill in the gaps. So you can swipe that copy and use it yourself. Those companies aren’t using it so you might as well. And sign up to my email list. I send those out to everyone and then I also send out those personalized conditional text emails based on the tags that you have.
Jonathan: I’ll be signing up. Cindy, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to Cindy?
Cindy: If you’re looking to create an online course and need a little bit of help putting it all together, you can come find me at TheCourseWhisperer.co.
Jonathan: Thanks Cindy. And if you’re looking for some help with your Learning Management System, LifterLMS or LearnDash or you’re interested in setting up a membership site, just go to the WP-Tonic website. We’ve got loads of resources, interviews, great people like Val and if you want to direct chat with me, you can book that directly on the home page and it’s free and I’ll see if I can help you. Thank Val. And we’re going to wrap it up now folks. Hopefully, next week, well, I’m sure next week we’ll have another great guest like Val that will give you some insights on how to make your online course a real success. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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