Two handwritten notes and a book. That’s the level of personal touch that Sarah Stein brings to her bookkeeping clients.

When you start a new client relationship, the early moments are critical. Creating an outstanding experience from the start is one of the most reliable ways to build trust and keep people around for the long term.

And if you do it like Sarah, it doesn’t even need to take that long.

Sarah Stein runs a bookkeeping business called Miss Efficiency. For small businesses, bookkeeping is a major pain point. An accountant is crucial—but accountants only look at a business maybe four times a year.

Or even only once.

For clients that need more day-to-day help, that isn’t enough. So Sarah and Miss Efficiency come in to help small businesses with things like…

  • Payroll
  • Bills
  • Expense reports
  • Tax documents
  • Account preparation (for the accountants)

Among other services.

But as business grows, Sarah needed a way to make sure she could keep giving new clients the attention they deserve. In her words, “when I was less busy, I was very good at having those touchpoints and making them feel special. But you know, things get in the way.

They do indeed. Combining ActiveCampaign’s automation with a personal touch helped Sarah revamp her client onboarding—and save time doing it.

Onboarding for two audiences (not just clients)

“I just need to get another me so I can actually do some work.” – Sarah, Miss Efficiency

When Miss Efficiency gets a new client, it actually gets two—the client, and the client’s accountant.

Of course, Sarah needs to welcome her new clients. And she does (extremely well).

But she also needs to onboard the client’s accountant. Without any kind of onboarding, Sarah’s team might only interact with the accountant once per year. Onboarding helps them build a strong working relationship from the start, which pays off down the line.

(As an added bonus, most accountants work with multiple small businesses. Great relationships with accountants can lead to great referrals—and more business.)

At the same time, it would be exhausting to manually welcome each person to the business. It would mean:

  • Sending dozens of emails every day
  • Setting reminders to follow up at regular intervals
  • Doing it for two groups of people at the same time

There wouldn’t be any time to work!

Instead, Sarah uses automation to send a series of emails.

  • Welcome. In her first email, Sarah welcomes the new client (or accountant!) to the business. For clients, this gets supported by a handwritten thank you card (more on this later)
  • How we work. Introducing new contacts to the team helps them see who they’re going to be working with, and helps build trust.
  • What to expect from us. A lot of small businesses don’t really understand bookkeeping. It’s a subject that causes anxiety—so telling them exactly what to expect is a big help.
  • What we need from you. There are certain documents that bookkeepers need access to. By putting all of this in a checklist, Sarah makes the process easier for clients.

After these key messages are sent, Sarah mails a physical copy of her book (again, more on this in a moment). Once the book is sent, two more emails go out.

  • Review Miss Efficiency. Now that it’s been about a month (and the client has just received a free book), Sarah asks them to review her business.
  • Anything to improve? If you don’t ask for feedback, your clients might leave your business because of problems you didn’t even know about. Sarah asks for feedback in the final email and uses that feedback to improve her business.

The automations are slightly different for clients and accountants, but both follow the same general steps—thank the contact, introduce yourself, set expectations, and provide a helpful resource.

Sarah also integrates ActiveCampaign with Typeform, a service that lets you create forms and surveys to collect information from your contacts. Including Typeform in her welcome automation lets her:

  • Capture important initial information
  • Ask why new customers chose Miss Efficiency
  • Request feedback and send a net promoter survey
  • Ask for referrals to other businesses
  • Provide a place to give suggestions

And best of all? Sarah doesn’t need to spend hours copying and pasting welcome emails.

Using handwritten notes to add a personal touch

“A lot of people write articles and blog posts and ebooks, but this is an actual book…it’s just another level of authenticity.” – Sarah, Miss Efficiency

When was the last time you got a handwritten note?

If you’re one of Sarah’s clients, you can answer that question easily. Because her onboarding sequence includes not one handwritten note, but two…and a physical book!

“One of the very first things in the process is to send them a handwritten thank you card.”

When a new client signs up with Miss Efficiency, Sarah pulls out a thank you card with the Miss Efficiency logo. Then she uses a really nice pen to write a simple message:

  • “Dear [name], Thanks so much for choosing us! I’m really looking forward to working with you.”

That’s it! In a lot of ways, this is such a small step (certainly easier than keeping track of dozens of personal emails). But this kind of personal touch can make all the difference.

An example of the notes Sarah sends to new customers

What happens after that? 21 days into the relationship, it’s time for another personal touch.

Sarah wrote a physical book about the kinds of problems her clients face. As part of onboarding, she sends them a copy—along with another handwritten note:

  • “Dear [name]. It’s been great working with you! I hope you enjoy this book.”

Once again, this is pretty straightforward.

But it stands out.

Sarah sends a physical copy of her book

A book is something physical you can hold. A handwritten note with your name shows care, because someone took the time to write it.

The cost of this kind of welcome is easily covered by keeping clients around for a long time. And the time spent is less of a problem—because automation handles most of the rest of the onboarding process.

Blending automation with a personal touch

“Incorporating automation with a personal touch is the key. We want all of those processes to just happen, but that personal touch is still really important.” – Sarah, Miss Efficiency

Onboarding new clients and accountants takes time. And before automation, it was time that Sarah didn’t always have.

Automation makes it easier to handle the logistics. Basic information like thank-yous, team intros, and what to expect is easy to automate because it doesn’t change all that much from client to client.

And with the basics out of the way, Sarah has the time to add that personal touch.

Two handwritten notes and a book. You can be sure her clients leave great reviews.