Why You Need to Celebrate Both Beginnings and Endings
To truly provide a transformative experience, you need to celebrate the beginning and the ending of the journey for your participants.
As I write this blog post, it is September and the beginning of my sons’ school year here in Boston (I think that we might have the latest “first day of school” in the whole entire country). With the start of the new school year comes the annual prep:
Fitting their ever-growing feet for new sneakers
Running to the office supply store for new binders, notebooks, and a French/English dictionary
Spending 2 hours at the dance store for the right size ballet slipper and Irish step dance shoes
Then comes the excited communication that I receive from school:
Welcome notices from this year’s crop of teachers
Messages of “this year is going to be the best yet!” from school leadership
Enticements from parent volunteers to get involved in this group or that committee
Why does this happen year after year? With the exception of the first-time kindergarten parents, all of us returning parents have been to this rodeo before. We know the drill. I think that we start every year with this special kind of hoopla is to generate a sense of excitement, of new-ness, of possibility.
This year can be different.
And the start of school inspires me to think about how you, the financial capability professional, are celebrating the start of a new financial chapter in the lives of your clients.
Celebrate the Beginning of Your Clients’ Financial Journey to Inspire Hope and Optimism
Consider the financial education or coaching programs that you run. Do you start them off with a bang? Do you get your participants excited about the possibility that their relationship with money will be new and different this time?
Remember that, by taking the potentially life-changing step to enroll in your financial capability program, your client might be crossing that mental threshold from thinking “I’m bad with money,” to “I’m ready to see if I can do better with money.”
I think that this is a threshold-crossing that you should celebrate.
From working with and studying financial capability programs across the country, I have amassed a list of creative ways that programs might welcome new members into their money tribes:
Send out a welcome package – either through snail mail or through email – to welcome new participants, give them some agency or program swag, and get them pumped for the journey ahead.
Schedule a brief 15-minute welcome call to introduce yourself as their educator or coach, ask them about themselves, and solicit any questions or apprehensions that they may have before starting the program.
Host a welcome reception for new participants. This is a more relaxed way of welcoming new people into the fold of your program before hitting the ground running in your first session.
Invite them into social media groups that are designated just for them and that are closed to the public. This gives participants the sense that “I am part of the tribe” and a greater allegiance to the agency before the program has even started.
You might think to yourself that you are too busy with the day-to-day tasks of your job to stop everything and welcome your new clients, but I would counter that making this upfront investment of energy and attention on your part will lead to fewer drop-outs later on. Integrating small celebrations to mark the beginning of your clients’ financial journey will inspire early loyalty and increase the likelihood that they come back for more.
Celebrate the End of Your Client’s Financial Journey with You to Remind Them of Their Wins
To continue on the school theme, we all know that when most students are finished with their education they attend a graduation ceremony. If you provide your services to groups you might hold a graduation ceremony for your participants. This is a nice way to acknowledge how hard they have worked to develop their relationship with their finances, and to recognize how far they have come.
But what if the service you provide is one-one-one? What if you provide rolling admissions that therefore result in rolling endings? Consider these ideas for celebrating the hard work that your clients have done individually:
Hold a monthly or quarterly graduation ceremony in order to celebrate your participants in batches. This leads to “economy of scale” and creates a sense of community even if your participants have been working with you individually through your program.
Recognize your graduating participants in your newsletter or on your agency website. This makes them “star for the day” and shows them that you honor the hard work that they have done with you.
Present them with a small gift (and yes, it might be more agency swag) to symbolize the successful completion of an engagement. While a certificate might end up under a pile of papers, an object that your client might put on their desk or in their windowsill will remind them of the life-changing experience that they had with you.
Invite them in for a meal! Enough said.
Note that an alternate word for graduation is commencement. And if you think about it, commencement actually means “beginning” or “a starting point.” What you may see as an end – as your client will no longer be coming to your office – your client might feel as a new beginning.
They are going to start the next chapter of their financial life with the tools that they mastered in your program. Your participant might feel a little bit like they will be walking on a high wire without having you there as a safety net. This can be a pretty intense feeling, so acknowledge it and reassure them that the skills they have mastered while working with you will continue to serve them even after you and your agency are out of the picture.