10 tips for successfully onboarding a new client

An effective onboarding is critical to having a successful working relationship and a happy client. A well thought out onboarding process covers everything from scope of project, to timeline and even who the agency contact is. By being proactive in supporting your client’s transition and helping build an understanding of how processes work, you will boost your chances of having a long term relationship and reduce your churn.

  1. Have a meaningful kickoff meeting

Kathleen Celmins of Amplified Now suggests “Have the kickoff call be part of the initial strategy session. Don’t separate the two — they’re inextricably linked — and make sure you set expectations at the very beginning. For us, it means having both partners on hand for that first call, and letting the client know how the quarter will go when it comes to brainstorming, strategizing, handling the content creation, then the deliverables.”

Reb Risty of RebL Marketing advises “Have a facilitated kickoff meeting with all the stakeholders from both the client and agency teams. The agenda should cover:

  • Pre meeting questionnaire discussion
  • Review of scope of work
  • Define expectations
  • Establish communication rules
  • Confirm processes and procedures for work and requests

Follow up the meeting with a complete outlining of these points and what was agreed to. Then have the client and agency sign off on the agreement. Keep this in your client records.”

Jessica Watson of Points North Studio says “One of the biggest hurdles when engaging a new client is teaching them what to expect for this new working relationship. I recommend having a proper project kick-off meeting as part of client onboarding. It’s the perfect place to set expectations around communication, check-ins, campaign planning, and KPI’s. It’s also an opportunity to introduce key team members, and collect important assets (brand guides, existing copy) from the client. We’ve found that a well-informed client is a happy client.”

  1. Make things easy for the client

Jack Fleming of Socialry Marketing says “Make service information and payment easy. We recently started using a CRM to send prospects service information, contracts, and payment info. By making information sharing slightly easier, it minimizes longer sales cycles and prospects potentially not pulling the trigger. We currently use HoneyBook as our CRM, but there are plenty of other great softwares out there.”

Chris Romani of Romani Branding & Management advises “Create a video that uses a play, pause, do (PPD) methodology. For anything the client has to do, create a video that they watch, pause the video, and then do the task they just saw.”

  1. Make sure the client understands the project scope

Reece Griffin of TBA Digital advises “Make sure you understand the requirements of the project and that the customer understands the expectations of the sequence of events that are to follow. One of my favourite parts of this process is the importance of developing ‘User Personas’ early on in the piece. The persona is the cornerstone to any user centric deliverable that maintains a strict focus on the end user right from the beginning. Allowing time for this early on (e.g. during the on-boarding process) can save a lot of heartache later on.”

Sarah Runyan of Boundless Media suggests “Make sure you get everything you need from your client as soon as they sign the contract so you can get started. We use automated forms to get all brand assets, goals, account information, etc. This ensures a smooth transition to our design and copywriting team to get started.”

Shelisa Demuth of LAUREL Development shares “We built a workbook using Google Sheets. On day zero when the contract is signed (even before the initial workshop), we share the workbook with our clients and they are tasked to complete the first three tabs on their own. This includes some setup tasks, general information about their business and tech stack, and external videos about our methodology. By doing this, by the time we meet for the first time, they already have a rich introduction to who we are and how we work and we’ve already received information that could have easily eaten over an hour’s time on a call.”

  1. Have a plan

Tiffany Barry of Nightingale Social says “ The biggest key to successfully onboarding a new client is to create an onboarding plan as one of your first steps—this can even be systemized if you have standard packages! An onboarding plan shared with your new client helps them feel good knowing exactly what is happening and when in those critical first few weeks. This builds trust and the foundation of care that elevates the client experience and sets the stage for a long-term partnership… which means higher retention and lower churn for your agency!”

Jonathan Zacharias of GR0 suggests “A valuable customer onboarding program for a product could involve detailed tutorials and unlimited access to guidance and support during the early stages of use. For the SEO services we provide, customer onboarding involves setting up a kick-off meeting between the client and key members of our team who will be managing the client’s account. We discuss strategy, how the strategy will be implemented, and go over expectations so that everyone is on the same page. Transparency is key for aligning everyone’s goals.

Katelyn Perez of Tandem Interactive says “Run through an organic search onboarding audit/checklist. Having a checklist/document ensures that the whole process is streamlined, and the new client is completely transitioned into the agency. Having a complete onboarding checklist gives the SEO specialist the perfect guide to understanding where the client is at and where the specialist would like to begin optimizing when building out a successful strategy based on the checklist.”

  1. Understand your clients needs

Zacharias adds “The most pivotal component of onboarding is gaining an in-depth understanding of the client’s needs. This creates a seamless onboarding process both parties gain from. The clients should be given ample space to lay the foundation for their needs and to learn precisely how your team will meet them. This way there is no confusion and questioning down the line.”

Cam Killpack of Brandefenders says “Go over your client’s internal marketing goals. As an agency you may have your own goals that you would like to reach but unless they align with the customers goals they won’t be successful. Always work together as a team.”

  1. Respond quickly

Danielle Duran of Boxwood Digital Marketing states “Clear communication is essential to successful on-boarding. Letting the client know a precise timeline for getting started, as well as being extremely prompt about responding to questions or concerns sets your relationship up for mutual trust.”

  1. Be organized

Vinny Lizcano of Nimaroh Creative House says “Onboarding can be a fairly complex task. There’s a lot of back and forth on the legal and accounting side such as signing contracts, filling out paperwork, setting up invoicing and all that is before the work even gets started. Beyond that, there’s the complexity of the working relationship like how to best communicate, how to hand off deliverables, and what the deliverables even are. Being organized through this whole process not only gets rid of unnecessary stress but it creates a level of confidence that is critical to kicking off a great working relationship.”

  1. Designate an account manager

Taylor Eaton of TLC Marketing & Creative Services advises “Make sure the new client knows exactly who their designated account manager is. It can be frustrating for clients when they have to go through numerous people at an agency to receive answers. Make it easier by assigning one single person. This person will take all their complaints, questions, and will get to know the client, so they have a personable experience.”

  1. Be proactive in addressing client questions

David Hamilton of Oppilo Marketing says “We found that many clients have similar questions and issues in the first few months working with us. Even if we address these issues in an onboarding call, clients often become overwhelmed in this forum and fail to take great notes. To solve this problem, we developed an email course. Our course addresses the most common questions and issues clients encounter in the first few weeks in the email copy and uses links to blogs and videos to go deeper on certain topics. We gave a lot of thought to how to roll this content out over the first couple weeks to ensure that our client’s day 1 questions are answered on day 1, day 2 on day 2, and so on. We’ve automated the distribution of the course through our existing marketing automation software. Now we are proactively addressing client questions and issues without absorbing internal resources and clients can refer back to the emails when new questions arise. As a result, we are spending less time answering onboarding questions and have increased retention.”

10. Be up front with pricing from the start

Nikki Takahashi of Fetching Finn says “Many agencies are reluctant to do this, but I am a firm believer in showing prices on your website. This can be a “starts at” price, an average project price, or a price range. By being transparent in this way, you’re both qualifying the client and demonstrating the value of your services. You’ll filter out the tire-kickers and avoid awkward pauses when it comes to talking numbers during a consultation.”

In conclusion, a well thought out and informative onboarding process is an important step in building a relationship built on trust. By covering items such as scope of project, price and timeline in an organized way you will boost your chances of having a long term working relationship and reduce the chances of that client getting frustrated due to a lack of understanding and churning.