One of the biggest challenges many agencies face is not only the process of onboarding a new client, but also with client retention and project management. Well, to be honest the whole process can be pretty stressful. Most agencies still acquire new clients through word-of-mouth and referrals, so how do you make sure you leave a long lasting impression so they have nothing but good things to say about your brand?
Client onboarding is the answer! If you want to stand out as an agency you need to set up a workflow and process for onboarding a client. Client onboarding helps agencies build successful client relationships, helping you leave that lasting impression. Without a proper structure, the client won’t stick around long enough to make you any money. So, what exactly is client onboarding?
Simply put, client onboarding is the process of welcoming a new client into your agency, workflow, team and resources. Effectively onboarding a client can lead to better overall results, helps set expectations and helps identify the overall goals and KPI’s.
Failing to onboard a client leaves this process more vulnerable to mistakes and can lead to miscommunication, failure to set reasonable expectations, and lack of direction in the project. So to make sure your agency does not fall into this, a written document outlining the process is a great way to help you automate and replicate it across all your clients. Having a set workflow can also help clarify your teams’ involvements and responsibilities as well as place emphasis on what you expect them to deliver.
Now that you have a better understanding of what client onboarding is, let’s take a look at the different stages that your agency should be incorporating.
This might seem pretty straightforward, but before you get started on any work, you need to make sure you have a signed contract at hand. Even though this prospect might seem like an interested client, a verbal yes does not guarantee that they are actually interested in paying for your services.
Sending the contract to your prospect is the first step of successfully onboarding a new client. The contract should clearly outline the tone of the relationship as well as set clear expectations and deadlines. Many agencies fall into the mistake of setting unrealistic deadlines, so make sure to be specific on the deadlines you are anticipating and include enough time for you and your team to make mistakes.
If a client is happy, it shouldn’t take long before they reach out to negotiate or clarify any aspects of the contract and finally return it signed. But it’s still not over! Before you brief your team on the project you need to wait for the payment. It is advised to include in the contract how you would like to proceed with the payment and if a deposit is required.
Now that the contract has been signed and the payment has been received, you can start gathering your team.
Once the payment has been received, it is important to send your new client a welcome email. This will be the first point of contact since the deal was closed and so this email should outline what is coming next.
Take advantage of this opportunity to send your new client a questionnaire to help you and your team better understand your clients needs and requirements. You don't want your questionnaire to be too long, so keep it brief by including a maximum of twenty questions. Ask questions that will help you leverage information that will facilitate the project such as social media log-ins, website, marketing collateral and much more. Here are a some of the questions you can include:
Don’t be afraid to specify a deadline of when you would need the survey to be completed, in the email you can include “Please get it this back to us by Monday the 24th…”.
The survey is important because it will provide your team with useful information on the clients goals, expectations and past experience, which can be referred to throughout the project . The clearer the questions asked, the better the response will be.
The kick-off will be an internal meeting that you set with your team to kick-off the project. In this meeting you should brief the project managers on the client by going through the questionnaire.
You need to make sure your team has access to the questionnaire and any reading material that they will need to help them perform. Allow your team to ask questions and outline the deadlines and tools for the project.
Even though it has been included in the questionnaire, briefly talk about the clients goals and answer any questions your team might have before they set up a call with the client.
At this point your team should have a better understanding of the project and the expectations, so now it is time to set up a call with the client to introduce themselves and outline their daily involvement and responsibilities.
There are various tools that you can use to set meetings with clients, so based on what your client has specified in the questionnaire, take it upon yourself to set the frequency of the meeting. For example, if they have expressed they would like weekly updates, automate the invites every week.
While your team is waiting for the call with the client, it is important to outline all the ideas that they have for the project. A great way to do this is through mind maps and mood boards.
Mind map: Mind maps are great to help focus any ideas that you might have in your head. Start with keywords you have picked up from the questionnaire and write any topics and subtopics to shape the theme of the campaign. This is a great way to create structure and identify any questions.
Mood boards: This is a great way to bring all your ideas together. Adding images, texts and sample products and designs will help you align all the different components of the project as well as help you generate new ideas.
After your team has been briefed and has had a chance to brainstorm ideas for the project, the next step is for your team to meet with the client. As mentioned above, on the call your team must outline their daily responsibilities and go over any questions that might have popped up after going over the questionnaire.
It is also important for your team to communicate the deadlines of the different components of the project. To manage the project better, set up a work management tool and assign tasks and deadlines to each team member. On the call, show your client the workflow and explain how they should expect things to go moving forward.
At this stage you can discuss what your expectations are and introduce any ideas that you have worked on to get the client’s feedback.
The last stage of the client onboarding process is to put together a report. This is a crucial step in the process as it will outline the effectiveness of your efforts. From what your client has specified, outline a comprehensive report that includes important KPI’s to show them why they should stick around a little longer!
There are great tools online that can help you achieve a beautiful and concise report, and Oviond is one of them! A tool like Oviond can help you get all your channels into one place and help you create beautifully automated reports.
In your report focus on questions like: What should my report summary include? What are the KPI’s? Who should I be sharing the report with? Will I deliver it manually or automate it?
As you can see, client onboarding is a crucial aspect of any agency that is looking to stand out. It goes to show that with a clear workflow and process your agency will be able to create a great agency-client relationship. The key is to be transparent about all the different components of the project and the team that is involved.