How to Onboard and Kickoff a New Client Relationship [+Free Onboarding Template]

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Justin McGill
Justin McGill



You’ve just gotten the contract signed. Your salesperson is happy. You’re happy. If almost feels like the work is done. This should be short-lived though, as now the work actually begins for your team. It’s time for you to deliver.

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Before you and your team start work on any campaign, you need to collect specific details from your new client. The information you collect during the onboarding phase will help your team get started quickly on producing results for your client. 

Without an onboarding process in place, mistakes are bound to happen, and things will no doubt get overlooked. Setting up an onboarding procedure is essential for every campaign's success.

From collecting information to starting on campaigns, let's go over each step of the onboarding process in detail so you can set up your own onboarding system for future clients.

Ask for Information During Client Onboarding

To ensure that a campaign will start successfully, you need to ask the right questions and get the right information. Every client is different, so you may need to adjust your onboarding questions to fit each client's needs. Gather this information:

  • Contact information of the main players or stakeholders
  • Website information (e.g., CMS access, hosting logins) so you can make changes to the site
  • CRM details to track progress of your lead generation efforts
  • Social media account login information if you’ll be managing the client's social media presence
  • Target audience details so you can actually prepare content and your strategy around this
  • Sales pitch details so your team is aware of what was discussed during the sales process
  • Marketing budget so you know what you can invest
  • Existing content assets (brochures, logos, style guides) so you can take what they have and use them in other ways

Methods for Collecting Information

For my agency, we used a form that clients completed and sent back to their account manager. Phone calls or even face-to-face meetings might work better for you. It all depends on the client, so you don't have to base everything off a form, but it's a good starting point. (As promised, here’s an onboarding form for you to use at your agency.)

For face-to-face meetings, you can just assign a team member to be the point of contact for client meetings. You can also set up a meeting for the client to come and meet the team working on his campaign. This helps all parties get to know one another, but it isn’t always feasible.

Set and Manage Client Expectations

When starting a campaign, most people have their own assumptions or expectations, but this can lead to conflicts and disputes later on. From the start of the campaign and during the onboarding process, you need to set expectations with your client and your team. Let everyone know what's going to happen and how it's going to happen. Goals, milestones, and the processes to reach them should be solidified as well.

An effective way to keep everyone's expectations realistic and on the same page is to be transparent. For instance, discuss your processes with your clients to help them understand what you'll do for them to solve their problems. Avoid using technical terms, though, as that can be confusing for your clients to understand.

Set realistic timelines and deadlines for certain assignments related to the campaign, and update the client when an assignment has been completed. Make sure to set expectations for communication, deadlines, processes, and other areas. Every area should be discussed, and the more transparent you are, the more the client will understand and trust you.

Not only should you outline the plans for your clients, but you should also inform your team of the project and its components. They need to know who's responsible for what and how they're going to approach assignments for the campaign. Remind them what they're doing for the client, too. It's not just about completing a campaign; it's about delivering great service and results.

Focus on crystal-clear communication, but keep an open mind. You may have to adjust expectations later on if any problems or other situations arise.

Set the Client's Account on Internal Tools

Once the onboarding form has been completed, you should be ready to put them in your project management system.

When I ran my agency, I found typical project management software didn’t work very well for ongoing marketing campaigns. So I built a tool called Workado to handle managing multiple marketing campaigns. It’s built specifically to manage ongoing monthly marketing campaigns. You need a system that allows you to track your team’s progress each month.

Another area that you should set clients up with is a payment system. If you're doing monthly payments, try to collect credit card details so you don’t have to spend so much time chasing down dollars. This should be handled and discussed during the contract phase. Find ways to automate these processes, too, so you can focus more on completing assignments for your clients.

Lastly, you’ll want to get the team setup in your reporting software. Capture baselines (keyword rankings, existing traffic levels, etc.) so you can show progress. Setup reporting dates, and ensure clients will receive their reports. At the minimum, you should report on traffic levels and conversions so they can see the progress you’re making.

Brainstorm Ideas with your Team

New campaigns require creative input, and brainstorming will lead you to those creative ideas. Depending on each client, you'll need different people on the team. 

Once you've determined who will be on the team to work on a client's campaign, get everyone together and have a brainstorming session. Make sure the setting is relaxed, and everyone is prepared to either participate during the meeting or send their notes after the session.

Not only should you gather your team and brainstorm together, but you should also let your team meet your client (in-person or virtually). Clients feel more comfortable knowing who's working on their campaigns, and the team members will feel more invested in the project if they can actually meet the client. It's better to include the client in meetings regarding his campaigns, too, as he can offer great ideas. After all, the client knows his business better than anyone.

Make sure to do the onboarding phase thoroughly before you go into anything else. Then, you can set up processes to make it more automated. Use this process for future onboarding procedures. Don't avoid making changes to your process or the onboarding form when you need to as every client brings a new lesson and every client is different. 

Build Successful Client Relationships

The client onboarding process can take some time, but remember, you're doing this to ensure the campaign gets results. From the beginning, you're setting up a successful campaign by focusing on gathering the details and insights that will help shape the content, social posts, and keyword rankings that will matter to your client.

Think of client onboarding as your marketing plan. You plan everything out, get all the nitty-gritty details, and then you execute the plan. Investing your time upfront is important as it helps setup realistic expectations and gives your team what they need to ensure client satisfaction.

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