Your latest pitch was a huge success and you’ve landed a new client off the back of it. After a quick celebration, you start to wonder what’s next. There’s so much information out there about “getting the client”, but not a lot about what needs to happen once you’ve sealed the deal.
What are the next steps? How do you actually start working together? How do you keep the momentum going?
In this blog, we'll cover the key steps that make up a new client onboarding checklist. These are:
- Start with an onboarding questionnaire
- Sort out legal and contractual bits
- Secure any financial processes
- Highlight any important project management information
- Consider your workflow and project process
- Set up an initial kick-off call
- Send a client welcome packet
We’ve got you covered in this guide to onboarding a new client.
What is client onboarding and why is it important?
Client onboarding is the process that happens once a client decides to work with you. It’s the bridge between “sure, we’d love to work with you!” and getting down to the nitty-gritty because let’s face it, there’s a lot to sort out before you actually get stuck into the work.
Going all in without onboarding a client is a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
On the flip side, creating a slick onboarding process will help you foster a better working environment. You’ll know exactly what the client needs from you and you’ll have a better understanding of how you can help them.
also keeps you organised--you’ll know where the important files are kept, how to communicate, and what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done.
Not only this, but it nurtures successful agency-client relationships that keep everyone happy and everyone’s expectations in check.
Start with an onboarding questionnaire
Before you start piecing together your onboarding process for a new client, get their take on it. Collaboration is key in ensuring everyone is on the same page and is happy with the timelines and processes you’re putting forward.
An onboarding questionnaire gives your client the chance to share their thoughts and experiences. Think about asking questions like:
- What are your goals in order of importance?
- What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in reaching those goals?
- What tools and software are you currently using?
- What is your current social strategy and what is/isn’t working with it?
- Can you give us access to your social channels and the tools you use?
- Are you open to using the tools we use (these include…)?
- Can you provide as much information as possible about the services you offer?
- Who are you targeting?
- Can you list your top 3-5 competitors?
- Which members of your team will we be working closely with? Who will be our primary contact?
- How do you prefer to communicate? Email, phone, video calls, Slack?
- Can you share any brand guidelines you have with us?
The answers to these questions will help you personalise the onboarding process and provide a unique experience for each new client based on their individual wants and needs.
What to include in the onboarding process
Surely it’s a simple case of sending a welcome email to a new client and then getting your head down with the work? Wrong.
The more organised you can be upfront, the easier it is to create a seamless working relationship with barely any hiccups.
Use this client onboarding checklist to make sure you’re well prepared going into a new contract.
Legal and contractual
Let’s get the boring but necessary stuff out the way first. This part of the onboarding process happens right at the start and is basically the formal agreement between you and the client.
During this stage, you should consider:
- Sending a signing your contract
- Sending and signing any necessary NDAs
- Collecting and gathering any relevant tax information
- Sending and signing contractor agreements
Ironing out the financial aspects of a project before it gets started reduces the risk of miscommunication, scope creep, and overspending. It’s important that both you and the client are on the same page about costs and invoicing processes.
Here are some of the things you can include at this stage of the onboarding process:
- What to include on invoices: including PO numbers, client addresses, and any mandatory tax information
- How your invoicing process works: when will you send invoices? How long does the client have to pay? What is your preferred payment method?
- Costs: is it a one-off cost or will you be working on a monthly retainer?
- Extra costs: what’s the fee for any extra work? What happens if there is scope creep and you need to charge more? How will you work that out and invoice for it?
- Send the first invoice: kick the payment process off by sending your first invoice (this usually seals the deal with the client, too)
Setting up a new client in your project timeline is crucial for making sure you hit all the required deadlines and stay on track. What you include at this stage of the onboarding process will be determined by your pre-existing project management process, but it should include tasks like:
- Adding the client to your CRM or any tools you use: add their contact details and any important information to accounting tools, communication tools, and planning tools
- Assigning team members to the account: choose who you want to work on the project and add them to the necessary project planning tools (and check their schedules!)
- Creating accounts for tools: set your new client up on any joint tools you use
- Sharing file information: let the new client know how you’ll be sharing files and add them to the folder if necessary
- Assigning initial tasks: kick the project off by assigning the first few tasks to your chosen team members
Workflow and process
Now everything is set up and ready to go, you can start thinking about what working with this client will look like in the long run. There’s often a lot of chat at the beginning while you iron things out, but how will you continue to communicate and what will the project look like in action?
At this point, think about sharing information like:
- Approval processes: how will clients share their feedback? How often will you need to get client approval and how will you manage that?
- Communication: what will be your main method of communication? What about if there’s an emergency?
- Timelines: when will the project end? What will be the key milestones in between and what tasks do you need to do at each milestone?
- Chosen accounts: what social media accounts will you be posting on for your client? Do you have access to them and understand the branding guidelines?
Let’s go! Kicking things off
The final stage of the onboarding process is… getting started! At this point, you’ll have sorted out the logistics, mapped out who’s doing what and when it needs to be done, and have your new client all set up on the tools and software you use.
Now, you can:
Set up an initial kick-off call
You will have already spoken to the client in detail about their wants and needs, but this is the time to talk about how things will look moving forward. Use this call to briefly discuss the different parts of your onboarding process and field any questions they might have before you officially get started.
Consider including these in your kick-off call:
- Tech check: make sure everyone understands what tools you’ll be using and is comfortable with them. Provide demos if necessary and answer any questions the client might have
- Introductions: give everyone on your team the chance to say hi and introduce themselves, before asking your new client to share a bit more information about them
- Project review: go over the project and discuss the end goal you’d all like to achieve. Ask the client what this might look like for them in reality and walk them through the steps you’re going to take to get them there
- What’s next: talk about the first couple of milestones and the tasks you’ll be doing to make sure everyone is on the same page about what happens next
- Question time: your client will probably have a question or two for you, so give them a dedicated space to ask
Send a client welcome packet
All of the information you’ve gathered from the onboarding questionnaire and the other steps in this process can all be tied up neatly in a welcome packet. This is basically a document that includes all the relevant information a client needs to know all in one handy place.
It also acts as a reference for you and your team to look back on the client’s expectations and any logistics you’ve agreed on during the onboarding process. Feel free to mix up the medium here: 69% of people say that they feel more video should be used in the onboarding process.
You should include information like:
- Team details: information about which team members the client will be working with, including their contact information and role
- Summary of project and goals: a quick overview of the project and the key goals you’ll be working towards (this will have been discussed in both the onboarding questionnaire and the kick-off call)
- Summary of your services: a breakdown of the services you’ll be providing and what they include
- Project timeline: the length of the project, as well as key milestones and what needs to be completed at each of those milestones
- Log in information: a list of the tools you’ll be using and any login information that clients might need
- Expectations of the client: when clients need to provide feedback, what information they need to provide, and any timelines for information they need to get to you
- Financial information: recap your invoicing process, costs, and your preferred payment method
Nail your new client onboarding process
Creating an effective onboarding process takes time, but once you have it nailed down, it makes working with new clients a breeze. Not only does it provide you with all the information you need to get started, but it lays out expectations early so there are no nasty surprises on either side.
Use this checklist to make sure you’ve covered every step before holding your kick-off call. Here’s to happy client-agency relationships!
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