Studies show that a good agency client onboarding process can improve client retention (Forbes). Higher retention can boost your profits by anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent (Annex Cloud).
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Why does onboarding have such a big impact on your clients? Simply put, onboarding is your first impression. Do it well, and your clients will be more confident they made the right choice when they signed with your agency.
So, what makes a “good” onboarding process for an agency? This 9-step checklist can help you create an onboarding process that can scale with you.
1. Sign your new agency client
The very first step in the agency onboarding process is to sign the client. Your sales team should create a formal proposal for the client.
Once the proposal is sent and the agreement signed, it’s time to get the client set up in the billing system. This might be the sales team’s job, or it may belong to another team member, such as an account manager. Either way, the right software will help them make the process smooth.
Finally, make sure the sales team is communicating with the new client about the next steps. This sets a positive, friendly tone for all your interactions.
2. Define onboarding tasks and dynamic due dates
This next onboarding task is an internal one for your agency team. To build a great onboarding process, you’ll want to define onboarding tasks. These might include:
- Send welcome series emails
- Set up client login for online portal
- Arrange a level-setting meeting
- Set up a demo of the online portal or other training
Once you’ve decided on all the tasks in your onboarding process, you'll have a basic framework to follow. Your team doesn't need to reinvent the wheel (or rewrite welcome emails) every time you sign a new client.
When a new client signs on, you can assign these onboarding tasks to different team members. You’ll also want to set dynamic due dates. Dynamic due dates are flexible, so it's easier to reschedule if there are delays in the process. Instead of specifying a date for the level-setting meeting, a dynamic due date might schedule the meeting for “5 days after the client signs.”
3. Set up a welcome email series
With your client signed on, you can initiate a pre-made welcome email series. The sooner you can start sending the emails once a deal is closed, the better.
This is when they’ll be most prone to potential buyer’s remorse.
You can assuage their concerns with an email that gets them excited about how fantastic it will be to work with your agency.
Your welcome series might look something like this:
- A general welcome email in a very positive tone to help your client feel like they made the right choice. Outline what content they will receive in the coming days and weeks, and let them know who they can contact at your agency if they ever need help.
- Key logistical information, such as how to access their client portal account.
- A link to a short video introduction to how your platform or tools work.
- How to prepare for your first one-on-one meeting. You might request any key information you require from the client.
4. Sales handoff and introductions for onboarding agency clients
At this point, the only person your new client has likely talked to is their sales rep. They might be a little bewildered when someone new shows up in their inbox.
Instead of having account managers contact new clients out of the blue, have your sales team hand off the client. The sales rep introduces the person who will handle onboarding, such as an account manager. You should define this role and assign it on your onboarding task list.
This team member can then take the time to introduce themselves and welcome the new client. Remember to centralize communications, such as in your sales CRM. When you do, every team member knows what information has been shared. Centralized communication makes it easier for another team member to jump in.
5. Send a questionnaire for agency client onboarding
One of the goals of your agency client onboarding should be to get to know your new client a little better. A questionnaire is a great tool to help you gather this kind of information. With some creative questions, you can find out more about your new client:
- What is their working style?
- How often should you contact them?
- What are their goals for their partnership with your agency?
- What are their pain points?
A well-designed questionnaire can even help you uncover more about their personality. Understanding the client can help your team members understand how best to work with them.
6. Get clients familiar with your agency’s online portal
A little bit of training can go a long way. If your agency offers a client portal or other tools, take the time to ensure the new client knows how to use them.
Training on your online client portal is particularly important. It’s where the bulk of the client’s interactions with your team will take place. Arrange a time to walk the client through the different features the portal offers.
If you offer other tools, you may want to do the same. A pre-recorded tutorial is a great way to deliver this kind of training at scale, since clients can review it any time (WorldFinancialReview). Of course, remote video training or in-person training also work.
7. Gather assets for agency client onboarding
Now that you’ve introduced the client to your online portal, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need to start the project. Most agencies need assets like:
- Project briefs
- Login information
Other assets might include copy or images the client wants to use in the project. Gathering these assets can be time intensive. Plus, there’s always the chance some will go missing if they’re sent piecemeal via email.
Instead, have your new client fill out a customer intake form and ask them to supply these assets with the form. You can use the client portal for this, since it’s already acting as a centralized hub. Better yet, if you use the portal, your clients don’t need to provide everything at once.
8. Hold a level-setting meeting
As you get nearer to the end of the agency client onboarding process and closer to project kick-off, it’s time to hold a meeting with your client.
A level-setting meeting is a chance to go over their goals and their ideal timelines. You’ll also want to go over how you and your team will achieve those goals.
This is a good time to define what “success” looks like for you and the client, as well as how you’ll measure that success. The level-setting meeting helps to manage expectations—and it gets everyone on the same page about what the project will look like.
A level-setting meeting may not be necessary for all your clients. For high-value, high-touch clients, this is an excellent tool in the agency client onboarding process that helps you deliver more value.
9. Establish regular check-ins with your new clients
Finally, you’ll want to set up a schedule for checking in with the new client. Your team might want to get to work, but communication is still key in your relationship with your client. If your team goes radio silent, the client could feel like you’ve left them in the dark about progress.
Regular check-ins also help you stay ahead of client concerns, questions, or complaints. Finally, they give you the opportunity to prove your value to the client on an ongoing basis.
Agency client onboarding process, done the right way
Onboarding is an ongoing process, as the regular check-ins in Step 9 prove. At each step, you are laying a better foundation for stronger relationships with clients.
A good agency client onboarding process is also repeatable, which means it’s scalable. The right tools will help you automate parts of the process—and prevent common mistakes.
In turn, your new clients will stick with you longer—and they’ll increase their lifetime customer value as well.