We’ve created a comprehensive marketing client onboarding checklist for agencies featuring eight detailed steps to help you provide clients with an onboarding experience that matches the level of service that you provide. This checklist also features tips from several experienced agency professionals.
You did it! You pitched a prospective client, knocked their socks off with your marketing prowess, got them to sign the dotted line, and added another client to your agency’s roster.
Things are off to a great start, but the buck doesn’t stop here. You’ve set the bar high and now you need to deliver on what you promised. This starts with an effective client onboarding process.
Here’s what we’ll cover in our client onboarding checklist for agencies:
Marketing Client Onboarding Basics
What is Client Onboarding?
Let’s start with the basics. Client onboarding is the process in which you onboard and welcome new clients to your agency.
While you may have given your client a stellar first impression through your sales process, the onboarding process is the first impression your client will get of what it’s like to work with your agency and how you will work with them to achieve their marketing goals.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so let’s start this relationship off right!
When Should My Client Onboarding Process Start?
Your onboarding process should start the moment after you’ve received a signed contract from your client. There’s a lot to do, so you’ll want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Marketing Client Onboarding Checklist for Agencies
Below, we’ve outlined eight checklist items that we recommend including as part of your client onboarding process.
It’s important to note that every agency is unique. The onboarding checklist below is intended to be used as a baseline for creating your own unique checklist. Make sure to tailor the various components below to meet the specific needs of your agency.
1. Add Client to Your Agency CRM
Whether you are using spreadsheets or a dedicated CRM tool for your agency, you’ll want to make sure that your new client and all the details you acquired from the sales process have been updated in your CRM.
Not currently using a CRM?
Here are a few of the most popular options used by Marketing Agencies:
- HubSpot (Recommended by Adam Binder at Creative Click Media)
- Go High Level (Recommended by David Adams at Sirus Digital)
- Pipedrive (Recommended by Bruce Harpham)
Here are a few other options recommended by marketing and agency professionals in our Life in Social Facebook Group:
- ClickUp (Recommended by Nick F. at Clavis Social)
- Dubsado (Recommended by Kate Taylor)
- 17hats (Recommended by Galina I. at My Clear Image)
- HoneyBook (Recommended by Kimberly A. at Keep It Moving Management)
2. Assign Team Members to The Account
Depending on the size of your agency and the nature of the marketing services you’ll be providing, you’ll want to assign the appropriate team members to your client. Skip this step if you are running a one-person show!
The account manager will play the most critical role and will be responsible for the majority of the steps in your client onboarding process.
When assigning team members to the account, don’t forget to brief them on any client details you picked up during the sales process.
3. Send a Client Onboarding Questionnaire
The goal of this document is to collect any information you didn’t get through the sales process. Sending a new client questionnaire is a great way to fill in the gaps in your understanding of the client and discover how you can help them achieve their goals. If the client has multiple stakeholders involved in the project, you may want to send a separate questionnaire to each team member.
You can use a free tool like Survey Monkey or TypeForm to create your survey. If you’re already using a CRM, you can use a built in form to create your survey and have the answers sync directly to your client’s account in the CRM.
Some clients may prefer to cover the questionnaire over a call. You can offer to schedule a call to walk through the questions with your client.
If you want to offer your client a detailed, personalized report in the feedback process, you can use a tool like ReportR. This can add considerable value to your service.
Questions to Ask in Your Client Onboarding Questionnaire
- What are your marketing goals? Please rank them in order of importance.
- What are your biggest marketing challenges?
- Which marketing initiatives are or have been successful for you in the past?
- What marketing tools are you currently using?
- What do you like and dislike about your current strategy?
- Can you provide us with login access to your marketing tools?
- We use the following tools to manage our client accounts: (list tools). Are you open to using these tools?
- What social media software are you currently using? Please provide login details.
- What products or services do you offer? Please provide as much detail and supporting documentation as possible.
- Who is your target audience? Please provide as much detail as possible.
- Who are your top three competitors?
- Which members of your team will we be working with? Please provide names, roles, and contact information.
- Who will be your primary contact?
- What is your preferred method of communication? Slack, email, phone calls, video calls, etc.?
- Do you have brand guidelines that you can share with us?
- What does your sales journey look like?
- What are some of your hobbies and interests?
Questionnaire Tips from Marketing Agency Professionals:
- Ask personal questions to build a personal relationship with your client – Building a personal relationship is synonymous with building a strong client relationship. Chans Weber, Founder & CEO of Leap Clixx Agency, suggests that “The client onboarding process should include knowing as much as you possibly can about your client, whether it’s details about their business but also their personal life. What are their hobbies and interests? Getting to know them on a personal level can help you maintain your relationship and help you down the road if you plan on sending them personalized gifts.”
- Have a listening session in place of sending a questionnaire – Paul Bonea, founder of Perfect Data Marketing Agency, uses an hour-long active listening session to kickstart his client onboarding process. “The purpose of the session is to understand the ins and outs of the company and its existing social media activities.” says Paul.
During the listening session, Paul looks for answers to questions like:
- In terms of social media, what is the absolute top social media priority for the company at this time?
- What is the profile of the average customer? This includes age, gender, occupation, location.
- What is the product or service the company is offering? We look for problems the product solves and unique selling points in particular.
- What is the customer lifetime value? Does the client do upselling or cross-selling to increase it?
- Collect the client’s brand assets – Jaqueline Tristan, Marketing Manager at ThoughtLab, suggests using this opportunity to “collect all the necessary brand assets from the client. This includes: logo and icon files, branding guidelines, post templates, tone guides, color pallets, marketing photos, etc.” “This helps us gain insight into their brand and provides us with the files needed to move forward with the project.” she adds.
- Store the client’s brand assets – It’s highly recommended that you collect your client’s brand assets early in the client onboarding process. You’ll want to have a consolidated place where your client can easily add the assets and your team can access them. Andrew Browne, Owner of Browne Box Creative, suggests using Asana for this.
If you are onboarding a social media client, your client can use the text to media feature in HeyOrca to send media assets directly from their phone to their Social Media Calendar. Alternatively, clients can easily upload assets directly into the platform using the desktop app.
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4. Create Client Accounts for Marketing Tools Your Agency Uses
Your agency is likely already using a variety of tools to manage existing client accounts. You’ll want to make sure that your Account Manager provides your client with:
- Access to the tools you will be using to manage their account
- An explanation of what the tools are and how you will be using them
- Training documentation (if needed)
If your client is unfamiliar with the software you are using, you may want to go the extra mile and schedule a meeting to guide them on the tool(s).
Common Agency tools might include:
- Slack or Jostle for quick client communications
- Asana, Basecamp, or Google Drive for project management
- HeyOrca for social media management (Get a Free 14-Day Trial)
- Dropbox or FileStream for file/asset management
- Databox, Keyhole, or Klipfolio for reporting
- eXo platform for Internal Communications
Regardless of the tools you are using, it is important that your client understands their various functions and how to effectively use them.
5. Send a Client Welcome Packet
This is one of the most important steps in the client onboarding process. The purpose of the Welcome Packet is to reiterate the terms of your contract, highlight how you will be working together, and make your client feel welcome (duh)!
Michael Dale, Co-Founder at VOLT Agency, stresses the importance of nailing your welcome pack. “The welcome pack is their first experience to your services/product – it is crucial to nail this because their perception of your company will be a direct result of what they have gone through initially.” says Michael.
Michael also recommends the following tips: “Make it fun, make it easy, and make them feel like they’ve done something incredible. You need to liven the experience away from being a dull onboarding task to being the start of something great! This can be done by continuing to remind the client of the outcome they will expect from working with you.”
You may choose to share your welcome package via email or you can jazz things up by creating a branded PDF packet. You can easily create a stylish, branded welcome package using a free tool like Canva.
Feel free to start off with this client welcome packet template that the HeyOrca team put together from an existing Canva Template.
Key Elements to Include in Your Client Welcome Package
- Details about your team – Introduce your client to the team members that will be working on their account. Include each member’s contact info and function.
- Summary of goals you’ll be working towards – Include a brief summary of the goals your client hired you to help achieve and any specific targets you may have discussed during the sales process.
- Summary of services you’ll be providing – Reiterate the different services you’ll be providing on an on-going basis. It’s important that you don’t skimp on any details here.
- What will be expected of the client – An important part of starting a new relationship is to set clear expectations from both parties. Oftentimes, projects can get bottlenecked by clients so you may want to include a list of expectations you will have from the client.
- Project timeline – Provide a high-level view of the different milestones and phases of the work you’ll be doing for your client. You might also want to include dates for any upcoming meetings that are a part of your onboarding process.
- Meeting cadence – It’s likely that you and your client already agreed on a meeting schedule as part of your sales contract, but you’ll want to make sure that you clearly highlight how often you’ll be meeting and how long for in your Welcome Packet.
- Tools you will be using to manage their account – Mention all the tools your team will be using to manage the work you are doing for the client. Include a brief explanation of how the tool will be used and links to training documentation (if needed).
- Housekeeping items – You can use the Welcome Packet to highlight any pending items your client has not yet completed and any items that your team is currently working on.
Welcome Packet Recommendations from Agency Professionals
- Set Clear Expectations – the client welcome package is a great avenue for reinforcing and confirming the expectations that were set throughout the sales process. “Before any work begins, we like to make sure both our client and our team are on the same page about our processes, timelines and methods of communication. This helps to ensure our working relationship starts with a mutual understanding of what our client can expect from us, along with what we should expect from them in return.” says Adam Binder, founder of Creative Click Media.
Brett Downes, founder of Haro Helpers, agrees and also suggests clearly outlining the content creation and delivery process. “For instance, an Infographic will be a three-step process: content team creates content> if the client approves content> content sent to design team> design team creates a mockup > if the client accepts> design team finalizes. If the client doesn’t accept content > content team revises and resubmits > If client doesn’t approve design mockup> revised by the design team. The client should be clear about the process, so delays are not seen as subjective.”
- Use text messages + email sequences to welcome your client – The welcome packet doesn’t have to be delivered in a single email or in a PDF format. David Adams, Founder of Sirus Digital, uses text messaging and a 5-day automated email sequence to welcome his new clients. “Everyone gets a text message that lets them know what they can expect over the next 5 business days after signing. While these expectations are shared during the signing, it serves as another reminder. Of keen importance, it reminds them of the upcoming ‘Welcome’ email sequence that they will be receiving and identifies their primary point-of-contact should problems arise.” says David.
6. Schedule a Kick-Off Meeting with Your Client
Once all the steps listed above have been completed, your account manager should reach out to the client and schedule a Kick-Off Meeting. Be sure to include a detailed meeting agenda in your invite.
The purpose of this meeting is to:
- Introduce all the stakeholders that will be working together
- Reaffirm client expectations of agency and vice-versa
- Go through any additional questions that may have come up from the Questionnaire or Welcome Packet
- Discuss the next steps moving forward
Kick-Off Meeting Agenda Items
- Tech Check – If you’re meeting virtually, allow a few minutes at the start of the meeting for everyone to get their tech sorted out. Your internal team should meet a few minutes before the meeting for this.
- Introductions – Carve out a few minutes for everyone to introduce themselves. Each stakeholder should share their names, titles, and how they will be contributing to the project. You may want to include some fun, personal questions to break the ice and get to know one another on a personal level.
- Review goals + project timeline – Walk the clients’ team through the goals that you agreed upon with their project lead and the project timeline you provided in the welcome packet. Allow some time for any clarification questions.
- Discuss the marketing technology stack you will be using – Use this time to walk through the different tools you’ll be using and answer any questions your client might have.
- Highlight upcoming tasks and milestones – Discuss what the next steps will be after the meeting and ensure that everyone is on the same page about these tasks.
- Q&A – It’s likely that your client’s team will have some questions by the end of your session. Save at least 15 minutes for Q&A. This is an opportunity for your team to ask your clients questions as well.
- Review meeting actions – Kick-off meetings often bring up a lot of ad-hoc discussions and new actions that your team may need to address. Allow some time at the end of your meeting to reiterate the tasks that you and the client will need to complete.
Client Kick-Off Meeting Preparation Tips
Your kickoff meeting is going to be the first time that all stakeholders meet together. You’ll want to make sure that your team comes prepared and that you cover everything you’ve outlined in your meeting invitation to the client.
Preparation is key. Anja Djuricin, Digital Silk’s Social Media Director, agrees with this sentiment. “The client kick-off call is an important first step in introducing your team to the client’s team and discussing the scope of their project. It’s critical that the team assigned to the client thoroughly familiarizes themselves with the client before the meeting.” says Anja.
Here are some tips to help you and your team prepare for the kick-off meeting:
- Brief your entire team on the client, the project itself, response(s) to the client Questionnaire, and any questions that may have come up during the onboarding process.
- Ensure account roles and responsibilities are clear.
- Brainstorm strategies to bring to the table at the meeting.
- Prepare presentation slides or documents for the kick-off meeting.
- Review the kick-off meeting agenda that you included in the meeting invite to your client.
- Ensure you have a kickoff meeting plan in place (who speaks when, who will speak to what etc.)
- Allow time in your schedule in case the meeting goes over. Also, avoid booking any meetings that may cause you and your team to be late for the meeting.
Client Kick-Off Meeting Execution Tips
- Join the call early to ensure your audio and video is working.
- Make sure the meeting starts on time. You’ll have a lot to cover!
- Have someone on the call who is responsible for keeping time and taking notes.
- Discuss video conferencing etiquette at the start of the meeting to avoid any issues with echoing sound and other technical difficulties that may slow down the meeting.
- Reiterate any actions that might come up during the meeting.
- Offer to schedule a follow-up meeting or additional communications if the meeting runs long.
7. Wrapping up The Onboarding Process with Something Special
Boom. You’ve finished onboarding your new client and impressed them every step of the way. All that’s left is to deliver on your promises and continue to provide your client with stellar customer service.
There are a few final touches you may want to include in your client onboarding process to really knock it out of the park:
- Send a handwritten note from all your internal stakeholders
- Send a gift-basket alongside your handwritten note
- Send your client some branded swag (admit it, you’ve got plenty kicking around)
- Spread the word about your client’s product/services to your personal network
Looking for more gift inspiration? Check out this list of 125 client gift ideas from Snacknation.
These little touches may seem unnecessary, but a small gesture can go a long way in building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between you and your newly onboarded client.
David Adams of Sirus Digital sends a personalized gift and card to each of his clients. “With COVID-19, we have minimal physical interaction with clients so a card & gift helps facilitate a personal connection”, he says. David also suggests including a note with a request to share a picture on social media of the gift they received and tag his agency if they enjoyed their present.
Anthony Milia, Founder of Milia Marketing, also recommends sending gifts to newly onboarded clients. Here’s what he had to say: “I carefully listen to clients during the onboarding process to find opportunities to surprise and delight clients with personalized gifts.”
Here are some examples of how Anthony would use what clients have said to purchase personalized gifts:
- “I am moving my son into College this weekend and he’s going to be a Freshman at Ohio State University.” You can purchase an Ohio State University Sweatshirt or OSU accessories/apparel.
- “I’m going on a Vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina next week for 7-days with my family”. You can purchase an engraved Hilton Head picture frame and have it delivered to them when they get back.
- Anthony Milia’s favorite tip is when he travels internationally. Anthony will purchase unique gifts and bring them back for current clients. This tip has earned Milia Marketing some of their biggest clients.
8. Get to Work on Your Internal Onboarding Actions
Along the way you collected the necessary project details, set expectations, discussed deliverables, and built a solid foundation for your client’s project. You now have everything you and your team need to start taking action.
Here is a list of actions your team will need to complete, if they haven’t already, in previous steps:
- Conduct an audit of your client, their industry, and their competitors – use the data you collected from your initial questionnaire and conduct your own research to create your audit.
- Schedule recurring meetings and milestone meetings – this is a rather simple step, but make sure to include all the necessary internal and external stakeholders in the invitations.
- Create a timeline for deliverables – You can use a project management tool, like Asana, to share a project timeline . If you are managing your client’s social media accounts, Jaqueline Tristan from ThoughtLab, recommends “creating a monthly content calendar laying out the exact content that will go out for every given day of the month.”
You can use HeyOrca to map out content placeholders using the event strips feature. This will give your clients a visual view of what they can expect and the calendar can be shared directly to them with or without a login. (Get Your Free 14-Day Trial)
- Ask your client to provide feedback on your onboarding process – Don’t just assume your client had a great experience. Ask them what they liked about the process, what they didn’t like, and how they would recommend improving it. This information is extremely valuable, as long as you collect it diligently and take action on the feedback you receive.
There you have it…everything you need to know to successfully onboard new marketing clients! We hope you enjoyed our onboarding process checklist for agencies and found value in the tips provided by our network of agency professionals.
Did we miss anything? Let us know by emailing email@example.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!
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