First impressions count, and not just when you’re onboarding a new client. Once you close the deal, it’s even more important to wow them.
The first few weeks set the scene for the months (and hopefully years) to come. Get it right, and you’ll build a long-term, collaborative partnership that’s profitable and enjoyable for everyone. Get it wrong and clients will leave quickly, or worse — drag down morale, reduce profitability and even tarnish your reputation. Use these 6 client onboarding tips for your next client!
What does client onboarding mean?
Client onboarding is the process of bringing on new clients into your business. It is your opportunity to reinforce the services and support available to them, address their concerns and how your business is going to help them achieve their goals. Starting off on the right foot is key for better client retention and loyalty.
So, how do you get it right?
With an organized and repeatable client onboarding process.
Use these 6 tips to effectively onboard new clients:
1. Set realistic expectation
There are four stages of client engagement:
- The sales process
- Onboarding (the first 90 days)
- Ongoing relationship management
- The end of the relationship
Setting expectations actually start with the sales process. Promise enough to win the project, but not so much that you can’t exceed expectations — within the scope of the budget, of course.
Once you’ve inked the deal, set expectations around how you will communicate, how often, with whom and how the project will be managed and executed. You need access to the right people on their team to do your job properly. You also need time to work, so you can’t take client calls at all hours of the day (and definitely not all hours of the night!). Confirm the point of contact on your team and theirs so it’s clear who should and shouldn’t be involved in day-to-day communication.
2. Focus on building trust
Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” coined the phrase “emotional bank account” to refer to the trust you build in a relationship. Think of it as a long-term savings account or a rainy day fund.
At the beginning of a relationship, you’re starting from zero and need to build your balance. Whenever you have a great call, solve a problem or share a win with the client, you make a little deposit. Always do your best to leave your clients feeling positive, hopeful and confident.
Then that credit is there when you need it, which you inevitably will. (Even if it isn’t your fault, problems happen — Google and Facebook algorithm changes make sure of that!) If you have a high balance, your bank account won’t take a big hit. But if you drop below zero, it’s difficult to come back.
3. Ask questions and listen
You build your balance by creating a great relationship, which takes time and work. In the early stages, it’s critical to practice active listening — spend more time listening than talking. My grandmother used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Besides, it’s proven that listening makes people like you more.
When you do talk, ask important questions such as:
- What KPIs are important?
- What pain points do we need to address?
- Who do you report to, and what do they care about?
- What is your reporting schedule?
Make sure you have all the necessary access to review their assets. Always be on the look-out for opportunities. Don’t overwhelm your customer with your jargon. Simplify what you need to say so that they can understand.
Every client is different, so identify what works for them. If they have to provide weekly recaps to the executive team, they probably need a high-level update every week. Or they may need an in-depth report for quarterly board meetings.
4. Don’t make them learn your system
Always work within your client’s system. If they prefer PowerPoint over Keynote, use PowerPoint. Don’t make them learn your Basecamp or Trello process.
And whatever you do, please don’t make them submit a ticket to make a request. Instead, use software like Help Scout, which our team uses because it’s incredibly easy. We see one large, shared inbox, but it doesn’t look like a ticketing system to the client, who’s just sending regular emails.
Make it easy for the customer. That is your intention at every stage.
5. Meet in person
I get it: you can’t always meet in person. Many of our clients are in the U.S. I may meet them when I speak at an event there, but our account managers don’t.
However, meeting face to face is so important. Go see your clients if at all possible. Treat them to lunch or have a working breakfast. Sharing a meal always deepens relationships.
Video is the next best option for building rapport. You could even give your clients a webcam and headset as an onboarding gift. Failing that, Zoom, Skype or regular phone calls are next on the totem pole of communication that’s personal.
At the end of the day, go with what your clients want. If they prefer WhatsApp, email or texts, that’s going to be the best way to reach them. Create and take opportunities to help your new clients feel confident in your business and the team to achieve their goals.
6. Deliver great results
Great results will solve 80% of the problems you may encounter. That should be your top priority, just not at the expense of the relationship. This is the conservative long-term approach!
Don’t forget to communicate those great results, and do it visually. You could be earning 50% conversions, but it’s all for nothing if your client doesn’t know that — or the value of those conversions.
Don’t forget to monitor what percentage of clients you lose, and at what point in the relationship. A great onboarding process will reduce the number of clients who leave, and those who do likely won’t be your ideal client anyway. They’re also likely to leave in the first 90 days — before you’ve invested significant time and resources in their business.
Now that you’re ready to implement these best practices into action, get out there and build successful client relationships! At AgencySavvy, we guide digital agency owners and account managers to help grow their agency business — built on our 4 pillars: clients, systems, team and mindset.