How to make agency onboarding easy: An 8-step new client checklist with expert tips for creating the ultimate client experience
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You did it! You pitched a prospective client, knocked their socks off with your marketing prowess, and added another client to your agency’s roster. Things are off on the right foot, but now it’s time to deliver on what you promised. This starts with effective agency onboarding.
To make things simple, we’ve created an 8-step new client checklist with expert tips from agency professionals. Let's dive in so you can provide the best client onboarding process.
1. Add your new client to your agency CRM
Whether you’re using spreadsheets or a dedicated customer relationship management (CRM) tool, the first step in onboarding new clients is adding them to your CRM along with any details acquired from the sales process.
Not currently using a CRM? Here are some of the most popular used by marketing agencies:
- HubSpot (recommended by: Adam Binder at Creative Click Media)
- HighLevel (recommended by: David Adams at Sirus Digital)
- Pipedrive (recommended by: Bruce Harpham)
No CRM is perfect for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding one that works best for you. Members of our HeyOrca Community Facebook group shared other client onboarding software suggestions:
- 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.)
2. Assign team members to the account
Depending on the size of your agency and the scope of your marketing services, the next step of our agency onboarding checklist is to assign an account manager to your new client. (If you’re running a one-person team, you can skip this step!)
Account managers are critical in creating a positive client experience and will likely handle most of your customer onboarding process. When assigning team members to the account, remember to brief them on any client details learned during the sales process.
3. Send a client onboarding questionnaire
A new client questionnaire is a document that helps fill any information gaps related to your client or their marketing goals. It’s an important part of a customer onboarding checklist to make your service more personalized.
Questionnaires can be created using free tools like SurveyMonkey or TypeForm. Your CRM may even have a built-in form that you can use, which should also allow you to sync client responses to their CRM profile.
If your client has multiple stakeholders involved in a project, consider sending a separate questionnaire to each team member. Some clients may prefer to cover the questionnaire over the phone, so always provide an option to schedule a call to walk through the questions.
What do you check for when you onboard a new client?
The questions you include in an onboarding questionnaire should cover your client’s current marketing initiatives, goals/targets, product(s)/service(s) details, and preferred methods of communication.
- Include personal questions about your client’s hobbies and interests in your onboarding survey to strengthen your relationship (suggested by: Chans Weber, Founder & CEO of Leap Clixx Agency).
- To get a deeper understanding of your client, consider kickstarting your client onboarding workflow with an hour-long active listening session instead of sending a questionnaire (suggested by: Paul Bonea, founder of Datasource).
- Request your client’s brand assets like logos, brand guidelines, templates, photo banks, etc. (suggested by: Jaqueline Tristan, Marketing Manager at ThoughtLab).
- Have a place to store your client’s brand assets, so your team has easy access and your client is also able to add updates as needed (suggested by: Andrew Browne, Owner of Browne Box Creative).
4. Create client accounts for marketing tools your agency uses
The next thing to cross off your client onboarding checklist is to create customer accounts for any marketing tools your agency plans to use for their project. This simple task makes sure everything runs smoothly.
Your account manager can provide access links and guidance on how to use each tool. If a client is unfamiliar with a certain piece of software, schedule a meeting to give them a quick tutorial and answer any questions.
Some popular marketing tools among agency professionals include:
- Slack or Jostle for client communications
- Asana, Basecamp, or Google Drive for project management
- HeyOrca for social media management
- Dropbox for file/asset management
- Databox or Klipfolio for reporting
Regardless of the tools you’re using, it’s important that your client understands their value and how to use them. (A great opportunity to show off your technical expertise!)
5. Send a client welcome packet
This is one of the most important steps in agency onboarding. A welcome packet should reiterate the terms of your contract, highlight how you’ll be working together, and make your client feel welcome (duh!).
“A welcome pack is a client’s first experience with your services/product. Make it fun, make it easy, and make them feel like they’ve done something incredible by working with you.” – Michael Dale, former Managing Director of VOLT Agency
You can share your welcome package in a simple email, or you can jazz things up with a branded PDF. Even if you’re on a budget, you can easily create a stylish, customized welcome package using a free tool like Canva.
Or you can use this agency onboarding template that we’ve put together so you don’t have to start from scratch.
What should be included in a client onboarding welcome package?
Include details about the following:
- Members of your team working on the account
- Project goals and the services you’ll provide
- Client expectations
- Project timelines and upcoming meetings
- Tools/software being used
- Administrative/housekeeping action items
- Use this as an opportunity to set clear expectations for both you and your client (suggested by: Adam Binder, founder of Creative Click Media).
- Clearly outline content creation/delivery processes, timelines, methods of communication, etc. and provide examples of workflows, so delays can’t be seen as subjective (suggested by: Brett Downes, founder of Haro Helpers).
- Create a text message and/or email flow to compliment or break up the welcome package (suggested by: David Adams, Founder of Sirus Digital).
6. Schedule a kick-off meeting
Once the above items on your new client checklist are complete, the account manager should schedule a kick-off meeting with the client. This is an opportunity to introduce everyone working together, clarify expectations, answer questions, and discuss the next steps.
Make sure to include a detailed meeting agenda in your invite that sets a time for:
- Team and client introductions
- Reviewing project goals and timelines
- Discussing the different tools/software you’ll be using
- Highlighting upcoming tasks and milestones
- Summarizing action items
If your meeting is happening virtually, also allow time at the start of the call for a quick tech check to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Also, preparation is key. Everyone on your team should know all client details and their roles in the project. Take time to brainstorm strategies before the call, prepare slides/other documentation, and have a plan for who will cover each agenda item.
“The client kick-off call is an important first step in introducing your team to the client 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.” – Anja Djuricin, Social Media Director of Digital Silk
Finally, make sure to arrive early, keep an eye on time, and have a designated team member for note-taking. So everyone can be fully present, consider recording the meeting and transcribing it using a tool like Rev.
7. Wrap up agency onboarding with something special
As you wrap up your client onboarding process, consider doing something to make the experience special. Spread the word about your new client and their product/service with your network. Or send your client a gift basket, a handwritten note, or some branded swag to welcome them to your team.
Small gestures like these create a personal connection and help build a long-term relationship.
“I carefully listen to clients during the onboarding process to find opportunities to surprise them with personalized gifts.” – Anthony Milia, Founder of Milia Marketing
In case you need some inspiration, here’s a list of 168 client gift ideas from SnackNation.
8. Get to work
While executing this new client onboarding checklist, you’ve collected the necessary project details, set expectations, discussed deliverables, and built a solid foundation for your client’s project. Now it’s time to get to work.
Generally, your team can start with:
- Conducting an audit of your client, their industry, and their competitors
- Scheduling recurring and milestone meetings
- Creating a timeline for deliverables
- Creating a monthly content calendar (really important when onboarding social media clients!)
- Asking for feedback on your onboarding process and putting it into action
Customer onboarding FAQs
In case you still have questions, here are some common ones about how to onboard a new client.
What is agency onboarding?
Agency onboarding is the process of integrating and welcoming a new client to your agency. While you’ve given a stellar impression through your sales process, onboarding is your client’s first time experiencing what it’s like to work with your agency. You get one chance to make a first impression, so start the relationship off right.
When should client onboarding start?
Your client onboarding workflow should start the moment you receive a signed contract. There’s lots to do, so get the ball rolling as soon as possible!
What are the phases of client onboarding?
Using our new client checklist as a guide, the phases of a marketing agency onboarding process include:
Generally, your team can start with:
- A housekeeping stage of adding your client to your CRM, assigning team members to the project, and creating client accounts for any marketing tools your team uses.
- An information gathering stage where you and your client get to know each other through the client onboarding questionnaire, welcome packet, and kick-off meeting.
- An execution phase where you start working on your new account.
What’s required during customer onboarding?
In our new customer onboarding checklist above, we’ve outlined eight recommended client onboarding best practices. But, every agency is unique. Our checklist is intended to be used as a guide for creating an onboarding process that meets the specific needs of your agency.
How do you create a client onboarding checklist?
Start by thinking about what information you need from your client and what else they should know about you. When developing a process, always look for opportunities to make a personal connection. Hopefully, our agency onboarding example above will help you get started!
Agency onboarding made simple
There you have it, client onboarding for social media marketing agencies made simple. We hope this new client checklist helps you impress every step of the way after signing a new account. All that’s left to do now is what you do best: smart marketing and stellar customer service. Good luck!