Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand the services available to them.
I learned an unbelievably valuable lesson recently when I took on a new client. Although I had sent a New Client Welcome Pack, I commenced work without it being signed and having the duties clarified in writing. This placed me in an extremely vulnerable position.
I am the first to admit that I am far too trusting. I am also the first to admit when I make mistakes. However, I will always endeavour to rectify them to the satisfaction of the client. My endeavours in this instance escalated into something quite unpleasant to the point that the client demanded a full refund of the money that was paid.
Of course, I really have no comeback for this, because as I said previously, I did not get anything in writing. There were only video and written communication between us, and I do not have access to either.
So now I am out of pocket after spending several hours doing the work and waiting for video chats.
Other valuable lessons:
- ALWAYS make notes.
- DO NOT rely on memory.
- Record EVERYTHING.
- Understand what is required of you and get a contract in place BEFORE commencing any work.
HubSpot has a great article on the 6 best practices for onboarding new clients that I would like to share with you.
I, unfortunately, did not practice what I preach and now am paying the price. Don’t let it happen to you.
Practice a People-Focused Approach
One size does not fit all. Customize your service or product
Wind Up Before the Kick-off
The kick-off meeting is where you can really solidify your client’s ideas and needs and make a concrete plan.
- Prove Your Value Quickly
Consider the onboarding stage as less a stage and more a process. Once you’ve established your foundation and you’ve made clear your client’s goals, it’s time to get moving.
- Organize Your Communication
setting a communication schedule (or at least simple expectations) will ensure that neither you nor your client falls off each other’s map.
- Consider the Tech
Onboarding tools exist to help you automate the customer’s journey through the onboarding process -- many of them also contain pre-formatted checklists and check-in forms to help you expedite onboarding’s organisational component. But don’t forget to customise.
- Exchange Feedback
And do it often. Don’t share just your own; listen to client feedback. When the time is right, ask them for it. Is this communication schedule working for you? Is there something that you feel like you’re missing? Does this goal schedule make sense in conjunction with your expectations?
Example Client Onboarding Process Flow
To put these best practices into action, here’s an example new client onboarding process flow you can run through with your next client.
1. Big-Picture Campaign Goals
First, discuss the client’s big-picture ideas for your first campaign or project together. What do they want to achieve? What numbers do they want to impact?
In this initial discussion, it’s important to gauge goals, expectations, and ideal outcomes for a project, and then discuss how you’ll work together to make them actionable and achievable. In many cases, you’ll have to find a happy medium between what the client wants to achieve, what resources they have available, and what your team’s time and efforts will allow for.
Contact information. Budget. Timelines. These are all vital details to discuss and nail down early on in the collaboration process.
3. Mutual Deliverables & Metrics
Both you and the client will have to deliver content and collateral to make the campaign a success. Nail down everything needed for the project, who will be responsible for what, and firm deadlines for submitting collateral.
4. Mid and End-Points
Once you’ve set a final deadline, set regular check-ins over the course of the project duration to evaluate progress made and for both parties to offer feedback.
Once the project has been completed, make sure you have a meaningful wrap-up meeting to discuss outcomes and next steps, if any, that are needed. This is a great opportunity to end the relationship on a positive note by highlighting all that the collaboration accomplished, which you can use to ask for a referral or ask to work together on another project.
The onboarding process should span over the entirety of the beginning of your engagement. Following these best practices will help you build the trust that is so crucial in the beginning of client relationships -- and establish an excellent foundation that will benefit you both in the long run. Go forth and onboard! Your future sales numbers will thank you.