Best Practices for Successful Client Onboarding

By Kath Shoesmith


You’ve won a new client and the team is buzzing,  but the hard work starts now. What happens next is just as important, if not more important, than winning a new client. The onboarding process is crucial for helping customers see your agency’s true value and building long-lasting relationships. It’s just as much part of the pitch process as signing on the dotted line.

So, what does a quality onboarding process look like? How can you create an onboarding strategy that keeps clients renewing year after year? Let’s run through our best practices to help elevate your agency’s onboarding process.

What is onboarding?

Client onboarding is an essential part of the sales and pitch process. It involves introducing new clients to your agency to show them how processes work, what they can expect from working with you, and your plans for the project or campaign. It also lets you gather essential client information, understand their needs, and provide personalised solutions.

A smooth and seamless onboarding process is crucial, as it sets the tone for your client relationship. Done correctly, it helps establish a strong partnership that works for both parties, where you and the client are clear on processes, goals, outcomes, and deliverables.

Why is a solid onboarding process necessary?

First impressions count. The onboarding process is your agency’s chance to wow the client from the outset. Likely, they’re already impressed with your agency since you won the pitch, but that’s not enough. It doesn’t mean you can expect the client to see the total value of your agency or understand how you operate.

Onboarding promotes effective communication and trust, and demonstrates that you value the client. It’s your opportunity to highlight how processes operate and how you plan on working together. It also allows you to set expectations for the client so that you can avoid challenges and mistakes further down the line. By prioritising client onboarding, your agency can foster long-term partnerships, drive growth, and maintain a competitive edge in the ever-growing agency landscape.

8 steps to successful onboarding

Client onboarding doesn’t need to be a strenuous task. That said, rushing through the processes or skipping steps will likely lead to mistakes and could damage your relationship with the client. We’ve created an 8-step method to ensure your onboarding process is successful.

1. Be passionate and curious

Even if the client’s service or product isn’t interesting, you must show passion for their business. After all, you need to understand as much as possible about the company to execute the project or campaign successfully.

Get curious and ask as many questions as you can. Here are some ideas:

  • How would you describe your business to a new client?
  • What are the USPs for your product/service?
  • What problems does your service/product solve?
  • What are your main business challenges?
  • What are your main industry challenges?
  • Who is your ideal consumer

2. Do your research

Alongside asking the client questions, carrying out your research is imperative. This should involve competitor, market, and industry analysis, deepening into challenges, trends, problems, customer pain points, common questions, competitor offerings, and customer demographics. If you can go into an onboarding session armed with knowledge, you’re more likely to impress the client and show you understand their business.

3. Create an interactive onboarding session

Although your client knows their business inside and out, it’s up to you to explore the areas they overlook and help them view aspects of their business differently.

During the onboarding session, discuss the finer details, like goals, outcomes, and deliverables. But make time for creative thinking, where you can encourage clients to think outside of the box. Consider hosting interactive onboarding sessions with whiteboards, post-its, creative tasks, and thought-provoking questions.

Remember, you’ll also need to schedule a kick-off call with team members working on the account. It’s vital for your team to introduce themselves to the client, and vice versa, so they can see who they’ll be working with and what everyone is responsible for.

4. Provide the client with resources

You don’t want to overload your client with mountains of paper, but you do need to provide them with need-to-know information. Creating a welcome pack is a great way to onboard the client with information about your agency, team members, working processes, values, mission, and other essential business details. This will help the client to see how you work and what they can expect from you.

Likewise, the client may have valuable resources to share with you. This could include information on the tone of voice, branding, ongoing campaigns, and their team.

5. Set out deliverables

After the initial onboarding session, you’ll need to set out deliverables. It should be clear who’s doing what, why, and when. That way, the client knows when they can expect deliverables from you, and your team knows what they can ask for from the client. Be clear on deadlines (with room for some flexibility) and goals, so the client can see your overall plans for the project.

6. Plan touchpoints

You’ll likely have many team members working on the account, and so will the client. So, alongside deliverables, establish plans for touchpoints and regular communication with key stakeholders. For example, you may need weekly calls with some stakeholders and your account managers, while other team members can be informed of updates via email or project overview calls.

7. Outline reporting expectations

Understand what matters to the client and what they want to know from you. For instance, some may want a detailed overview of all action points, while others may be happy with a quick overview of project progress. Establish this from the outset and ensure it’s clear who’s responsible for producing the reports.

8. Enjoy it!

Above all else, enjoy the process. Get to know your clients personally and professionally so you can establish long-lasting relationships. Foster effective communication and trust as you work together towards project finish lines.

Onboard your clients and agency for success

If you want to establish a successful partnership with your clients, the importance of onboarding shouldn’t be overlooked. Take time to do your research, speak to your clients, and get clear on your goals, outcomes, and responsibilities.

If everyone is on the same page, it’ll help projects run smoothly. Not only that, but it’ll elevate your client relationships. And more often than not, a happy client is one that sticks with you long-term.

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