Basically, through client onboarding, you can get all the resources you need and ask all the questions you have about a specific project. The main idea here is covering all the necessary bases upfront. So that thereafter, you’ll then be left alone to work on your business project (s). With the client checking in periodically to ascertain your progress.
Often times, the onboarding stage comes between your client’s agreement to undertake a project, and as you actually begin working on it. During this time, you’re essentially looking to tie up all the tedious clerical aspects. Some that might bog down your workflow if introduced later on.
At the forefront, some of the clerical tasks include getting contracts signed and discussing any legal issues that could cause roadblocks. What’s more, you’ll also want to deal with any project-specific questions at this point. For example, most websites will often require media.
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It’s important, therefore, to figure out whether you’ll receive the final images and graphics throughout the project. Or rather, if you’ll end up working with placeholder or stock graphics during development. All this gives you further insight when creating your project roadmap.
If handled carefully and correctly, client onboarding can easily result in a very ‘planned flexibility’. And although you’ll have a solid overall roadmap in place, it’s important that you’re able to expand and adjust it when the unexpected happens.
You may also never be able to know everything ahead of time. But, you can strive to answer as many questions and secure as many vital resources as possible. So, what is and how is it effectively implemented? Let’s answer a few of those and more questions below.
What does Client Onboarding mean?
Client Onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business. As you address their questions and concerns while ensuring they understand the services available to them.
In that case, you should not assume that your current customer service structure will take care of itself. Or rather, that it will take care of the client onboarding process — this can lead to clients that become frustrated and cancel their account.
So, in short, client onboarding is one of the most important functions of any business success. Simply, because it directly affects the client’s experience with your business, which will affect profits. It’s very important not to drop the ball immediately after signing up a new client.
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In order to be sure that you’re on board with your clients, during your kickoff meeting you can try and outline the exact parameters of the project. You should also try and explain what constitutes “edits” and what is actually additional work.
Additionally, you should also outline a schedule of payments for any additional work. It’s also important to ensure that your client understands exactly what they’re getting for their fee. Because by onboarding your clients, it means that you’re not assuming that they’ll figure things out on their own.
Since such assumptions can damage your relationship with your client and lead to lost business. While on the other hand, it’s necessary to streamline your client onboarding process also. So that they’ll have everything they need and you aren’t losing business.
Why is the Meaning of Client Onboarding?
According to Gartner: “80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its current customers.” That’s why client onboarding is so critical when it comes to ensuring that you deliver a great first impression. So that you can keep your current and future clients.
One of the most obvious benefits of a successful client onboarding process is continued service from your client. When you lose a client it means that all the time spent is lost. May it be marketing, developing the relationship, drafting proposals, or even investing your time to meet up with them It has all gone to waste!
Together with your client, you can work on a plan of attack that satisfies both parties. You also get another chance to show off how awesome you are — so that the client feels secure about their decision to hire you.
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Many businesses allocate a few marketing resources towards retaining their current customers. Even though there’s an incredible opportunity for future revenue with repeat clients. So, it’s in your best interest to keep your current clients happy.
Another benefit to retaining your current clients is the opportunity for referrals. When your clients are happy with the service you provide them they are more likely to refer you to others. Word-of-mouth marketing can also work for your business’s benefit or detriment.
In the end, if you do an exceptional job of onboarding your new clients, you’ll set yourself up for positive word-of-mouth marketing. Below are other additional benefits of onboarding your clients into your workplan:
1. It helps nurture your agency
Onboarding is one of those things that take effort at first, but pay off big time in the long run. If you can sit down with this onboarding checklist and create even a basic client onboarding process, you’re going to feel more organized and on top of things.
You do it, you reap the benefits, and then you get to spend an extra hour roller skating, home brewing, or singing karaoke because you can. And as I learned the hard way, client onboarding is a vital part of nurturing your agency/client relationship and ensuring you’re both on the same page.
The truth is, the client isn’t often certain what’s going on. And then again, they get nervous about hanging their project over. Without ever knowing exactly where it’s at. Let’s say you’re working with your very new client. A kickoff process helps them get an inside glimpse of how you work.
And as a result, it leaves them feeling confident they’ve made the right decision. Onboarding is also about helping you get to grips with the project and the client’s communication style.
2. Maps a path for you to follow
When you start a new project, you very well know how everyone is enthusiastic. Whereby, great ideas are always flying everywhere like they’re extras in ‘The Birds.’ However, it’s in this stage where many of the biggest mistakes are made. And almost everyone may not understand what they’ll do next.
That’s why part of the onboarding process is creating a schedule and a plan for the duration of the project. This sets out exactly what you’ll be doing. As well as who on your team will be doing it, when the client can expect to see it, and what they have to do from their end to make things happen.
3. It aligns your client expectations
Out of experience, some clients can be very strange creatures. And what will astound and terrify you most is their concept of what an agency can actually do. Or even how far their budget can actually stretch. A huge part of the process is to ensure that your clients know exactly what they’re getting (and what they’re not getting).
Not forgetting, some clients are able to get an idea of the process they can expect. Some may even take a tour of your agency and meet the team. On the contrary, meeting your team members in person is a very good step in the whole process. For one thing, it makes it harder for your clients to get rude to them later.
You should also note that some clients are able to ask questions and get answers even before the project actually begins. And by so doing, they’re able to express their own (often terrible) ideas. But, you can always take the bull by the horns and explain what will and will not work.
4. It allows you to decrease scope creep
What you need to know in your business undertakings with your clients is that scope creep is one of the most annoying situations many agencies find themselves in. Especially, when let’s say they’ve signed on for a simple four-page website. And then the client keeps adding additional jobs to the list.
Although some of them will value the workload and add an extra fee, as for others, they may have no intentions of paying any additional fee. This may eventually result in a variety of misunderstandings, delays, disruptions, or even contract termination. A very bad end, right?
Well, it’s so obvious to tell whether a project is going to be rife with scope creep or not. For example, your project will hit rocks if every second sentence from your client’s mouth begins with, “Oh, could you just add this, too?” That said, if you want to prevent this from happening, that’s where onboarding greatly helps.
5. It enables you to demonstrate value early on
For your information, onboarding isn’t just there to prevent problems — it’s a great way to showcase your agency’s expertise. As well as its value for the client in the early stages of a project — the stage when they’re most excited. But, how do you do this? It’s very simple!
First of all, you can show them detailed examples from your previous campaigns — so that they can see the type of work you do and how you arrive at the finished result. Secondly, you can also let them tour your office — so that they can experience the creative process in person.
Lastly, you can run through expected results with them — so that they’ll have initial numbers to measure against.
How is Client Onboarding done Efficiently?
So far, you’ll realize that “onboarding” doesn’t sound as jargony as you thought. Forthwith, just think of your business as a giant ship, of which you are the captain. And all you want is for people to get “on board” the ship as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Not only that but you also want them to know all of the ship’s rules and practices beforehand. And yes! You don’t want to leave the helm until people are completely ready to talk to you. That’s, essentially, what client onboarding can help you achieve.
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Keeping in mind, implementing a cohesive and functional onboarding process is not only essential but beneficial for both your agency and your clients. Since it lays the foundations for a strong and long-lasting relationship. Allowing you to have an open line of communication at the forefront of your projects.
Above all, it allows you to set expectations, timelines, and goals for both your agency and your clients. But, how do you implement an effective and efficient onboarding plan for you and your clients? Let’s have a look at some of the methods you can use:
1. Utilize Contact Forms
Many websites do offer contact forms as one of the most popular ways to inquire about any product or service. And these forms are usually very simple. Allowing potential clients to send you an inquiry email. And therefore, they’re a great start to a successful client onboarding process.
But, wait a minute! What if that form knocked off a few other onboarding steps right from the get-go? The world of forms has expanded into a beautiful universe where a contact form is for more than a simple “Hello.” And there’re certain platforms like Typeform and plugins you can use for this purpose.
You can add a form to your website that gathers a lot more than the usual contact info. By using these options to create custom forms, you can find out what kind of service or package a potential client is looking for. Or even, how much they want to spend, and how quickly they need it done, saving you a lot of time in the future.
2. Create Welcome Packets
Let’s say you’ve scored a potential new client. You’ll want to make sure that your personalities are compatible. Or at least that you’re not going to end up strangling each other before you get paid. One way to do this, of course, is through direct communication like email or phone, but that takes time.
A welcome packet (coupled with a detailed questionnaire) will take care of this step while you tend to other business. This thoughtful document should include a warm introduction, insight into your values, and business model. As well as any other process information or guidelines that you would like your potential client to be aware of.
This is the perfect time to set expectations about timelines, payment, and communication. And on the client-side of the welcome packet is your new client questionnaire. A detailed questionnaire is your sneak peek into the mind of the inquiring potential client.
This can not only help you determine what kind of client they’ll be but it’ll also give you a better idea of what they want from a project.
3. Make Phone Calls
Streamlining your workflow with automation is all well and good, but you’re a human, right? Humans generally prefer talking to other humans when it comes to customer service, and eventually, you’re going to need to hop on a call. Personally, I prefer a video call via platforms like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.
If I could have a meeting in person, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but it’s not always possible. Video calls allow me to read mannerisms and facial expressions, giving me an idea of the kind of person I’m going to be working with. In this call, you can dig a little more into concept and project planning.
Here, you can hammer out the details of the project, finalize a price, and choose deadlines. Mind you, you’ll already have collected information about the client and their company through the questionnaire. And therefore, you can use this call to make the official decisions needed to sculpt the perfect contract.
However, be sure to specify in your welcome packet just how long this phone call will last. After all, it can be so fun talking to new people. But remember that all that time spent talking could be spent tackling deadlines or putting in billable hours.
4. Design Contracts & Invoices
Trust me, you don’t want to waste time dancing around the contract and payment part. If you include a rundown of your process in your welcome packet, your client will already know that a contract and an invoice or estimate will be arriving quickly.
This will help you as you try to thoroughly eliminate that “Oh, you need a contract?” conversation. If you’re equipped with an eSignature platform and online invoicing system, you can be on your way to payday. Without ever having to buy a stamp or ask your responsible friend if you can use his printer.
The next step in our onboarding checklist is another one of those jargony terms that make me want to intelligently touch and scratch my head. And it’s none other than CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This works especially well in agencies where multiple team members deal with the same clients.
Even a small operation can benefit from CRM, however. There are different levels of CRM software that are more accessible to freelancers and small businesses. So, it’s important to do your research on that so well. CRM software has the potential to speed up your workflow and save you some precious time.
5. Consider Project Management
I’ve learned a lot during my freelance career. And as such, I’ve honed my networking abilities, learned when and how to say “no,” and narrowly escaped my early contract-free days without any major legal issues. I’d say the most valuable thing I’ve discovered, though, is project management software.
A project management software like Bitrix24 is an incredible way to organize a project and communicate with clients and team members. It allows you to assign tasks to team members, upload images, and project-related files. While keeping all involved parties up-to-date with the progress of the project.
My other personal favorite is Trello — probably because it reminds me of my old college bulletin board, covered in sticky notes. But there are a veritable bazillion of other Project Management Software options out there. Like Basecamp, Asana, and Slack are all fantastic options.
Adding your new client’s work to the project management system will greatly help keep you on track. And it will even keep all of the pertinent files and information in one place. If you’ve ever spent nine minutes searching through your email for that one message containing that one file, you’ll know how valuable this capability can be.
6. Trial & Error Method
Ultimately, the customer onboarding process can take some trial and error to perfect and few businesses get it exactly the right the first time around. Continue to develop your client onboarding process and figure out what works and doesn’t work. Stay positive and keep trying different things until you find what works for your business.
Make sure you are constantly improving this process for your customers and keeping the needs of your clients first. Furthermore, a big part of developing a successful customer onboarding process is having an effective workflow to create each of the steps listed above.
And this is where Tallyfy can greatly help. Tallyfy allows you to build workflows that are designed to accommodate every step of the client onboarding process. You can customize workflow based on customer feedback. And then use metrics to track and improve any weak spots.
If you want to learn more about how the software has helped other businesses optimize their workflow needs, you can visit their customer stories page. All in all, you can also see the other 6 Tips to Successfully Onboard a New Client in more detail.
Before I conclude, there’re many professional service solutions, technology companies, and financial institutions that do incorporate such compliances. As well as client-facing views into client onboarding. Let’s consider Tallyfy for that matter. Tallyfy is a workflow platform that can run your client onboarding process.
It’s the easiest way to share status and collect information from your customer externally. But, to grow revenue – you’ll need to create a clear, trackable, and predictable client experience. Nobody likes a mess of phone calls, emails, and office/branch visits. Try to Schedule a call with Tallyfy and you’ll get my point.
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Finally — now that you know why onboarding is vital to your business — you’ll need to know how to create an onboarding process — that works for you and your clients. There’s a simple way I can help:— if you download the FREE Client Kickoff Playbook — it details a process for managing and running a successful client kickoff meeting.
So, how do you onboard your clients at your business or agency? Please let us know some of your thoughts or even additional inputs and questions in our comments section. But, if you’ll need more support, you can Contact Us and let us know how we can help you, your business, or your team.