If you’re reading this piece, you’ve done the hard part – you managed to get your business proposal accepted, signed and paid for – and you have a new client. Congratulations! But the work isn’t over just yet – you have to onboard them before you start working.
However, many agencies and business owners neglect onboarding, even though it might be the key difference between an unhappy and disappointed client. Here is what client onboarding is and how you can become a pro at it.
What is client onboarding?
Client onboarding is the process of welcoming a new client to your business. In this time, you introduce them to what you do, how you do it, and you set expectations for the business relationship you’re about to have with them. When you set a strong foundation, you’ll have better communication and your client’s satisfaction improves as well.
Why is client onboarding important?
If you deal with a large volume of clients and don’t have the time, you may not want to waste time with client onboarding. However, statistics say otherwise – over 90% of customers say that the companies they buy from could provide better onboarding. Here are some practical reasons.
Decreased churn – clients that are accustomed to your brand are less likely to leave you. Not only do they get more familiar with what you do, but they also benefit from the time and attention you give them, making them feel like they are valued as a customer.
Better expectations – if a client expects a full website redesign and all you provide are technical SEO updates, you’re bound to have problems. While you should first set expectations in your proposal, onboarding is another great chance to state exactly what you will do and how.
More information – onboarding is a great opportunity to get the last bits of missing information from your clients before you begin working on their projects.
Client onboarding best practices
If you’re now convinced that client onboarding deserves your attention, let’s get through some basic steps for ensuring your onboarding procedure is flawless.
Start with the proposal
While the client should get some information in the onboarding process, this should merely be a recap of what they already know. They should find out what you do and how you’ll solve their problem in the business proposal first.
Speaking of which, it’s a must to start the onboarding process only after the proposal has been signed by both parties and ideally, paid for. That way, you ensure that you’re going into the process with the client knowing enough to start.
The business proposal gives the client insights into their situation and your proposed solution to their problem. It also outlines the timeline for solving the problem, the pricing, and all other relevant bits of information. Good proposals also include formal terms and conditions to keep both parties protected.
When you use reliable proposal software such as Better Proposals, you get all of these elements from the get-go in your proposal templates.
Send a questionnaire
If you ever dealt with clients first-hand, you’ll know that they won’t immediately give you all the information you need to do great work for them. This is especially the case if the client has never worked with an agency or freelancer or outsourced their work in general.
You’ll inevitably have some questions for them before you start working. Unless you want your onboarding meeting to last for 3 hours, you’ll want to send the client an onboarding questionnaire with the most relevant questions for their project.
The questionnaire should include the most common questions you ask your clients before you start working for them. Depending on what you do and the type of service you’re selling, you’ll have different questions.
In terms of the platform, you could send an email and wait for the clients’ response. However, there are many elegant ways to go about this process. Some of them including sending a Google Form, a Typeform page or an Airtable. That way, you’ll immediately get the answers as the client submits them and it’s easier for them to complete the process. Moreover, if you connect these forms with your CRM or project management tool, they can auto-populate the necessary fields to get work done even more quickly and efficiently.
Have a kickoff call
It’s always a good idea to have the client talk to a real human being. Your work may not require constant calls with your clients, but you should have at least one meeting as part of your onboarding process. Once the client accepts, signs, and pays for your proposal, you can prepare the materials and schedule a kickoff call.
Due to the pandemic, meetings have largely become online and in the form of video calls, which makes things even easier. You’ll be able to send a quick call invite to the client and once they’re on board, you can prepare the meeting.
The aim of the kickoff call is to brief the client about the work that will be done. Use this opportunity to ask them (short) questions you still may have, discuss what you’ll deliver and when, and answer any questions they may have.
This is also a good opportunity to introduce the part of your team that will be handling the client’s account. It’s always a good practice to connect the faces and the names and it will ensure more trust from the client.
One of the worst things you can do is leave the client waiting for information on what is happening with their project. If you take too long to send updates, the client may get the impression that you’re not doing any work for them and they’ll start questioning your investment. In some cases, they may even forget that they hired you in the first place.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to schedule follow-up emails and calls. You can set your own intervals based on the length of the project but if you’re working for multiple months, one follow-up call per month would be a great idea. If your project has a scope of a month, you can make a follow-up call (or send an email with a report) once per week.
Follow-ups build trust and let the client know that even if they’re not holding your hand, you will do the work according to their instructions. They’re also a great way to report on progress and ask the client if they’re happy with the work you deliver.
The onboarding process can make a major difference in how your clients perceive your brand and the work you deliver. Even if your work is flawless, poor onboarding can completely ruin the experience. If you deliver great work, make sure to show off your professionalism from the start with a superb onboarding process.