How To Onboard A New Client

Winning new clients takes a lot of time and effort. The last thing you want is for that relationship to fall flat and all of your work to be wasted because of a simple – and avoidable – miscommunication.

No matter what kind of business you have, you want to make sure that the relationship is set up to succeed. That’s where onboarding comes in. This process formalizes your relationships with your clients and helps you to set goals and expectations for both you and your client.

A solid onboarding process has big benefits, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. All you need are a few simple steps that will help to set you up for success.

Whether you’re looking to refine an existing strategy or if you’re starting from scratch, we’re here to help you figure out the best onboarding process for your business.

What Is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of starting your working relationship with a new client. This involves providing them with relevant information about your business and collecting the key information you need in order to provide them with the best service.

Of course, a potential client probably knows a lot about your company by the time he decides to work with you. However, the integration process is the time to formalize your working relationship and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

The onboarding process gives you the opportunity to clarify important details about the project, including what needs to be done, how long it will take and how much it will cost.

Why Is It Important to Have a Good Client Onboarding Process?

A good client onboarding process will set the tone for an excellent working relationship. Don’t think of it as a nice-to-have item, but rather as a must-have item in your business strategy.

Relationships are dynamic and even the best-designed plan may eventually require changes, but setting expectations during the onboarding process can save you headaches later.

The formalization of your working relationship is an opportunity to define the parameters to make sure that you and your client know exactly what to expect.

Here’s how a solid client onboarding process can help your business:

• Longevity: A working relationship with clear expectations on both sides is much more likely to last than a poorly defined relationship. If the beginning of the partnership is difficult or chaotic, clients are much more likely to look elsewhere.

Efficiency: By gathering all the information you need about the client from the start, you will be ready to get to work immediately and you will no longer need to come back to them to ask more questions. You will know exactly what you need to do and how to do it.

Customer satisfaction: Seeing an action plan and understanding the work strategy you intend to use will give your clients peace of mind that you know what you are doing and you will be able to meet their needs.

Convenience: Once you have refined your onboarding process, it will be easy to replicate it and adjust it if necessary when you find new clients to work with. This will save you a lot of time, which you can then spend on acquiring even more paying customers.

Compliance: Depending on the industry in which you operate, there may be legal regulations that you must comply with. Including all the necessary legal documentation in your onboarding process will help you ensure that you are fully compliant from the start.

5 Steps to Onboard a New Client

Client integration is about establishing a happy working relationship. The best way to start this type of partnership is a smooth process.

Although every business will need something slightly different to ensure the best experience for their clients, there are 5 steps that should be included in every onboarding process.

1. Gather Information

To offer your client the best service, you must clearly understand what he needs. The most effective way to find out their needs, desires and expectations? Ask questions!

Think about the most important information you need to get to work and create a questionnaire to send to your client. Include basic things such as contact information as well as more in-depth questions about timing, goals, and other information relevant to your type of business.

Let’s look at some practical examples. If you are an accountant, you will need to understand how your client’s business is structured, the assets they own and the accounting approach they have used in the past. As a copywriter, on the other hand, you would want to know the company’s messaging goals and how they envision their brand voice.

2. Send a Welcome Pack

A welcome pack is a great way to provide a potential client with information about your company, increase their confidence in your expertise and encourage them to use your services.

Once you’ve gathered information about the client, their business, and the outcomes they’re looking to achieve, you can use this to personalize their welcome pack. There are a few assets that you can use to do this:

• Case studies: Include examples of projects you’ve executed for similar businesses in the past, highlighting the results that you helped those clients achieve.

• Resources: Sharing articles you have written about best practices and general approaches to the types of work you will undertake will help them increase their confidence in your abilities.

• Projections: Mapping the expected results of a project – based on the previous results you have achieved – using visual tools such as graphs, charts and tables, can greatly help a client understand how you can help his business.

You will also want to include all the basic information about your business in your welcome pack. A simple document that describes your opening hours, contact information, location and frequently asked questions is all you need here.

3. Hold an Onboarding Meeting

Once you have gathered the information you need, you will want to have a face-to-face consultation with the client. This is an opportunity to establish a friendly working relationship and pave the way for open communication in the future, and this can be done in person or by video call.

As with all other aspects of the onboarding process, the structure of the initial meeting will vary depending on you, your company and your client. However, there are a few items that you will probably want to have on your agenda:

• Clarify the scope of work and agree on goals: Review the information that your client shared during the research phase to make sure that you agree on what needs to be done. Be specific about what is included in your services and the results you plan to achieve, aligning them with the client’s needs.

• Set the cadence for communication: Discuss the communication methods that work best for each of you. It is important to agree on how updates will be provided (for example, regular meetings, emails or even SMS) as well as how often they will be shared. Regular and scheduled updates will help you keep your client informed and confident in their choice to work with you.

• Finalize payment terms and details: Give the client information about how you charge for your services (for example, a payment plan based on milestones or initial project fees) as well as all the options you have for them to pay.

However you choose to structure your meeting, the most important thing at this stage is to take detailed notes. If you are organizing a video call, it may be a good idea to record it. This will allow you to have all the information you need to develop your work plan.

4. Finalize the Contract

Once you have an idea of what the client wants – and how you can help them – you will want to formalize your relationship with a contract.

It’s crucial to do this early; you certainly don’t want to waste time going through the entire onboarding process only for them to then say they’ve changed their mind.

You can choose to make a long-term commitment (such as a freelance mandate contract) or something less permanent (for example, a project-based contract). Either way, you don’t necessarily need a long contract filled with legalese, but you should have at least a basic agreement that both you and the client sign.

Include the details you collected during the research phase and the onboarding meeting, as well as the project cost and payment terms. If you are not quite sure what this chord should look like, you can find many models online.

5. Assess and Refine the Process

With each new client you integrate, you should take the time to think about how the process will go. This will help you decide which elements of your system are working well and what might need improvements.

Here are some questions that you can ask yourself when evaluating your onboarding process:

•Did the client skip any questions in the onboarding questionnaire? If so, why?

•Has the client been given all of the information they needed about the project or do they still have a lot of questions?

•Were there any major delays during the onboarding process?

•Is there any information that I still need from the client?

You can also ask the client for feedback on the process. Don’t just ask general questions like, “What did you like and didn’t like about the process?” Instead, try to collect much more specific feedback, for example by asking them to rate certain aspects of the process on a scale of 1 to 10.

Your goal in getting this feedback is to improve the process in the future, so the more actionable information you can gather, the better.

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