Onboarding 101: Building Marketing Relationships
There’s a lot of value in retention.
This is something bad bosses, bad agencies, and bad boyfriends don’t realize: it takes a lot of precious energy and time to bring a new person on board.
You should do everything in your power to nurture your relationships. With client relationships, that means starting off on the right foot with a well-planned onboarding process.
A Good First Impression
At 9 Clouds, we completely upgraded our onboarding process about a year ago. We were doing okay with onboarding, but we wanted to make it more effective. We wanted to make it great.
After all, onboarding is the starting point for the entire business relationship. It’s when you and the client begin to build your marketing partnership together. You literally are getting the client “on board” with your team. This is not the time to half-ass a first impression.
Our customers choose to work with us because they want to be inbound marketers — people who connect with potential customers on a personal level. We reflect that personal touch with in-person onboarding, where the client’s individual project manager comes to their store to work through a customized inbound strategy.
We leave each in-person visit with an actionable, strategic plan and clear goals. Without this plan, the campaigns we create wouldn’t have direction — or at least a strong direction.
We know this from experience.
Before we overhauled our onboarding process, we spent weeks (or, in some difficult cases, months) working to set these key performance indicators (KPIs) after the contract started.
This is a quick way to frustrate both your clients and your creative team.
4 Steps to New Client Onboarding
If you feel like your current onboarding process is less than perfect, learn from our growth this past year. These are the four steps you can’t miss during new client onboarding.
1. Start with Your Sales Team
Before you even schedule an onboarding meeting, you should do some intel. Start with your sales team.
What can they tell you about the client’s wants and needs? Why are they looking for a new agency? Why did they come to your agency? What do they think are the biggest challenges for their business?
2. Review the Client’s Marketing Efforts
Next, you should look at the client’s existing marketing efforts, and get to know those campaigns well.
Whether they want to take a completely different direction from their current marketing or keep the status quo, you should be up-to-date on the strategy they want to use.
3. Prepare Your Team
Yes, we’re on step three — and we’re still not ready to get the client involved.
At this point, you should get your creative team together to brief them on the client and explain their role in the upcoming work. This ensures your team has a thorough understanding of the client in order to strategize for the work ahead.
Before our onboarding visit, the 9 Clouds team likes to build a three-month content plan and develop initial goals. This gives us something to build on when we meet with the client. This can always be changed based on that in-person discussion, but it’s better to have something in hand than show up with a blank slate.
We work hard to ensure the campaigns we suggest fit the goals of the client because, without buy-in from their team, we’ll never have success.
4. Meet on the Client’s Turf
Finally, you’re ready to visit the client!
Going to their company’s home base has a lot of benefits: you can meet their sales team, spend time in their city and state, and get to know the staff better because you’ll likely have time for a lunch or dinner together.
During your in-person meeting, you should cover things like technological setup and training that are specific to their business. The topics you must discuss during onboarding include:
- Buyer personas: Whether you call them buyer personas or not, you should be talking about the people who shop for your client’s product or service. What are their pain points? How do they want to be communicated with? There’s a reason buyer personas are at the foundation of every inbound marketing campaign. Every piece of our strategy relies on understanding the people our clients are trying to attract.
- KPIs: KPIs are valuable to showing your client’s success over the course of your work together. In fact, focusing on data (vs. opinion) is one of our core values. Make sure the KPIs you’re shooting for are SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound — so that you’re aiming for realistic goals together.
- Communication plans: How does the client want to be communicated with? We set these expectations right away. If a client wants daily updates on their marketing, we’ll set up an analytics dashboard to automatically email them reports, but we make it clear that our reporting happens monthly. It’s vital that you draw the line between what your team will and will not be doing. Remember that this is the time when you’re building trust with your client, so be prepared — and be the expert you are. Nothing will ruin a relationship like miscommunication and failed expectations.
The word “expectations” is popular at 9 Clouds, both in our office and in our conversations with clients. We believe the best way to set clear expectations is with transparency.
Our team is incredibly transparent with our work so that clients know what’s going to happen from the very start. We avoid the words “assume” and “should” because those undermine understanding. Internally, we communicate to the point of overcommunication to ensure we’re meeting client expectations.
And it all starts with onboarding.
Onboard with Us
Building and maintaining a relationship of any kind takes trust and communication. We think it all starts with a solid foundation — and two parties that are totally invested in the partnership!
If you’re not happy with your current agency, it might be time to onboard with someone new. You know all about the process of onboarding at 9 Clouds; now learn more about our services, and let us know when you want to have a conversation about your marketing.