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The checklist for onboarding new agency clients

We all love getting new work, but onboarding new clients isn’t a seamless task. At the same time you’re trying to collect company information, other team members are trying to kick off the project and explain the process to involved customers. And on top of all of this, the agency has to align their team with upcoming tasks. It’s a lot to handle, and it can be a little overwhelming and stressful for everyone.

As hard as agencies work to create a good onboarding experience for their clients, sometimes things can go askew. If the onboarding process goes poorly, that can lead to a delayed project start, angry or upset customers, and confused or annoyed workers. This checklist for onboarding new clients will show you Data Driven Marketers’ approach to onboarding and go over methods we follow to make the experience positive for all. Use this checklist to develop your own step-by-step process.

First, understand DDM’s methodology

Since we started the company (over 8 years ago!), Data Driven Marketers has been tweaking, improving, and developing methods for onboarding new clients. We continually improve our onboarding process based on negative and positive experiences and feedback from customers.

Why do we continue to focus on this? Our goal is to help new clients feel empowered. Agency clients often feel overwhelmed with the number of to-dos they have to complete. After all, onboarding is a hands-on process.

Some challenges we’ve faced with onboarding new clients & our solutions:

  • Emailing anything to our clients before explicitly sharing the next steps via phone call has resulted in confusion. Plus, past clients have reported that they feel “under communicated” when we overshare documents.
    • Before we send the client any to-dos via email, we jump on a call with them. We try to keep all homework assignments documented in one email.
    • Before all meetings, we send detailed agendas with a preview of what they need to work on.
  • Daily and weekly meetings started to make our clients feel overworked. “Oh geez, not these guys again!”
    • We now talk to clients bi-weekly or monthly, giving them clear expectations and something to look forward to. “There’s so much to catch you up on, Danielle & Katheryn! I look forward to tomorrow’s call.”
    • We’ve updated our process to make the client feel empowered and heard throughout each meeting—not bombarded with questions.
    • We prepare all meeting agendas and guide all conversations, making it feel like less work for the client.
  • New clients, especially those new to marketing, may have no idea of what to expect, or they may have different experiences with other companies.
    • One way we manage expectations is by outlining our process and delivery timelines as well as using collaborative documents.

The bottom line? Communication is key. Striking the right balance between how often you communicate with your clients and how much you ask them to do is important.

How we do it as a white label provider

As a white label provider, DDM is always prepared. We have templates for meeting agendas, welcome emails, onboarding presentations, and more, all of which we can customize with your brand. What really matters to us is making our relationship with agencies and their clients a positive one. As a white label provider and extension of your team, we can walk through the onboarding process directly.

Step #1: Share detailed steps about your process before the kickoff meeting

NOTE: Before sending anything to your client or coordinating any calls, import all of your onboarding steps and project tasks into your agency’s project management system. This will make it easy to take notes, and it allows your team to stay connected on tasks and updates. Consider creating a shared folder for the client so they can easily import and share documents/files with your team.

Let’s say you’ve landed a new account. Before the scheduled kickoff call with the new client, we encourage you to create a timeline document (we have templates exactly for this purpose!) or a shared calendar to give to them. Clients love these because it’s something tangible they can follow. Marketing is typically just an idea at the beginning, but by providing a timeline, you lay out those ideas into an action plan. Our timeline template includes important dates, meetings, and when clients will receive deliverables. Make sure to include these in your own timeline document as well.

Next, dedicate time to a short 15–30 minute meeting or record a video walk-through to discuss the timeline and share project expectations. And to take the customer experience a step further, it’s a good idea to customize a welcome email for your clients to discuss what’s next, who they should contact if they have questions and to share general information about your agency. Finally, coordinate a short internal team meeting to collect any final questions or to-dos. This should happen before the full kickoff meeting.

Create and share a project timeline document with the new client
Conduct a short meeting or record a video walk-through to discuss the timeline

Step #2: Conduct the kickoff meeting

NOTE: Before hosting the kickoff meeting, let your client know what to expect (send an email or give them a call 24 hours before the meeting). This kickoff meeting should be at least two hours. Coordinating it around lunch or another activity will help offset clients feeling overwhelmed.

Create and share an agenda for the meeting beforehand and review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
Kickoff the meeting with an introduction to your team, space for your client to talk about their story/brand/goals, and leave it open for friendly discussion.
Review and confirm the company’s goals and objectives.
Review and/or develop the brand voice guide and SWOT analysis.
Talk about the client’s homework, when you need it, and why. If the client seems busy, mention that the project timeline will be pushed back if they can’t complete the homework by the scheduled deadline.

      • e.g., Complete our NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) form
      • e.g., Send us a WordPress login

After the meeting is complete, recap what you’ve discussed and the next steps. End the meeting with a friendly discussion. This builds a personal connection and strengthens the relationship between parties.

Step #3: Send homework and consistently follow-up

After the kickoff meeting, send a detailed meeting follow-up. Recap everything you discussed and provide a copy of anything you may have shared or reviewed during this meeting. In the same follow-up, provide a homework sheet for the client. Outline exactly what they need to do—providing a fillable document, if possible—and share the results with your team once the client sends it back. Some example “homework” items could include:

  • Logo files
  • Website access
  • Analytics access
  • Google My Business access
  • Completed brand guide
  • Completed questionnaire
  • Contact info for the client’s marketing team or key decision makers
  • Original company photos or videos

Send friendly follow-ups until the client completes the homework. Our standard follow-up process is typically short because we stick to the steps above. At DDM, our follow-up process is:

Send a meeting recap/follow-up with homework to-dos clearly displayed after the meeting.
Follow up two days after the meeting to check on the progress of the homework.
Follow up exactly seven days after the meeting to check on the progress of the homework.

Step #4: Start the project; have regular client meetings

After you get all of the necessary assets, send a thank you email to the client. Better yet, send a short video of yourself explaining how you’ll use their assets. You’ll want to thank them (again) for providing their homework, share the timeline (again) indicating where you are in the process, and highlight when they can expect to hear from you next.

At the same time, you’ll want to coordinate an internal project kickoff meeting. This is for your team to recap the timeline, show your team exactly where they can find all assets from your client, and go over your expectations with the team, opening the floor to questions. Finally, you’ll want to conduct regular meetings with the client as you work through the project.

Send a thank you email after you’ve received all of the client’s homework.
Coordinate internal project kickoff meeting to share all completed homework pieces with your team.
Start the project.

Final tips and notes

Communication and real relationships are key when it comes to onboarding new clients successfully. Remember to share a timeline and your process with your clients, coordinate a kickoff meeting, send homework, and consistently follow up for a seamless onboarding experience. Formalizing this process should be a priority if you don’t already have one in place. Take time to do this before selling additional products or services; otherwise, you may be facing angry and upset customers (aka, customers who leave after 2–4 months).

Once you have your onboarding process in place, you’re set up for smooth sailing. Data Driven Marketers, a white label digital marketing provider, can help you with crafting and improving your agency’s onboarding process. We offer coaching, template help, and/or working through the entire onboarding process with your team or client.

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