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How to onboard new agency clients successfully

Successful agencies attach great importance to professional onboarding of their new clients.
Image: © standret / Adobe Stock

Thorough onboarding before the actual project launch

The last pitch was a huge success. The new agency client is impressed by the ideas presented and is looking forward to working with the agency. But what happens next? How can an agency solidify the client’s initial good impression? And above all: what can it do to avoid a false start, which could soon mean the end of the partnership?

The first phase of the collaboration calls for particular finesse. A thorough onboarding process should therefore precede the actual project work, so there is no miscommunication between the agency and client and to avoid dashing expectations. In addition to a common basis for the launch, professional onboarding creates the foundation for a long-term and sustainable partnership.

Goals for client onboarding in agencies

The first weeks in particular shape the further course of the partnership. To ensure that new agency clients feel well accommodated and taken care of, the onboarding process pursues various goals that serve to build trust and systematically integrate clients into the agency’s workflow:

  • Getting to know one another and coordinating the different corporate cultures
  • Connecting the agency team and the new client’s relevant contact persons
  • Defining common values, for example within a code of conduct
  • Transparent communication of mutual expectations
  • Coordinating and defining common goals
  • Identifying and defining the most important projects
  • Defining KPIs and meaningful milestones
  • Joint development of efficient and smooth processes

New client onboarding begins even before the first kick-off meeting

Even before the first kick-off meeting in a larger group, there are many tasks to be carried out as part of the onboarding process. In general, onboarding requires precise preparation and planning as well as a clear structure to ensure the best possible start to joint projects. The first call plays an important role here. It offers you the chance to get to know the new brand or product better and to strengthen the trust in your agency. The first call determines the course for further collaboration.

Tip: As early as the first call it is a good idea to explain the next steps and to agree on a timetable for your client’s onboarding. In a welcome e-mail you can put the results of the call in writing once again, answer any open questions and briefly introduce the responsible members of your team.

During the preparation phase, particular attention should also be paid to an evaluation of the client’s existing campaigns and assets. A thorough assessment forms the basis for strategic planning and helps to align your own service precisely with the client’s needs.

Involve your own team

Good preparation also includes internal communication within the team. Orientation meetings can be used to share information about and experiences with the new agency client and to discuss the next steps. This enables your employees to prepare adequately for the kick-off meeting and to score points with broad team expertise.

Onboarding: Kick-off meeting as a benchmark

The further onboarding process for new agency clients usually consists of several formal and informal meetings in which the prerequisites are created for day-to-day business. The kick-off meeting has a special role to play here. It is an opportunity for both partners to get to know one another in a larger group and to communicate their values, attitudes and mutual expectations. First and foremost, this is about understanding the way the other party works and building trust, rather than hard facts and figures.

Expectations and common goals should be discussed transparently during the kick-off meeting. At the beginning of the partnership it is especially important to set realistic expectations and to give the client a clear impression of how the common goals can be achieved. Premature promises and commitments are out of place. In general, it’s about looking at the big picture.

Developing a joint strategy and procedures

While informal meetings serve more to promote mutual understanding and to develop and build on chemistry, formal meetings determine the concrete structure of the partnership. Defining concrete goals, developing the strategy, setting KPIs and coordinating processes, tools and reporting are on the agenda. This phase represents a test, as the client gets a concrete insight into the way your agency works. The more professional the joint planning and coordination is here, the better you can justify the trust placed in your agency.

Check-up to complete onboarding

The end of the onboarding process is usually marked by a check-up meeting, in which the agreements and results so far are closely examined once again. In addition to valuable feedback on the work and partnership up to that point, the check-up aims to ensure that everything discussed has been initiated to everyone’s satisfaction. Once all preparations are complete, the actual project work begins. During this phase, the agreed goals, structures and processes are regularly reviewed, adjusted and refined.

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