Onboarding Strategy for Agencies: 5 Steps to Build Strong Customer Relationships

Viktor Fink Last updated 22.10.2020
6 Min.
agency onboarding
Last updated 22.10.2020

When building new business relationships, tact is required to make sure that your potential customers feel well taken care of throughout the entire onboarding process. Viktor Fink from the Düsseldorf advertising agency bitseven reveals how you can inspire your new customers in 5 steps.

Onboarding represents the systematic integration of the customer into your workflow and plays an essential role in the sales process. You could also call it "onboarding": Welcoming new customers and paving the way for effective collaboration. In doing so, you create a seamless experience from the first point of contact to the follow-up. After all, the real potential lies in lasting client relationships that are built on mutual trust. The way you connect with clients turns new users into raving fans.

Why onboarding is so important

There is no second chance for the first impression. Everyone knows this saying. Especially in the area of customer loyalty, it clearly applies. The foundation for long-term business relationships is laid in the first phase of the business relationship. Whether your buyer feels understood and in good hands has a significant influence on later purchasing decisions. If a harmonious connection is not established at the beginning, the relationship can quickly begin to crumble. 

On the other hand site a positive onboarding experience confirms that your clients made the right choice with you. Ultimately, you're not just getting short-term business this way, you're creating a long-term relationship. Statistically, customers who aren't loyal to the company within the first 90 days will churn. And that's not all: according to According to Oracle research.about 86 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for a good customer experience.

customers pay more

Customer onboarding for agencies in 5 steps

Step 1: The Call

It's done. The deal is done. Now we have to pick up the client. The first call sets the course for collaboration. Agency clients expect good accessibility, effective processes and fitting results. 

First, however, you should thank them personally on the phone for the order. This strengthens trust and is generally a nice gesture.

Next, you can ask your client a few more questions - if you haven't already.

  • Did you already have business relations with competitors beforehand?
  • If these were canceled, why?
  • Where was there still room for improvement?

Once that's cleared up, it's wise to explain the next steps to your client. It's like going to the dentist. If I don't know what to expect, I sweat the dentist's chair with anxiety. However, if the doctor takes the time to tell me what the procedure is, I am much calmer.

Your client probably isn't panicked about you working together (unlike me about dentists), but they too want to know what happens next. We humans don't like uncertainties.

Pro Tip: This trick was given to me by an experienced business consultant. Open the phone call with "Everything good with you?" Try to get a concrete piece of information from the customer. A "Yes, thank you" is not enough.

Example:
You: "Good afternoon, Mrs. Seidbold, are you well?"
Mrs. Seidbold: "Yes, thank you, are you well?"
You: "Absolutely, thank you. Now that I have a coffee, the day can begin."
Mrs. Seidbold: "I can understand that. I'll make myself a cup in a minute, too."

Bingo! Why all this? Because now you can end the conversation with "and enjoy your coffee, Mrs. Seidbold". Now the customer has the feeling that you have really listened - and not only to business matters.

Step 2: Welcome mail

Send your new client a welcome email that lets them know they are in good hands. The goal of this email is to keep the momentum of the phone call. Were there any questions answered during the call? Write the answers again in the email so the recipient has it in writing. Next steps can also be listed here.

Add the other people responsible to the CC and introduce them briefly. Who does the frontend? Who does the backend? This gives your company a little more face. 

Pro Tip: Your team and you probably already had some rough ideas about what the project might look like. For example, if you need to design a website for an automotive repair shop in Leipzig, you may have been inspired by a repair shop website from Chicago. Make a screenshot of this American website and explain to your client in this video what elements inspired you and how they could be used in their project. Be sure to mention aspects that you came up with on your own. Otherwise, it looks like you're just copying.

If your client sees that you have a vision for their project, they will feel good about it.

Sample video:

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Step 3: The Kickoff Meeting

Here we go! The kickoff meeting is where trust is built and the foundation for the rest of the job is laid. Therefore, meet face-to-face if possible. It's easier to build personal relationships when everyone is at the same table.

The same thing applies in this meeting as in a sales pitch. You have two ears, but only one mouth. Listen to the client. Ask questions. Find out if the customer has thought of anything else in the meantime that is important to him.

But the real goal of this meeting is not hard information gathering - that can be handled by mail. Meetings offline are about building trust. 80% of the time I talk to my customers about banal or only "semi-relevant" things.

  • How did you get this job?
  • How long have you been in this nice office?
  • Are you flying on vacation?

Convey that you are also just a person with a normal life. Be happy to tell them about yourself. In this way, you will turn from a two-dimensional businessman into a three-dimensional person of flesh and blood. 

Pro-tip: "Then let them eat cake!"
Bring cake for coffee - and more than you can eat together. After you leave, the cake gets passed around the office and everyone asks "Who brought it?" The answer: you!

Even people who have nothing to do with the project are now on your site . Checkmate. Long live the cake bribery!;-) 

homemade cake for the customer
Delicious homemade cake for one of our customers.

Step 4: Welcome Package

The cooperation is roughly clarified. Nevertheless, the contact should not break off immediately. A welcome package helps to strengthen the purchase decision. For example, it can be a mix of digital assets and physical products. For a digital form, a PDF info sheet with business hours, contact information, emergency numbers is recommended. The customer will be happy about the unexpected surprise.

Think about what opportunities exist to add value and ensure an outstanding experience. A customer onboarding "knowledge base" can work wonders here. It includes a set of previously answered questions. It should be as easy as possible for the customer to find and avoid jargon as much as possible. You also specifically prevent queries from coming up again and again along the way. The more concretely the information is formulated, the better.

Besides, every customer is happy about status updates. Especially if you can present something visual. That way, the client sees that you're working on their project all the time.

Step 5: Service and Follow-Up

The check-up should take place in the first 30 days. This is to make sure that what you have discussed is working well. Call the customer from yourself and ask if everything is okay. Collect all the questions that the customer still has.

  • How do I add new images?
  • How can I create a new user?
  • How do I change the price of a product?

Now create a tutorial video on how the customer can work with his new site (screen recording is sufficient). It should definitely be a video made especially for the customer. So the customer feels individually cared for. 

He can watch this video over and over again, by the way. If he forgets in 4 weeks how it works with the photos, he doesn't have to call you. That saves you both time and nerves.

Pro-tip: The cake bribe was already good, but now add one more. At the end of a project, we send our clients a small gift, such as a bottle of cognac, Cuban cigars, or a bouquet of flowers. Of course, a handwritten card is always included.

Important! Don't do that on public contracts. Civil servants are not allowed to accept gifts. 

Conclusion: Customer onboarding is underestimated

Onboarding doesn't work overnight. It takes time and a lot of patience. Nevertheless, especially for agencies today, it tips the scales when it comes to retaining customers. Setting clear expectations shows that your clients are dealing with a professional company. Ultimately, this not only reinforces a smooth process, but routine also symbolizes reliability. Always remember that customers are much more likely to churn in the first 90 days: If you catch mistakes early, you can turn clients into fans.

Show your clients that you take their projects and their business seriously. Get this right and you'll gain valuable relationships that can withstand the fast pace of today's society.

Viktor Fink is one of the two founders and managing directors of bitseven advertising agency in Düsseldorf. The entrepreneur trains his leadership and above all presentation skills in various theatre productions and with the Düsseldorf Toastmasters. In the latter association he has served for years as a member of the executive committee. Before Viktor started his own business, he studied history at Heinrich Heine University.

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