agency onboarding

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

When building new business relationships, tact is required to ensure that your potential clients feel well taken care of throughout the entire onboarding process. Viktor Fink from the Düsseldorf-based advertising agency bitseven reveals how you can win over 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": New customers are welcomed and the way is paved for an effective cooperation. In this way, you create a seamless experience from the first point of contact to the follow-up. Because 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 a first impression. Everyone knows this saying. Especially in the area of customer loyalty, it is clearly true. 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 decisive 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, you're creating a long-term relationship. Statistically, customers who are not loyal to the company within the first 90 days will leave. And that's not all: according to According to research by Oracleabout 86 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for a good customer experience.

customers pay more

Client onboarding for agencies in 5 steps

Step 1: The Call

It is done. The deal is done. Now we have to pick up the client. The first call sets the course for the 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 done so.

  • Did you already have business relationships with competitors beforehand?
  • If these were aborted, why?
  • Where was there still a need for improvement?

Once this has been clarified, it is advisable 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 all over the dentist's chair out of fear. But if the doctor takes the time to tell me what the procedure is, I'm much calmer.

Your client is probably not panic-stricken about you working together (unlike me about dentists), but he too wants 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 concrete information from the customer. A "Yes, thank you" is not enough.

You: "Good afternoon, Mrs Seidbold, everything all right with you?"
Mrs Seidbold: "Yes, thank you, are you well?"
You: "Absolutely, thank you. Now that I have a coffee, the day can begin."
Ms 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 aim of this email is to maintain the momentum of the phone call. Were there any questions answered during the conversation? Write the answers again in the email so that the recipient has it in writing. The 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 bit more face. 

Pro Tip: Your team and you probably already had some rough ideas of what the project could look like. For example, if you need to design a website for a garage in Leipzig, you may have been inspired by a garage website from Chicago. Make a screen capture of this American website and explain to your client in this video which 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 are just copying.

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

Example video:

Step 3: The Kickoff Meeting

Here we go! The kick-off 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 sitting at the same table.

In this meeting, the same applies as in a sales talk. You have two ears, but only one mouth. Listen to the customer. 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 the hard information gathering - that can also be done by mail. Meetings offline are about building trust. 80% of the time I talk to my clients about banal or only "semi-relevant" things.

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

Convey that you are also just a human being with a normal life. Tell them about yourself. In this way, you will turn from a two-dimensional businessman into a three-dimensional human being made of flesh and blood. 

Pro-tip: "Let them eat cake then!"
Bring cake for coffee - more than you can eat together. After you leave, the cake is distributed 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 has been roughly clarified. Nevertheless, contact should not break off immediately. A welcome package helps to strengthen the purchase decision. It can be a mixture of digital assets and physical products, for example. 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.

Consider what opportunities exist to add value and ensure an outstanding experience. A 'knowledge base' for customer onboarding can work wonders. It contains 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. In this way, you also prevent specific queries that come up again and again. The more concretely the information is formulated, the better.

Besides, every customer is happy about status updates. Especially if you can present something visual. This way, the client sees that you are 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 has been discussed is working well. Call the client from your phone and ask if everything is OK. Collect all the questions that the client 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 client can work with his new site (screen recording is sufficient). It should definitely be a video made especially for the client. This way the customer feels individually looked after. 

By the way, he can watch this video again and again. If he forgets how the photos work in 4 weeks, 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, for example a bottle of cognac, Cuban cigars or a bouquet of flowers. Of course, there is always a handwritten card.

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

Conclusion: Customer onboarding is underestimated

Onboarding does not work overnight. It takes time and a lot of patience. Nevertheless, it is the deciding factor for agencies today when it comes to retaining clients in the long term. Formulating clear expectations shows that your clients are dealing with a professional company. Ultimately, this not only strengthens the smooth running of the business, the routine also symbolises reliability. Always remember that customers are much more likely to leave in the first 90 days: If you recognise mistakes early on, 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 business relationships that can withstand the fast pace of today's society.

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