Finding new clients is essential for growing any business, including a marketing agency. But what many fail to acknowledge is that it’s equally (if not more) important to retain your current clients. The missing link? Client onboarding.
Business growth is dependent on both client acquisition and retention. Many companies set acquiring a new customer as the ultimate goal of their sales funnel. The most common mistake they make is ending their funnel immediately after the acquisition. And guess what? They couldn’t be more wrong.
Acquiring a new client shouldn’t be the finish line of any sales funnel. In fact, it represents just one part of the client onboarding process.
What is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding is defined as the process of acquiring new clients for your business. However, it does not mean just simply bringing in new clients – it also presupposes addressing their questions and issues and making sure you’re completely on the same page when it comes to services you’re offering.
Client onboarding is one of the essential aspects of any business as it directly impacts your client’s customer experience, thus indirectly affecting your brand image and eventually your profits as well. It’s a perfect opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with your client, get them up to speed and kickstart your cooperation.
The entire essence of client onboarding is contained in the following quote:
“If you hold a customer’s hand for 90 days, they’ll be loyal for life”. – John Jantsch
But how much attention do marketing agencies actually devote to client onboarding? And how does that affect their business?
According to Hubspot’s Agency Growth Report for 2018, 43% of agencies didn’t have enough time to focus on administrative work (including client onboarding), bringing in new clients has been one of the biggest pain points for around 60% of the agencies, while for 16% of them client retention was one of the greatest challenges.
Client Onboarding vs. Lead Generation
Client onboarding is not the same as lead generation. Only then when a lead has become a client for your business, the process of client onboarding can begin.
In order to guide you through the entire process of client onboarding, I’ve asked our very own Jeremy Ellens, the co-founder of LeadQuizzes to share some of his insights on the topic. Having been running a marketing agency for years before he started LeadQuizzes, Jeremy is the right person to lead you through client onboarding.
The first thing I asked Jeremy was…
What makes client onboarding so important?
“This is your first chance to build confidence and demonstrate competency with your clients. Any missteps or poor experiences in the beginning start to chip away at the trust you’ve worked hard to build during the sales process. Alternatively, if you create an exceptional experience you can use this as an opportunity to build trust.”
6 Steps to Successful Client Onboarding
Before Getting Your Client on Board
1. Choose a Specific Niche to Specialize in
If you’re a marketing agency just starting out, chances are you are doing all kinds of work for all kinds of clients. And that might be fine for the time being. But sooner or later, you’re going to run into some kind of a problem with such an approach.
That being said, it can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to choose an industry you’re going to specialize in – play it right and it’ll become the foundation of your entire business. Jeremy has learned about the importance of niching down the hard way:
“The first 3-4 years of our agency, because we didn’t niche down and we took on all kinds of custom work, our sales process was atrocious. We had to do multiple calls to figure out their business, research what they wanted, how much time it would take to fulfill the work, create a proposal, and then hope that we could close them.”
“It was excruciating and time-consuming and could have been avoided with productizing our service, which we eventually did. Once this was in place, I knew exactly what I was offering, how much work we would do, what the pricing was, and what offers I could make to incentivize a deal on the same call.”
The fact is that different industries have different sales models. That’s why picking the right industry could be vital to your agency’s success. In relation to that, Jeremy further asserts:
“We weren’t extremely strategic about picking an industry when we started but thankfully we fell into one. A lot of our first clients happened to be in the health space and we found that we could get repeatable results there so that’s an industry we came to specialize in.”
“We could tell our clients with a pretty high confidence what range their lead cost would fall in. With that number in mind, we could do the math for them to see if they would get enough sales to make their campaign work.”
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you narrow down your niche/industry:
- What industry or niche do you see yourself being a part of?
- Do you want to base your marketing efforts on running advertisements or do your potential clients need a lot of existing website traffic?
- What kind of sales model do you plan to master and use with your clients?
- Does your target industry make enough money to pay for your services and other fees?
- Are there any existing clients you already had success with that I could implement this for?
2. Generate Leads
Once you’ve narrowed down your target niche, you need to make sure you’re generating enough targeted leads.
According to Jeremy, to be able to generate leads successfully, you need to make your clients a compelling offer and give them a reason for making that kind of an offer. Jeremy further elaborates from his own marketing agency experience:
“To start out, I wanted to create an aspirational goal – help a business build their email list by 100,000 people in one year. We learned through our agency the importance of building an email list and believed it was something that would be very desirable.”
“Our idea was that we would help them set up a funnel using the power of quizzes to capture leads very inexpensively from Facebook. Being those leads were so cheap, it wouldn’t take many sales to recoup what they spent and they could reinvest that money back into their Facebook ads to grow their list faster.”
Of course, depending on your niche and your clients’ specific needs, the compelling offer can be something other than email list size. For example, if your client is a health clinic, you can offer to help them add 350 new patients in a year’s time. Or you could offer to help a blogger generate 50,000 new blog visits this year. And so on.
Here are some of the ways you can generate highly targeted leads for your agency:
- Mail your email list
- Start a referral program with your existing and former clients
- Cold outreach
- Facebook advertising
- Create a quiz that generates leads like crazy
- Website leads (using website popups, for example)
Once you’ve generated your leads, you need to make sure they convert into sales.
3. Convert Your Leads into Clients
Get in touch with your leads. There are two most obvious ways to reach out to your potential clients to initiate the process of client onboarding – phone calls and email sequences.
Below is a sample email LeadQuizzes salespeople would send leads to try and generate replies or schedule calls:
Subject: Predictably Control Growth
Hey Contact First Name!
I noticed that you started our LeadQuizzes Blueprint Webinar. Did you get a chance to watch it yet? My name is John and I’m your Success Coach over here! My job is to help you come up with a plan to dial in your marketing efforts, and start increasing your sales.
We help businesses create a predictable and scalable source of leads and sales using quizzes! We’ve already helped hundreds of customers just like you see a 400%-500% increase in lead capture.
I can share some specific strategies on how to make quizzes effective for your business on a short call after I understand your marketing funnel. Select a time using the link below that will work for both of our schedules ????
LeadQuizzes Success Coach
Of course, you also need to come up with a perfect sales script to close your leads. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our detailed marketing agency training for some actual real-life sales script samples.
Once You’ve Got Your Client On Board
Contrary to the popular belief, getting a new client to sign up for your product or service is not where the process of client onboarding ends. In fact, it’s just the beginning. You cannot bring in a new client and just leave them on their own, expecting them to jump into your service with no issues and challenges at all.
Once you’ve got your client on board, you obviously want them to continue paying for your services for as long as possible. It’s much better to be getting tens of thousands of dollars from a client over a period of one year, than just scoring a quick few thousands and losing that client afterward.
4. Kick off your clients
After you’ve closed the sale, that’s only the first step in the process of client onboarding. Still, there are a few additional things you can to do while still on the call.
In Jeremy’s own experience, the most important step in the process of client onboarding is the first call. He further explains the entire process:
“Managing a transition from salesperson to account manager is a really important step. Depending on your sales cycle, your salesperson has spent a lot of time developing trust in your company and in the strategy you are going to execute. You should design the experience leading up to this first call so that the account manager looks great and the project runs flawlessly.”
“For example, we sent a Calendly link so they get a calendar invite and a Zoom link to their first meeting right after the salesperson charges their credit card. Next, we collect the information that we need to get their project done via a Basecamp template. Finally, we ship them a small gift as a welcome to our family experience. I believe these steps build trust that we have a proven process and have been thoughtful about the experience.”
Such a process prevents your clients from delaying getting started with your services for weeks or months. The fact is you want your clients to see some actual results as soon as possible or else you risk them backing out early.
5. Retain your managed clients
Just because you’re running a marketing campaign for your client at the moment doesn’t mean they’re going to stick with you forever. In order to retain your current clients, you need to make sure they’re getting the results they expect.
According to Forrester Research, acquiring new clients can cost 5x more than retaining current clients. That being said, you should have a stronger grasp of the importance of retaining your managed clients and need to start viewing it as an integral part of client onboarding.
For example, if a client hires you to help them generate leads, if they don’t manage to turn those leads into sales later on, it’s likely they’re partially going to blame you. That’s why you often have to go over and beyond to make sure you’re clients are satisfied (and remain your clients).
This doesn’t mean you should get on the phone and start making calls on their behalf trying to make sales, but you can do what you can to help on the sales side in order to keep them on longer. Being that Gartner Group has found that 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from only 20% of your current clients, you get why this is vital.
Moreover, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your new clients is one of the best ways to reduce customer churn.
6. Reduce customer churn
Customer churn rate is the percentage of customers lost (customers that don’t buy your products or services anymore, have switched service providers, canceled their subscription, or closed their account).
Studies have shown that new customers are nearly 3x more likely to churn within the first 3 months from the moment they’ve opened an account. That’s why it’s essential you make sure your client onboarding process is executed well enough.
Jeremy explains how his own company deals with customer churn. Basically, it’s a 3-step process:
1. Try to figure out which clients get the most success and find more clients like that.
2. Measure client KPIs that indicate satisfaction so both our team and theirs know how the campaign is doing and what adjustments need to be made.
3. Create a roadmap of what your project will look like and how long things should take so there are clear expectations.
Of course, customer churn is just one of the obstacles when it comes to client onboarding. In Jeremy’s view, one of the greatest obstacles he’s been facing when it comes to client onboarding is “when a client jumps on their first call and they are unprepared and the meeting is unproductive.”
How does he deal with it?
“It took us a lot of testing to find the right questions to ask in a pre worksheet to learn about their business so we could help them create an effective lead generation quiz. Some clients will be very detailed and provide way too much information while others won’t provide enough. It’s important to find the right balance in your pre-call questionnaire to create an effective first call.”
To sum the things up, I asked Jeremy for a single piece of advice he would give marketing agencies when it comes to client onboarding. Jeremy said:
“Make sure you continuously improve it. This isn’t something you can set and forget. Keeping a client longer is much cheaper than going out and acquiring new customers.”