Getting off on the right foot is key to building a lasting, productive relationship between a client and digital marketing agency. From the start, the agency needs to make a professional and expert introduction, which is why a client onboarding checklist is so helpful.
A client onboarding checklist outlines the best process for moving forward with a new client and ensures an agency never misses a step while building a strong foundation and relationship with their new partner.
Gather Preliminary Information From the Client
A great client onboarding process starts with gathering information from the client. So before you have your first kickoff call, use a new client onboarding questionnaire that lists the initial information you need.
Document the following information about the client.
- Website URL
- Target audience
- Existing marketing objectives and initiatives
- Current marketing plan tools
- Point of contact within the organization
Assign Your Lead Team (and Know Your Roles)
Once you have initial information about the client, begin to get your team ready to work with them. Assign the lead team that will manage the account. Depending on the size of your agency, each client may have an:
- Account manager: who communicates with the client and manages the project
- Lead strategist: who leads the plans for the project
- Creatives and specialists: who execute the plans (If at this point, you don’t have a strong enough plan to assign these roles, that’s fine. You can come back to assign these roles once a more defined plan is put in place.)
Before you talk to your new client, it’s essential to outline roles for your internal team members. If you are unclear about responsibilities within your organization, it will be noticeable to the client and potentially create confusing and uncomfortable situations.
Send a Welcome Email
The next item on your client onboarding checklist is scheduling a kickoff call where your client and team can get on the same page. To set up the call, send your client a welcome email that gives them a brief introduction and plan for the meeting. Include a:
- Request for times for the kickoff call
- Introduction to your team members who will be involved with the project
- Outline of who needs to be on the call from the client’s team
- Agenda for the kickoff call
Have a Productive Kickoff Call
As you go through your client onboarding checklist, the next task is to execute the kickoff call. Use the following client onboarding best practices for your first call with a new client.
Include your team members who will be working closely with the client. Often the person who made the sale to the client will make and lead the kickoff call. Other people who should be involved are the account manager, lead strategist, and other top members of your creative or strategy team.
Gather your team and review the client before you place the call. It’s helpful for your entire team to quickly review the client and goals one more time before you get on the call.
Make introductions. Once you connect with the client, introduce each member of your team and explain what their role will be regarding the project.
Review the new client onboarding form. If you followed the client onboarding checklist, you already have initial information about the client. Now, use the call to dig deeper into those details. Go over their answers to make sure you are both on the same page.
Dig deeper. Then dive into a conversation about topics that are too detailed to ask in a questionnaire. Discuss the following information with the client:
- Current challenges
- Marketing metrics they use to measure success
- Sales processes
- Buyer personas
- Approval processes
Explain the next steps. End the call by giving the client clear expectations for what the next steps will be. If you follow this client onboarding checklist, the next steps will be to create a marketing strategy plan and send it to the client for review. Let them know when they can expect this first deliverable from you.
Create a Strategic Marketing Plan
The initial marketing plan you send to the client sets the tone for your working relationship. It outlines what you plan to accomplish and how you can help your client.
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It should start by sharing a competitive analysis that highlights their strengths and weaknesses. It should also include a section on opportunities and strategies that will help them reach their goals and overcome their challenges.
Complete a Competitive Analysis and Identify Weaknesses
The client may have given you a list of who they think their competitors are. This is useful and a good starting point for you to do your own research. But at this point in the client onboarding checklist, go deeper into competitor research. Use this competitive analysis template to make sure you have a complete picture of the competitive landscape.
Create a more detailed list of competitors. Further research the client and their competitors by entering the client site or a list of their known competitors in Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool. The tool will produce a report that includes dozens of sites that have a similar audience to the target site. From here, you can see and select the sites that are the closest competitors to the client site.
Select the “Table View” to see a list of similar websites along with their Blended Overlap Score and Alexa Rank. This information can help you determine which sites are the closest competitors (sites with a higher overlap score and strong Alexa Rank show a site has both similarities and online authority). From there, add sites you want to research to a list and save it.
Once you add sites to the list builder, you can use it to run a variety of other reports.
Compare site statistics. Run a Site Comparisons report to get a variety of information about each site on your list. You can compare website traffic statistics such as the number of page views and unique visitors. You can also see and compare Alexa rankings, bounce rates, and times on the sites.
The Site Comparisons report also includes reputation metrics, traffic sources, and demographic details of all of the entered sites. This information allows you to research and compare competitors and see how your client stacks up against their website performance and audience.
Research competitor keywords. Run the Competitor Keyword Matrix to get insight into top keywords for the list of sites. The Share of Voice report shows which websites get the most traffic (both paid and organic) from keywords related to the sites. This information helps you see which competitors have the most control over industry keywords.
The Competitor Keyword Matrix report also presents more detailed information about the terms. The report lists top keywords along with their popularity score (which indicates how many people are searching for the term) and competition score (which indicates how difficult it is to rank for the term).
The report also shows how well individual terms perform for each site. You can see the paid and organic traffic score for each term related to the sites entered. This data gives you insight into how competitors are performing, how the client site ranks, and what keyword opportunities might be available.
Research competitor backlinks. Use the Competitor Backlink Checker to gather information about the link profiles of your competitors. Run the report to view how many sites are linking to your competitors, along with a list of the sites that are linking to them.
When you conduct a competitor backlink analysis, this information is useful because it shows what the client will need to do to compete. They will need to match the number of backlinks of their competitors if they want to be competitive in search rankings.
It’s also helpful because it highlights opportunities to find backlinks for your client. You can see the websites that link to one or more of your competitors, and then determine which sites might be opportunities for your client to gain links too. Click on the link to see the exact URLs leading to competitors and get more insight on link building opportunities.
Identify Opportunities and Create a Plan
Once you complete a competitive analysis, you will be able to identify both weaknesses and opportunities for your strategy. Use this information to put together a plan that will help the client reach their goals.
For tips on how to put together a full strategic marketing plan, check out our guides:
- The Complete Guide to Marketing Strategies: Risks, Rewards, and Investments
- Developing a Marketing Strategy
- The Best Marketing Tactics for Long-Term SEO Results
Create a Project Welcome Packet
The next step in the client onboarding checklist is introducing your plan to the client. Put together a welcome packet and:
- Outline the strategy. Give the client a look at the competitive analysis you performed along with the plan for how you will overcome challenges and reach goals.
- Set expectations. Outline how the project will work and what the client should expect as it relates to communication, turnaround times, and types of deliverables.
- Include a style guide: If creative work is involved, include a style guide that outlines the way you will approach content and creative development.
Don’t just send this welcome packet to the client and get started on the project. Set up a follow-up call with the client to review the welcome packet and plan.
This preliminary meeting creates an opportunity for the client to ask questions and for you to reinforce your ideas and plans – vital ingredients for creating a strong and successful partnership from the start.
Execute This Client Onboarding Checklist
A client onboarding checklist helps your agency ensure you don’t miss a step while bringing on a new client. It helps set the stage for a lasting, productive relationship that will be beneficial to both your agency and the client. So if you don’t currently follow a detailed client onboarding process, now is the time to start.
To get help with executing this client onboarding checklist, sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Agency Plan. It includes all of the tools mentioned in this post to help you put together a powerful competitive analysis for your new client plans.