Digital Marketing Client Onboarding Process

Key Takeaways
A successful client onboarding process is essential for digital marketing agencies to ensure continued business from clients.

Client onboarding process
To retain new clients, agencies need to have a system for their digital marketing client onboarding process.

Wow! Look at you go. You're closing new clients faster than your dad closes his mouth after he says another cringy dad joke.

In marketing, gaining a new client is always a cause for celebration. Well, maybe. The devil is in the details.

So, before you celebrate, hold that thought and wait. Gaining that client is only the tip of the iceberg.

There's nothing as crushing as getting that deal, and then, a month or so later, the client or customer decides to walk away.

Although that situation is never pleasant nor easy, we encourage you to look on the bright side.

Think of it as a wake-up call that something needs to change in the way you handle customer onboarding. And once you do that, you won't have to face that unpleasant situation as much, or ideally, ever again.

So, to ensure that you retain new clients and build those long-term relationships, you'll want to seriously consider implementing an efficient client onboarding process.

Why? Because a company needs a well-established system when onboarding new clients for efficiency and quality output.

In addition, customer retention statistics show that a large percentage of the revenue companies will make in the future will come from their current clients. Investing in the correct client onboarding process eliminates a lot of the worry surrounding the future viability of your business.

At ScaleTime, we're saints. And business process pros. We'll simplify the onboarding process for you with proven tips, a client onboarding checklist, and best practices.

But first, what does client onboarding mean? And why is it crucial for businesses? Let's dive in.

What does it mean to onboard a client?

Client onboarding process
Client onboarding is the process where an agency welcomes new clients to the business

You want to leave a positive lasting impression when you meet a new person. You hope your meeting will blossom from acquaintance to an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.

When we talk about the client onboarding process, we're talking about a similar scenario — the only difference being that it's now in a business setting.

The client onboarding process is one whereby you welcome new clients to your business and reassure them that doing business with you is a worthwhile investment.

New clients often wonder if they've made the right decision after signing a contract and putting down a deposit. The client onboarding process is all about dispelling these fears and doubts.

We're basically eliminating buyer's remorse and building a foundation of trust. Ultimately, client onboarding is an important process for businesses, and it produces great results.

Let's get into the main advantages of having an onboarding process so you can see just how awesome it really is.

Why Is Onboarding Important for Digital Marketing Agencies and Clients Alike?

A successful client onboarding system is essential for your agency because it guarantees continued business from your clients. Losing a client means losing money. But it also means losing time spent on creating a lasting relationship, meeting them, exchanging information, and marketing.

Statistics on customer experience show that future sustainability and revenue for businesses will be based on their ability to retain clients. It's therefore essential to have an onboarding process that's successful in keeping customers.

From the client's perspective, a well-executed onboarding process helps reassure them that their needs are well understood, and your company is interested in a strong working relationship.

One result of this is that your clients will be more likely to communicate with you openly and positively if you fail to meet expectations on the first try, rather than checking out in favor of another agency.

Properly onboarded clients are beneficial for businesses as these clients will not only spend money on your services and products but also refer them to others.

An effective onboarding system will keep your clients happy and ensure they do some great word-of-mouth marketing for your brand.

How You Can Ensure a Smooth, Stress-free Client Onboarding Experience

Client onboarding process
A successful onboarding system enhances a client's confidence in your agency

The client onboarding process can either make or break your business. A smooth, stress-free experience is one step towards retaining newly acquired clients — and that means continued business.

So, the big question is how to create a smooth and stress-free onboarding experience, both for your clients and for your team.

Here are 3 tips to help you achieve that.

Evaluate your existing client onboarding system

Take a good look at your existing system for onboarding clients and see what's relevant, working, and needs changing.

Then, based on your new client's needs and goals, you can adjust your existing system to align with a specific client. This ensures a smooth experience and helps build trust as clients will see that you're addressing their specific needs.

Choose the correct tools

Thanks to technology, there are various, affordable tools on the market that can help you complete almost every dull onboarding task with ease — leaving you to focus on the exciting work of making your client's vision a reality!

Additionally these tools minimize human errors that can make your agency look unprofessional. To get started, determine which tools are ideal for every stage of the process.


Before launching the system, test it to discover areas that need improvement.

The goal is to create a first impression for your clients that will erase any fears or doubts and make them want to do business with you.

Once you launch, invite feedback from your clients to keep improving the system.

The 4 Steps of the Digital Marketing Client Onboarding Process

Client onboarding process
Great client onboarding in four simple steps

For a successful and effective new client onboarding process, the following steps should be included in your marketing client onboarding checklist:

STEP 1: Setting clear expectations

From the minute you meet that new client or customer, ensure that you set the expectations upfront. This critical first step eliminates so many headaches that can occur during the project lifecycle.

How so? Because the client understands what you are offering and what's expected of them right from the very beginning.

A client welcome packet is one of the best communication tools to convey how your company works and what the client should expect from your marketing services.

For more specific expectations, the contract with the client should provide clear mutual understanding, including details of:

  • Timelines
  • Deliverables
  • Duration
  • Terms and conditions
  • Confidentiality
  • Payment methods
  • Termination

Once you've covered everything, send the contract as a branded PDF packet to your new client.

STEP 2: Kick-off

After the signed contract phase, get to know your client deeper. The aim is to understand the client's goals, needs, customers, and competition, and to start setting your plans for the next phase.

The kick-off takes two stages: the new client questionnaire and the kick-off meeting.

Get to know the client: new client questionnaire

You can obtain the following vital information through a client onboarding questionnaire:

  • Sales process information, including brand guidelines and social media management details
  • Client checklist
  • Customer journey
  • Intake form
  • Client goals
  • Primary point-of-contact person

Once you've gathered the information, create a client brief. This is a document written as guidance for the project detailing the client goals, project timeline, and scope.

When you create client accounts, the client brief is the foundation that ensures every action your team takes is aligned with the overall goal.

Client onboarding process
Getting to know your new client shows your commitment to the working relationship

Bringing everyone onto the same page: the kick-off meeting

A kick-off meeting is the first meeting with your team, the client, and everyone who is involved in the project. It is a crucial component of the onboarding process, as it's an opportunity to introduce your team to your client. This helps in building trust and a lasting, personal relationship.

In this meeting, you'll outline strategies and action plans for the duration of the project.  The agenda should include:

  • Project details and objectives
  • Scope and deliverables of each team
  • Timeline and milestones
  • Potential risks and mitigation strategies
  • Communication channels and means of collaboration
  • Progress tracking
  • An open forum to answer any questions and clear confusion

Your kick-off meeting marks an exciting time as it officially solidifies your partnership with your client.

To facilitate a successful client kick-off meeting, you can hold an internal kick-off meeting first so you can review the agenda and get your team ready and excited for the new project before they face the client in the actual kick-off meeting.

STEP 3: Measure

It is important to establish strategies and ways for reporting and measuring progress from the very beginning. Agreeing on the reporting frequency and method helps build a strong client relationship and establish accountability.

Communicating project updates can be done on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and in a form of a written report, phone call, email presentation, or regular meeting.

Clearly define the project management metrics your team will use so you can evaluate performance, measure successes, and determine your current position against your budget, target, and competitors.

Identifying which metrics are relevant to your clients will also help you save time, only delivering the information they want and need.

STEP 4: Nurture

To build a lasting relationship with your client, keep your communication lines open at all times. That way, your clients can access you for feedback and questions and get more relevant information to keep them updated. Regular check-ins help ensure the client gets the most out of their investment with you.

It's also important your client understands that even the best of plans sometimes don't work out as expected.

Educating your client and managing their expectations, will improve their understanding of the results you've achieved. And you'll develop a better working relationship.

Client onboarding process
Nurture each client relationship to watch them grow and strengthen

Important Tools to Support the Client Onboarding Process

To ensure a smooth and successful client onboarding experience, it's crucial to choose the right tools.

Some tools that will help you implement a solid client onboarding process include:

  • E-signatures so you can fast-track the onboarding process when a sale is closed. For instance, PandaDoc, DocuSign, Better Propsals, and Qwlir
  • Slack or Teams to notify the team when someone is onboard
  • Project management tool options such as Monday, ClickUp, Asana
  • Intakes for collecting information — Jotform, Typeform, or Content Snare
  • Wiki a place to hold the client brief — Notion, GetGuru, Google Sites
  • Payment tools like Stripe or PayPal
  • Ad questionnaire tools like Google Forms
  • Meeting tools like Zoom or Google Meets
  • Collaboration tools like G-suite

These tools help ensure transparent and accurate transfer of information between the primary contact of the client, the account manager, and other parts of the marketing agency.

Conclusion and Action Steps

Agencies that intend to stay relevant and in business for the long haul must ensure an effective client onboarding system. Spending time and money on this process will guarantee success for both your agency and your customers.

In summary, the client onboarding workflow should contain the following crucial elements:

  • Setting expectations
  • Kicking-off the project, including a client questionnaire and a kickoff meeting
  • Measuring and reporting on progress
  • Nurturing the client-agency relationship

There's no right or wrong template for onboarding clients. Instead, depending on your customers' and clients' needs, goals, and journey, design a template that suitably aligns with their expectations and the nature of your business.

At ScaleTime, we do this in our sleep. We can help you develop a successful onboarding template that's customized to your business and will take it to greater heights.

How does this sound:

Eliminate unnecessary headaches. Win back up to 40 hours a week. And up-level your onboarding process for your agency for max customer retention?

Then grab our FREE guide for client onboarding hacks here. See you on the other side of profitable business heaven.

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana Marulanda - ScaleTime Founder
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.
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