Welcome to our three-part series on client onboarding and how it revolutionized our agency! We hope you find this information instructive and helpful in creating your own custom client onboarding process.
[ Part Two | Part Three ]
Note: This is a post that contains affiliate links.
When SoVerve launched in February of 2016, we remember feeling utterly prepared. Of course, we knew of client onboarding, but we thought we had a system that worked for our business. Boy were we naive. We had zero clues of just how important this process would be to our business and business growth. Two days after we launched we found ourselves with our very first client and an onboarding system that lacked in so many areas. Our biggest mistake? We weren’t thinking about how our process would affect our long-term relationship with our clients.
The thing about creating systems for your business, whether automated or not, is that they take time to set-up, require data to adjust, and most importantly, they have to be created with your clients in mind. So, for the majority of 2016, we set out to find ways to better this process. However, as time progressed we found ourselves jumping from one client project to another and from one community collaboration opportunity to next. Needless to say, we kept the same bootstrapped system with no real direction. What we now know, is that a service based business needs a stellar onboarding process to maintain consistency.
What Is Client Onboarding Anyways?
Before we get too deep into today’s topic, let us give you the simplest definition of client onboarding your client will ever Google. Client onboarding is the process in which you take your client and educate them on how you do business, what they can expect from collaborating with you and how you plan to address any issues, concerns or question that may arise along the way. It also provides them with specifics like payment scheduling, invoicing, and contract details. Need an even simpler, but more profesh definition?Client onboarding sets you up to meet client expectations, through a smooth process resulting in higher retention rates.Click To Tweet
So you see, getting this part down was so important to us and we didn’t even know it yet. As a team who practices relationship marketing, client onboarding was our ticket to creating that unbelievable client experience.
Enter: A Business Consultant
In December, while reflecting on our 2016 Year-End data, we found that we had enjoyed maintaining positive relationships with our clients and while the current client onboarding process was working okay, it needed to be refined. This is when we decided to consult with Sidjae Price of Priceless Planning. Sidjae is a business consulting expert, who focuses on small business planning by creating systems and infrastructures that can be built upon and scaled as business demands grow. Together, we decided to take a look at our process, which included a lot of back and forth emails with clients and information being hosted and delivered through various channels.
The biggest takeaway from our conversations with Sidjae was that we needed to make meeting client expectations about a healthy long-term client relationship that would yield higher retention rates for our agency. We were focusing too much on meeting the deadline(s), that we were missing the point on taking our clients on a journey that included relationship building. This is why working with an industry-specific professional is so important. Sidjae understood that we had specific goals to meet and helped us to find and implement tools that worked best for our business.
Hello, 17Hats + WP-Client
The first tool we implemented was 17Hats in order to replace not one, but over six external tools. With 17Hats, we were able to create Lifecycles for all of our leads and thus creating a great CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool for our agency with a small yet growing portfolio. This option within 17Hats eliminated many of the tools we were using in order to make sure that no lead falls through the cracks. The second option that we loved about 17Hats were the project-specific Workflows, which allows us to create tasks and to-do’s whether they involve the client or our team. Through the Workflows, we can set up canned emails, proposals, contracts, and invoices in order to create a smooth automated sequence. This has saved us so much time and money.
The second tool we needed to implement was the use of a customized client portal. A place where clients and our team could communicate, share a working calendar, and exchange documents. We had tried Asana and Trello in the past but wanted something that we could incorporate into our website.
Sidenote: Before creating an online portal through our site, we knew, as a seasoned web developer, that we needed to change hosting providers. So, in December our site went dark for a few days while we not only migrated from GoDaddy to SiteGround but while we updated our site theme for rapid speed and lower page sizes.
Sidjae helped me to find a wonderful WordPress dedicated client portal called WP-Client. It was everything that we hoped and imagined it would be but we were looking for something more. We wanted to streamline our workflow to be within one centralized hub. We discovered the answer was right there in front of us this whole time and it happens to be in 17Hats. Another main feature 17Hats offers is allowing you to set up a client portal access through your website. Through 17Hats, we were able to do what you would in Asana or Trello, but with a more customizable feel. We didn’t want all of the extras or the distractions. With 17Hats, we were able to provide our clients with a space that hosts their project information, directly on our website. This, in turn, allows us to meet client expectations by putting their needs first since our previous system wasn’t easy to manage for many of our clients.
Remember, part of the onboarding process is to ensure that your client’s definition of success is met, and not yours. Defining success from your client’s point of view will help you create an onboarding system that works for you, not against you. For SoVerve it was clear that our clients were individuals who were coming to us because while tech-savvy, many didn’t want the hassle that came with learning an app. They wanted a snapshot view of their projects and not the extras. Will this system work for our agency in 2018? We do not know, but as the needs of our clients change, so will our process and more than ever we are willing to make that adjustment to meet their needs first.
Part 2: A Branded Process
In the next post of this series, we discuss our exact client onboarding process looking deeper into 17Hats. Comment below and let us know if you are currently using an onboarding system. What web apps do you use? And are they meeting your client needs?
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