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, I remember feeling utterly prepared. Of course, I knew of client onboarding, but I thought I had a system that worked for my business. Boy was I naive. I had zero clues of just how important this process would be to my business and business growth. Two days after I launched I found myself with my very first client and an onboarding systems that lacked in so many areas. My biggest mistake? I wasn’t thinking of how my process would affect my long term relationship with my 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, I set out to find ways to better this process. However, as time progressed I found myself jumping from one client project to another and from one community collaboration opportunity to next. Needless to say, I kept the same bootstrapped system with no real direction. What I now know, is that a service based business needs a stellar onboarding process to maintain consistency.
What Is Client Onboarding Anyways?
Before I get too deep into today’s topic, let me give you the simplest definition of client onboarding your 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 me and I didn’t even know it yet. As someone who practices relationship marketing, client onboarding was my ticket to creating that unbelievable client experience.
Enter: A Business Consultant
In December, while reflecting on my 2016 Year-End data, I found that I had enjoyed maintaining positive relationships with my clients and while the current client onboarding process was working okay, it needed to be refined. This is when I 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 my process, which included a lot of back and forth emails with clients and information being hosted and delivered through various channels.
My biggest takeaway through my conversations with Sidjae was that I needed to make meeting client expectations about a healthy long term client relationship that would yield higher retention rates for my agency. I was focusing too much on meeting the deadline(s), that I was missing the point on taking my clients through a journey that included relationship building. This is why working with an industry specific professional is so important. Sidjae understood that I had specific goals to meet and helped me to find and implement tools that worked best for my 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, I am able to create Lifecycles for all of my 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 I was using in order to make sure that no one lead falls through the cracks. The second option that I loved about 17Hats were the project specific Workflows, which allows me to create tasks and to-do’s whether they involve the client or just myself. Through the Workflows, I can set up canned emails, proposals, contracts, and invoices in order to create a smooth automated sequence. This has saved me 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 I could communicate, share a working calendar, and exchange documents. I had tried Asana and Trello in the past but wanted something that I could incorporate into my website.
Sidenote: Before creating an online portal through my site, I knew, as a seasoned web developer, that I needed to change hosting providers. So, in December my site went dark for a few days while I not only migrated from GoDaddy to SiteGround but while I updated my site theme for rapid speed and lower page sizes.
Sidjae helped me to find a wonderful WordPress dedicated client portal called WP-Client. Through WP-Client, I am able to do what you would in Asana or Trello, but with a more customizable feel. I didn’t want all of the extras or the distractions. With WP-Client, I am able to provide my clients with a space that hosts their project information, directly on my website. This, in turn, allows me to meet client expectations by putting their needs first since my previous system wasn’t easy to manage for many of my 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 my clients were individuals who were coming to me 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 my agency in 2018? I do not know, but as the needs of my clients change, so will my process and more than ever I am willing to make that adjustment to meet their needs first.
Part 2: A Branded Process
In the next post of this series, I discuss my exact client onboarding process looking deeper into 17Hats and WP-Client. Comment below and let me 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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