Once you finally land a new client, you can take a breather. They’re no longer a lead, they want to work with your agency, the hard part is over…right?

Not quite.

Your work with a new client isn’t done once they go from lead to client.

When you have new clients, that’s the beginning of a new client relationship that takes work to maintain. But you probably already knew that. What you might not be as sure about is how to get that client relationship up and running.

How do you make sure that a client wants to keep working with you after they’ve made it through the sales pipeline and gone from lead to customer?

What you need is a client onboarding process. More specifically, you need a client onboarding checklist.

A checklist can mean the difference between a client lost or won. Author Atul Gawande wrote the book The Checklist Manifesto about the power of checklists. As a doctor, he recognizes how much a process and checklist can contribute to success.

With checklists, doctors save more lives. With a checklist, your new clients stand a much better chance of staying on as long-term clients. A checklist gives you an organized, clear path to setting your client relationships up for success.

This post will cover:

  • Why is client onboarding important?
  • A client onboarding checklist you can use

Why is client onboarding important?

Client onboarding is essential to client retention. But it’s not just about catching and keeping a client – a proper client onboarding flow that makes clients feel secure about staying with you opens the door for earning more revenue outside of their initial sign-up.

It’s far easier to sell more to existing clients than it is to get new clients to sell to. In fact, according to Lobster Marketing, you have nearly a 70% chance of selling to an existing customer, compared to as little as 5% for a new prospect.

A client onboarding checklist greatly increases your chances of keeping your clients and upselling them in the future.

It takes a lot of work to bring on a new client — and not just for you. During the initial client intake process, your agency asks a lot of questions to line up next steps for projects. Likewise, your client prospects have a lot of questions about what you need from them and how you plan to help them reach their goals, and clients need a dedicated window to ask them.

The clients also need time to dig into their business and produce the answers to your agency questions. The client onboarding process includes:

  • A kickoff call or meeting
  • Going over the information from the client intake form
  • Review of the mutual work plan
  • The client work begins

To track this process, you need a client onboarding checklist.

After the client intake process, a new client needs to know that they made the right choice. This is why a client onboarding checklist is important – to make sure you deliver the best client experience possible.

Without a proper client onboarding process, your clients might not feel confident about working with you — and they may rethink their decision to sign on with your agency.

Take it from former GE CEO Jack Welch:

“You’re going to be defined by your first 90 days. You’ve got to act.”

Jack is referring to your first 3 months as an employee, but the same logic applies to new client onboarding. In fact, clients are 3 times more likely to churn during the first 90 days.

This is why a client onboarding checklist is essential to retain clients and build customer loyalty.

The client onboarding checklist – AKA the key to client retention

Need a client onboarding checklist? Here’s one that you can use right away with your clients.

At a high level, a client onboarding flow follows this process:

  1. Welcome the client
  2. Reinforce your agency’s value to them
  3. Set goals and measures for success
  4. Implement their mutual plan
  5. Ask for feedback

A broad look at a client onboarding process.

At a more focused level, here is a client onboarding checklist with specific tasks for each step of the onboarding flow:

  • Send a welcome email series. A welcome email should be sent within 24 hours of a prospect becoming a client. This email is the time to set expectations about the onboarding roadmap with clear instructions, like “we will reach out in the next 2 days to schedule a kickoff call and discuss the first step of X project.”
  • Schedule a kickoff call. Use the kickoff call to review the mutual work plan you and your client created from the client intake form, and to dig into challenges your client is facing. This call is the chance to your client of their “aha!” moment. Remind them why they signed on with you by reinforcing the value that your agency brings to their goals and challenges. This call should also include and introduce all agency team members who will be working with the client.
  • Audit their existing work. Just because a client is new to your agency doesn’t mean they’re starting from scratch. Find out what processes and projects currently exist that can be continued or improved — and also what needs to stop or change.
  • Set up necessary tools and schedule regular check-in calls. A project management tool like Wrike or Trello can be a helpful asset to both you and your client. You can both see a project’s progress in real-time. It’s also extremely important to schedule regular communication – including a series of check-in calls for the first few weeks to check progress and address any problems that come up.
  • Execute the mutual plan. Time to start the actual project work! Whether your client goals include increasing brand awareness on social media, diving into paid advertising, or an entire website redo, start with quick wins. Look at each project and find out where you can create a quick positive impact to give your client immediate gratification for working with you.
  • Ask for feedback. The plan you start out with is not necessarily the plan you stick with. As projects progress, things might need change based on the results you’re seeing or if your client wants to change direction. Find out what is and isn’t working and tweak your plan if need be. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback throughout this whole onboarding process. If something isn’t going the way your client wants it to, the risk of churn increases. Address problems before they become too big by asking for regular feedback.

When it comes to client onboarding, there’s really no such thing as putting in too much effort. Be mindful of your communication frequency but also be vigilant. Those first 90 days are key to minimizing client churn and building your agency’s client base — and with a client onboarding checklist, you can set yourself and your client up for success.