3 Client Onboarding Tips for Account Managers

Posted on in Blog

Client onboarding is one of the most important times in the life of any client-agency relationship. I get it, that’s obvious. Yet like a newly married couple moving into their first home together and trying to decide whether or not the basement open space should be used for a craft table or a ping-pong table, as an account manager you’ll need to make sure you put your mind to your craft or else someone will get paddled (see what I did there?).

To that end, here are 3 client onboarding tips for account managers.

1. Everyone is Excited, Don’t Let that Cloud Your Focus.

Every time I hear myself say the words, “I’m excited about this project,” during a project kickoff meeting, it’s time for some form of mental self-flagellation.

When I was in graduate school, I spent three summers running youth camps. Over the course of nine weeks of program each summer, with thousands of student participants from all over the United States, you start to see some patterns.

One of my favorites is the boy and girl who fall madly in love with each other, yet forget the fact that they are in 10th Grade and one lives in Minnesota, and the other lives in Arkansas. Inevitably they leave the week with an, “Our love will never die!” commitment, only to see it fizzle out as they encounter the lived reality of geography.

So what’s the point? When excitement tempts the room to ignore the details, it is your responsibility as an account manager to stay on task. The project has details – know them. The project team has capabilities – know them. The client has needs – know them. The contract has guardrails – know them.

Everyone is excited, don’t let that cloud your focus.

2. Listen First. Talk Later.

In the client onboarding process it is easy to stay focused on your list of tasks and objectives, and miss out on incredible opportunities to listen. The truth is the beginning of a project is where you will get the best and most information. Don’t miss it.

Oneupweb recently participated in a company-wide DISC assessment training. During this training we not only discovered our own profiles, we also took time to learn each other’s profiles and how we might work better together as a result.

I’m a “DC,” split right down the middle between being dominant, and being conscientious. As a “D” I emphasize results, the bottom line, and confidence. I can be blunt, see the big picture, accept challenges, and like to get straight to the point. As a “C” I emphasize quality and accuracy, expertise and competency. I enjoy independence, objective reasoning, I want the details, and I don’t like being wrong.

But let’s get practical. This means I like meetings that are short, to the point, and on task. This also means that in the midst of any really long client onboarding meetings I feel like I want to tear my head completely off of my shoulders.

As a result I’ve had to learn to set aside some of my personality biases to serve the greater purpose of gleaning as much information as possible during the client onboarding process. The simple approach I take is reminding myself just how important this information is, and how much our team needs it to accept the challenge of the project and ensure its success.

Listen first. Talk later.

3. “Show and Tell” is a Game of Life (kind of).

As a client is onboarding, it’s important to pay attention to every detail.

The easy target here is email. You get a good sense of a person based upon how they interact with you via email. Do they respond in real time? Do they give full answers? Are their words intelligible? Do they copy everyone and their mothers? How formal is their tone? Are they fond of smiley faces and exclamation points? Is email a venue for simple communication, with more formal communication left for phone calls? Do they use the abysmal phrase “please advise” when asking for recommendations or explanations? Knowing these details will help your team, and ultimately help the project.

I once had a client contact email me 888 times in the first six months of working with them. Most of those emails were website development related questions, which is code for “I have no clue what the answer to your question is.” The result was learning how to vet out the questions until I had all of the information necessary to ask our developers for help, and to minimize the amount of email sent their way.

But don’t go too far with this idea. Just like the moron who uses the “When I’m on a date I’ll unlock my date’s car door, open the door, and then decide if they’re for me based on whether or not they unlock my door while I walk around the car” plan to determine marital compatibility, don’t be a fool (even if “A Bronx Tale” has a 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes).

“Show and Tell” is a game of life (kind of).


My hope is that this list offers some help to you as you think about the client onboarding process. At minimum, I hope you had a good chuckle or two.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to know your best piece of client onboarding advice. Please leave a comment so I can learn from you.


Up Next

Display advertising is one of the best ways to raise awareness of your brand, product or service. The Google display network includes digital tools that billions of people rely on every day, including Gmail and YouTube. Wondering what a mix of creative display ads can do for your next paid campaign? Let us walk you...

Read More