“Dear new client…” (Client responsibility is dead, long live client responsibility!)
You’ve just inked a new partnership with a digital marketing firm after a lengthy courtship and review process. You hosted a multitude of meetings to review mockups, projections and budget numbers from maybe a half-dozen agencies. You were dined, you were wined and you made a hard to decision to select the partner you felt was right for you. You made a decision and now it’s time to get started. A successful onboard is essential for long-term success. At this stage, important working relationships are formed and our forward process is formulated.
The way we see it, successful client onboarding occurs in three distinct phases:
Phase one occurs before our kickoff meeting. Phase two is the kickoff meeting itself, and the last important phase (phase three) of onboarding is what is done immediately following the kickoff. If we collectively pay a little attention to a few key pieces of advice and keep regular lines of communication open, we’ll embark successfully on our project together.
Phase 1: Before Kickoff
Client Responsibility – Take stock of your usernames and passwords
Nothing slows a project down from day one (sometimes for weeks or months) like complications with essential access to digital gateways. It’s time to take stock of your company usernames and passwords. I’m always amazed by how hard and time-consuming this is for companies. Usernames and passwords are rarely centralized and it can sometimes feel like some of the most important gateways for companies are lost to antiquity, often because someone left the company and no one thought to ask about WordPress credentials. Your digital marketing partner, at the very least, is going to request access to:
- Your Google Analytics account
- Your Google Business account
- Your AdWords account
- Social media accounts
- Your website content management system (CMS)
Start preparing now. There is nothing more awkward than emailing someone who was fired 8 months ago to ask them for the company Analytics account information.
When your agency team is in the early stage of a new relationship, we’re craving every piece of information you have about your company, your audience, your industry and your competitors. We’re going to do a TON of our own research behind the scenes but ANYTHING you can provide helps. I once had a client ask me if I think a recent brand awareness study and audience segmentation study would be helpful. The answer is always “yes”. Segmentation and brand awareness studies are absolutely helpful. Share everything and anything you might have, even if it’s a few years old. We will read it.
Phase 2: Kickoff
Agency Responsibility – Set expectations and demand concrete next steps
Kickoff meetings, in my opinion, can go in a couple of different directions. They can be really light and airy, almost like a meet and greet with the team. They can also sometimes get bogged down in minutiae and details that maybe can wait for a subsequent meeting. The best kickoffs include a little of both; friendly “get to know you” and a good amount of tangible discussion of expectations, project goals, and next steps. The best kickoffs are highly collaborate affairs where hard goals and expectations are written and recorded and can be reviewed and referenced for the entirety of the project.
Client Responsibility – Ask questions and be engaged!
Nothing takes the air out of what could be a productive and lively work session quite like a lopsided meeting. Your agency team, especially in the early stage of a relationship, is looking to you to help provide history, context, background and insights about the current status of your business. This goes beyond marketing – we want to know what issues your business is facing so we can start working with you to provide business solutions.
We also want you to ask us questions. Push us for more information where something may be unclear or confusing. We’re all learning and learning about each other. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even hard questions. If we don’t have an answer on the spot, we’ll get you one.
Phase 3: After Kickoff
Collective Responsibility – Don’t stop!
Remember those concrete expectations, goals and next steps we recorded during our kickoff meeting? It’s our collective responsibility to keep the momentum moving forward by not allowing these to be buried under a pile of notes. We’ll provide a recap of our kickoff meeting and provide questions that we might have that may have been missed during the meeting. Please review this recap and demand edits, add your own opinions or notes and please push back on something you disagree with or maybe heard differently.
Remember those passwords and usernames you found locked in your attic in Phase 1? We’ll definitely need those now. At this stage we are hard at work reviewing Analytics, setting up Goals and Events, setting up your AdWords campaign and looking for inaccurate Google Business information to correct.
Huzzah! We’ve just successfully onboarded. With a little planning, a healthy sharing of responsibilities, and some good old fashioned hard work and accountability, we’ll all be better off for the future of our partnership.