One of the most important things an agency can do is to onboard a new client properly. In our opinion, client longevity increases dramatically in agencies that practice proper onboarding.
Following are some tips for really strong onboarding of new accounts.
1. Make sure your contract with the new client is in order and has been agreed upon by both agency and client. What’s that? You don’t have some sort of contract with your clients, whether you are a full service or project agency? Please make sure you have some form of written agreement. See our sample Contracts & Agreements library.
2. Have a format for approvals in place. For example, must the client formally sign off? Or, how important is the creative brief? Client-agency approvals help keep the work moving forward, and keep the client from getting upset and losing confidence (which, I might add, is the first step toward agency/client separation).
3. How does project scope change? This is an important issue. If the agency does not inform a client when the project scope changes, then the agency loses money. If the agency simply charges more for the project and assumes the client will understand, the client may begin to lose confidence in the agency. Make sure you clarify the scope change process at the beginning of the relationship.
4. Quickly choose and assign the daily account person. This is very important. If the agency’s new business person is allowed to “hang” around for too long, then the new client feels that person should remain as their main agency contact. That’s not good for the agency, since the new business person needs to move on and concentrate on more new prospects. The agency principal must introduce the daily AE very early in the onboarding process to strengthen the bonds with that individual and the agency. Don’t risk confusing the client: choose your account team, and get them involved, quickly.
5. Invite the client into the agency to meet with his/her FULL agency team. All clients deserve a full agency team… account supervisor, account executive, creative director, art director, copywriter, production manager, media planner, etc. Of course, your agency cannot put a separate team on each account, but the client deserves full service from the agency, even if this same team or a modification of it is servicing all of the agency’s clients.
6. Double service for a while. Until the client signals complete comfort with the daily AE, the agency should make sure there is double service going on. This need not happen every day, but a senior agency person should be present, in person, at over half of the meetings at the start of a new client relationship. (Also, make an effort to keep senior people in touch with the account at least quarterly after the break-in period.)
7. Make sure the client agrees to participate in a SWOT audit (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) right at the start of the relationship. Ideally, your agency should be paid for this; but it needs to be done even if you must inventory, and gradually bill, the hours through later project invoices.
8. Along the same lines, make sure the relationship begins, if at all possible, with a strategic marketing plan in place. Once again, you should try to be paid to be a part of this planning process. Having objectives, strategies and tactics agreed to by both client and agency extends and deepens the relationship.
9. As you start, set up the 30-day review. Put it in your calendar. Paying close attention to client concerns, overall satisfaction and needs in the “honeymoon” phase will pay you back over time in a more stable and comfortable relationship.
10. The same applies with the 90-day review. Put it in your calendar at the very beginning of any new relationship.
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