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6 Steps to Successful Onboarding

If anyone in digital marketing has an opportunity to attend HubSpot's annual Inbound conference, I recommend that you take the time to get up to Boston and learn from the best in the business.

Inbound is not just about HubSpot software either. Marketing agencies can find conversations and presentations throughout the week on agency specific topics, such as how to deliver customer success, how to create a powerful lead generation system, and how to successfully onboard new clients.

Onboarding clients is a crucial aspect of agency life. Poor onboarding can leave your clients confused, disappointed, and frustrated. However, successful onboarding can make your team and your agency look like rock stars. Nailing the onboarding process can also lead to marketing retainers down the road, or other long term projects.

One of the most important aspects of onboarding actually occurs before the Kickoff Call. Onboarding will only be as successful as the research and work you do before that first call with your new client. In order to set your agency up for success you need to make data driven decisions. These decisions that are based on facts, will help you develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals for your team and your client.

By diving into analytics, you will be able to tell if your clients goal of increasing traffic by 50% in 3 months is too lofty, or realistic. It is important for your agency to study the data before onboarding begins, because if you don't, you run the risk of over promising and underdelivering.

Once, you have digested your new clients data and discussed SMART goals with them, you are now ready to start onboarding. There are six steps to successful onboarding:

  1. Kickoff Call
  2. Technical Setup
  3. Persona Workshop
  4. Content/SEO Audit
  5. Nurturing and Automation
  6. Show and Tell/Next Steps

The Kickoff Call

There are a few things you need to make sure get done on this call:

  1. Define key team members
  2. Set realistic expectations
  3. Discuss scheduling and next steps

It may seem obvious, but starting your call with introductions is crucial. It will help you understand the roles of each member and how they fit into your new project. Once introductions are over, if you still are unclear on roles/responsibilities, don't be shy. Ask everyone to map out their responsibilities. It is better to get this out of the way early on, instead of a month down the line when deadlines begin to creep in and you don't know who is accountable for what.

Once you understand everyone's responsibilities, make sure to touch on expectations and remember, it is always better to under promise and over deliver. Make sure to explain what smart goals are and you can even summarize how you came to these goals. By discussing what goals are realistic and explaining how you reached these SMART goals, everyone will leave the meeting feeling confident and organized.

Lastly, make sure you cover next steps before the call is over. Some next steps you can plan for to make your agency look good are a persona workshop, and a progress review or status call. A persona workshop will give you a quick win, which you can then report on early in the project to keep everyone feeling positive and confident.

Technical Setup

After the Kickoff Call, you should focus your teams efforts on the technical setup of your project. The level of effort this step takes is case-to-case. Some technical setups can take a day, while others can take a week or longer. It all depends on the project and that projects needs. Are you creating a website for someone with a blank slate, or are you migrating a site into a new CMS?

Whatever the technical requirements are, they should be the first task your team tackles after the Kickoff Call.

Persona Workshop

This workshop should include your agency's marketing team, your clients marketing team, and members of your clients sales team. The goal of this workshop is to identify your client's ideal customer, where they live online, who they follow, and how they interact with your brand.

When you are able to pinpoint who exactly your customers are, you can become more efficient in trying to reach them. For this reason, you want to create personas that are unique, accurate, and specific. In fact, the more specific you can get the better.

When you create a unique persona, it becomes easier to segment your traffic and create messaging, and campaigns for those personas. You may end this workshop with 4 personas, or 20 personas, it depends on the client and what they sell.

No matter how many personas you create, you need to leave this workshop fully understanding who you are targeting, their buying habits, where/how they consume content, and what types of influencers they follow on social media. Doing this will help you with the next step in the onboarding process, the content and SEO audit.

Content and SEO Audit

The main goal of preforming a content and SEO audit is to find holes in your clients content library, and find ways for them to improve their searchablity. When looking at your clients content library, refer to the personas you created and for each persona, try to find a form of collateral that will help them along each phase of the buyers journey.

Wherever there is a hole in your personas' buyers journey, you need to let your client know, because there is nothing worse then attracting a potential customer, nurturing them from TOFU to MOFU and then never hearing from them again because you don't have the right content to reach the bottom of the funnel.

This audit will help your client understand where improvements can be made and also show them why potential deals were never closed in the past.

Once you have audited your client's content, optimize it, so that people can find it easily. There is no point in creating amazing content if no one ever sees it. Review your clients content for search and document where improvements are made. SEO is never going to sky rocket overnight and it is one aspect of digital marketing that will forever be an ongoing process, but if you can move your clients content up a few spots on a SERP, you should definitely call it to their attention, and explain how you were able to achieve the improvement. That way, when they create new content in the future, they will understand how to optimize it on their own.

Nurturing through Automation

Once you have content created for your personas and each piece of collateral is optimized, what happens when they download that content? Nurturing and automation will help you efficiently convert new traffic into leads, and eventually customers.

There are three workflows that every brand should create:

  1. Awareness to consideration
  2. Consideration to decision
  3. Decision to customer

These are the basic workflows that will increase conversion and retention rated though your marketing funnel, while also increasing efficiency.

When a user comes to your site and downloads a form of collateral for the first time, you want to make sure that you follow-up with them and confirm that they have received the information they were looking for. Doing so will add value to your brand in their eyes. You come off as a brand that is willing to help people, even if they are not willing to purchase something today.

This also ensures that no lead falls through the cracks and gives you the ability to qualify and segment your leads to help move them along their buyer journey smoothly. Qualification and segmentation can be created through automated emails that link to self assessment quizzes or other pieces of marketing collateral. Nurturing your leads at each stage of their buyers journey, with uniques workflows will improve your marketing teams efficiency, but more importantly your marketing funnels conversion rates.

Show and Tell/Next Steps

Now, you have set goals, created personas, preformed a content and SEO audit, and finally set up your client to nurture leads from the awareness stage all the way to a customer. It is time for you to show off your results and plan for the future.

When you follow these six steps to successful onboarding you start with a SMART goal that is founded and backed by analytics and end the onboarding process by delivering them documented and meaningful personas, new and improved content, and nurturing tools and workflows. All of these deliverables have also helped you achieve or surpass your SMART goal which will leave your new client wanting more, and that is never a bad thing.

Written November 5, 2018 by

Frank "Pickle" Pickel

Marketing Maestro with a hint of savvy syntax. Five-year plan: Mick and I are going to wing on over to London and jam with the Stones!

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