Here at Hanapin Marketing, onboarding means a specific chain of events that occur when we work with a new client. From account assignments and account access to kickoff call scheduling and the first 90 days, we have a strict format. Why do we have this format in place? One could say it’s so we don’t miss any key steps while others might say it’s because we like processes.

The truth of the matter is onboarding (or starting any new project) is one of the most important parts of the whole shebang. What if you miss some crucial piece of information? Or worse yet, make a mistake. Making a mistake starts the cascade of eroding trust and can be the start of a painful decline in the relationship. In fact, we find that if we can get the first 90 days right, clients tend to stay long term.

The following 4 tips can help you through the onboarding process with a new client. They are also great tips for starting a new project internally. It is just as important to make sure first impressions are up to snuff when you are working within your company.

Tip #1 – Make A Plan

I said it. As much as processes seem boring and kind of a pain, having a plan written out that you follow each time you onboard/start something new, will not only make the process old hat but it will ensure you are doing everything necessary. You don’t want to remember 4 weeks into the project something you should have asked in the beginning. The client might think to themselves “shouldn’t they know that” or “shouldn’t they have asked that sooner” Work the plan and you won’t be disappointed.

Tip #2 – Be Thorough

Think through every scenario. You don’t have to ask all of the questions/check all of the boxes in your plan every time. Just make sure you have all the information you would need regardless of the type of project you are doing. Again, getting everything up front and being able to inform the people you are working with how things will go, goes a long way in building confidence.

At the beginning, clients will be chomping at the bit. They may overload you with information. This can be just as bad as not enough, but if you have put together a plan and have been thorough, you should be able to get what you need.

Tip #3 – Take A Planned Step Back

We find that in the beginning of an engagement there is a lot going on as you are getting to know new people, new accounts, and new industries. It can be difficult to know everything right away. A good idea is to put in your plan a “download meeting.” This meeting happens about 4 weeks after the initial onboarding, after you have had a chance to not only look at the client account, but formulate your own ideas of what is important. Also, you can put a little work into understanding their business. Then at the meeting you can have a list of questions you ask all of your clients to understand what happens on their end.

I have personally found that clients have information they want to share at this time as well. It is a great way of taking a break, yet moving forward not only in account management but relationship building as well.

Tip #4 – Don’t Neglect The Relationship

Speaking of relationships, during onboarding, it is important to establish a good rapport with your client. Find out what they enjoy, how the engagement impacts their job and what you can do to help them. Let’s face it, it’s more fun to work with someone you know a little better who is trying to help you shine at work than a total stranger who you are not sure even cares about you or what you do. That is the type of relationship you are trying to establish, especially in that first part of the engagement.

Final Thoughts

Well, that’s it. It’s not the Holy Grail but I would venture to say following these 4 tips will go a long way to starting a new venture off on the right foot. Being the best at onboarding is something to take pride in. The clients’ view into your company during the first weeks are what will stick with them in the long term. It’s just like the old saying goes “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” By following these tips, you won’t need one.