I spend a ton of time leading the onboarding of new clients. Onboarding new clients can be both exciting and scary at the same time. Adding a new client and the revenue that’s associated with it is always the fun part. However, reality sets in pretty quickly. Questions like:

  • Who’s going to manage the account?
  • How complex is the client’s business?
  • Is PPC meeting goals?

Must be answered in fairly short order. Therefore, a smooth onboarding process must be in place so work can quickly begin.

In this post, I’m going to share the methods I use to shepherd clients through the first few weeks of the onboarding process so you can successfully onboard new clients of your own.

Step #1: Getting The Sales Download

I begin the onboarding process by talking to those who were directly involved with landing the client. Meeting with those responsible provides me insight into any key issues or red flags uncovered during the sales process. For instance, I try to find out whether or not the client fired their previous partner or whether they’re employing an agency for the first time. Getting a sales download gives me the background information needed to inform my decisions on how to best proceed in terms of approaching the client relationship.

Step #2: Kickoff Call

Having a kickoff call before work commences is a key component of the onboarding process. This call is important because it’s the first time I get to meet the client, size up their personality first hand, and get an understanding of the priorities I need to focus. During this call, I ask specific questions of the client such as what their success metrics are and the specific goals they’re trying to accomplish.

The kickoff call is also useful to dispense with administrative tasks such as agreeing with the client on meeting dates and times, outlining the kinds of information they want to see in their reports, and what they generally want to discuss during meetings.

Step #3: Getting Down To Work

Once administrative tasks such as the sales download and the kickoff call have been completed, it’s time to get down to some real account work. At this point, I’m not focused as much on long-term wins but rather short-term successes that build trust with the client. So what does this look like?

  • In the first week after taking on a new client, I start off by conducting a full audit of the PPC program to educate myself as to the big challenges that need to be addressed, and key opportunities that can be seized. During the audit process, I also seek to determine if common practices are being adhered to. For instance: Are ad groups limited to 10-15 keywords? Are ad extensions being used? Is there any sort of creative testing being conducted in the account?
  • In conjunction with the audit, I also conduct a full-on analysis to determine if goals are being met and if not, how far off from those goals the program is. During the analysis phase, I’m looking to uncover the underlying factors leading to success or failure. During this step of the process, I’m trying to figure out what successes I can build off of and where I need to make improvements.
  • Based on the information discovered, I then develop my initial plan. I aim for ‘low hanging fruit’ that can have an immediate positive impact. That impact might be either in the form of cost per acquisition efficiency or driving volume, depending on the circumstances.
  • Lastly, I schedule my first weekly client call to discuss all my findings and recommendations. Although this plan is being communicated in full for the first time, in reality, I’ve been communicating with the client throughout this process to inform them what I have discovered and what the recommended course of action is shaping up to be. It is important during this critical period between the kickoff call and the first weekly call to demonstrate that important work is happening. Too often, account managers under communicate during this critical time, which forms an unfair perception that work is not proceeding at an appropriate pace.

Step #4: Communicating Your Plan

How you communicate the plan is equally important as development and implementation of the plan itself. Not communicated properly, the client may not buy into your approach, which would be a serious setback to them building trust in you, which is essential during this early phase of the onboarding process.

So how do I communicate the action plan? First off, I write a document that describes everything that’s been audited in the account and provides comments on any issues discovered. A document such as this demonstrates your ability to both recognize problems and offer constructive solutions.

In conjunction with the audit document, I also provide a spreadsheet called the ‘status doc.’ The purpose of this document is to take key recommendations from the audit and break them down into smaller, more specific tasks. I then assign an estimated completion date and a final completion date to each task. This document functions as the tool that’s used to chart progress in terms of implementing the plan. Below is an example of a Hanapin status doc.

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On a daily basis, I use a tool called Basecamp. Instead of communicating via email, this tool allows me to enter to-do lists, assign tasks, send messages, and follow up with the client all from one central location. Having one central location to track and house all communications streamlines the workflow and provides a quick reference for any communications should any issues arise.


A positive onboarding experience correlates directly to a successful client relationship. The onboarding process is an opportunity to demonstrate your superior capabilities and competencies. Clients are forming their initial opinions of you, your organization, and those who work for it. The success or failure of a client relationship can be tied to how well they were onboarded. Treat the onboarding process with the care and attention it deserves.