There’s nothing like the feeling of landing a new client. You’re smiling, your team is smiling, and it’s time to celebrate.
But then something happens: The initial euphoria wears off and you realize its time to get down to business.
There’s no exact science to onboarding a new client, but there are things you should do to streamline the experience and ensure that every engagement gets off on the right foot as you scale your agency.
Whether you're starting out your agency or have been around the block, the questionnaire and tips we've included in this article are here to help you enhance your agency’s client onboarding process.
So, with that in mind, let's start with the basics.
What Is a Client Onboarding Questionnaire?
A client onboarding questionnaire is a survey you share with new customers to collect additional information, such as goals and the client’s vision for the project to start the onboarding process with your new client.
The Goal of Using a Client Onboarding Questionnaire
The primary purpose of an onboarding questionnaire is to better understand the specific wants and needs of the client and to improve the likelihood of providing a high-level experience and customer loyalty.
Whether you have a small, medium, large, remote, or in-office agency, you want to identify the essentials for each of your employees and how to make it easier for them to do their tasks.
A client onboarding questionnaire is even more important if you have a full team. You'll want your account manager, SEO specialist, keyword researcher, content writer, social media marketer, and other significant members of your team to synchronize the tone, the message, and the goals of your new client.
And, as you get more clients, you'll need to identify who does what as well as when, where, and how.
Here are three reasons why a client onboarding questionnaire is so important:
1. It Acts as an Official Welcome
When it comes to any working relationship, it’s critical to make a good first impression. A client onboarding questionnaire helps you do just that. Not only does a client questionnaire help you gather the necessary information to execute brilliant marketing campaigns, but it also shows the client that you are putting their needs first and are doing everything you can to understand their business.
Alongside the questionnaire, you can include material such as:
A one page overview of your company
A personalized note of introduction
Consider a questionnaire, along with this associated information, to serve as your formal welcome package, during the onboarding process. It may seem like a small thing to you, but it highlights your agency’s dedication, customer service, and attention to detail to your new client.
2. It Sets Clear Expectations
It’s safe to assume you discussed the scope of your arrangement during the sales process, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve set clear expectations.
A client onboarding questionnaire allows you and your client to get on the same page before day one of your engagement arrives, managing clear expectations and focusing on delivering them.
For example, if you’re providing the client with SEO services, include questions such as:
What are your SEO related goals, both short and long-term?
Have you ever worked with a digital agency in the past? How would you rate the results?
How do you measure SEO performance?
If the answers align with your approach and what’s included in the contract, you’re good to go. However, if you notice a change in tone or scope creep, you can discuss points of concern to clear the air and set better expectations.
Setting expectations is one of the best ways to create a great first impression. You might have a kick-off meeting with your client and it would look bad if you forgot to ask about certain account access, which product or services they are selling the most, or which one they would rather focus on.
Your client might end up canceling your contract if you constantly go back and forth with them about things that you should have known and asked upfront.
Remember, your client is running a business. They most likely hired your agency to handle their SEO, social media, and marketing needs because they do not have time to do it themselves. So don’t waste their time with repeated requests that can be handled at all at once during the onboarding process.
3. It Provides You With More Information
You spend a lot of time narrowing your target audience to ensure that you’re selling to the right prospects. You also collect targeted information during the sales process.
But even with this approach, you’ll never have all the details you need unless you ask for them.
Let’s say you want to expand your agency to provide local SEO services at a state level versus your local neighborhood. You’ve gained a new client but competitor research can only go so far if you don’t know the area well.
Your client might know some insight as to who they are going against. Maybe the top competitor isn’t providing quality customer service and they lean towards your new clients. Or if your new client is losing their customers, they might know which competitor is scooping them up.
A client onboarding questionnaire is a simple way to collect a variety of information that you can use to better understand your client and their expectations.
And as mentioned earlier, the questionnaire is here to help your team won't lose track of each client's goals, and better provide goal tracking initially. You'll also have this information on file, in case one of your team members forgets.
Which leads us to the next section…
What To Include in Your Client Onboarding Questionnaire
The key to success is to customize the questionnaire to suit your agency’s needs, all while making it simple enough for a new client to complete in a timely manner.
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Shoot for 15 to 20 questions that fit into four basic categories:
1. Client Information
Who is the primary point of contact for this project?
What is this person’s contact information?
What’s the preferred method of communication?
Who is the backup contact in case of emergency?
Do you have any supporting documents or account access to share?
Google Search Console
Google Business Profile
Google Ads, Bing, Facebook, and other ad accounts to add to your client reporting.
Social media accounts
Other accounts you need access to
2. Marketing Information
What is your company’s vision for the future and mission statement?
What are your short and long-term goals as a company?
Who is your target audience?
What are your target geographic locations, languages, and spelling preferences?
Who are your top three to five competitors?
How are your products/services solving your potential customer's problem?
Do you have an existing brand style guide?
Where are high-res versions of your logo saved?
Do you use a specific font for your marketing & branding?
3. Project Information
What goals have you set for this project?
What metrics will you track to measure results?
Do you have a deadline?
Have you previously tackled a similar project, either in-house or with another agency?
Do you have a specific timeframe in mind for how long this project will take?
What elements will you need our agency complete vs. what will be provided by your team?
4. General Information
What excites you most about working with our company?
What can we do from a customer support perspective to ensure that you get what you want?
How did you find our company? Online search, referral, social media?
How often would you like to receive updated marketing reports?
While these questions pertain to almost every client, you’ll want to customize these—and add others—based on the agreed-upon services.
For example, if you’re a digital marketing agency providing a client with SEO services, include questions such as:
Are you familiar with your website’s current search engine rankings and traffic?
What tools do you use or have you used to track SEO related metrics, such as backlinks, search engine rankings, and traffic?
What SEO work have you completed internally or with the help of another agency?
Asking these targeted questions provides greater insight into the specific services you’re providing.
What Not To Include In Your Questionnaire
There’s not much that fits into the “what not to include” category, as it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and your client. However, there are things you can avoid to increase the likelihood of receiving detailed answers.
Don’t make these mistakes:
Questions that require the respondent to put too much time into providing an answer
Questions the respondent won’t be able to answer, but will instead have to pass through to a team member
Questions that have no clear answer
Remember, new clients aren’t always in a position to answer every question you throw at them. They’re hiring you to help answer some of these questions.
Take for instance, the question “what metrics will you track to measure results?”
You have a clear idea of how you’ll do this internally, but your client may require some education as to what makes the most sense.
Maybe they’ve hired you for email marketing-related tasks, such as help growing their email list. To them, the only thing that matters is the number of people on the list. But to you, other metrics, such as open rate and click rate, are every bit as important.
Tip: If a particular question continually goes unanswered or causes confusion, consider rewording it or eliminating it from your questionnaire.
What Tools You Can Use to Send Your Client Onboarding Questionnaire
Once you’re happy with your questionnaire, it’s time to distribute it. There are several tools and ways to do so, including:
If you’re new to the world of client onboarding questionnaires, email and Google Sheets are often the fastest way to get started. This entails:
Create your questionnaire as a Google Sheet (you can just duplicate it for the next client)
Sending it to your primary point of contact via email
Requesting that they complete the questionnaire and email it back to you
While it’s fast to create and send, this method often presents challenges in regards to collecting data and distributing it to your team.
For more efficiency in that department, form software like a Google Form or Typeform is typically the better choice. Benefits include:
More flexibility in regards to how you share the questionnaire
Easier for your client to complete and return
More convenient to share with your team
Use templates to customize your questionnaire
As with the questionnaire itself, how you distribute and collect information is ever-evolving. Experiment with a few strategies to find the one that’s best for your agency and your clients.
However, always ask your clients if they are comfortable filling out a form or if they prefer to have a Zoom meeting or in-person meeting to answer these questions. The focus of the onboarding process is to attend to your client's needs and should not be based on your agency’s convenience.
What To Do Internally With a Completed Questionnaire
Good news: You received the questionnaire back from your new client and you now have more information than you ever thought possible.
It’s time to put it to use.
The first few months are vital in determining if your new client will stay with you and generate higher customer lifetime value, or not. So sending the questionnaire to your team and notifying them so they can start the onboarding process is crucial to getting results fast, and keeping clients longer.
Using a tool like Zapier puts all of that data fed into your CRM or project management software, which means you're off to the races.
Your projects can even be set up based on the questionnaire becoming complete.
The team assigned to the client should also get notified that it's complete. It's now their job to get started with the client and potentially set up a follow-up meeting.
Creating a client onboarding questionnaire doesn’t have to be a long, laborious process. It can be an exciting way to welcome your clients to your agency.
Just be sure to leverage automation when you can so your team members can focus on getting results, not chasing clients for forms.
Like this article? Find out how to effortlessly onboard multiple new agency clients in the video below!👇
Chris Bibey is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. For 10+ years, Chris has provided content creation and marketing services to entrepreneurs, companies, and agencies spanning a variety of industries.