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How to Improve SEO Client Onboarding (plus a Handy Blueprint for Agencies)

May 20, 2016

It’s so darn irritating, isn’t it?

You sign up a new client, get all the information you need from them and log the cash.

And just as you’re about to start the work they email asking how you’re getting on.

Huh?!

But you see:

There’s nothing surprising about their behavior.

After all, your new client has little trust for you yet.

Sure, they agreed to hire you and paid the deposit. But that doesn’t mean they feel 100% comfortable with you.

They still wonder whether you’re going to do anything else with their project bar running with the cash.

And I can guarantee you that they will keep feeling this way until they hear from you.

That’s why they’ve asked for an update. Their email is a clear indication that they’re growing restless and insecure about working with you.

Luckily, you can prevent this from happening and start building a solid relationship with them with a simple client onboarding email campaign.

And in this post, I’ll show you how to do it.

I’ll also give you a drip campaign blueprint you could implement in your agency right away.

So, let’s begin.

What is Client Onboarding?

In case if you’re not familiar with the idea of client onboarding, let me go over that quickly.

Client Onboarding is a process of increasing the likelihood of new clients becoming satisfied and returning customers.  

Jennifer Bourn beautifully summed up client onboarding as:

“[…] the process in which:

  • New clients acquire the necessary knowledge, understanding, and tools needed to be a good client
  • A service provider or team acquires the necessary knowledge, understanding, and tools needed to be a good service provider.”

what is client onboarding(image source)

The goal of client onboarding process is to ensure that both you and the client are on the same page.

A properly onboarded client understands the value of your services, knows your project delivery process, and is confident that you’re going to give them more than your best.

For you, a client onboarding process gives you a chance to set proper expectations, work more efficiently with a client, and last but not least, set the tone for any future interactions with them.

Fact: Having a Client Onboarding Process is Crucial for Your Agency

I’m sure you know this already:

A client’s first interaction with your agency will set the tone for your future relationship.

And I bet that you consider your sales process as that first interaction, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works.

You see:

The sales process is one thing.

All the meetings, calls, facts, stats, data, and the sweet talk you used to wow a prospect helps convince them to hire you…

…but building the business relationship with them starts when they sign on the dotted line.

And how your new clients feel at the start of the project will set the tone for your future cooperation.

If things kick off smoothly, there’s a big chance they’ll stay with you.

But any problems, omissions or even poor communication at the start will cast a shadow over your future cooperation. And that’s regardless of the results you will deliver.

Onboarding SEO Clients with a Drip Campaign

I admit:

I’m a big fan of business processes.

Processes eliminate chaos, help prevent errors and omissions from happening and save you thousands of dollars in time and resources lost on fixing them.

Not to mention that they help simplify complex business operations and provide a structure to your daily operations.

And you know what:

Client onboarding is nothing more but a simple process your agency should follow with every new client.

And even better news is that it doesn’t involve more than a handful of steps.

Here, let me show you.

A Sample Client Onboarding Blueprint for Your Agency

Before we begin: The following blueprint is just that, a sample sequence on which you could base your process. But it’s not a complete campaign. You could, however, use it as a foundation to creating your client onboarding email campaign.

So, without any further ado… here are the five emails that will help you onboard new SEO clients.

Email #1 – The Welcome Message

As the name suggest, the purpose of this email is to welcome a client to your agency.

This message should help them understand the value your agency provides, set the tone for your business relationship.

Here’s how to achieve it.

Understanding the value of SEO:

Include statistics and data highlighting typical results your other clients see after working with you.

Although it’s not an email, I love the way Wisepops communicates their value by showing initial results a person should see in the first month of using their platform:

3

It’s a simple message that immediately sets the expectations and communicates a tangible value.

Also, explain your process. List all different stages of how you deliver the work and why they’re important. This way you’ll tell the client what will be happening with their project.

In my agency, we send new clients a detailed overview of the process we’ll be following to deliver the work.

4

Setting the tone for the relationship:

Explain what’s going to happen next and when.

You know:

Uninformed waiting time feels longer.

Just think about it, knowing that you will have to wait for a week for something to happen makes that time pass quicker, doesn’t it? At least faster than as if you didn’t know how long you’re going to have to wait.

Your clients are the same. They parted with their money and now eagerly wait for results.

Use the welcome message to keep them informed about the first steps in the project and how long they’ll take to complete.

Finally, start laying a foundation for a longer business relationship. Invite the new client to follow you on different social media networks you use, sign up to your mailing list, and direct them to other educational materials your agency has produced.

Trigger for sending the email:

Send the email right after the client has paid the deposit or any other upfront payment you required and delivered all the necessary information.

Email #2 – Update to Break the Silence

Fact:

Depending on the scale of the project, the initial research stage might take anything from a week to a couple of weeks or more.

And during that time, you normally don’t engage with a client that much, focusing on conducting the research instead.

Unfortunately, your clients might be getting restless during that time, wondering what are you doing for their money.

So, send them a quick update about half way through the research stage to:

  • Explain what you’re doing right now and why.
  • Describe your process, list all the elements you’ll be going through in order and what do they mean

You can automate this email, naturally providing that your agency follows the same process each time you conduct a new client research.

Trigger for sending the email:

Schedule it to go a couple of days after starting the work.

Email #3 – The First Deliverable

You’ve finished the first stage of the process and it is the time to tell your client about it.

Send a client whatever deliverables you’ve agreed to in the project’s scope.

Also, don’t forget to remind the client about the next steps in the project.

Trigger for sending the email:

Completing the first stage, typically research.

Email #4 – Educational Materials

You know:

Not every client will be enthusiastic about your initial report.

Some may have expected something different. Others might get scared by your findings. After all, no one likes to hear about challenges they may face ahead, right?

But it’s your job to overcome their disappointment or fear and convince clients that you have the situation under control.

So, in this email, send clients educational materials that will help expand their knowledge required to process your findings, gain clarity and focus on what you’ve been doing, and explain the terminology you’ve been using all along.

Why send it in email instead of covering this in your presentation?

For one, because many clients will want to go through this information by themselves, at their pace. eBooks, blog posts, whitepapers, and other materials give them the chance to learn this stuff at their pace.

Here’s an example of educational email from ActiveCampaign:

activecampaign

Trigger for sending the email:

About a day after submitting your first report or any other deliverable.

Email #5 – Follow Up

Finally, a couple of days after sending the report, send a client a quick follow up. Ask them for feedback, find out how you’re doing, and check if they don’t have any questions for you.

And if possible, suggest a quick check-in call if they have questions they would like to run by you.

A follow-up will show the client that you care about them and their project. And for you, it’ll give you a chance to get valuable feedback and iron out any issues the client might have with the way you work.

Here’s a simple follow up email Sujan Patel sends to people who signed up for one of his products:

sujan

Trigger for sending the email:

Schedule it to go about a week or two after delivering the initial report or any other deliverable.

What Do You Think?

Do you think your agency would benefit from having a structured process for onboarding new clients? Or do you prefer to play it by ear with every new client? Let us know in the comments.

AUTHOR

Pawel Grabowski

Founder and Chief Copywriter at Usermagnet.io

  • Great content – however email can be seen as to impersonal. A quick welcome phone call once the money arrives lets the customer know 1. you have started work and 2. that you don’t start work until paid.

    • Pawel Grabowski

      I agree. However, phone could be problematic at a scale. From experience, clients might appreciate the welcome call instead of email but are often too busy to receive constant updates over the phone. Email gives them an opportunity to consume your content whenever it suits them.

    • Pawel Grabowski

      I agree. However, phone could be problematic to scale. From experience, clients might appreciate the welcome call instead of email but are often too busy to receive constant updates over the phone. Email gives them an opportunity to consume your content whenever it suits them.

  • Michael Morgan

    This is excellent!

    • Pawel Grabowski

      Thanks Michael!

  • wiscoDude

    Some jewels in this article. Great work Pawel. If you’d ever like to write about checklists, I started a Medium publication and am looking for authors to publish. https://medium.com/checklists

    We also have some onboarding templates on our site, for anyone to use
    https://www.manifest.ly/public/checklists

    • Pawel Grabowski

      Hey Philip, thanks, appreciate the offer. I’ll be happy to check the advice you publish on Medium.

      ps. I demo’ed your app the other day and was really impressed by it. Well done.

    • Pawel Grabowski

      Hey Philip, thanks, appreciate the offer. I’ll be happy to check the advice you publish on Medium.

      ps. I demo’ed your app the other day and was really impressed by it. Well done.