See more articles

How To Onboard New Clients: Set The Stage For Marketing Agency Success

How To Onboard New Clients Header
How To Onboard New Clients Header

Taking on a new client is a big win. But the steps right after the contract is signed set the tone for the future relationship.

As an agency, onboarding new marketing clients isn’t just paperwork and formalities.

It’s about understanding your client’s needs, setting expectations, and building trust.

You don’t have to start from scratch every time. Creating a defined process can streamline your to-do list for onboarding new clients.

In this guide, we’ll reveal how to set up a smooth and repeatable client onboarding experience.

We’ll cover:

  • How to incorporate onboarding into your sales process
  • How to onboard new customers
  • How to create a client questionnaire
  • How to prep for social media
  • How to set up a new client onboarding process

What Is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the initial process of integrating a new client into your agency. It’s about gathering information, setting up workflows, and preparing to begin the work.

FATJOE graphic explaining What Is Client Onboarding?

During the onboarding stage, you’ll establish what your client wants to achieve and the steps you need to take to help them.

The onboarding process ensures that you and your client are on the same page. It helps you understand their business, challenges, and target audience.

Why Is Client Onboarding Important?

A good onboarding process is key to client satisfaction and retention.

A study by Wyzowl found that 88% of respondents are more loyal to a business that prioritizes onboarding.

It helps you avoid misunderstandings, set realistic expectations, and align your strategy with the client’s goals. It’s the foundation for a successful partnership.

A weak onboarding process will lead to customer churn. It contributes to one of the biggest problems agencies face – growing their customer base.

How To Onoboard A New Client

So, how do you onboard new clients?

The Sales Process

Onboarding starts even before the client has signed a contract. You set the stage for a successful project during the sales process.

Here’s how:

Identifying the Right Prospects

Agency client onboarding starts before you even begin to think about the sales pitch.

Not every business will be a good fit for your agency.

You want to focus on clients who understand the value of your service, are willing to collaborate, and have realistic expectations.

This is especially important for SEO.

SEO is a long-term strategy. While there are some ways to get quick SEO wins, clients expecting drastic results within a few weeks will become a source of constant stress.

You’ll find some businesses that know they need SEO but aren’t ready to invest. While it’s not the first thing you’ll discuss, knowing if a potential client has the budget for your services is essential.

Crafting an Effective Sales Pitch

Here’s how to create a compelling sales pitch that closes deals and lays the groundwork for a smooth customer onboarding:

Understand the Problem

Before talking about what you offer, understand the client’s needs. Be as specific as possible. For example, if their organic traffic is dropping or if they rank on the second page for their primary keywords, highlight these points.

Offer a Clear Solution

Whether link building or improving local SEO, explain what you do and how you can help.

Honesty is key.

Let them know what they can realistically expect, and don’t overpromise.

Back it Up With Evidence

Show potential clients that your services deliver results. If you’ve helped other businesses improve their SEO, share those stories and back them up with data.

Establishing Trust and Rapport With Clients

Trust and mutual understanding are important in any sales process.

But when you’re selling SEO services, it becomes even more crucial. SEO can take a long time and require significant investment.

You can build trust and rapport with potential clients by being available and transparent.

Show genuine interest in your client’s business and the problems they are trying to solve. You want to position your agency as a partner that will help them achieve their goals.

And drop the technical jargon. Clients want to hear terms they understand. Think “online visibility” and “ROI,” not “link juice” and “DA scores.”

Use A Client Onboarding Questionnaire

An onboarding questionnaire helps you gather essential information about the client’s needs, expectations, and current situation. It’s a must-have for every new client.

What Information Should Be Included in the Questionnaire?

Here’s a breakdown of what you should ask in your SEO onboarding questions and why:

Basic Business Details

This includes the business name, website URL, industry, and how long they’ve been operating.

You’ll need this information to assess their SEO health and adapt your strategies. A new business might have different needs than an established one.

Previous SEO Efforts

It’s good to know if they’ve tried SEO before. If they did, ask about their past experiences and results. Knowing their past results can help inform your strategy.

Business Goals

What do they want from their SEO campaign?

Clear objectives will help you determine the most effective tactics.

Target Audience

Ask about their ideal customers’ age, interests, and online habits.

You need to know who the client wants to reach before you can build an effective strategy.

In a recent survey, market understanding was ranked as the most important skill for marketers:

Marketing Charts survey


Who are the main competitors in their industry?

Knowing who they’re up against can help you tailor your strategies and identify opportunities.


How much are they willing to spend on SEO?

This will help you focus on strategies that fit within their budget. If you need some help pricing your services, check out our SEO pricing guide.

How to Create an Effective Questionnaire?

There are lots of free and paid tools you can use to create your questionnaire. Some come with analytics features and integrations you can add to your workflows.

Your main goal is to get maximum information from the fewest possible questions.

Keep it simple with short, straightforward questions. The easier it is to understand, the more likely your clients will fill it out completely.

You can use a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. This can improve the flow of the questionnaire and boost engagement.

Allow space for your new customers to add extra information. Sometimes, they will have insights you might not have specifically asked about.

Social Media Accounts

If you’re offering social media marketing services, you’ll need to tick a few more boxes to kickstart a successful campaign.

Here’s what you need to know:

Setting up Accounts on Popular Social Media Platforms

The first step is to analyze your client’s existing social media presence. Make sure they’re targeting the right platforms.

Instagram is the best platform for audience growth and ROI in 2023:

Social Media platforms graph

Image Source

But, the right platform will depend on the client’s business and target audience.

For example, a clothing brand is more likely to succeed on visually-driven platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. But a tech startup is more suited to Twitter or LinkedIn.

Once you’ve identified the target platforms, use consistent branding across all social profiles.

Include relevant keywords and hashtags in the profile bios where possible. This is the top optimization strategy for social search.

Hubspot Socials graph

Image Source

Always include a link to the client’s website in the profile section. This provides an easy way for followers to move from social to the website.

Establishing a Presence on Different Platforms

Setting up social media accounts is just the first step. You need a plan to establish a robust presence.

Before you think about content, you need to define the brand voice.

Work with your client to develop a tone of voice that reflects the personality and values of the brand. Every post and reply should reflect a consistent brand voice.

You’ll also need to plan content in advance.

The posting frequency will depend on your client’s budget and the overall marketing strategy. Create a posting calendar that includes any product launches, industry events, or other important dates.

The Client Onboarding Process

A clear and repeatable marketing agency onboarding process is key to growing your client base.

Whether you’re starting an agency and landing your first clients or onboarding dozens of new customers per month, the experience should remain consistent.

Planning the Onboarding Process in Advance

Here are the steps to take when you onboard a new client:

Initial Onboarding Meeting

This meeting isn’t about diving deep into tactics and strategies. It’s about introducing your team, getting to know the client, and setting expectations.

Wrap up the client onboarding meeting by outlining the next steps.

Onboarding Documents

Create a straightforward document that details the expected timelines and any additional data, logins, and other info you need from the client.

Establish Communication Channels

Determine who the main point of contact will be and how you’ll stay in touch.

You can add stakeholders to your project management tools to keep things organized and streamline client communication.


Add the client to your billing system and send out your first invoice.

The timing will depend on how you operate. You might charge an upfront ‘setup fee’ on a monthly retainer or a deposit for one-off jobs.

Creating a Timeline for Each Step of the Process

So, how long should this process take?

A recent survey by Databox found that 70% of agencies take 1-3 weeks to fully onboard a new client.

Databox how long to onboard a client

The exact time will depend on the range of services you offer.

To get a clear roadmap of what will happen and when, note down every task you need to do. Think about how long each task will take and mark it on a calendar.

Project management tools can help you map out and track tasks.

Creating a consistent customer onboarding process will allow you to automate some tasks. For example, email templates for follow-ups and client feedback requests can be auto-sent at appropriate times. Use SOPs across the entire client onboarding process to ensure maximum repeatability and efficiency. This will help you give customers the best possible initial impression every single time.

Set The Stage For Long-Term Client Relationships

Successful client onboarding is vital for agency growth. It’s your first opportunity to show clients you’re organized, professional, and committed.

You can set the foundation for a productive relationship and high client satisfaction.

And as you take on more clients, a streamlined onboarding process keeps everything running smoothly.

Of course, managing all of this and on-going client relations is a time-consuming practice.

While you can’t outsource the onboarding process, you can outsource your SEO and backlink deliverables to let you focus on client acquisition and retention.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

View All Posts

Become a Pro at SEO

Join 65,000 others and learn the secrets to SEO success with our weekly blog posts.