In a new inbound partnership, the onboarding phase is your make or break time period.
It goes without saying that new relationships are fragile, especially in the agency world. It's your job to strengthen your fresh partnerships fast and early.
Onboardings are also absolutely vital to insure that everyone is one the same page and that all of the pieces are put in place. How vital you ask? Well, all of the failed inbound partnerships we've experienced over the years we attribute to poor onboardings.
A Little More Context on Our Process
For us, we start every inbound partnership with a GamePlan. A GamePlan is a strategic plan for how we're going to operate for the first 12 months. We establish this plan over a series of meetings, the first of which is the GamePlan Discovery meeting.
For us, this is our onboarding.
Let's Dive In
Now, let's get into the action here.
We're going to dive into five steps to the best client onboarding you've ever had. Here we go!
Step 1: Secure All of the Key team Members Around the Table
If the client's leadership team isn't willing to invest two-to-three hours in an onboarding meeting then we won't show up.
Inbound is a culture-change for companies nowadays. It can yield incredible power, but it must have the buy-in of the key decision makers or else eventually the wheels are going to fall off. We've seen it happen time and time again over the years.
I don't care what your client tries to say—sooner or later and when push comes to shove, if the leadership team isn't bought in to inbound they will axe it.
It doesn't matter how bought in your marketing point of contact is—they are, after all, just one person out of many.
Here Are the Key Team Members You Want Around the Table
- Whoever sold to the client
- The project management team who will serving the client
- The client's point of contact who will be communicating regularly with you
- The client's leadership team
Step 2: Bring a Road Map That You Can Share
In Episode 13, we discussed four milestones successful inbound partnerships hit.
Again These Are:
- Inbound GamePlan
- Build the Engine
- Tweaking/Redesigning the Website
- Inbound Campaigns
For an inbound partnership, this is the roadmap. Each milestone gets our clients closer and closer to their goals. Your clients want to understand what's coming.
As I like to say, inbound is not the field for magicians. Clients don't want to be kept guessing what happens next—they want a clear vision with action steps they can anticipate.
You want to project this road map and continue pointing back to it to keep things on track. By doing so, you'll also keep everything in perspective.
Step 3: Review Expectations
Too often, expectations get lost during the transition between sales and project management. Sales is just trying to make the sale and they make a few extra promises in the process. Although I wouldn't exactly encourage promises outside the scope of your usual partnership, it sometimes happens.
In this case, it might be frustrating, but it's absolutely vital that project management understands what was promised.
Onboarding is key to reviewing all the expectations in front of the project management team and the client team. This way anything that needs addressed, clarified, added, or subtracted can be discussed before things kick off.
Review the Granular
In this portion, review anything from the pay schedule, to payment method, to how long it takes inbound to see results. These are all important considerations that should be addressed on the front end, not on the back end.
Something else to consider is how often you're going to communicate with the client.
Inbound is a hands-on, fast-moving process. It requires a lot of communication from our clients.
At the very least, we recommend three primary methods of regular communication:
Step 4: Establish a Solid Point of Contact, Persona Experts, and Content Matter Experts
Inbound partnerships also require a great deal of content. If you don't identify the right people to talk to early, you're going to be scrambling along the way. That's no way to run a partnership.
Point of Contact
You need a regular point of contact to chat with weekly. This is to review progress and address business items on a consistent basis.
Your persona experts won't necessarily be your primary points of contact. They might be members of different departments who you talk to on an as-needed basis.
The important thing here is this: you know who they are and can get a hold of them.
There's no one who knows your client's Buyer Personas like them. Trust me. It's you job to find the right people to pull out those nitty gritty details from.
Content Matter Experts
These are the people in your client's organization who have the technical info.
These are going to be the drivers of your content. This role is especially important because once we understand Buyer Personas, we need to create amazing content to educate them with. Without the content matter experts, you're left guessing and scrambling.
Step 5: Pull Out Objections, Concerns, and Worries
Your onboarding is the time to tease out large objections, concerns, and worries.
Too often, your clients might hold back these thoughts and feelings because of "first-meeting politeness." What happens, however, is these will get tucked away. Once tucked away, they'll fester until it eventually explodes in a conflict you didn't see coming.
Do whatever you can to pull these things out early so that you can address them. You need to squash these bugs before they wander into a sewer, find some radiation, and become Godzilla.
Master Your Onboardings and You'll Master Your Relationships
The main point is this—master your onboardings and you'll quickly master your inbound partnerships.