Social media agencies face many exciting opportunities to work with brands and clients of all shapes and sizes. Although some may focus on a certain niche or industry, many consultants and agencies work with clients from varying industries, experiences and levels of understanding of what social media really is or what it can do for their business. Obviously, each client has different expectations, goals, objectives and grasp of the power of social media.
Although it may be tempting to take on any client, a key to success is ensuring the client is a match for the agency. It’s also critical that as new clients are onboarded, they are taken care of from the start.
A client’s first interaction with an agency sets the entire stage for how the relationship will kickoff. You only have one chance for your team to make a great first, second and third impression, so why not make the most of it at every touchpoint?
Below are some best practices to help social media agencies ensure the onboarding process goes as smoothly as possible with new clients.
1. Know your customer. Before you even start the onboarding process, research your customers and the key contacts within the client organization. Check them out on social. The goal is to get a feel for how they are leveraging social media not only for their brand but also personally. Knowing their strengths, weaknesses, skills and experiences can help you assess how much training will be needed and how much you will or won’t need to hand-hold them as they come on board.
2. Use social to start nurturing client relationships. Engage with your client team on social. If you know your customer hangs out on Twitter or LinkedIn, say hi to them on their turf. Share one of their recent blog posts or comment on a personal Tweet. Building the relationship doesn’t have to wait until the official project kickoff meeting. Plus, this highlights that you walk the walk and use social media to build relationships, not just blast your own agency messages to the world.
3. Start communication with the client early. Even if the project isn’t ready to kick off, find small reasons to communicate with your clients. Send copies of signed contracts, logons to team project systems or other information they may need.
4. Brief your team on the client before the kickoff call. This is pretty obvious but sometimes gets missed in agencies when clients are pushing for unrealistic start dates. Do NOT hop on a call with a new client without first briefing your team on the project, ensuring each team member knows his or her role and what the goals and objectives are for the client. The first kickoff meeting with the client can make or break the relationship.
5. Begin organizing the project before kickoff. Take the time to organize the project. Document as much as you know about the project. If possible, make a copy or screen grab of the statement of work and share it with the team. Oftentimes a rocky handoff from a sales or business development team can cause bumps when kicking off a new project.
6. Keep the project organized from day one. Don’t let details fall through the cracks. Use online tools to keep track of client inputs, deliverables, milestones and review cycles.
7. Establish realistic expectations, starting with kickoff timing and early project milestones. Kick off the project with the client only when you are 100% ready. Don’t kick off the project with the client until your team is briefed, the online project system is ready to roll and you know you can deliver the highest quality service possible. Delaying the kickoff by a few days or even a week or more may be the best strategy if you don’t have available resources to guarantee an amazing start.
8. Select the right social media and other tools for the right phase of the project. Don’t let a client’s excitement for a shiny new tool push you into wasting time on implementing and training them on something they are not ready for. Ensure all tool and technology selections align with business goals and objectives.
9. Load the client’s social profiles into your social media management systems, such as Sprout Social, as early as possible. As soon as the client provides you the social profile account credentials, get them loaded so that the analysis can begin quickly and you can have some fast, easy wins with reporting. Clients love to be educated with real data early in the project. It will show them that you are serious about making data-driven decisions and that the tools and services will be worth the investment.
10. Look for and deliver early wins. Provide early results on research and reporting, and ensure you are checking in with the client proactively. Even if the project is expected to take 10–12 weeks for research or other tasks before social execution or development begins, show the client some work along the way. A few weeks may seem like months to your clients when they are waiting for results to make big marketing decisions.
11. Keep communication flowing and ensure you have a central point of contact for the client. Make certain your clients know whom their primary point of contact is and that no matter what is needed, that person is only an email, phone call or Tweet away.
12. Understand the communication flow of the client. What information does the client need to provide management, stakeholders and other team members? How can you help make your client’s life and job easier and more impactful?
13. Make it human. Understand how you can make your client team and stakeholders heroes within their organization. Agency success comes in the form of helping your clients achieve big wins and business goals. Can the work you do help them be more respected, earn trust and grow in their careers?
Successful social media and digital marketing agencies build a foundation from effective client onboarding. Agencies face many pressures in juggling the livelihood of not only their own brands but also that of numerous clients. Onboarding is just one small but very important first step.
Join Andrew Caravella, VP of Marketing at Sprout Social, and me for a free webinar, “Social Media for Agencies: Balancing Clients, Expectations and Your Sanity,” at noon CST this Tuesday, April 28. We’ll take a dive into more common social media agency questions and, best of all, help you answer them. Secure your seat now.