Onboarding Best Practices for Marketing Clients

Onboarding new clients can be frustrating for marketers, but with some preparation, it doesn’t have to be.

Video Transcript

David: So, we’re talking about, um, getting clients to move, especially in onboarding, and how oftentimes when we start an SEO campaign, clients will just not move and not give us the access we need to proceed or all the access. So, this is so common. It’s not you, it’s them. But we still want to take them on as a client. We want to help them, but they are their own biggest enemy. So, the first thing I do is during my sales process, I remind them that they’re going to have to participate to some degree because I know that sometimes clients are so busy they have to hire me or us to do stuff. And then we didn’t give them a pile of stuff to do, but they were so busy they didn’t have time to do that. That’s why they hired us. So, I wanted to set the expectation that I would do my best work when they participated. I need participation. I don’t want to publish a blog post on their website without them approving it. Right? It’s under their name, not mine. I have to get analytics access. I’m going to minimize the work, and as we get more efficient, that’ll be less work for them. I’ll be taking care of most of it. But I have to have the participation. So that’s one. Two, I have the list of things I work through, and as I’m working through it… Oh, let me back up and say the second thing I do when I start working with them is ask, what’s the best way to communicate with you? Do you prefer an email? Do you prefer a text message? Do you prefer a phone call? And then sometimes I’ll even ask, do you want an email per task, or do you want everything in one big, long email? What I find is that clients will tell me something that is completely untrue a week or two later. And they say, give it to me all in one big email, and they miss half of it. Right? So, you know, it just requires some patience. So, then, I have a list of things I need from them. I need analytics access and search console access, and I need to know my one contact person. This is another very important thing to always ask for the one person who is my contact with the client. This does not work by committee. The one person can report and should report to whoever is participating, but I need one person to talk to, or we’ll get nothing done. So, I give my list, and then typically, they don’t give me everything immediately, or they don’t know how. Sometimes, I have actually prepared a whole series of Google Docs, which are just PDFs that I send out. They are step-by-step processes of how to add me to your analytics and how to add me to your Google Ads. Half the time, they don’t even follow those directions. So, what I do at that point is I do what I can with what I have and try to do as much as I can with what I have and then constantly remind them. And sometimes, I just have to be a nag about it, that I don’t have this yet, or I still am waiting on this, or I can’t do this until you have given me access to your WordPress website, or whatever it might be. So, to answer your question, it has to do with prepping your clients and the onboard. It’s like, I understand you’re hiring me because you can’t do this, but I still need you to participate in some way. Two, it’s just an initial conversation. How do you like me to communicate? I hate text messages. My buddy Scott texted me yesterday. I still haven’t got back to him. Because I love you, Scott, but I do not want to text you. Grow up and call me, dude.

Stephanie: That’s how I feel about a phone call. Please, God, unless your house is burning down or you’re lying dead beside the road, don’t call me.

David: I know. Yes, I am the odd man out on this, but. So, once you have those things, then, yes, clients are going to take forever because they’ve hired you because they can’t do it themselves. So, it’s just kind of the nature of the beast. So, then we do what we can with what we have, and we constantly remind them what we don’t have and how we can’t do what they want because of what we don’t have. So now I know that’s even more complicated for you because there’s stuff like needing server access. They don’t even know who their web host is.

Stephanie: Yeah.

David: And that’s really a challenge. Right? It’s a tough challenge. But the good news is, this is why they hired you. You are probably better equipped to figure out who their web host is than they might be.

Stephanie: Yeah. I often do have to tell them. And they’ve been paying the bill. I don’t understand how people function sometimes.

David: Right. But I’m saying this to say, yes, I have these troubles, too. You’re not alone. And it is a struggle, but it’s sometimes just the nature of the beast. It’s why they need our help.

Stephanie: Yeah.

David: And we have to remind ourselves they’re not dumb. They’re not out to hurt us. I kind of remind myself that sometimes. They’re not my enemy. My old boss used to say, “David, you’ve got to stop treating your clients like your enemies.” Because sometimes, I would get so frustrated with them that I’d be like, “Why are you stopping me from helping you?” And that’s the truth. But I’ve learned there’s some prep work that can help.

Stephanie: Okay, that makes sense. And I think that this one agency is not doing the prep work with the clients, no matter what I provide for them. They’re friendly people. And that’s kind of how they are. I’m not. So, I don’t deal with them, but…

David: Oh, I appreciate you suggested setting up a form for people to fill out, but that kind of contradicts what I’m suggesting in the sense that I want them to communicate to me in the way that’s easiest for them, rather than make them do it the way I would like them to do it.

Onawa: Okay. Yeah, that’s true. That’s more of a me thing. Just give me the information and everything else. Just go away. Give me your information.

David: Right.

Onawa: And I agree, that’s probably not 100%…

David: Your intention is to make it easy. Here’s one place to go, and you can make a dump of everything you need. But the easy thing for them is maybe just an email at a time. Okay, the first thing I need is this: Who’s my main contact? Who’s the person? Well, it’s going to me and them. No, no. Which one of you? I’m not a marriage counselor. Don’t make me get between the two of you. But it’s just working them through it. You hate to fire a client for something like this because that’s ultimately why they hired you: because they need that help. But I’m also of the opinion that toxic clients, you know, don’t pay me enough to abuse me. And this isn’t abuse. I’ve had clients abuse me, and they hit the door real quick after that. But none of us get paid enough by anybody to take abuse from any of our clients. No matter how desperate you might feel that you need that client. None of you deserve that. Just a friendly reminder. You don’t deserve that. But anyway, it is tough. It is hard, preventative maintenance and flexing to communicate for them. That’s going to probably lead to more success. But you’re never going to be perfect. I have some clients I’ve worked with for months and still don’t have everything I need. But then I just try to work around it as best as possible. So, I hope that helps a little. At the very least, it helps you know you’re not the only person struggling through that.


Have a question about this process? Ask it here:

Get started doing SEO today

SEO seems hard- you have to keep up with all the changes and weed through contradictory advice. This is frustrating and overwhelming. Curious Ants will teach you SEO while bringing your website more traffic and customers- because you’ll learn SEO while doing it.