Are you asking new clients the right questions to develop a long-term strategy? Could a detailed intake give you the insight you need to set the right campaigns in motion?
In this article, one agency owner shares how a 10-week client onboarding process equips his team to successfully match marketing strategy to a client's future plans.
Building Strong Client Relationships
When beginning work with a new client, it can be tempting to tackle projects before thoroughly understanding their business and long-term goals.
However, Chris Carr, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Farotech, explains how his 10-week successful client onboarding process establishes solid and long-term relationships between agencies and clients. By spending an extended period deeply understanding a client's business at the start of the engagement, you can build trust and alignment that leads to successful ongoing collaborations.
Chris originally started his agency in 1999 in an attempt to build a website showcasing his ex-girlfriend's artwork. When other companies could not build the site, Chris learned web development himself. One client led to another until Chris had grown a successful agency with numerous employees. This origin story illustrates how new opportunities can arise when tackling challenges head-on.
Farotech is a growth-driven digital marketing agency that implements a systematic approach to lead generation and conversion using innovative solutions.
As a platinum HubSpot partner, Farotech helps clients generate and nurture leads, convert them to customers, and turn them into raving fans. Rather than completely taking over a client's marketing efforts, the agency provides strategy, execution, and technology to make the client's existing marketing team more effective.
A 10-Week Client Onboarding Process for Digital Marketing Agencies
In the early days of his agency, Chris quickly learned that inadequate upfront discovery led to misalignment down the road. Rushing into execution without thoroughly understanding a client's goals and vision meant that strategies sometimes needed significant reworking after a year or so.
Chris transformed this weakness into a strength by implementing a 10-week effective new client onboarding process focused entirely on deep research into his client’s business.
A cross-functional team interviews stakeholders, reviews messaging and branding, audits the technology stack, and analyzes data to chart an ambitious, flexible 3–5 year roadmap. This phase concludes with a roughly 150-page plan outlining target audiences, required marketing deliverables, and more.
The onboarding process serves multiple purposes:
- Allows the agency team to thoroughly understand the client's business needs and build trusted relationships with key decision-makers
- Peels back critical information and perspectives that clients lack the bandwidth to uncover themselves
- Sets clear agency/client expectations around goals and strategy alignment to prevent misplaced blame if metrics are not hit
- Gives both parties an extended “test drive” to ensure the working agency/client relationship is a fit before diving into the execution
Client Onboarding Checklist
After discovery, the first five pages of the closing report act as a marketing scorecard, grading different initiatives as red, yellow, or green. This color-coded dashboard allows Chris and his team to track progress at a glance.
Chris’ team tracks all initiatives in Google Sheets with columns for:
- Initiative name
- Status (red, yellow, green)
- Initial tasks
- Scaling potential
It lists every deliverable needed to move an initiative from red (incomplete) to green (complete). This allows the Farotech team to chip away strategically at their client's branding, lead generation, and scaling.
Social Media Marketing World Comes to YOU!
If you couldn't get to Social Media Marketing World in 2024, we have great news. The conference can come to you.
There is still time to grab an On-Demand ticket and get recordings of all of the amazing content! That’s full access to recordings of every keynote, workshop, and session—the ones people travel thousands of miles to see. Don't wait. Get your On-Demand ticket and make 2024 your best year yet!YES, I WANT THE RECORDINGS
Next, Chris' team lays out a timeline for tackling objectives in a Gantt chart, emphasizing that they must address inadequate branding and messaging before scaling lead generation. Then, quarterly check-ins reference the scorecard to move metrics in the right direction.
While many companies just want more leads, throwing leads at a flawed sales process is pointless, like pouring water into a bucket with holes.
Often, the real problem isn't lead quantity but lead quality and retention. Those holes represent branding gaps that leak customers. Chris’ job is discovering those gaps early and plugging them. Businesses can build trust and awareness by strengthening branding through every buyer touchpoint, so leads convert rather than bounce.
A key goal in the onboarding process is determining your client’s cost per acquisition. Suppose Chris can calculate CPA from his client’s existing data; great. If not, he must build a CPA model within 90—120 days. Without CPA, targets will be unclear.
Farotech also wants to assess their client’s current customer engagement and behavior. They’ll analyze their database to understand engagement scores—how often customers return and what triggers them to ultimately convert. These insights allow Farotech to attract and retain customers more efficiently.
By clarifying CPA and quantifying customer engagement, Chris and his team can set clear goals and refine marketing strategies for their clients. Measurement enables them to have less guesswork and more impact.
While some prospective clients balk at the extended timeframe and expense of the onboarding process, Chris persuades them by emphasizing the cost of failing to reach their goals. He also explains that the process allows both parties to make educated decisions with precise data implications.
Essentially, Chirs promises air-tight strategy and absolute transparency—he is an extension of his client’s team. While the lengthy onboarding process means Chirs loses some prospects to competitors promising quick wins, the clients he does land stick around—Farotech’s 97% retention rate over 10 years demonstrates major success.
The Key to Long-Lasting Agency/Client Relationships
Chris credits the 10-week new client onboarding process to Farotech’s exceptionally high client retention and successful partnerships. This “getting to know you” period builds immense trust and alignment impossible with a condensed timeline.
Shorter discovery time means limited exposure to decision makers, playing “telephone” as information passes from marketing contacts to leadership. The cost also motivates engaged participation from multiple client stakeholders.
Advice for Agency Owners Considering Adopting an Extensive Client Onboarding Process
Chris believes the first step is listening to your clients without an agenda. There is invaluable insight sitting with long-term employees like the CEO, project managers, and sales teams.
For example, Chris once facilitated a session with a salesperson and marketer from the same company who had never met! That lack of alignment was a disaster.
Chris can get intelligent people in a room and challenge norms as a third party. He visualizes the customer journey on a board—from initial contact to close and referral. Then, his team maps all the marketing materials needed to enable sales at each step—drip campaigns, retargeting ads, videos, etc.
Attention Agency Owners, Brand Marketers, and Consultants
Introducing the Marketing Agency Show–our newest podcast designed to explore the struggles of agency marketers.
Join show host and agency owner, Brooke Sellas, as she interviews agency marketers and digs deep into their biggest challenges. Explore topics like navigating rough economic times, leveraging AI, service diversification, client acquisition, and much more.
Just pull up your favorite podcast app, search for Marketing Agency Show and start listening. Or click the button below for more information.
Your role as agency owner should be bringing teams together to document processes, identify gaps in collaboration, and outline all the tools sales needs for execution. This alignment creates clarity and integration. The magic happens when you can connect dots across silos.
Next, lead with data. Relying on your intuition or conventional wisdom does not provide the concrete justification many clients seek.
Even when strategies fail, evidence-based transparency builds confidence. The discovery process allows agencies to argue, “Even if I'm wrong, we're in this together.” It ensures you and your clients are on the same page.
Chris stresses the importance of understanding his client’s goals in the onboarding process. If they can reach their goal independently, his services are not needed. If not, he calculates the gap between where they currently are and their goals—he quantifies the impact of not closing that gap, providing data and recommendations.
He uses several tools to understand buyers and improve marketing:
- SparkToro and BuzzSumo supplement interviews for buyer personas and provide demographic and industry data.
- Heat mapping tools like Crazy Egg give website analysis to see where people click and scroll.
- SEMrush and HubSpot are helpful for SEO and marketing automation.
- Agorapulse and HubSpot help with social media accounts.
- Google Analytics and HubSpot are great for overall analytics.
- StackAdapt is helpful for programmatic advertising.
Ultimately, Chris and his clients make decisions together—it's a partnership.
Farotech aims to equip clients with the most complete information possible to make smart choices. Usually, the best outcomes happen when great data meets businesses that know their market and customers.
Ongoing Innovation: The Future of the Client Onboarding Process
In addition to Farotech’s services, Chris remains on the cutting edge by pursuing artificial intelligence expertise. He believes AI will massively disrupt businesses unprepared for its impact. Since early 2020, Chris has become a thought leader in AI, hosting workshops for companies nationwide.
Chris aims to boost marketing performance through customization and automation. Currently, he uses AI in three critical ways at Farotech:
- Chat Priming: First, he creates a “super document” with approved brand content (testimonials, case studies, etc). Next, he uploads it to Claude to reduce AI hallucinations. Then, Claude references real data to generate accurate new content.
- Advanced Data Analytics: Chris uploads approved client data to OpenAI’s Codex to get AI-powered insights. You can ask questions across all clients to spot trends. It's like having a master data scientist to consult.
- Personalized Ads: Chris believes tools that create AI art, like Midjourney, will be used to create hyper-targeted ads. Using context AI, ads will feature people and scenarios similar to each viewer. The goal is to send the right message to the right person at the right time in the most relatable way.
By thoroughly researching how organizations wish to evolve years into the future, Chris and his team marry services to ambitions durably rather than forcing temporary arrangements destined to fail. Thanks to Chris’ 10-week effective client onboarding process, Farotech holds the secret recipe for transforming new customers into lifelong partners.
Chris Carr is founder and CEO of Farotech, a growth-driven digital marketing agency that implements a systematic approach to lead generation and conversion using innovative solutions. Chris is also the host of three different podcasts, including Digital Marketing Masterclass, which he co-hosts with Andy Crestodina. Since early 2020, Chris has become a thought leader in artificial intelligence, hosting AI workshops for companies nationwide. You can find him on LinkedIn.
Listen to the Podcast Now
This article is sourced from the Marketing Agency Show. Listen or subscribe below.
✋🏽 If you enjoyed this episode of the Marketing Agency Show, please head over to Apple Podcasts, leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe.
Stay Up-to-Date: Get New Marketing Articles Delivered to You!
Don't miss out on upcoming social media marketing insights and strategies! Sign up to receive notifications when we publish new articles on Social Media Examiner. Our expertly crafted content will help you stay ahead of the curve and drive results for your business. Click the link below to sign up now and receive our annual report!
3 Days of World-Class Training—Zero Travel!
Travel to Social Media Marketing World off the table? Get all of the great content at a fraction of the price with an On-Demand ticket.
That’s full access to recordings of every keynote, workshop, and session—the ones people travel thousands of miles to see. Don't wait. Get your On-Demand ticket and enjoy actionable content that you can watch anytime, anywhere.