When you’re living the agency life, clients are a pretty big part of the deal. As in, the biggest part. Our blog is full of useful content detailing how to get the most coverage for your clients, how to leverage that coverage on and off of social media, and dozens of other topics related to client success. But today, we’re going to back it all the way up to the beginning and talk about client onboarding.

“Onboarding” a client is a term used when your business development team (in our case, the fabulous Lauryn Gray) has sealed the deal, signed the paperwork, and is handing a client relationship over to the dedicated account team. This is the chance for the PR pros that will be working with the client each day to kick off the relationship and get the ball rolling.

In order to build a successful partnership, it’s important to gather as much information as possible in the first few weeks to help the PR team set a strong strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going through the onboarding process with your next client!

Start with the obvious.
It may seem like a no brainer, but the first step should be to sit down with the business development group and go over what they already know about your new client. A lot of times, the sales process can take several weeks or even months, so the representative from your company has probably gotten to know the client team pretty well. Not only will you gain the tactical insight, like what all is covered in the proposed scope of work, but you can find out some information that might be helpful in establishing the relationship. Things like if they mentioned a competitor or an ideal publication, for example, can be great for developing a tactical strategy. Other insight, such as an alma mater or favorite sports team, might help develop a personal connection.

Do the research.
If you feel like this tip appears in a lot of our blog posts, that’s because it does. We love research. When it comes to onboarding, we like to know as much as we can about a company before we ever walk into the meeting. Start, of course, with the company’s history, its products, its C-suite, and all the basic information found on their website. But diving even deeper into figuring out who their competitors are, what industry trade media publications they have been featured in, where those competitors have been featured, the latest industry announcements, any awards they have won (or been nominated for), and what type of engagement they receive on social media presence will result in a much more efficient introductory meeting.

Ask all the questions.
Once you’ve done all that research and you’ve become familiar with the scope of work, it’s time to prep for your onboarding meeting. In order to really make the most out of the time you have, it’s important to utilize what you already know. Rather than asking them to list off their competitors, have the list you’ve created ready and ask if you’re missing anyone. Rather than asking them to list off every publication they have been featured in before, ask for the top 3 they haven’t been in yet. Have a list of their products or services at the ready and ask which ones should take highest priority, as opposed to having them walk through information that’s readily available on their website. Not only does this show that you’ve done your homework, it makes it easier to hit the ground running once this meeting concludes. The faster you can start executing on project initiatives, the faster you can provide those stellar results your client wants.

Onboarding a client can be a little overwhelming at times. It’s hard to know every single component of a company after a single two-hour meeting. But being prepared can help you maximize the impact of that two-hour meeting and set a solid foundation for a successful client-agency relationship.