What is the correct process for on-boarding new clients at the enterprise level? How do you get the most value out of the on-boarding process, for all participants?

I often hear questions about the brass tacks of search marketing campaigns: how is reporting handled? What happens when we engage, how does the on-boarding process work? When can we expect to see all of our #1 rankings? (Wish I was kidding about the last one!)

There is no right way to on-board a new SEO client (I’ll focus on SEO exclusively), but there are certainly best practices and procedures that we’ve learned and evolved over years of doing this stuff. Bringing a new client on board, especially during the kick-off call – is a prime opportunity that is often squandered or minimized by SEO teams.

It’s understandable: on the agency side, new clients are on-boarded regularly. But on the client side, the process can seem strange, confusing, and awkward. It’s yet another difference between agency and in-house roles.

The on-boarding process is designed to build expectations with the client, set goals and timelines, learn historical practices, pain points, and important roles, and establish relationships.

Long-term engagements are truly about great relationships, and when you’re on the agency side, that means great customer service. I absolutely prescribe to the mantra Marry Your Clients.

But, as they say in the financial sector, it all starts on day zero.

The marketing functions that created awareness, the sales processes that cultivated the lead, even the operational functions in accounting, all need to flow and function as smoothly as possible.

Even more importantly, they need to reflect a unified, consistent message. Each touch point is an opportunity to WOW the prospect and turn them into an advocate for the agency, more than “just a client.”

The worst thing SEO teams can do when on-boarding a new client is to go through the same tired, rote, tedious kick-off call routines.

For the important people on the call (normally upper management or executives, along with development leads and project managers), this is valuable time. The time spent here can literally set the tone for the entire engagement.

That said, I’ll concede that much of the relationship is formed more slowly and consistently through the daily interaction of account managers and consultants running strategy for their clients.

Differentiation Through Operational Efficiency

One of the most surprising aspects of SEO on big sites, is that every company has a website (or multiple websites) with problems that need fixing.

Severe SEO issues are prevalent on every site from Amazon to Zillow. It’s not whether there are opportunities for SEO on these sites, it’s identifying what the opportunities are.

This opens up an interesting solution from the consulting or services point of view. While innovative strategy and big ideas are what’s “sexy” and can add real, unique value much of the time, the brass tacks often work best when and where opportunity allows.

I’ve written before about how SEO Best Practices Are Bunk, and I stand by that mindset, but it’s startling how much SEO 101 work still needs doing out there.

Agencies and consultants that can identify these quick win solutions and prioritize them accurately, benchmark performance, work with companies to implement them, track the performance lift, and report back to management about the success of the work, are providing signficant value.

This is obvious stuff, but it’s surprisingly hard to do. It’s startling to realize that companies can grow their SEO channel rather markedly just by getting the little things right, and consistently applying the effort.

It really all comes down to stellar project management. SEO is about execution, not just ideas. Ideas are only sparks – even the best ideas are nothing without implementation.

3 Ways To Maximize The On-boarding Process

  • Value the kick-off call as important time with senior decision makers. Don’t squander it talking about analytics access. Save the operational stuff for email.
  • Treat the on-boarding process as a fluid part of the sales process. The relationship has already begun with the sales team, and it should fluidly transfer to the client services team. The client experience starts on day zero.
  • Smooth, professional operational functions and project management are strong differentiators and provide real value.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Enterprise SEO

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About The Author: is the Chief Knowledge Officer at RKG, where he blogs regularly. You'll find him speaking at conferences around the world when he's not riding down mountains on something fast. Follow Adam on Twitter as @audette.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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