Everybody is familiar with the phrase: “First impressions last forever”. For that reason, I am particularly over obsessed with the new client on boarding process at White Shark Media and how our SEM department performs their introduction calls during our campaign kickoff meetings.
I have partnered with so many vendors over the last couple of years that I know first hand how important it is for a client to feel confident their assigned point of contact is the right fit for their organization.
Especially in the Online Marketing industry, where many agencies are notoriously famous for overselling and under delivering, it’s important that the team assigned to the client’s project relays a message which validates they’re the right team for the job and that they’re completely committed to meet their expectations, and more.
My many adventures with vendors, good and bad, resulted in me outlining a rigorous on boarding process including a ‘New Client Welcome Call Process’. I frequently follow up on this process with new members to our organization.
I’d like to share this process today because I would honestly love for other agencies and organizations to provide a similar world class customer experience.
Why Is the Welcome Call So Freaking Important?
Like Anthony Robbins preaches in his Bestseller “Unlimited Power”:
“The quality of my life and success = The quality of my communication with myself and others”
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First I’d like to provide a little more background to why the welcome call is such an important factor for me in the big picture. In order to truly understand the significance, we must put ourselves in the client’s position.
In most cases, it’s safe to say that the client has had one or more negative experiences with other marketing agencies, who typically failed to deliver on their promises or just outright deceived the client with false claims and unrealistic expectations.
This is the same client, who prior to signing up, for the last 5 years has received 2-3 phone calls every single day from marketing companies proclaiming to be Google Partners, Google Experts, Google this and Google that. Furthermore, many of these “Google Partners” call out with deceptive tactics, announcing that the business owner has an emergency issue with their website, organic ranking, online citations or Google AdWords campaigns.
In addition to the thousands of sales calls, they have with 100% certainty also received tons of unsolicited emails with equally misleading and false statements.
In short, there is usually zero confidence in Online Marketing companies from a business owners’ perspective now a days. For this reason, most (all) of our clients are skeptical about their purchasing decision after having signed up for our services.
Let’s Set a New Standard for All Agencies to Benchmark Against
The sum of all these horror stories from small business owners over the last couple of years provoked us to create a set of 8 core values; all centered around providing an empirical, non-comparable, exceptional, world-class customer service experience for SMBs.
The intention with these core values was not only to make White Shark Media the equivalent to Zappos from an Online Marketing agency perspective; but also to enable small business owners across US to overcome their phobias against Digital Marketing Agencies.
By instilling these principles in all our team members since day one, we facilitated the notion that no client ever would feel leery after signing up or experience “buyers’ remorse”.
On the contrary, with these values, we attempt to “wow them” and build a substantial framework for the relationship by providing an on boarding process which usually can only be expected from agencies who charges five figures plus in management fees.
My colleague Alfredo Blandon wrote a great article on how we empower client services at White Shark Media; but to give you an even better understanding of our methodology, let me share a couple of the core values which we live our lives by:
How to Perform a Welcome Call That Conveys a Sign of Commitment?
Now that we better understand why a good welcome is so valuable for a healthy client relationship, let’s break down the necessary steps to execute a welcome call which will oblige any business owner to move forward with your processes without anxiety.
Ever heard the phrase: “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”?
Well, you must strive to get “lucky” on every occasion by preparing properly for the welcome call.
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Our introduction calls at White Shark Media, involves a 3 man team including a SEM Strategist, SEM Supervisor and a Client Success Manager. When we prepare for it, we always go through the following 10 step pre-call process:
- Review all notes provided by the Sales Rep along with a summary of sales process and areas of focus.
- Review the provided client questionnaire where important intel such as budget, targeted cost-per-conversion, geographical coverage, etc. is detailed by the client.
- Analyze their AdWords campaigns and Analytics account in-depth in order to gain a strong comprehension of the performance and areas of improvement.
- Compare your examination to the assessment provided by the Regional Sales Manager, prior to on boarding the client.
- Take the time to fully recognize the client’s business, their website and industry.
- Create a competitor analysis on their top 3 main adversaries in order to gauge their current market position and identify areas of opportunities and challenges.
- Pull up industry insights and proven concepts from our database to consider implementing for a “quick win” performance-wise.
- Get fully acquainted with your client from an online perspective i.e. check their LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook profile (and always look for common ground in order to build rapport during the call).
- Gather all these insights and structure your agenda for the welcome call along with areas of priority, in case the client is limited with time.
- Present your initial research and plan-of-action to your immediate supervisor for feedback and approval, prior to scheduling the call.
Next step is of course to schedule the conference call and loop in all parties. Send out the preliminary agenda to the client and ask for feedback. Is there anything in particular which they want to focus on?
Don’t Forget the Basics! Energy, Focus and a Genuine Interest
With all this preparation and the excessive volume of data which is about to be presented, I have experienced that too many Strategist fail to exploit the fundamental tactics in which all great communicators leverage. This means to perform a theatrical, exciting and emotional experience for “the audience”.
You might counter me now with the argument that data analysis and marketing strategies doesn’t have to be sexy or emotional; but remember that our objective here is to build rapport, show professionalism and last but not least, set ourselves apart from “all the noise” and sound less mechanical or robotic.
In order not to dwell into a boring and monotonous mode, you’d prepare your physiology for the call as well.
When we communicate with others it’s important to understand that communication is segmented into 3 brackets:
- 7% of communication is through our words i.e. what you say and the syntax of these words.
- 38% of communication is in our tonality i.e. the tone of your voice. Are you speaking with excitement, mundane, confidence, cautiousness?
- 55% of communication is in our physiology i.e. your body posture, facial expressions and breathing patterns.
When all these signals are perfectly linked together you send the message you really desire. For that reason, I sometimes tell our Strategist to get energetic and do 10 pushups before a call, or just take a quick 5 min. walk and get “mentally ready” for the upcoming meeting.
When calling out, I furthermore encourage them (or rather demand them!) to stand up when “greeting their customer” over the phone. Motion creates emotion, and you want to spark up the energy on this pivotal phone call.
And of course, it’s a requisite that all chat windows, social platforms, etc. are shut down as they’re supposed to devote their 100% attention towards our client and their business objectives.
Introduction, Presentation, Agenda and Summary
Once you have established contact we are back to the basics, yet there’s a certain phone etiquette you must adhere to:
1. Introduce Yourself Shortly
Refer back to the sales representative in order to establish a link between the sales process and yourself. What is the purpose of this call and the length of this conversation (i.e. do they still have time now).
It is always recommended to share an agenda for the call in advance so you can cover the most important topics and not get steered away from your focus.
2. Explain Who You Are And Why You Are Great for This Project.
In this case I highly suggest having an “Elevator Pitch” about yourself in place, which you have practiced to perfection. The objective is for you to always sound worthy of managing your client’s thousands of hard earned marketing dollars.
A good exercise is to record your elevator pitch and play it to yourself and your manager.
Ask the question if you would hire yourself based on that presentation? If you wouldn’t, then it’s not good enough!
Areas to Highlight in Your Elevator Pitch:
- Which areas are you certified in? AdWords Advanced Search, Display Advertising, Google Analytics, Bing Ads, etc.
- What are your areas of expertise? Lead generation, local marketing, e-commerce or their specific vertical.
- What drives you? Sure it’s your job and you get a paycheck, but do you want to demonstrate performance because you’re trying to get promoted? Are you incentivized by creating success stories for the company i.e. client testimonials or case studies, or do you get a bonus when clients have stayed with your company for +12 months?
And always point out something personal (preferably in common with them) so that they can relate to you.
Again, why are you so different from the hundreds of internet marketers that they have dealt with in the past? Why should they remember you or be loyal to your company if they cannot even remember you three months down the line.
3. Get to Know Their Business
At this time you should have read all the notes from the sales rep, reviewed the client’s questionnaire and analyzed their campaigns; but in case any questions remain unanswered, it’s vital that you drill down all the uncertainties so you fully grasp their business model and marketing objectives.
Below is a condensed version of questions that we would typically go though during an introduction call, besides the obvious questions such as targeting, budget, ad-scheduling, tracking, etc. (which have been already clarified in our new client questionnaire):
- What is the goal of the campaign? I.e. the desired actions of which they can monetize on, or the metrics for success (CPL, CPA, ROI).
- What is the most important action on their website? What is the least important? (At White Shark Media we track the most important with conversion tracking in AdWords and less important with Google Analytics i.e. Micro Conversions).
- If the person you’re dealing with isn’t the business owner (e.g. they’re a Marketing Director, CMO, etc.) then what is their goal? I.e. what will make them look successful in their bosses eyes?
- How have they measured their ROI up until now and how would they characterize the outcome?
- If it’s a lead generation campaign, what is their lead-conversion-rate (LCR) i.e. which percentage of leads converts to paying customers?
- Can we talk with one of their sales people about what closes a deal? Can we hear a pitch from their top sales person?
- What is their profit or revenue per sale? I.e. what is their average margin on a sale or what is the average cost of goods sold?
- What is the value per newly converted customer?
- What is the lifetime value per customer (LTV) i.e. do they have a lot of repeated business/customers, referrals, or upsell opportunities?
- With these values in mind, what is their break-even CPA/CPL?
- Who are their best customers and what do they have in common?
- What is their bread and butter? I.e. what services/products does the client earn the majority of their money on.
- From a marketing standpoint, what has worked and not worked in the past?
- What is their unique selling proposition (USPs) and strength/weaknesses in the market?
- Why do consumers/businesses choose their business over the competition? Is it their price-point, credibility/reviews, free shipping, selection, etc.
- What are common mistakes and misconceptions consumers make or have about their business, industry, products or brand?
- Who are their closest online and offline competitors?
- What makes them different from their competitors? Why are they better?
- Is there any industry related websites / good insights on their market of which they can share with you?
- Do they have projections for expansion/growth? I.e. what is their 2014/2015 strategy (and how do we fit into the big picture).
- Do they have any geographical constraints?
- Do they just need to “prove the concept” before they expand / scale up, or do we face other challenges?
- Do they even want to grow in the first place? (Remember that we are dealing with SMBs).
- Do they have a wish list of marketing initiatives (SEO, SMO, website improvement, etc.) that are not part of our current agreement but they would like to see come to reality in the future?
- Is there seasonality to consider? (e.g. if they’re a landscaper in Portland).
- Do they have any seasonal or geographic buying patterns? e.g. are they heavily dependent on holiday sales or other activities?
- How frequently can they meet up with us for status reports and discuss new opportunities/challenges?
- Are there certain metrics that they want reporting on more frequently besides our scheduled meetings and monthly reports?
- How will they measure the quality of our relationship? i.e. what will make them become satisfied and a White Shark Media ambassador.
- What qualities and behaviors do they want to see from us? Or not see?
4. Summarize the Conversation and Define the Next Steps
At this point, you have probably chatted with the client for 45-60 min. (sometimes it has taken me hours) and you have uncovered every little detail for you to craft a successful marketing campaign.
After such a lengthy conversation, it is always advised to summarize your goals, including the key takeaways and the next action steps.
In other words, what are you going to do next, when can they expect to hear from you again and what particular aspects do they need to follow up on? (e.g. access to their website for tracking installation, send over an overview of upcoming promotions, provide a calculation of margin per product, etc.)
After the call you’d also send out a detailed summary of the conversation. This will not only ensure a healthy client relationship, but also give you a chance to demonstrate that you’re a well organized professional that pays attention to their needs and opinions.
The Major Takeaways of Your Summary Should Be:
- Summarize the campaign goals that you have established together i.e. their target CPA/CPL.
- Define your plan-of-action, including expectations/timeframe i.e. what can be expected during months 1-3, months 3-6 and +6 months. Let them know about future opportunities for campaign expansion e.g. Remarketing, Display advertising, Bing Ads, etc. There’s always room for growth!
- Explain the next steps and what to expect i.e. when can they expect to hear from you again, what emails will they receive from you next, what do they need to follow up on, etc.
- Reiterate your areas of expertise, your proven track-record, and how excited you’re about working on this project with them! Tip: Ask for pre-approval on a testimonial if (or once) you reach the established goals.
Leave No Stone Unturned
On a final note, I would like to mention the best way for you to succeed with client relations is to never assume that your clients fully understands you or that things are ok.
All the time you invest in the initial stage of the relationship will get paid back in tenfold later on and will also secure you to have a client for life.
However, it does require an extraordinary effort on your end and you cannot expect that just doing your job will suffice. I like to tell my team that they must be “productively paranoid” and work with their clients and their campaigns as if our competitors are doing everything in their power to steal our business (which they usually are).
Assumptions are the termites of all relationships why it’s always good to over-communicate especially within the first 3-6 months of a client relationship.