What's your company roadmap when it comes to onboarding? As every successful journey begins with a detailed plan, so does taking on new clients. That is why at Little Bird Marketing clients begin their marketing journey with a three-day, intensive onboarding session. This session is not for the faint of heart, but is a necessary part of our process that aligns client goals with kick ass strategy.
Curious about the foundation we build successful marketing campaigns around? Put your best foot forward with Momma Bird, Priscilla McKinney, and Little Bird Onboarding Guru, Emma Hanson, as they discuss our strategic onboarding process and get an inside look at what the first few days of working with us is like.
Little Bird Marketing’s SOAR System
Let’s dive in. What are those first few days like for a new client?
Priscilla: With new clients, we begin with a three-day, intensive onboarding process. A lot of early strategy happens during these meetings, but before we dive in any further, let's have Emma explain our proprietary system, SOAR, a little more in-depth.
Emma: SOAR stands for strategic, organized, accountable, and repeatable. Starting with persona development all the way through to performance reporting meetings, it is the system we use to build client marketing strategies.
Priscilla: Having an ordered system that builds on itself - such as SOAR - not only helps to answer this question, but organizes your goals and holds you accountable.
You've got to go back to basics and understand your strategy before doing anything else. Ask yourself: How can you actually organize strategy? Can you put it in a system where your strategy and organization are accountable to each other? At Little Bird, once we get all those things in place with new clients and content is flowing steadily in a strategic, organized, and accountable way, then we start measuring it. That is basis of our SOAR system.
Want to know more about our lead generation system?
Check out SOAR by following the link below!
Onboarding with Little Bird Marketing
So understanding the SOAR System is step one. What comes next?
Priscilla: Once there is an understanding of the SOAR system, we get to dynamically interact with new clients during the onboarding process. Emma is my tried and true onboard guru, and we travel together for two-to-three day stints where we perform very intensive, but fun sessions together.
Emma: Yes, they are intense, but are extremely rewarding. One of the most beneficial factors I believe our process has, is its ability to bring out certain vulnerabilities in our new clients. We make them talk about their business in ways they aren’t really used to, and seeing them respond to all of it in this environment so early on in the process is really beneficial for all of us.
Both sides get a really clear picture of who we are going to be working with all year long. Things come out; things we could never learn by emailing back and forth or looking at their website. It’s just really beneficial to hear from them face-to-face in those few days.
Priscilla: One of our opening lines we like to tell new clients is we're never going to know them as well as they know themselves. What we're really good at is asking strategic questions, and letting the answers fall out of their mouths.
I like to ask a lot of challenging questions. We have to get excited about what we're doing and our marketing strategy, otherwise, they're not going to bring the energy we need for them to reveal the truth. In other words, new clients bring the juice to our process. They are the experts in what they do. We're just trying to align a system that works with the expertise they already have.
Emma, explain how you start and organize the onboarding process for us.
Emma: Yeah, I'm pretty much the O (organized) in SOAR. I prep and get everything ready. I get an agenda together and plan all the meetings. These are tailored based on who we're talking with, but in terms of when we get there, we really just dive in and let the client talk. We start off by having them explain their story, their roles, their goals and get a really clear picture of who they are.
Developing Buyer Personas
Once you’ve got a good understanding of who they are as a company, is there a specific next step?
Emma: Yes, we go right into buyer personas. We can't do anything until we know who it is they're trying to talk to. It’s a little busy for me. I try to have the personas be one or two hours, but sometimes a new client will have five different personas and the meeting can last for days. However, we take as long as we need to really understand their ideal persona(s).
Priscilla: What's interesting during this part of the process is we also uncover who our client should not be targeting. It's like all their problem children come to the surface. From my experience, I find so many people are continuing to spend their budget going after non-ideal clients again and again. This is where it goes back to the strategy piece.
Strategy is learning to say, "No. No, I'm not going to spend money trying to attract this person," who really ends up being a total pain to work with. One of our goals is to start making new clients begin asking themselves, "Who do I really want to work with?”
Emma: After we identify the ideal personas, many times we realize there are so many different variations of the same persona. Personally, I think one of the most interesting pieces of the onboarding process is watching Priscilla talk them through this part. She is wonderful at separating and filtering specific characteristics until we get to the core of the true personas. That, to me, is magic.
Priscilla: Being present with the client when discussing buyer personas is absolutely critical. I'm asking hard questions like, "Okay. You say that, but tell me more," or, "I thought you just told me the ideal was this, not this. Why are we talking about this other client?" It's about keeping them honest to the process. They go off on tangents, not because they intend to, but because they have emotional ties to these clients or past experiences.
Emma: I think something really helpful for new clients, in terms of past experiences, is when they identify someone in their mind, who is ideal and start thinking about this person all the way through. Once we have their ideal personas laid out, they start to rattle off ideas. They defend the persona. They're like, "Well no. He wouldn't do this. That's not ideal." It’s an incredible experience.
Want to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about buyer personas?
Check out The Perfect Persona by clicking the image!
Understanding the Buyers Journey
After you know who you're trying to reach, how do you use that to develop the strategy?
Emma: Once we know who we're talking to, we go into the buyer's journey and blog titles meeting. This is the part of our onboarding process where we take their persona(s) and walk them through the path to purchase.
Priscilla: The idea here is to write with the persona in mind, but also realize they are going to be in different stages during their path to purchase.
Emma: It takes a little bit of time, but once they really start to understand it, their jaws just drop. We have all these colorful sticky notes all over their walls with fresh content ideas. It's all right there. It's not organized yet, but it's all there, and they’re just like, “Oh my gosh.”
I always start off by explaining the buyer's journey. What is the awareness stage? What is the consideration stage? What is the decision stage? And eventually, they start understanding and explaining it to each other, saying things like, "Well no, that needs to go in this stage for this reason,” and I just get to sit back and write it all down.
Priscilla: It is really interesting to see the client start defending our process internally. Telling each other, "No, no, no. You always do that. Quit doing this. We're getting ahead of ourselves."
What is the most challenging part of the Little Bird onboarding process?
Priscilla: Change is hard. We obviously are not being called in because they want the status quo, but sometimes you find these little emotional pockets of things new clients love doing and they want to keep doing them the way they always have.
What comes to the surface is this realization of where they've been wasting their time and efforts. They begin to understand why they're not getting ranked or why their sites are not being seen. It gives us a really good view of what it's like for them on an emotional level.
We also ask questions like, "Why are we doing things this way?" Some people come to us because they're incredibly successful, but they've hit a plateau. They don't know what they're supposed to do to get beyond it. Or, this is very common, where the organization has been incredibly successful but is built around one or two founders.
If one key person leaves, organizations who in the past have been incredibly successful, now stand in a very scary place going, "Well, we don't really know what the system is. What’s going to bring in the next lead?” That's why SOAR is really a system to create sustainable and firm lead generation.
Emma: New clients know we have a plan, and see we had a plan coming in. That's another thing I like about our onboarding process. When we go there, it's not, "All right. Well, now we're going to talk about your personas and then we're going to get lunch, and then we'll just kind of see where it goes from there." They know we prepare a lot before we begin. It's set, it's organized, it's strategic, it pays off. Overall, it is very engaging and energizing experience for them.
Priscilla: Yes, they feel completely energized. They know we are going to spend money wisely and do things to make a real difference.
Anything else you like to add before we go?
Priscilla: We just have so many amazing memories in client conference rooms. It’s where the magic happens; we just both kind of stop and admire it. It is really fun to be awake and alive to those moments and see it really come together in the minds of our clients. It's pretty cool.
Emma: Having the opportunity to help lead the charge of our onboarding process is what I love most about my job. Not only is it important to uncover new clients' ideal personas and organize an entire year's worth of content right from the start, but the power of being face-to-face with clients early on is just so valuable to all of us. We're able to learn each other's communication styles and dive deeper than we ever would be able to otherwise. I look forward to it every time.
So there you have it - our onboarding process in a nutshell. We hope you enjoyed this chance to look behind the curtain and see just how we kick off new client relationships. If you have any questions about our services or would like to talk about potentially working together, feel free to contact us, we’d love to chat!
Also, If you’ve been through this process with us before, please leave a comment below about your favorite part of the process or tell us about a specific memory that you have! 👇👇👇