Building a better client intake process for service businesses
From lead generation to paying projects, your intake has the most potential to secure high-value clients but has likely received the least amount of attention in your online presence.
10 December 2021 · 9 min read
Regardless if you’ve defined a client intake process for your service-based business, you’ve been performing it with every prospect. From lead generation to paying projects, your intake has the most potential to secure high-value clients but has likely received the least amount of attention in your online presence.
You know your website is a critical component of growing your business and organic web traffic is one of the most reliable sources for prospects. But the way you funnel prospects into clients can improve efficiency, streamline your workflow, and automate lead generation: all with minimal attention from your team.
What is a client intake process?
The intake process is both an automated lead generator and a critical part of your branding. It’s the first step a client takes to work with you and sets the tone for a new client relationship. For most websites, it’s a form that lives on the contact page. A prospect enters their name and contact details and sometimes describes their project.
Think of the client intake form as the foundation of your relationship with every new client. It doesn’t live up to its full potential when it only asks for a name, email address, and a brief note.
Client intake is a critical step in the prospect-to-contract process, and it enables you to evaluate and qualify leads to determine if they’re a good fit for your brand and if you’re able to meet their timeline and budget.
- Initial contact: typically through organic or inorganic traffic on your website.
- Needs assessment: an intake form on your website that asks relevant and critical questions about their project, with a follow-up phone call or email to clarify expectations.
- Proposal delivery: you build a bid to the client’s needs using the intake information and follow-up and project parameters.
- Sign a contract/collect payment: when everyone agrees to the proposal, you collect payment or sign a contract to establish the working relationship.
- Start working: you can seamlessly incorporate the new client into your workflow, confident in their expectations, budget, and timeline.
Every step when you start a new project can flow from a deliberate client intake. It provides all the information you need for your proposal and establishes trust and respect early in the client relationship. Closing a new contract is easier when you’ve established rapport and show you understand the client’s goals.
By spending more time developing an automated process, you’ll spend less time on leads that don’t convert to clients. That means less of your valuable time goes to developing proposals for clients who aren’t suited to your brand or sending contracts to prospects who ghost.
There are myriad benefits to devoting some initial time to developing your intake.
The benefits of a client-focused intake process
The easier it is to engage with your brand via your website, the more leads you can generate, allowing you greater discretion in selecting clients. One of the most powerful moments for a service-based business is when you can choose the clients with whom you’re interested in working.
A well-developed client intake process is an essential component of getting your business to that level. It can also shorten your initial consultation calls by gathering information through website forms first and using focused questions to guide the conversation:
- Get the client’s needs, and expectations established early.
- Set boundaries for your availability and communication timeline.
- Communicate your value, so prospects can self-evaluate if their budget matches.
- Establish trust early in the client relationship with prompt turnaround during intake.
Think of your client intake process as an introduction to your brand and the services you provide. By presenting prospects with a detailed intake form, they’re encouraged to reflect on their needs and be specific during consultation. You set the expectation that they’ll need to be active communicators about what they want from working with you.
You establish credibility with clients when you follow through with prompt responses to your intake form, either via phone call or email. You can also set boundaries for your working hours by not responding on weekends or evenings.
Incorporate these essential components into your client intake process
As you hone your intake, you’ll continue to develop each aspect of these recommended components. As the process evolves, you and your team will find it’s almost effortless guiding prospects through the funnel for more signed contracts and rewarding client relationships.
The “Contact Me” form
If you have a website, you likely already have a form encouraging prospects to contact you if they want to work with you on their next project. But this initial form can do more than provide a name, email address, and general introduction. By customizing the input fields, you can get a clear idea of their timeline, preferred forms of communication, or even their goals for the project.
Initial interview via phone or email
When the initial contact form responses indicate a valuable prospect for your brand, a prompt follow-up is one of the best ways to establish trust. Clients will know when they reach out to your business, they can expect a personalized response.
Either schedule a phone call to ask more in-depth questions if you have time or send a questionnaire over email if your schedule is too hectic.
During the call, draw from a pre-generated bank of questions to quantify the appropriate service for their needs. Ongoing adjustment of these questions will help you perfect your client intake form. Some examples:
- Is there an internal team also working on this project?
- What are the essential outcomes for the project?
- What is the project going to achieve?
This step will help you incorporate the new client into your workflow, bid the job accurately, and give the client reasonable expectations for their budget and timeline.
After getting more information from the client, send a follow-up email that summarizes your conversation and includes a proposal for the project. Because of your detailed intake process, this step takes less time. It is also more likely to secure a new client from the prospect because you’ve already established a relationship.
Focus your intake process on collecting the following information
Client intakes are a straightforward way to resolve some of the most common pain points in any working relationship.
What are the client’s priorities and goals from your service?
Define the priorities and expectations for both parties. Ask clients to define primary and secondary goals. The primary aim of the intake process is to understand the client’s needs and determine if they’re a promising fit for your service. An automated web form is the easiest way to do this without pulling your time away from paying clients and current projects.
Who’s involved with the project? Who makes the final decisions?
Have the client define who the decision-maker is for the project. When working with a small business with cooperative management, several members of leadership may communicate with you. Defining one point of contact ensures you won’t get caught waiting for multiple approval emails mid-project.
The client intake process is also an excellent time to determine if they have an internal department working on the project and ask the client to define the expectation for you and what the internal team will be doing.
Establish how and when they can expect updates
Define methods of communication: phone, email, Slack, etc. and how often communication will take place between the parties. Communication breakdown can increase your churn rate. Give clear guidelines for how often clients can expect to hear from your team.
What are the tech requirements to work with your brand?
Your service-based business may require clients to use specific programs or provide material in certain formats. The intake process is the time to define the requirements to work with your company. Clarify the form in which you’ll deliver your services and make sure they have the right tools and technology to work with you.
Including this in your client intake can prevent a paint point down the road if you find out the client is using an obsolete operating system or outdated technology.
Use your website to support an effective client intake process
Developing an intake process that works for your business can take time. You don’t want to spend more time chasing leads than working on paying projects, but you also want to keep your calendar full.
Your intake process communicates to prospects the experience of working with your company. It’s a way to make them feel valued before they ever become clients. It also defines the level of engagement your clients will expect from the service. Automation allows you to be accessible and attentive, but without pulling your attention in scattered directions.
Your website is a great way to begin the intake process because it doesn’t take your time, but generates and stores essential information about prospects. You can even automate initial responses when your schedule doesn’t allow for a follow-up phone call. Your website can:
- Use customizable forms: get the information you need from a client to determine if they’re a good fit for your service.
- Provide online scheduling: manage your intake calls without the back-and-forth emailing. Ask for a certain level of commitment from future clients in self-scheduling.
- Contact manager: Don’t spend your valuable time structuring an intake system; customize a contact manager for all your leads to store and share notes and contact information.
- Automate the client intake process: automation means you don’t sink time into low-value leads. Instead, only engage when your intake process generates high-value prospects.
Your website should seamlessly guide organic traffic to your intake funnel
Just having an online presence isn’t enough. You need a website that keeps up with the pace of online business. Staying dynamic, current, and relevant to future prospects is essential to growing your business and securing high-value leads. B12 helps you build a website that convinces prospects to take the next step with you, with a simple intake process that seamlessly transitions site visitors from organic traffic to prospects. High-quality designs with easy editing and on-hand expert support will keep clients coming back.
Go from a great idea to a professional online presence that’s ready to work for you in 30 days with the B12 website builder.
Professional design and copy services generate a website to reflect your brand, give feedback and get a customized, search engine optimized product in 30 days.
Keep your brand current
Either reach out to experts to update the site or use the intuitive editor to stay hands-on with your site.
Expert SEO and re-optimization
Dominate the search engine results page and command more click-throughs and organic traffic with expert initial optimization and ongoing re-optimization.
Easy online directory services
Get your business listed in over 50 online directories, so it’s easy for prospects to find you.
Analytics and improved functionality
See monthly performance metrics for your site in your portal, and get all the functionality you need with popular integrations.
You wouldn’t invite clients into your home to do business, so you don’t want to keep offering your personal email address to do business. B12 provides email addresses that match your website domain, so you communicate professionalism and reinforce brand recognition.
Maybe you’ve heard of SEO and know it’s important. Or you understand keywords but don’t have the time to learn more. With B12’s SEO services, you can improve your website’s search engine ranking without having to learn any acronyms or take up blogging in your free time.
Experts optimize your website to get in front of the audience you’re trying to reach, generate more organic traffic, and improve your website’s click-through rate. SEO is the proper first step in any client intake process by putting your website in front of the broadest audience possible.
A website can do more than just tell prospects about your services and products. It can make it effortless for prospects to engage with your intake funnel. Customizable forms provide critical information about which clients you should devote your time and resources to engaging.
Using B12’s easy customization options, you can qualify your prospects, set up consultations, provide quotes, and get valuable feedback about your offered services.
Scheduling errors and issues can derail the workflow for a small business. Easy online scheduling for prospects and existing clients lets you communicate your availability in one central location.
B12’s mobile-ready websites make it easy for people to book time with you right from their phone, wherever they are. Plus, it demands a certain level of accountability so you can avoid flakey clients or ambivalent prospects.
Sending invoices and receiving payments can be a real hassle, especially if you’re running a tight operation without a dedicated bookkeeper running your accounts. B12 provides easy invoicing, including sending automated payment reminders to clients.
Consolidate your company’s workflow with B12 Client Engagement
With B12’s all-in-one online solution for professional services firms, you can centralize your workflow, from lead generation to efficient client intake process, scheduling, invoicing, and receiving payments. Your website should be the last thing on your mind when you’re running a service-based business. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be working as hard as the rest of your company. Joining B12 ensures your firm is operating at the peak of its capabilities.