You know how much first impressions matter — especially in business. Every new client is an opportunity to make a great first impression that could result in a long-term business relationship.
While you may be thinking that a client’s first impression of your business has everything to do with how you and your team members treat them, there’s actually another critical factor at play: the client intake process.
A well-designed client intake form can make a world of difference in how smoothly a new client is onboarded and how successful they are with your services.
Think about it — when you meet someone for the first time, you probably ask them questions to get to know them better. The same is true for business relationships. But instead of relying on memory or taking notes, a client intake form captures all of the important information in one place.
This allows you to hit the ground running with a new client, and it also gives you a valuable reference point to refer back to throughout the engagement.
In this article, we’ll discuss why intake forms are so important in the client onboarding process and we'll also walk you through the process of creating a client intake form.
By the end, you’ll have everything you need to create a successful client intake experience for your business.
Note: Try our free client intake form provided by Bonsai. You'll get access to a document that has all the right questions to properly onboard a new client. Try a 14-day free trial today.
What is a client intake form?
A client intake form is a document that captures important information about a new client and their project. It’s typically used in service-based businesses, but can also be used in other types of businesses such as law firms or financial planning practices.
The goal of a client intake form is two-fold:
- To collect important information about a new client and their project
- To make a great first impression
When done correctly, a client intake form will accomplish both of these goals and set the stage for a successful business relationship.
Client intake forms typically include questions about:
- The client’s business or organization
- The project scope and objectives
- The budget
- The timeline
- Point of contact information
That said, client intake forms serve an important purpose in the onboarding process — they help to ensure that both the client and the service provider have a clear understanding of what’s expected from the engagement.
In addition, client intake forms help to establish a relationship between the business and the client. By taking the time to fill out a form, the client is indicating that they’re serious about working with you. And by reviewing the form in detail, you have an opportunity to learn more about the client and their needs.
Other benefits of using client intake forms include:
- They help you weed out unqualified leads. If you have a detailed intake form, you can use it to screen out leads that are not a good fit for your services.
- They help you save time. By having all of the important details in one place, you can avoid having to track down information from the client later through endless email exchanges.
- They help you avoid scope creep. Scope creep is when the scope of a project starts to expand beyond the original scope. By having a clear understanding of the project scope and objectives from the start, you can avoid scope creep down the road.
- They help you stay organized. With all of the important information in one place, you can easily reference it later on if you need to.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of client intake forms, let’s talk about how to create one.
Guidelines you need to follow
When it comes to creating a client intake form, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to fill out a long, tedious form. The goal is to collect the essential information without overwhelming the client.
- Make it easy to read and understand. Use clear and concise language that can be easily understood by everyone. If your form is too technical or uses jargon, your prospective or new clients may not be able to understand it — which means they won't fill it out correctly (or at all).
- Include only the essentials. Don't try to include everything under the sun on your form. Stick to the basics and only ask for information that you absolutely need.
- Make it user-friendly. In addition to being easy to read and understand, your form should be easy to use. This means using a logical structure and organization. For example, you might want to consider grouping related questions together.
- Include helpful instructions. If there are any questions on the form that may be unclear, include some brief instructions to help guide the client.
Essential elements of a client intake form
Now that we’ve discussed some general tips for creating a client intake form, let’s talk about the essential elements that every form should include.
These elements are:
Company and contact details
This should include the client’s name, email address, phone number, and company name. This basic information will be used to identify and contact the client later on.
This section should always be included at the top of your form -- it doesn't matter whether you're creating a corporate client intake form, legal client intake form or a patient intake form template.
What exactly does the client do?
You need to have a basic understanding of what the client does to provide them with the best possible service. This doesn’t need to be overly detailed — a brief description will suffice.
What are the challenges that the client faces?
This is one of the most important sections of the client intake form. In this section, you want to get an understanding of what specific challenges or problems your potential client is currently facing.
Getting into the specifics here will help you understand whether you can actually help them and, if so, how you might be able to do so.
If you know what challenges they're facing, you can position your agency as a possible solution to those specific problems.
What the client wants to achieve
After delving into the specifics of their challenges, you want to get an idea of what sort of outcomes or results they're hoping to achieve.
Are they looking for short-term gains or long-term sustainability? Are they trying to increase brand awareness or generate more leads?
Asking these types of questions can help you understand what their priorities are and how you might be able to help them best.
What's their budget?
Budget is always a touchy subject. But it's an important one, nonetheless. In this section, you want to get a sense of what kind of budget they're working with for the project at hand.
Knowing their budget can help you understand what kinds of services or results they might realistically be able to achieve given their constraints. It can also help you determine whether the project is worth your time and resources.
What's their timeline?
In a similar vein, it's important to know what kind of timeline they're working with. Are they looking for immediate results or are they willing to wait a bit longer for more sustainable growth?
Asking about their timeline can help you understand their level of urgency and, as a result, how you should prioritize their project. Ensure you include this section in all your new client intake forms.
Competitors and other reference points
In this section, you want your potential client to give you some reference points. These can be their competitors, other companies or brands they admire, or even just general industry trends they're keeping an eye on.
Getting a sense of who and what their frame of reference is can help you understand how they see themselves in relation to the larger marketplace.
Download Bonsai's client intake form templates
Asking the right questions is only half the battle — you also need to format your intake form in a way that's easy for prospective clients to understand and fill out.
Our free online client intake form template takes care of the heavy lifting for you. It takes the guesswork out of creating an effective intake form and makes it easy to get started collecting the information you need from your potential clients.
Just download the online intake form template, add your details, and start onboarding new clients.