Ignition blog  /  Your business  &  Growth  &  Clients  /  Creating an effective client intake form
Having a well-considered intake form is crucial to help streamline your client onboarding process.
YOUR BUSINESS 11 mins 02 Jun 2023 by Francesca Nicasio
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You've landed a new client and you’re excited to kick off your engagement and project. But before you do, there's certain information that you need.

If you're a marketing agency, you probably need their login details for Facebook and Instagram, so you can run ads and post on their behalf. If you're a bookkeeper or accountant, you'll need pertinent details on their business financials and the software they use to manage their books.

Using a client intake form can be a great way to collect this information in an organized and automated way. Let's dive in and discover more about how your firm can use client intake forms to streamline your onboarding process.

What is a client intake form?

A client intake form is a document professional service providers use to gather essential information from their clients at the beginning of their relationship.

It's a structured questionnaire that captures key details about the client's business that you'll use when rendering your services. Client intake forms can also collect information on their preferences and internal processes, so you can communicate better, design streamlined workflows, and offer a personalized client experience.

This is an example of a client intake form.

Who should use a client intake form?

Client intake forms can – and should – be used by most (if not all) types of professional service providers. If you provide a service to clients and require access to their information and accounts, then you'll need a client intake form to collect and store all that information.

The benefits of using a new client intake form in your business

Your client intake form is a tool to obtain accurate and up-to-date information from a new client. It covers key details you need to perform your job. You can use it to ask questions, for links to key documents, or usernames and passwords for specific applications.

But beyond just allowing you to collect client information, a well designed intake form and client intake process offer the following beneficial outcomes.

1. You'll be more efficient

Client intake forms provide a structured and organized approach for collecting information. These ensure that all necessary details are captured, saving time and reducing the likelihood that you’ll miss obtaining important client information.

This streamlined process means you won't have to chase down important details, and it reduces having to go back-and-forth with the client. That way, you can focus on understanding their needs and delivering tailored solutions instead.

2. Can offer a personalized client experience

Gathering specific information about clients' preferences, goals, and requirements lets you personalize your workflows and ultimately improve the client experience.

For instance, if one of your clients' intake forms indicates that they prefer to communicate via Slack instead of email, you can accommodate their preference by creating a dedicated Slack channel and minimizing the number of emails you send.

Here's another example: Let's say you run a marketing agency, and one of your clients lists the marketing metrics and KPIs that are most important to them. With that client information on hand, you make it a point to weave these metrics into your client reports, ensuring you shine a spotlight on the metrics that matter most to them.

This personalized approach shows that you genuinely care about their unique needs and enables you to provide actionable insights, and recommendations based on the metrics that truly align with their objectives.

3. Uncover other sales and service opportunities

An intake form can help you identify other services a client might need, whether that be services you provide or referrals you could make.

This, in turn, helps you understand their broader needs, so you can become more of a trusted advisor. You're able to go beyond the initial scope of engagement and offer more value to foster long-term client satisfaction and loyalty.

4. Reduce risk and liability

The client intake form can also be part of your risk management practice. It provides a record of information the client provided, as well as a note that the client approved the budget or fee structure.

Sometimes, clients can provide incorrect information and then blame you when this impacts their work later on. Having clients sign and date the intake form can help to protect you. (Although it's always good practice to double-check the information provided on the form with the client, especially if something seems strange.)

5. Showcase a professional image and branding

More than just your run-of-the-mill questionnaire, a client intake form (when implemented correctly) can also contribute to your professional image.

A visually appealing and user-friendly intake form conveys a sense of professionalism, attention to detail, and a commitment to providing a positive client experience. In other words, it can make you look good. More than that, it can differentiate your firm from competitors and leave a lasting positive impression on clients.

What to include on your client intake form

Now that we've got the basics of client intake forms under our belt, let's discuss what these forms actually look like and the information to include.

1. Include a welcome message

Many companies like to begin their client intake form with a quick personal message or welcome email. This is good practice, and you can use a client intake form template to swap out details and make writing the welcome message a breeze.

2. Asking for contact information is essential

The first and most essential information your client intake form needs to gather is contact details so you know the best people to contact and how to get in touch with them. Here's what to include:

  • Client's name.

  • Address.

  • Phone number.

  • Email address.

  • Point of contact(s).

3. Ask your client about their company background

Depending on the nature of the service, it may be helpful to request information about the client's business background. In this section, you can consider asking questions about their:

  • Industry.

  • Company size.

  • Years in operation.

4. What do they need from you and what services do they require?

Ask the client to specify the services they require or the challenges they need help with. This allows you to effectively tailor your offerings and address the client's specific needs.

For example, if you're a tax preparer, you'll want to inquire about the client's tax situation, including their filing status, previous year's tax returns, relevant forms, and any specific tax issues or considerations.

If you're a marketing consultant, you'll want to include questions about their current marketing channels, campaigns, and areas where they need assistance.

The questions asked will differ depending on your business. Try to keep the list short – you don't want the client to spend so much time answering it that they feel overwhelmed.

You'll have the chance to ask more questions during your initial meeting. For now, what you're trying to do is gather the essential information you need to move forward.

5. Ask them to fill in a checklist as they complete your intake form

Close your form with a checklist, so the client can tick items off once they're done. If there are further calls to action that aren't part of the form, include these here so your client remembers to complete them.

How to create an intake form

Here's a general guide on how to create a client intake form that captures the necessary client information you need. For best results, use the steps below to develop a template that you can use for future engagements.

Step 1. Decide on the format of the intake form

Client intake forms come in different formats. Old school companies may use paper-based questionnaires, PDF, or Word documents, while others may take a more modern approach by using an online form builder like Google Forms or Typeform.

Our advice is to choose the latter. Digital intake forms are easier to fill out (for example, no more printing or exporting documents), so clients can submit their forms quickly. Plus, digital forms can be integrated with other systems, which can then streamline your own internal processes.

Step 2. Define your form's key sections and questions

Depending on all the information you need to collect, identify the sections of your client form and the questions to fall into each part. Common sections may include contact details, service requirements, goals, and industry-specific questions.

You can refer to the section above for ideas of what to ask, but at the end of the day, the questions you need to include will boil down to the nature of your business and the services you offer.

Step 3. Prioritize relevant information

Not all questions are created equal. When you gather information, prioritize the most crucial queries for understanding clients' needs and tailoring your services. Ensure you collect essential information while keeping the form concise and easy to complete.

Step 4. Consider formatting and design

Your client intake form's look, format, and flow can make or break its completion rate. As such, organize the form in a logical flow. Make sure related questions are grouped together and use appropriate form fields. It's also helpful to use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance readability.

And don't forget about the form's visual design; incorporate fonts, colors, and branding elements that align with your business's aesthetics.

Step 5. Add instructions and guidance

Include brief instructions or guidelines to help clients understand the purpose and format of the form. You can also provide any context or examples to give clients a better idea of how to fill out the form.

Step 6. Test and refine

Before sending your intake form to new clients, consider testing the waters. Test internally with your staff members or a small group of clients to ensure it functions smoothly and captures the desired information effectively. Collect feedback and make necessary refinements to improve the form's usability and clarity.

Pro tip: Use a client intake form template

As you can see, creating a client intake form from scratch can be time-consuming. If you're struggling with ironing out the questions or formatting your questionnaire, consider downloading free templates as a starting point.

A customizable template with a pre-designed structure and framework will enable you to kick off your form-creation process quickly.

How to implement client intake process

The success of your client intake form doesn't just hinge on the questionnaire itself but on the client intake process as a whole.

The steps required at this stage will vary, depending on how you handle customer relationship management, but generally, it involves the following steps.

Step 1. Design the intake process

Define the touchpoints, interactions, and stages of the intake process. Where does the intake form fit in your overall client onboarding process? Is it something you send right after you sign a client? Should they complete it before your initial kick-off meeting? Whatever the case, document these steps and make sure they're implemented.

Step 2. Determine your intake channels

Determine the channels through which clients can access and complete the intake form or provide the required information. Options may include online forms, email submissions, or dedicated client portals. Select the channels that align with your business model and client preferences.

Step 3. Communicate the process

Clearly communicate the client intake process. Provide instructions, guidelines, and any necessary resources to help them understand the steps they must take and the information they should provide.

Step 4. Integrate and automate

Streamline the client intake process by integrating it into your client onboarding and management procedures.

For instance, you should be able to integrate your intake form with your platform for proposals, client agreements, billing and payment collection, so the platform automatically pulls information from your questionnaire. This means you don’t need to re-enter client information into your client management system (CMS), and you can ensure your records are always accurate.

Pro tip: Ignition enables you to do this through a Zapier integration between TypeForm and Ignition.

Does a client intake form create barriers?

Filestage discusses a common concern businesses have about client intake forms. You might be worried that if your intake process is too strict, clients will get the idea they're not the right fit (even after going through a client screening process) for your business and leave.

If you plan your intake form to be as low-resistance as possible, this won't happen. The key is to ask for the relevant information in a simple, streamlined way. Keep the form short, and use simple language to make it clear what you need the client to do.

For accounting firms, a short form simply isn't possible. There's just too much information that needs to be collected. If this is your firm, then the best idea is to spread out the requests over a period of time (say, two weeks). Start with the highest priority information and work your way down the list. Breaking requests up in this way appears less daunting to the client, and as it can be automated in Ignition – it doesn't require additional admin on your end.

At the end of the day, you need this information to do your job. If a client is difficult about giving you this required data, then how will they be to work with over the long haul? Your client intake form may act as the last line of defense against potential problem clients.

Your intake form as part of the onboarding process

As a service professional, your time is money. If you're doing one activity (A), then you are, by definition, not doing activity (B). As much as possible, you want to be doing the things that lead to more revenue.

At Ignition, we're passionate about helping businesses like yours automate admin and client processes so you can spend more time on the revenue-generation. You can use the information on your client intake form to create deals in your CMS, populate fields, and trigger actions in your sales pipeline.

Blueprint Accounting is one such firm that has integrated their client intake form into their onboarding process. They've created an automated flow that removes recurring operational tasks so they can focus on client delivery. Blueprint made their intake form in Typeform, which allows it to be integrated into their process via Zapier. You can see more about their workflow and how they use Zapier, Pipedrive, and Ignition in this detailed blog post called Automate your professional services sales workflow with PipeDrive, Ignition and Zapier.

To learn more about how Ignition can help you automate time-consuming manual processes, from proposals and client intake forms, through to billing and payment collection – watch the online demo.
Book a demo of the Ignition software

Meet the author

Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio

Contributing Author 

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Published 02 Jun 2023 Last updated 21 Jul 2023