What is an Intake Form?
A project intake form is a questionnaire document used by marketing agencies to effectively and efficiently onboard a new client project. The intake form contains a series of questions relating to both the client and the project details. For this reason, a project intake form is the preferred option for new projects where the working relationship is project-based or time-based.
For monthly retainer clients, typically a project brief / client brief would be used in place of a project intake form since most of the basic client information is already known and the detail required is much more specific to the project.
Benefits of Project Intake Forms for Agencies
Successful digital agencies rely on streamlined processes. The more of these processes the agency is built on, the easier it is to scale and grow the agency. The main benefit of a project intake form is to ensure that each new client project gets off to a good start with a formalized process from day 1. The goal of the intake form is to facilitate the efficient transfer of project information from the client to the agency.
In short, the project intake form helps set the new project up for success. But there are several other benefits to both the agency and the client too:
1. Gets everyone on the same page, literally!
Sometimes there can be several stakeholders involved on the client side. To prevent miscommunication or misalignment of objectives it's always good to use documentation to capture all the project details in one place and get agreement from all stakeholders.
The project intake form helps facilitate clarity by defining the objective, deliverables and helps set expectations especially around the scope of work. This of course helps avoid scope creep which is something that can happen when no documentation is in place.
2. Sets the standard for working together
The client-agency relationship is more likely to work if documentation is at the heart of every process. A project intake form helps maintain an audit trail between you and the client. Should things go wrong down the track, the project intake form helps support your side of the story since it is completed by the client and details their expectations. It should be noted as well that documentation like this helps build trust and shows you know what you're doing.
3. Creates workflow efficiency
Saving time (both agency and client side) as a huge benefit of using a project intake form. But not only that, the form can form part of a series of automations to make your workflow even more efficient. For example, the form inputs can be submitted straight into a project management tool and can be used to automatically create tasks for staff or set up project frameworks.
4. Helps build agency culture around strong processes
The project intake form process should be one of many that your agency use to ensure smooth day-to-day operations. As we've covered in previous articles like How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency, clearly defining your agency's processes are key to running a successful business. Doing so ensures your agency can grow and scale because you've built consistent processes across client projects.
5. Avoids email back and forth
Communication is key for any client-agency relationship. The project intake form can help avoid redundant emails and prevent details getting lost in long emails chains. It also prevents the dreaded situation where the client accidently clicks 'reply' to an email instead of 'reply all' and information gaps start appearing within the project team.
Typical Project Intake Form Process
The project intake form usually represents one part of a 3 or 4 part new client intake process. Depending on your agency type (and size), the new client intake (or onboarding) process might look something like this:
- Initial contact: prospective client finds your website in a Google search, fills out your contact form, sends you an email or gets in touch some other way
- Project intake form: prospective client completes your project intake form
- Proposal (or pitch): you might send the proposal to the client or present it in person or over Zoom
- Kick off meeting: client accepts your proposal and an in-person meeting or call formally kicks off the project
- Contract or Statement of Work (SoW) signed: this might be signed during or even before the kick off meeting
What to include in your Project Intake Form
The project intake form should help you cpature all the information you need to understand the scope of the project. So it makes sense that the form asks specific questions about what the project entails.
This will need to be tweaked based on the type of project (eg: SEO project, content writing project, social media strategy project, etc) but the following question types will help you capture most of the general requirements:
- Client name
- Contact people (stakeholders)
- Contact details (phone, email, website)
- Project objective or goals
- High-level written description of the project
- Project type / Services required
- Start & end dates, milestones and priorities
- UVPs (Unique Value Proposition)
- Competitor details
Target Audience details (if applicable)
- Target audience personas
- Target audience demographics / geographies
- Customer value data
- Project budget range
- Monthly retainer range (if applicable)
How to Build and Automate a Project Intake Form
As clients complete your project intake forms, you will likely see benefits in automating the processing of this data. In fact, most digital agencies automate the data collection in order to save time. The examples at the bottom of this article from digital agencies all highlight the automation aspect of this data collection and how they achieved it.
When it comes to building your first project intake form, a simple (and free) place to start is Google Forms. This is because responses are automatically collected in Google Sheets so there is no need to manually enter data.
However when it comes to actually starting client projects, typically you would be using some sort of project management tool to set up the overall project, assign tasks, track dates and monitor progress.
Like Google Forms, a simple (and free) way to get started is with a kanban board like the one in Trello. So when someone submits the form, the data is created as a new card in a Trello board. This automation is achieved by using Zapier in between Google Forms and Trello:
But if you need more scale and have outgrown Trello, you'll need to turn to a dedicated project management tool (like Asana shown below). The benefit of these types of tools is that they are full-featured and include things like built-in form builders which enable you to create a simple questionnaire form. The form data is then automatically pushed directly into the project management tool when it is submitted.
There still might be a need for Zapier. Other digital agencies use data automation tools like Zapier to retrieve submitted form data from custom form builders and push them into project management tools as well. Either way, the outcome is the same. Achieving automation will help you save time overall.
Download the Project Intake Form Template in Word DOCX
Download the Word template and use this as a basis for your own agency project intake form:
Examples of Digital Agency Project Intake Forms
We spoke to a few digital marketing agencies about their project intake forms, how they use them and how the forms are delivering value to both the client and the agency:
Take the Stairs
Take the Stairs are a digital marketing and lead gen agency based in Nashville, TN. They specialize in running lead generation campaigns for dentists and medical spa businesses.
Adam Carbonneau is the Founder and Managing Director of Take the Stairs. Adam says their project intake forms are a prerequisite for every lead gen campaign they run for clients.
These forms enable the agency to gather a large amount of sales criteria from the client and ensure they accurately target the client's ideal prospects. Technically the form is built in Gravity Forms and uses Zapier to push the data into ClickUp which the agency use to manage their project pipeline.
Adam says the idea to use a project intake form came from the ABM (Account Based Marketing) sales model.
"Our lead generation campaigns use the power of LinkedIn Sales Navigator's database. We scrape lead data based on our customer's sales criteria to uncover 400-1500 of their most qualified prospects."
The agency then prep the lists and run data enrichment activities before using LinkedIn's Matched Audiences to gain brand awareness before launching a cold outreach campaign that aims to tech their ideal prospects something new about their industry - as opposed to being highly salesy.
Once prospects become interested in the agency's services, the project intake form is used to understand the details about what the client is wanting to achieve:
"Instead of having a 3-hour meeting, we allow our clients to fill out our sales criteria form at their leisure. Upon submission of the form, internal tickets are automatically created within our project management tool and our Project Manager is alerted that the client is ready to start."
Creative Click Media
Creative Click Media is a full-service digital marketing agency in New Jersey focused on creative marketing, web design and development.
Adam Binder is the Founder of the agency and told us they recently launched a new online project intake form specifically for SEO projects.
The form is broken down into seven categories that cover the client details, company, audience, customers, competitors and goals.
"The purpose of this intake form is twofold: to gain insights about the business, and to gain insights about the client’s goals and expectations for their campaign."
Adam says the form is also about getting the agency on the front-foot from day 1. Having the information on hand enables his team to conduct preliminary research, which leads to a more productive and actionable initial launch call. By getting a head start on understanding the business and the client’s goals, Creative Click Media can develop a more targeted and effective digital marketing strategy from the outset.
A unqiue aspect of Creative Click Media's project intake form is their tone of voice. Adam says that for the client, answering so many important questions all at once can be intimidating and overwhelming. To balance this, they’ve made their form brightly colored with popular GIFs inserted between sections.
This helps to bring some humor and intrigue to an otherwise monotonous task, while highlighting the fun side of their company culture.
Stratosphere based out of Irvine, CA are a specialist digital marketing agency for clients in the Insurance vertical.
Casey Preston is the Founder & CRO of the agency and uses project intake forms to provide a better onboarding experience for their clients and streamline their workflow. They also derive other benefits too.
Casey says the form acts as a stepping stone to selecting the right project. They send the form out to clients at the pre-collaboration stage, with the hope of finding a common group to agree upon.
When the client submits this form, the data is pushed into the agency's proprietary project management tool and used as a basis for establishing the project lifecycle stages. Casey says the intake form has evolved over the years from a basic client info form to a more detailed project-centric document.
For the team at Stratosphere, these forms provide more than just workflow efficiencies but actually help build industry intelligence. The data captured also gives them trends about budget ranges, target market segments, UVPs (Unique Value Proposition) and competitor landscapes. This is all the more important given the agency operates in a single niche: Insurance.
"As we continue to expand our coverage of the industry segments and add more digital marketing services to our wings, we will be making further modifications to our project intake form, as required, to achieve our agency goals"
Not only are project intake forms popular for agencies but also for business that operate sub-brands. Venture Kite is one such business with a portfolio of different websites. The group has similar agency-like processes and use project intake forms internally.
Nadav Harari is the Head of SEO at Venture Kite and runs digital marketing projects across their portfolio. Nadav says they have a constant stream of new projects and updates rolling out on a regular basis.
"We've integrated Asana's project intake form to help us with managing requests efficiently from product owners and various departments."
Each product owner within the Venture Kite group submits a task using the form and describes the project as well as priority, due date and attachments.
These forms are then processed through the centralized Asana workflow and split into relevant tasks with production priorities trafficked weekly by Venture Kite's project manager and general manager.
Don't forget to download the Agency Project Intake Form template in Microsoft Word DOCX format. It's completely editable allowing you to customize the questions and format for your particular niche or service offering. Let us know how you go, we'd love to hear from you on Twitter @seoptimer.