What a Client Intake Form Is & What It Should Look Like [Template]
Every business owner has gone through the hassle of spending way too long trying to bring in a prospect — only to find out they were never a good fit in the first place. The reason? They didn’t use a client intake form.
Intake forms help you learn about potential clients in advance, so you know which ones are a great fit for your services and which ones aren’t. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a great client intake form.
Client intake forms are preliminary paperwork potential customers fill out to determine their fit for your services. These forms ask for information about the person or their business. If their answers line up with the services you provide, you can begin onboarding. If not, they can find a service provider who is a better fit.
Intake forms explore the challenges potential clients face and what they want to get out of working with you. These answers help you qualify prospects. You can then focus on relationships that have the foundations for success.
With intake forms, you can proactively qualify prospects, streamline the onboarding process, and deliver experiences that delight their customers.
Client Intake Form Template
If you provide specialized services, your business will likely benefit from a client intake form. So what should your form include?
Your client intake form is more than just a simple call for contact information. You should also ask:
No matter the business, a solid client intake form should cover these essentials. If you want to get up and running fast, use an easy-to-use tool like HubSpot’s free online form builder.
1. Fundamental Contact and Company Information
You can’t have a client intake form without covering the basics. Contact and company information is key for keeping records. You also need to reliably reference this data down the line.
Your information section should cover:
The company’s name.
The primary contact at that company.
Their preferred contact methods.
Their company’s size.
Be sure to include any other fundamentals that can give you a high-level overview of their organization. That may include their website, their target audience, and more.
2. A Description of What the Client Makes or Does
Once you’ve covered the basics, you can start to get into the meat of the intake form. With this, you let your client describe their brand and its main products or services. This information can help you understand whether a client is right for your agency.
Let them tell you what they do. Hear it from their perspective.
How they describe their product or service can give you a better picture of how they view their company identity. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of how you should approach your relationship with them.
Have them describe their company values in this section. Again, having them do so will show you what they think of their business and can reveal more about what kind of client they might be.
3. The Challenges the Client Currently Faces
Here’s where you really start to place how your agency can best serve this client. Give them the space to describe what they feel to be the primary issues and concerns facing their organization.
What might be holding them back?
Where are their weaknesses?
Are your agency’s services relevant to those issues?
If so, are you well-equipped and suited to help them with those challenges?
Let them tell you what they’re looking for. Have them explicitly describe how they feel your agency can help them move forward. This answer will tell you a lot about their expectations and what kind of client they’ll be.
4. The Client’s Goals
Like the point above, this section will tell you a lot about the place your agency can have in your potential client’s future and operations. Your client’s goals provide the most definitive picture of the hopes and expectations they’ll bring to your professional relationship.
These goals can show you how viable a working partnership between your agency and their organization is. If they describe lofty, impossible ambitions, you can proactively have a frank conversation about what your agency can realistically do for them.
5. Budget Information
This might be the most important point to consider on this list. It underscores almost every other section addressed here. If a company’s budget isn’t sufficient, then you won’t be able to do much for its challenges, goals, and vision.
It might go without saying, but clients need to be able to afford your services. If the budget they provide in this section isn’t where it needs to be, you’ll have to see if they’re willing to bump that figure up.
If their budget meets your standards, this section acts as a reference point for the resources you’ll be able to allocate to assist the client.
This section often serves as a starting point for shaping the way you serve this client. You’ll gain valuable reference points for understanding how the company in question operates. With this information, you can research how companies in the potential client’s industry function.
You can see the strategies their competitors are employing and determine whether your agency can leverage those tactics. If you see that competitors’ operations are totally foreign to your services, you might decide that their company isn’t a good fit for you.
7. Room for Any Information or Questions That Might Not Have Been Covered
What else do your potential clients need you to know? Do they have any relevant information that you didn’t ask for? And beyond that, is there anything else they’d like to know from you?
Start those conversations with your intake form. These questions are general enough to fill in any cracks that the previous sections might have left unknown.
Client Intake Form Examples
Now that we’ve covered the basics you’ll want to include in a client intake form, let’s take a look at some real-life examples.
Wedding planner Julie Lindenman includes lots of thoughtful questions on her intake form, asking her clients questions like how they met, how they proposed, and what are their favorite things — enabling her to deliver a personalized experience.
What we like: This client intake form includes questions specific to Julie’s business. If you would benefit from knowing certain specifics up front, be sure to ask.
Pro tip: Go beyond the basics. Ask your clients questions that will enable you to deliver an above-and-beyond client experience.
Think of a law firm intake form, and you probably imagine filling out pages and pages of documents. Maybe a PDF, if you’re lucky. Employment law firm Dunsmore Law makes the intake process super simple with a streamlined online intake form that sticks to the essential questions they need to get started.
Pro tip: If you work in a complex field, keep your initial intake simple. You can always ask more questions once clients are onboarded.
Online business manager Erika Macauley has a super-clear intake form that asks clients exactly what services they want, what their timeline is, and what kind of budget they have to work with. These simple questions can help Erika determine if the potential client is a fit.
Pro tip: Ask qualifying questions about project scope, timeline, and budget to determine which prospects are right for you.
Simplicity is a virtue when it comes to intake forms. Tre Accounting knows that asking for too much detail can overwhelm their prospective clients, so they stick to high-level questions with their intake form. Their accounting team can always go into more depth later.
Pro tip: Deliver a fast, simple intake experience that’s easy for prospective clients to complete.
Create a Quality Client Intake Form
Not everything is meant to be. And it’s easy to waste a lot of time chasing down an opportunity that might blow up in your face. With a well-crafted client intake form, you can get ahead of those potential duds and keep your agency running as efficiently as possible.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.