How to set your kickoff meeting up for success

Irit Eizips shows you how to leverage kickoff meetings to take control of the customer onboarding journey.
April 24, 2023
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At Propel23, Irit Eizips, Chief Customer Officer and CEO at CSM Practice, shared the secret to designing effective and efficient kickoff meetings that set the stage for a seamless customer onboarding experience.

In this session, Irit spoke about:

  1. The pre-kickoff ‘welcome’ call
  2. Six areas to include in your kickoff agenda
  3. The CS-focused agenda for kickoff calls
  4. Tips and tricks to ensure engagement in kickoff meetings
  5. Additional resources and recommendations

This post provides key takeaways from the session.

The kickoff call: The cure to misaligned expectations

Misaligned expectations can quickly derail the customer onboarding process. Irit emphasized that these discrepancies often arise from unrealistic expectations set during the sales phase. This expectation mismatch can lead to inadequate resource allocation, resistance to internal changes, and failure to consider compliance and integration challenges at the customer end.

Kickoff meetings offer an opportunity to identify these issues and lay a foundation for building trust with customers.

The pre-kickoff ‘welcome’ call 

Irit recommends conducting a pre-kickoff 'welcome' call with key stakeholders prior to the official kickoff call. This preliminary call helps identify all stakeholders relevant to the project, beyond those involved in the buying process. 

You can also use this call to communicate the seniority/experience of the team members participating in the kickoff from your end. This will set the right expectations – and ensure that customers also bring the right level of stakeholders from their end to the kickoff.


A welcome (or handover) call with executives on the customer side can help you identify:

  1. All stakeholders involved in the project (not just those involved in the buying process)
  2. Key members who need to attend the kickoff call 
  3. What to convey to each stakeholder during the meeting

Focus areas for a customer onboarding kickoff meeting

As part of your prep for the kickoff call, here are the key areas to focus on:

  1. Project scope: Understand the scope you’ve inherited from the sales team and assess its practicality  
  2. Customer research: Read up about the client, their business, the industry, and recent developments (mergers, acquisitions, major projects, etc.)
  3. Risks: Identify any internal and external risks to discuss during kickoff; anticipate questions and concerns 
  4. Alignment: Identify your internal team members  (solution architects, implementation experts, etc.) who will participate in the kickoff and lay down their role in the meeting; Agenda: Develop a CS-focused agenda for the kickoff meeting (explained below)

A Customer Success-focused kickoff agenda

Your kickoff meeting should cover at least these six key areas: introductions, project overview, roles and responsibilities, communication plans, action items and next steps, Q&A.

Here’s how you can take a customer success-focused approach to each of these areas:

1. Introductions

Modify your introductions to dive deeper to understand the roles of all stakeholders in onboarding, their expectations, desired business outcomes, and success indicators for them.

Pro tip: Personalize!
58% of customers say it is crucial that they receive a personalized experience (Source: State of the Connected Customer). Tailor your kickoff agenda, talk track, or slides according to the customer – say by adding their pictures or talking about the company in some way.

2. Project overview 

Instead of limiting the project overview discussion to the project scope, project plan, Gantt charts, etc., focus on these questions:

  • Why did the executive team opt for your solution?
  • What’s in it for them and the team?
  • What is the key use case to focus on during customer onboarding?
  • What cases can you focus on post-onboarding?
  • What do you need from the customer during onboarding?
  • What best practices should they keep in mind?
  • How did customer onboarding for your best customers look?

3. Roles and responsibilities

During the kickoff, focus on identifying the key contacts and when you can contact them, any potential bandwidth issues, expected response times, approvals, certifications, tests, etc., needed before go-live.

4. Communication plans

As part of the communication plan, confirm the channels for communication, the key stakeholders to involve, time zones to consider, etc.

5. Action items and next steps 

Look at the onboarding timeline and beyond. This includes discussing the use case(s) covered during customer onboarding, and then, touching upon post-onboarding use cases. 

A discussion on the next steps should cover at least: 

  1. Action items to immediately follow the kickoff meeting
  2. Tasks to get started with onboarding the customer
  3. Expected timelines
  4. Critical tasks 
  5. Additional resources to support tasks and their completion

6. Q&A

Prepare for questions that customers might have. In addition, include questions that you want to ask them.

For instance, the kickoff is a great time to ask customers if they’d be willing to participate in a webinar for other customers, share an online review, or feature in a case study.

Three tips to make kickoff meetings more engaging

  • Inspire your audience:  Use inspirational quotes and customer testimonials in your presentation to bring an element of motivation and trust-building to the meeting.
  • Make it personal: Share personal anecdotes and connect on a human level by infusing aspects of your team into the conversation (say by sharing an anecdote or a picture of your family, etc.)
  • Meet the clients where they are: Ensure that you offer your clients a host of different resources using different channels. Here are a few examples:

Irit’s recommendation and resources for customer onboarding and kickoffs

Video: Preparing for your Customer Welcome Call 

Templates for kickoff meetings: CSM Practice’s Resource Library

Further reading

  1. Looking for a beginner’s guide to kickoff meetings? We’ve got you covered. 
  2. For another expert take on kickoff meetings, check out our conversation with Kristi Faltorusso on the Partnership Kickoff Model
  3. Design your kickoff meeting based on learnings from hundreds of customer onboarding journeys. Download our ebook to kick ass in your kickoff meetings.

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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