How do we communicate a sense of urgency with clients?

An agency's job is not simply to do the work that's been promised. It's to build trust and connection with the client. Part of that is communicating shared urgency and priorities.

A common frustration clients can feel when working with agencies is a perceived lack of urgency. This is sometimes due to misaligned priorities or timelines, but sometimes it can simply be a matter of different communication styles. To maintain a positive and collaborative relationship, it’s important for account teams to maintain open lines of communication, catch signs of misalignment, anticipate needs and adjust communication to fit the client’s preferences.

Signs that your client might not feel a sense of urgency from you:

  • They are asking you for the status of projects.
  • They’re surprised when finding out something hasn’t been completed.
  • They express a desire for more results.

Here are five techniques for adjusting your communication to align with the client:

  1. Make sure you always understand your client’s top-line goals and priorities. When reporting status updates to the client, focus first on priority initiatives. If the client had previously agreed to deprioritize or delay a specific project, use phrases like “as we previously discussed, project X was moved to next month to allow more time for project Y, but we’re really looking forward to getting started on this soon” to remind the client of the agreement while still reflecting your excitement and interest.
  2. Make sure you are the one driving the project. The account team should always be advancing timelines and thinking one step ahead, instead of waiting for the client to suggest next steps.
  3. If a client is regularly asking you for updates, then anticipate this in advance. Think through what questions they might have based on that information, and provide it within your update. Think through what conclusions they might draw from the update, and suggest a conclusion based on your analysis. If your status in terms of results is the same as the week before, provide context for what you’ve done in the past week and why.
  4. When reporting a status to clients, provide micro updates. Update them on new learnings, their impact on strategy, and your impression/reaction. Involve them in the thought process. When working on company announcements that have high stakes for your client, or when you are still in the beginning stages of a client relationship and need to build trust, be sure to not only let them know what step you just took but what is coming up. For instance, “I completed our final round of pre-pitching this afternoon, and here are the results…The press release is scheduled to go out at X time tomorrow morning, and I’ll be sure to send you a link when it’s live,” followed by the promised link and an update on coverage the next day. This eases any client anxiety and lets them know that you have the announcement covered.
  5. Match your client’s speed, tone, mood and energy level. If the client is naturally fast-paced and energetic, they could misinterpret a relaxed, low-key response as lack of interest or excitement. If they’re stressed and under considerable pressure internally, they could perceive jokes and light banter as lack of seriousness. Adjust your tone and style accordingly for better rapport and trust.