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Did My Agency Really Just Tell Me No?


I will be the first person to tell you that in a case of customer service, the individual servicing should never say no. Quite frankly even when it comes to professional services, such as marketing, the word no is also a no-no. They should at least have some other solutions for you before that word is mentioned.

However, based on the title of this post, you have probably already guessed that I plan to explain why it’s important that, as an advertising/marketing professional, it is sometimes required to tell our clients no. Now let me explain why that’s a good thing.

In the famous words of Big Tom Callahan (RIP): “Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?” Well, it’s easy to say yes and it’s easy to agree with a client when they are making requests. But, in all honesty, isn’t it our job to make sure you are not doing something that will negatively affect your business or marketing goals?

In my 25 years of doing this, I am confident that I would not have made it to 25 years if I just always agreed with my clients’ requests and just did exactly what they asked for. With that said, let me be clear on the difference between a good no and a self-serving no.

I rarely say no when a client asks to tweak a design, a color, make-the-logo-bigger type stuff. After all, a lot of design is personal opinion. You must like it. If it does not negatively affect the messaging of your advertising in any way, then do what makes you feel good.

I absolutely recognize that this may raise the hairs of many a designer, but I firmly believe that no’s should be completely justified. So, which no’s are justified? Those no’s based on vast amounts of research and knowledge of the client. What the truth is about their service or product who their audience and faithful followers are and what may negatively impact their efforts.

This article topic has been floating around in my brain for several months, so just to be clear this was not inspired by the recent marketing concerns that Bud Light is currently experiencing. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to talk about it. Okay, I brought it up, so let’s talk about it.

Regardless of whether you think their little marketing misstep was a mistake or not, I think we can all agree it negatively affected their company. I’m not here to talk about the right or wrong of it, but to only say that maybe at least one person from their marketing team or agency should have stopped and at least had a discussion about the idea. Maybe a no would have been uttered?

So, it’s our job to say no once and a while or at least get the client to say no themselves when we lay out all of the potential pitfalls of an idea. That’s our job to take that idea, research it, beat it, kick it around, pull it apart and – if that idea is still standing – it’s usually a good one.

Again, it needs to be based on research and understanding and not just our personal feelings. Saying no never feels very good, but sometimes it ends well.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.