Why “No” from a Client isn’t Always a Bad Thing

“No” is a part of life for marketing professionals. When you hear it, don’t panic. Take a breath, and start planning your next move.

The agency-client relationship is a delicate balance between working together towards a common goal, and managing influences and expectations placed upon both agency and brand respectively. As a result, yes, sometimes, we agency folk can hear “no.” No to a creative territory, a recommendation, a music choice, or perhaps a request for more time or budget ;). It’s a fact of agency life, but it doesn’t need to be cause for despair.  Here are a couple of things to remember when you hear that dreaded “no.”


It’s not personal.

It’s easy and understandable to get frustrated when a client says “no”. Sure, nobody likes to see hours of work unceremoniously tossed aside. But clients have a job to do too – that “no” is as purposeful as the very thing they’re not accepting. So instead of getting defensive, try to have a constructive conversation with your client about where you missed the mark. They’re usually happy to give their input. And while you may or may not agree with their input, it’s your/our job to listen, understand, state your case, then ultimately turn their frown upside down. 

There are different kinds of ‘No.’

Clients may reject an idea for all kinds of reasons. At one end of the spectrum, there are ‘subjective’ reasons; maybe the idea reminds them of a bad date, or they detest the piano, so the music is a no go. Those kinds of reasons are hard to turn around. And then there are more ‘objective’ reasons; Perhaps strategically it’s not quite right, or there is a competitor with a similar RTB. When that happens, table the idea for the time being, but keep it on the client’s radar going forward, because with a few tweaks, you never know when you might get the chance to bring that idea back to life.


An outside opinion is sometimes the best one.

It’s easy for us to become attached to our own work – sometimes too attached. At times, we can benefit from fresh eyes to truly judge its merit. Even though a project may get scrutinized by several parties within an agency, there’s no substitute for a third party that hasn’t been involved in its creation. What seems like a sure-fire success to one group of people might lack the proper context to another. Sometimes “No” can save us from ourselves.

There’s always another way.

As painful as it is to see a promising idea die on the operating table, it’s never the end of the line. If you can come up with one good idea, you can come up with another. Use this as an opportunity to reset and find new ways in. It’s likely that you’ll end up with something you like even more in the end.


“No” is part of life for marketing professionals, and singles alike. But it doesn’t have to be a dirty word. When you hear it, don’t panic. Take a breath, and start planning your next move. As frustrating as it can be, there’s always life after “No.”