How to say ‘no’ as a digital marketer
You should challenge yourself to say 'no' more often. Here are three strategies to help you decline with grace.
If you say “yes” to one thing, then you are saying “no” to something else.
Our time is finite, so when you accept to take on a project, task or experiment, you are declining many other activities you could be doing instead.
It is critical to be intentional about when to say “yes” and “no.”
As digital marketers, we should challenge ourselves to say “no” more often to:
- SEO campaigns doomed to fail due to a lack of holistic planning.
- Marketing technology that is below budget but does not meet our needs.
- Unnecessary meetings where nothing is accomplished.
Saying “no” is powerful.
Here are some strategies for saying “no” as a digital marketer.
1. Use data
Since you already use data to gain buy-in, why not use it to justify your “no”?
Data is abundant in digital marketing, so it is critical to wield it wisely. It is imperative to use relevant, timely and concise data.
Consider all relevant data sources, even those less obvious.
For example, if you are advising against launching a new campaign on Google Ads, then, use Google Ads data.
Also, pull any relevant data from other paid channels to paint a holistic picture (i.e., lead and revenue data from your CRM, among other sources).
Use timely data to ensure your decision is aligned with market trends and recent performance.
Making your case using data from two years ago will not be as effective as using data from the last quarter.
Your audience will most likely agree with your argument if you use the most recent data available.
You need to present a persuasive narrative now that you have relevant and timely data.
One key to convincing arguments is being concise and not sharing unnecessary, distracting details.
If you have a strong argument, then brevity is your friend.
However, data may not support your argument if you do not have relevant, timely, or can be conveyed concisely.
Instead, lean into your digital marketing expertise and trust your gut to rationalize your “no.” Remember your decisions should be data-informed, not data-dependent.
Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.
2. Use your expertise
You were hired based on your skills and experience, so lean into your expertise and trust your gut when explaining your “no.”
That said, be sure to make your argument calm, rational, and compelling. Be willing to listen and understand alternative ideas.
This will be easier said than done, depending on the audience and your relationship to that audience.
If you have a mature working relationship with a client based on mutual trust and respect, then how you say “no” can be as easy as a five-minute conversation that uses anecdotal stories to paint a convincing narrative.
However, conversations may require more finesse if the relationship is in its infancy or on rocky waters.
Trusting your gut may be pragmatic if time is short and an answer is needed immediately.
The further you are into your career as a digital marketer then, the more experience and knowledge you have built up to empower yourself to trust your gut when deciding.
If you are more junior, consider asking for help and advice from a seasoned practitioner.
3. Use goals and prioritization
Clear goals and priorities benefit any professional relationship.
Without such a foundation, you may jump from one project to another without any direction or connection to a larger purpose.
Relatedly, goals and prioritization can be utilized to justify your “no.”
When a request comes your way that does not work toward or accomplish one of the agreed-upon goals, saying “no” can be as simple as pointing to your goals and showing how the request does not align.
This can open the door for disagreement and “scope creep” if the requestor rejects your argument.
Your relationship with the requestor should determine how much you push back. The importance of the request within larger business goals should also be a consideration.
For example, if a request serves no larger business purpose, then “no” may be appropriate.
On the other hand, if the request serves a larger business purpose, that may justify saying “yes.”
That said, disagree until you have understood the request in the context of its prioritization relative to all other outstanding and planned requests.
Understanding prioritization is essential to making an informed decision.
Without prioritization, nothing is a priority. Prioritization is critical to ensuring we spend our time efficiently.
Agreed-upon goals are a great start, and prioritizing them will clarify which ones are more urgent and which can wait until later.
Experienced digital marketers should always encourage clients to agree upon prioritizing goals.
Using prioritization to say “no” can be as straightforward as first identifying the goal that the request aligns with (if it does not align, then consider saying “no”) and prioritization of the goal relative to your current work.
If the request relates to a lower-priority goal, then say “no” and explain that you are currently focusing on requests related to higher-priority goals.
Goals and their importance change over time and must be flexible to evolving business environments.
While changing goals and prioritization is not uncommon, constantly changing them makes creating them pointless and leaves your resources and people confused and frustrated.
Saying ‘no’ gracefully
There is no right or wrong way to say no. Your approach for declining a request lies within the context of the time, place and people involved.
But using the data, leaning into your expertise (trusting your gut), and understanding the alignment with goals and prioritization will enable you to present the most cogent “no” possible.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
New on Search Engine Land