Unleashing The Power Of The Positive No

When was the last time you said NO to a brief? An internal initiative? An ask of the sales team? A marketing opportunity?

It isn’t easy is it? As the battle for market share intensifies, challenging a company missive or a brief – let alone saying no to any part of it – can seem like an act of sabotage. It’s easy to feel overpowered by the  ‘sales-wins-all’ mentality and cave in to what they’re asking for – whether or not it feels like the wrong decision for the longer term.

As customers become more sophisticated – and more demanding with more nuanced needs it’s becoming increasingly evident that this approach has to change. Sales people can’t be expected to always monitor customer needs or be equipped with the right business conversations to maximise every client opportunity on their own – they need marketing to help them stay closer at every stage of the complex buying journey. And marketing teams can’t get close to customers on their own either – they need access to those essential sales insights and customer realities. The subtleties of this interaction are changing – creating an opportunity for marketers to be bolder, and flex their muscle and turn saying ‘no’ into a positive concept.

So, what is the positive no? And how do you master it?

It’s all in the definition

Embracing the positive NO is about realising that saying NO to a proposed method doesn’t mean saying NO to the desired outcome. Often, sales teams – or clients – will come to marketers asking for a specific campaign or marketing mechanic because sometimes it’s easier to ask for something tried and tested (but not necessarily right at the time) than taking a more risky, but potentially game-changing new approach. It’s up to marketing to provide strategic direction here – by providing an alternative that will deliver results. Not just repeat history. Marketing must be the guardian of the long term, as well as the short term.

Is NO always the right answer? Of course not (unless perhaps you want a new job!). But when unleashed, it can be the greatest enabler of focus. And focus equals differentiation. And differentiation is ultimately what the brief, the sales team, marketing and your client demand. So next time you are reviewing a brief, maybe ask yourself…

  • Is there strategic insight within it? Is it customer focused – if not, then why are you bothering?
  • Is it outcome focused?
  • Are you trying to do something that’s actually achievable?
  • Are you doing something different?

If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then maybe the brief needs to be pulled apart and put back together. And that NO may lead you somewhere a whole lot more interesting…

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