You Don’t Need to Do That: How to Eliminate the Unessential & Create More Effective Marketing

Saying “yes” to every request that comes our way makes our lives pleasant for a moment and incredibly difficult in the long run.

Simplicity has come into its own. It’s a fashion statement. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a magazine, for Pete’s sake. So why is it so easy to complicate things and so hard to simplify? We admire the notion, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to let go.

Most of us are trained to say “yes” automatically to just about every request that comes our way. We are rewarded by a happy smile when a boss, a coworker, a spouse, a friend asks us to take on something new and we agree. It’s a bias that makes our lives pleasant for a moment and incredibly difficult in the long run.

The same thing happens in our work. Our clients ask for more – without eliminating anything already agreed to – and we end up with “scope creep.” Of course, many of those requests are good ones, so just switching our bias from always saying “yes” to always saying “no” would not be productive.

Beyond just scope creep, the real problem with saying “yes” to everything is that you aren’t able to move the needle on anything. If you move 10 projects an inch versus moving one project ten times further, which choice ultimately has more impact? If the client wants to test every idea that pops into their head, we end up with an overly complicated testing plan that exhausts our resources just to get it out the door.

At our agency, we’ve taken a disciplined approach to saying “no” to the things that don’t help our clients reach their goals.

When there’s a trade-off to be made, we make sure we’re aware of the risks and are willing to accept them. We have found that most of the time, eliminating steps actually reduces the risks we were afraid of. For example, when we took out several proofreading steps from a particular process, we (obviously) saved time. Plus, we actually caught more errors, because the proofers realized they were the only ones who would be checking for errors. By working without a backup, they took their role more seriously.

For one client, we began presenting ideas earlier in our creative process. We used to fully blow out our concepts, and the client would select only one or two ideas out of a dozen. Now we involve our client in the ideation process – and the selection is more about the idea than the executional details (like color choices or fonts).

We have discovered that saying “no” or changing procedures has been a win-win rather than the higher risk we had expected.


This article was written by Alyssa Liliequist, Account Director, HackerAgency