Companies Need to Stop Saying ‘We’ve Gone in a Different Direction’

Let’s all practice more human replies

Illustration of a tombstone
Let's retire this tired phrase. Kacy Burdette
Headshot of Shannon Gabor

Every agency that has bid for new business has heard this more than once: ‘We’ve gone in another direction.’ It elicits an eye roll or smirk because if we put a bet on what the message was going to contain after a no response, we would all be rich in client losses. 

This phrase should no longer be used. Let’s retire it once and for all. 

While you think you are sparing our feelings, you are in fact leaving us in a stagnant state preventing future growth and future wins. A non-answer does not respect the process to which we agreed to engage. You asked for high-level thinking, thoughtful responses and in some instances, our point of view. So why not provide the same in return? Give us the same critical thinking, thoughtful response and productive point of view.

Let’s all practice more human replies, put in the effort to let the non-chosen know why that was the case and represent not just the company but our professional selves in a manner that others will admire and respect. 

Straightforward, polite and productive responses shape the character of your brand. So after an agency spends hours on the upfront, responsibly replying to your RFP or project proposal, please show them your character—and give them the opportunity to thrive and grow from each experience. 

Don’t water a diluted reply, when you can be oil, a substance that always rises to the top. Rise up and consider these prompts when evaluating the truth and tell us. We can handle it, I promise.

Be specific: Tell us what did not strike a chord or in one arena we fell short.

Be honest: Know direct feedback leads to growth and learning.

Be helpful: Offer sparing the details; consider sharing one key reason you chose the selected agency.

Above all, be human and ask yourself if that tired phrase actually is what you want to say, or can you extend a thoughtful reply that will take longer than copy and pasting the same sentence to all agencies you considered? There’s no doubt it will be received with gratitude. Providing that little bit of feedback may actually soften the blow for the agency hoping to win your business. After 15 years as the owner and operator of an independent branding agency, one thing I know for sure is that being human never lets you down. 

Let’s all practice more human replies, put in the effort to let the non-chosen know why that was the case and represent not just the company, but our professional selves in a manner that others will admire and respect. 

Agency teams put in the work, effort, energy and heart focusing on your brand or business. At the very least, give them feedback that is helpful, human and honest. This truthful feedback will bring clarity rather than these questions:

  • Was it budget-related?
  • Were the key decision makers nervous because they had never heard of the agency? 
  • Did you decide to keep it in-house or work with your current no-risk agency partner who knows your brand/business inside out?
  • Was our proposal point of view different from your internal vision?
  • Did you choose to work with someone local to avoid travel costs?
  • What was missing from our proposal or our process? Validated experience? Understanding of the market or your consumer?

It is in these truths that we all grow, we flourish and we see the areas where we can improve for next time around and find success in a future win. Think of it as the most human thing you can do in the moment and investment back into people you may cross paths with again.


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@clevercreative Shannon Gabor is the CCO and founder of Clever Creative.
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