A client relationship is a precious thing. It has to be built, nurtured, coddled, and cradled at every step. And just like any relationship, from a love affair to a friendship to a new job, those first steps are critical. The tenor and vibe of the honeymoon period can make or break the future of the collaboration.
In the early days of Base Beauty Creative Agency, now celebrating our sweet 16th birthday, I felt as if I had to say yes to every request, sign on every client, and make my tiny team scramble to complete every project by the deadline, even when the deadlines were unreasonable. I was building a business and thought that more was always more. It took me years to realize that sometimes “no thank you” or “not right now” can be the appropriate response—always said nicely, of course.
Now when I get a call for a massive project that must be delivered in six weeks, my QC radar kicks in, and I’ll let the caller know that while we would love to work with them, we can’t deliver the high-quality work they deserve in that time frame. It’s fascinating how people respond to that honesty and the respect for their business it communicates. Time and time again, these graceful turndowns have opened up future opportunities on a schedule that works for everyone and inspires needle-moving work.
A recent experience at our agency illustrates why I have become an advocate for slow marketing. We were tasked with a complete rebrand for a dermatologist-founded skin-care line. We were fortunate that this client was interested in quality over speed from the beginning; they had a reasonable timeline that worked for us and meant we didn’t have to ask them to slow down. Their “whatever-you-need” attitude was a pleasure, but this was not by accident. It grew out of the trust we built with them from day one with our usual procedure: an in-depth kick-off call, a deep dive into the brand’s history, an unhurried discovery phase, careful reviews of our findings, and meetings with the R&D team, sales team, founder, skin-health pros in their network, retailers—all stakeholders.
We learned what worked for them and what didn’t and their current pain points. We thoroughly researched their competition. All of this clarified for us their differentiation. With every phase, we were developing trust and respect. The rebrand took a year from start to finish. The work was enjoyable and careful, without fire drills or middle-of-the-night panic attacks. The project resulted in a close and lasting relationship with this client and a textbook case of how creative marketing should work.
Another example of slow marketing success comes from a hair care client who was initially taken aback that our kick-off/discovery phase took almost six weeks. When we presented our meticulous findings based on client input and our own research, their first response was, “We already know all this.” Our reply was, “Now we do, too.” It confirmed that everyone on the client side was on the same page with their messaging and their project goals so that we could proceed with clear direction and without internal confusion. And within this already-known background, we were able to come in with a fresh POV and mine story nuggets and key takeaways that they had never seen. That’s the magic of our data-driven creativity, it allows us to read between the lines, identify opportunities, and drive the brand forward in impactful ways. This project once again underscored the importance of our deliberate and detailed process.
And if we needed more proof that our “slow-and-steady-wins-the-
When I think back to those always-say-yes early years and look at what I’ve learned, I think of other entrepreneurs and founders who must experience that same need to take on work no matter what. It’s an understandable instinct during an uncertain beginning when just bringing in work—any work—to pay the bills can seem paramount.
Our agency is much bigger now with more experience and resources and in a better position to produce work faster. But just because we can say yes doesn’t mean we always should. Today we always weigh the cost of trying to fit the square-peg project into our round-hole schedule, not the dollar cost but the toll the crunch takes on our team, our relationship with the client, and possibly our reputation since rushing rarely produces the best work. We say “yes” whenever we can, but we no longer shy away from saying “no thank you” when the project and its timing are not the right fit. I realize that being able to turn down work that doesn’t work for us is a luxury. But I suggest to others, even those in earlier phases of growth, to consider every aspect of that “yes.” And remember that it’s okay to say no sometimes—always with a smile.
Jodi Katz is founder and CEO of Base Beauty Creative Agency, a successful New York-based creative and digital marketing agency with a 16-year track record of attracting and retaining clients and employees. She has built Base Beauty into a well-respected, 25-person agency with a client roster that includes both household names and up-and-coming brands on track for growth or acquisition. In addition to running Base Beauty, she hosts the top-rated podcast Where Brains Meets Beauty, with over 200 episodes focusing on the personal backstories of beauty and wellness leaders. She also recently co-authored the book Facing the Seduction of Success, inspired by the podcast, which looks at how beauty industry professionals balance leading in business while living their lives beyond work. Katz is a frequent panelist and speaker at industry events.