Often when creative agencies are not awarded a project, we don’t hear the reason why. We like to learn from all the projects we do, as well as from the ones we don’t do. Constructive criticism is a great way to learn and to make improvements, if needed.

If we don’t know the reason the project didn’t come our way, we don’t know what adjustments to make for future projects. Maybe it’s as simple as a due date. Maybe we provided a normal turnaround schedule and the potential client needs it quicker but didn’t share the due date when asking for the estimate. If they tell us that, we can easily change the timing to accommodate their schedule.

Sometimes it just comes down to a lack of communication or a misunderstanding of what adjustments are possible. Such knowledge is beneficial to both the agency and the marketing director, because there may be another project down the road that would be a good fit.

Other times, it’s company procedure for marketing directors to get bids from 3 agencies for a project because the decision will be price-driven.

Once the decision is made, it’s okay to tell the 2 non-winners that the decision was based on price, and they were not the lowest quote. We can live with that. Even though we never like to lose new business opportunities, we appreciate knowing why we didn’t get the work.

Not long ago we had an excellent introductory meeting with a potential new client. He came to our office and spent quite a bit of time with us looking at our work, talking to our team, and discussing their creative needs in depth. We even shared some concept ideas with him that we came up with during our lengthy meeting.

The next step was to get one of the principals of his company in for a photoshoot. After a few calls and emails on my part trying to set up a day and time to connect, the communication stopped, and my calls and emails went unanswered. I would love to know what happened—not just because I’d like to try to convince him to change his mind and use us—but so that we can learn from the experience and have closure.

I will stop calling if they’ve moved on; I will touch base in 6 months if they want some time to think through the project or if their budget was put on hold. I can offer to scout a location for them if they’ve changed their minds about a studio shoot. Or, if they didn’t think we were a good fit for them, I can learn from their feedback.

I do understand that nobody likes to give bad news, and it’s so much easier and more comfortable to avoid answering your phone then to pass along bad news. I feel the same way! But when someone asks directly, “Can you tell me why you didn’t select us,” I tell the person in the nicest way I can. I always try to begin by talking about the positives of the person or business, and then share the reason it wasn’t a good fit. It goes much smoother for both parties that way.