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How to Take Client Critique Like a Pro

Nobody likes hearing that their work fell short. But how we respond to critique can be the difference between growth and losing a client.
a young man appearing to give critique or feedback to a colleague

Good marketers know how vital client relationships are for long-term success. We pour creativity into crafting campaigns, logos, or SEO strategies, and then wait for the client’s approval—or, sometimes, their critique.

Nobody likes hearing their work isn’t good enough. But how we respond to that feedback can be the difference between creative growth and losing the trust of a client.

Critique, even when it stings, is a growth opportunity. It’s a chance to enhance, refine, and solidify not only your skills as a creator and a marketer but also to bolster your client relationships. Let’s explore how you can successfully and constructively accept and integrate client feedback on marketing materials.

Negative vs. Constructive Feedback

First things first: Not all feedback is created equal. There is negative feedback, and then there is bad feedback. Bad feedback is often vague, providing no concrete avenues for improvement. It’s the difference between hearing “I don’t like it” versus “The color scheme didn’t evoke the emotions I was hoping for.” The former puts you on the defensive; the latter gives you a starting point for revisions. 

Negative feedback often originates from emotional reactions, while constructive feedback is more analytical, aiming for better outcomes. This is when it’s important to remember that your clients hired you specifically because they aren’t a marketer—they might not be able to say exactly what it is that doesn’t work. They aren’t looking at your work analytically.

You need a small ego and thick skin if you want to be able to take criticism productively. Just because feedback is bad doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. At the same time, just because your first effort wasn’t on target doesn’t mean your second one can’t be. Your next job after receiving feedback is to figure out how to translate your client’s criticism into actions you can deliver.

The Art of Specificity

The best feedback is laser-focused on particulars. This can be tough to get from clients, who often can’t put their finger on why they aren’t feeling it—they just know they aren’t. Imagine a client telling you, “The social media post doesn’t resonate with our brand.” On the one hand, it’s not very specific. The only guideline one could surmise is to redo the social media post to be more on-brand. 

But on the other hand, this feedback is still valuable if you start digging into specifics. What does “resonate with our brand” mean? Is it the tone, the messaging, or perhaps the visuals? Were you working from a brand book or some other guideline? The more details you can suss out, the better you’ll be able to revise. Specificity provides a roadmap for modifications that can elevate the project to new heights.

You Won’t Know If You Don’t Ask

When feedback is vague or ambiguous, don’t hesitate to ask clarifying questions. If a client remarks, “This doesn’t look right,” probe for more information. Is it the choice of image, the layout, or something else? Often, it’s a personal reason you’d never even be able to guess. 

Asking open-ended questions can reveal underlying concerns that the client couldn’t initially articulate. Once you learn those, you’ll have a new layer of knowledge of what that client likes and doesn’t like.

Accept, Reflect, and Plan

Once you have the feedback, take a moment to digest it. It’s often even useful to imagine that you are the client and that you wrote this feedback. This allows you to separate yourself from the work and see the comments as an opportunity, rather than a personal attack. After thoughtful consideration, map out how you intend to address the concerns. This plan will serve as your guide for revisions and also demonstrate to the client that you’ve taken their insights seriously.

Referencing Industry Benchmarks

There will be times when a client’s feedback clashes with best practices. In such instances, it’s beneficial to reference data or industry benchmarks that support your approach; however, do not do this reactively. It can read as defensive. Grounding your creative decisions in best practices is not about saying the client is wrong; it’s about showing them why a particular method is considered effective.

And then, at the end of the day, if they feel strongly about it, they can still choose to do it their way—but at least they will have done it armed with the recommendation of an expert.

The Art of Diplomacy

Taking client feedback doesn’t mean you’re relinquishing the steering wheel. Your expertise still plays a significant role in the project. It’s crucial to find a balance between incorporating client preferences and sticking to marketing best practices. 

Sometimes, this involves a diplomatic explanation to persuade the client why a particular course is the wisest to follow. If you can provide analytics or reporting data that demonstrates the efficacy of your plan, it will feel much less like a battle of opinions and more like collaboration.

Flexibility within Frameworks

Your client’s input matters, but being flexible doesn’t mean you should be a pushover. Establish a framework for your project and remain open to client input within those boundaries. This strategy ensures that you accommodate their wishes without derailing the project’s core objectives.

Communication is Key

Feedback should be a dialogue—a two-way street that necessitates openness and understanding from both parties. Always be prepared to explain your rationale, to show how you’ve incorporated previous feedback, and to ask for clarification when needed. The communication loop should be continuous and transparent, ensuring everyone is on the same page throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Constructive client feedback is not an obstacle, but a stepping stone. It challenges us to refine our skills, deepen our understanding, and ultimately, deliver marketing materials that not only meet but exceed client expectations. 

So, the next time you find an email full of client comments, take a deep breath and remember that you’ve just been handed a gift—one that, if approached with the right mindset, can lead to unparalleled growth and lasting professional relationships.

Travis Souders

Travis Souders

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