How Saying NO to Customers can Benefit your Business

Here is an interesting news story we came across this week – Domino’s is launching an advertising campaign in which they claimed that they will NOT allow customers to customize their artisan pizza. Customers cannot add any more toppings to the pizza recipe. Domino’s claims that they have painstakingly perfected their artisan pizza recipe over several months and they refuse to let customers mess with it.
On the face of it, this sounds a bit weird and even risky. How can you say NO to customers who are paying with their own money? They can demand whatever they want with their money. But when you think about it some more their advertising makes sense. In fact, we would argue that saying NO to customers may work brilliantly in their favor. Allow us to explain why it is necessary to say NO to customers once in a while.

  • It helps you position as an authority of your industry. In this world when everyone bends over backwards to do just about anything customers ask for – whether it makes sense or not – saying no tells them you know what we are doing and you are doing the right thing that is in the best interest of customers. It helps you send consistent message to your customers.
  • It gives impression to your customers that your business cares about quality of products. Domino’s claims that by adding toppings in their artisan pizza the customers will ruin the experience of artisan pizza they have worked so hard to perfect. It tells them – we will not compromise with our quality.
  • Even though customers’ first reaction may be negative, deep inside their mind they will like the firm stand your business takes. In fact, they want the businesses to say no when it is not in their interest. After all, customers look at you as an expert who knows about your business. And in this world of countless choices they do want genuine, expert opinion even if it is in the form of NO.
  • It may happen that you will lose some customers as a result of saying no, and that’s fine. You don’t want all customers anyway. As we have discussed earlier, not all customers are created equal – you have to pick the “right” ones that match your business.
  • Finally, the publicity you get from this quirky approach is something that will not be matched by other types of marketing. Just the fact that we are writing this story about Domino’s proves it. After so many years we still remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld television series, right?

Now, you cannot just start saying NO without anything to back that. It may work for Domino’s because this is the next logical step in the evolution of their business and advertising. They launched a ‘Mea Culpa’ advertising campaign couple of years ago when sales had hit low and customers were fed up with their quality. In it they accepted the problems they were having and compared their pizza to cardboard. At the same time, the CEO promised to go on the offense and make it better. And it worked brilliantly. Their sales increased significantly after that and the stock shoot up 233 percent since the launch of that campaign. This new campaign is the next chapter in their journey. And we have a feeling this will take them further to new heights.
What do you think – will Domino’s new advertising campaign work? Why or why not?


  1. Great post Harry!

    I think different businesses call for different reactions to customers. Sometimes, the “customer is always right” mantra works best, but other industries, like Brad mentioning creative firms, or I know with my family contracting business, the customer needs to be told because you really do know best. They hire you for your expertise, and sometimes that expertise means turning down their suggestion. Now I’m hungry for some Dominos :).


    • SmallBizViewpoints says:

      Meredith – Thanks for your feedback. I think when you are an expert and you know what is right for your customer you have obligation to say NO and give proper advice. Your customers will eventually thank you for that even if they may not initially like it.


  2. I absolutely agree about taking a firm but strategic stand with saying “no” to customer, some of the time. As business owners, we are looking out for the of our customers’ interest as well as our own. As you mentioned, companies that strive to always bend over backwards to provide anything for their clients/ customers will end up shooting themselves in foot because the delivery and/ or quality of their service will poorly be administered and then they’re left with an upset customer and a new issue to resolve.

  3. We say no to customers every single week because of capacity. I own a small custom cake business and just can’t take all orders – we are fully or overbooked every single week. It has created an illusion of exclusivity and we find ourselves with more inquiries than ever before – people have learned, or heard, that they have to order weeks or even months ahead of time to be sure of getting their mitts on one of our cakes!

    We also say no to requests for allergy-friendly cakes. We use allergens every day in the business (milk, flour, eggs, nuts, almonds…….) and can, legally, never guarantee an allergen-free product (plus it takes extra time and energy to source allergen-free products PLUS develop formulae using those ingredients – time spent away from other, more lucrative cake orders).

  4. This is a terrific concept. I work with a lot of creative firms — and when clients feel like they are in charge of a creative project — when they are directing the creative work, things go terribly wrong. When you have expertise it’s important to demonstrate that expertise when your client challenges you, or tries to go the wrong direction.

    Other good times to say “no”: When you have capacity issues, when your client is making a mistake, is rude or abusive…

    • SmallBizViewpoints says:

      Brad – good points about other times when you should say “no”. Thanks for bringing them up.

  5. This is an interesting idea. I can’t help but think of my special-diet friends and how this inability to customize based on those special diets might affect their choices. There seems to be a rather large difference between asking for extra pepperoni and asking to hold an ingredient that for some renders the entire pizza inedible…

    • SmallBizViewpoints says:

      Sarah – Domino’s says that they WILL allow customers to remove toppings from the pizza based on their special needs. They will not let customers add extra toppings even if they are willing to pay extra for it.


  1. […] that will appreciate it and pay the price at which you will make reasonable profit. You have to learn to say NO to those customers that do not align with your […]

  2. says:

    How Saying NO to Customers can Benefit your Business…

    Domino’s advertising in which they refuse customers to make changes to artisan pizza may work brilliantly. This post explains why you have to say NO to customers once in a while….