Login or Join

Close this search box.

Let’s talk about bad agency pitches

Chip and Gini are tired of all of the bad pitches from agencies that they find in their inboxes. They simply can’t take any more.

In this episode, they examine some of the really poor sales emails and pitches to have guests on their podcasts that they have seen lately.

It’s time for agencies to knock it off and put more thought into how they pitch themselves and their clients.

Key takeaways

  • Chip Griffin: “It’s not a numbers game, it’s a relationships game. And so you need to think about how you scale relationships, not how you scale outreach.”
  • Gini Dietrich: “Know what your staff is doing from the perspective of creating content and using models and processes that they’ve scraped off the internet, and make sure they’re giving credit.”
  • Chip Griffin: “Outreach shouldn’t be blasting out as much as you can to as many people as you can and just hoping that enough of that sticks to the wall that you actually are able to generate business over the long run. Because in the meantime, you’ve done tremendous damage to your reputation.”
  • Gini Dietrich: “It’s about developing relationships and spending the time to build those relationships with your target audience, versus sending out as many pitches as you possibly can.”


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And Gini, I think that you need to buy, buy, buy anything I’m going to sell right now, right? And just don’t even think about it. Just buy, right? Okay, no problem. Right after this.

You know, I get really annoyed. I could probably just stop right there.

Gini Dietrich: You could stop right there. Yes, you could.

Chip Griffin: Regular listeners. Anyone who knows me will just probably be like, yeah, yes you do.

Gini Dietrich: Yes you do.

Chip Griffin: But I’ve been getting particularly annoyed lately because it seems like there are more and more of these just awful pitches that I get on email and LinkedIn from agencies trying to do business and it just boggles my mind that people are actually getting results because I presume if they’re sending this stuff out that they’re getting some level of result off of these just awful, awful sales pitches.

Gini Dietrich: So, yes, I agree, and I have been receiving some as well, but I’d love an example of some of the awful sales pitches you’re getting.

Chip Griffin: I, I mean, some of my favorites that, that are, that are ever present from web development firms, for example where they basically say your website sucks. Huh. We want to fix it. I don’t think that’s, I mean, that, that would be like, you know, a cosmetologist going out there and saying you’re ugly, but I can make that better.

Do you think you’re going to buy from that person? I, I don’t know. I just, I don’t understand the mindset of, of coming in within with what is essentially an insult of the, for all, you know, the person that you’re contacting is the person who oversaw the building of the website.

Gini Dietrich: That’s actually a great point. That’s a great point.

That’s a great point. Yep.

Chip Griffin: So, I don’t understand that kind of tactic. I don’t understand the tactic of the agencies. Again, we’re on the web dev side of things. It’s not limited to web dev, but there’s some of the examples that come to mind. Where they come in and they say, you know, I found some things on your site that are broken.

If you schedule a call with me, I’ll tell you what they are, right? I mean, again, that’s like saying, you know, you, you’ve got something unzipped, but I’m not going to tell you what, unless you schedule a call with me, how about you just tell me, you know?

Gini Dietrich: I had a really good one like that too, that they actually made a video, they made a video and they went to my website.

And they said, we’ve noticed there’s some things that need to be fixed on your website. And they were going through each page. It was like a five minute video. And saying, there are three things on this page that need to be fixed and five things on this page. And I was like, okay, like give me a taste of something.

I’m not just gonna randomly schedule a call with you. Right. And then like the follow up is obnoxious as well. The, I got, there is, the follow up to one of them I got last week that just made me roll my eyes was the typical, you know I’m, A, click one of these answers, A, I’m not interested, B, I’m too busy, C, a bookcase fell on me and I can’t get up.

Like, dumb! Dumb, dumb.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. Yeah. Those are dumb and they’re copied straight out of some, you know, someone’s sales manual. That’s exactly right. How to do these things. That’s right. I think some of the worst pitching and this is sales pitching and pitching otherwise is from podcast agencies and, and, you know, with all due respect to anyone out there who’s running a podcast agency, I’m sorry if you’re running one of the good ones, because most of them suck.

Most of them suck. And, and the pitches are just awful. Terrible. They’re terrible for me on the receiving end as a host of multiple shows where, I mean, we’ve talked about this before. We get pitches to be on the Agency Leadership Podcast, you know, cause of all those guests that we’ve had over the five years we’ve been doing this show. All zero of them.

All zero guests.

But they’re regular listeners and they love what they hear. Right. Okay. Okay. We’re starting the relationship by me understanding that you are a liar. That’s right. A lying liar who lies. And, and then you get the ones who pitch, you know, someone who’s already been on one of my shows.

Would you like to have so and so on Chats with Chip? Well, I already did, so… No, I don’t want to have that person on again. And now I’m going to blacklist them. I mean…

Gini Dietrich: I get those for Spin Sucks too, where they’re like, I loved your episode with so and so! And they’ll actually say an episode that I have done recently, but then add a guest.

I don’t do guests either. And I’m like, again, to your point, you were starting off this relationship by me understanding that you’re a liar. That’s really terrible. But my favorite Oh, go ahead. I was gonna say, my favorite is when clients forward me emails from agencies that are pitching them. And there are things like, we know you have an agency, but we can do better.

And here’s what we can do. Not only can we get you in the New York Times and USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, but we can do it for free and we won’t charge until you are placed in one of those publications all the time. Yeah. All the time.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. No, I’ve, I’ve seen. In fact, in fact, I think that may be where this, the, the idea for this show came from, because I think a week or two ago, I forwarded you one of those ones where I got a pitch from a pay for performance PR agency where they didn’t even use the agency name in the pitch.

They wanted to set up a meeting, but I had to copy whoever was in the CC because clearly they’re using some kind of appointment setter. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. And when, when your appointment setter set up is just so bad that you have to tell someone that they have to reply all because otherwise, like you’re trying to sell me, don’t tell me what I need to do in order to have you sell to me.

Yes. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. Yeah. I mean, I also love the podcast agencies who, you know, who’ll send the pitch to me, you know, have you ever thought about being on podcasts? You know, we can help, we can help get you on to podcasts. They were a great thing. You know, did they walk through how great podcasts are?

I’m like, Oh, really? What are these podcast things? I’ve never heard of them. Two seconds of research. It’s not that hard.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. Or the ones that are like, I can help you with your social media following. Did you look me up?

Chip Griffin: Right.

Gini Dietrich: I don’t need any help, but thank you.

Chip Griffin: I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s, it is abominable.

The way that, that so many agencies, not all, not all of our listeners, probably most of our listeners are not this way, but you’re competing out there against people who are doing this kind of thing. And part of it is because people read these articles and textbooks that say sales is a numbers game. And you’ve got to do so many contacts each day to generate so many meetings per week, which then leads to so many proposals, I mean, on one level, yes.

Technically true, maybe kind of, but if you reduce it to a numbers game, you’re making a mistake because a good agency, we’ve talked about this, has 10, 15 clients, tops. Tops, right. That’s not a numbers game, that’s a relationships game. That’s right. And so you need to think about how you scale relationships.

Not how you scale outreach.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, and I think we’re also competing with the, I mean, I don’t know how many of these emails you get, but I probably get 20 or 30 of these emails a day of the, there’s a broken link on your website, we’d like to replace it, or we have this, this manual that could be great for this blog post, or it’s just like, oh my god, I can’t.

Chip Griffin: We’d love to write an article for your website and we’ll give you a link back to it. And I’m like, but this article is on lawn mowing. Like,

and I get all sorts of crazy stuff like that because in part, because like on this show, we go off on random tangents and so there’s all sorts of crud that’s in the transcript and they’ve used some automated email generator that says, if you mention a lawnmower, we’re going to send this to you so that we can have you link the words lawnmower to our lawnmower service.

No, no, read it. Right. In fact, I’ve probably invited that now just by talking about lawnmower so many times on this lawnmower, lawnmower, lawnmower. Let’s wait and see what happens. Let’s see when the next one comes through. Let’s test this theory. I will be sure to report back when and if we get that SEO request to include a lawnmower article link.

Oh my God. It just, I, I don’t understand the mindset and I would encourage you if you are listening. Do not think about business development that way. No. It is not the way to do it. But also, know what your team is doing. Because this is true, not just of sales pitches, but the pitches that are going out to members of the media.

That’s right. Or social media folks, or, you know, influencers, whatever we want to call them today. Make sure you understand what your team is doing and make sure that you are not guilty of these bad pitches even on the media side of things because it’s very easy to fall into these traps, particularly if you’re reading up on all these people who just say, well, you just need to blast out there.

You need to get out there and get out in front of many people as possible. Don’t be that person.

Gini Dietrich: Well, and I would add to that. Yeah, yes. On the media pitching for sure, because I get lots, lots of those as well. And they’re really bad. But also on things like, you know, we have the trademark and copyright on the PESO model.

And I honestly

Chip Griffin: You do? Oh, I never I didn’t know that.

Gini Dietrich: We do. I could employ an attorney full time just to follow up with the people who do not credit us. And so typically – because I’m not going to employ a full-time attorney – the process that we go through is if I know the leader of the organization, and a lot of times I do, then I send a note and I just say, Hey, listen, this isn’t, I’m sure this is an oversight.

Blah blah blah. And 95% of the time they’re like, Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. And they fix it. Every time though, it’s the younger staff that are blamed every single time. So know what your staff is doing from the perspective of creating content and using models and processes and things like that, that they’ve scraped off the internet and make sure they’re giving credit because that that’s part of what we have to be thinking about as leaders is you know, not just bad sales pitches and not just bad pitches to the media, but everything that we’re doing has to be good and above board. We can’t just be letting our younger generation scrape stuff on the internet and us post it and be like, we are the ones that created the PESO model. No, you’re not.

You’re not.

Chip Griffin: Right. And you have to remember that any of this stuff that is going on in the name of your agency impacts your reputation. Yep. And so. You know, one of the things that I hear from agency owners a lot is, you know, Hey, I, I really need some help with my business development. I talked to someone who can do, you know, appointment setting or can help us with lead generation or outreach or those kinds of things.

And look, I mean, I’ve got good friends in some of those businesses who, who do legitimate work in helping to build and scale real relationships with prospects. But there are a lot of people out there that are just treating it as a numbers game. And so if you’re thinking about getting that kind of external help.

Make sure you understand what is their targeting process? What is their messaging process? You know, the, these folks who will go out there and just spam you on LinkedIn. I mean, I’ve gotten to the point now where I don’t even read my direct messages on LinkedIn. So if you’re, if you’re out there and you’re trying to reach me legitimately through direct messages on LinkedIn.

Don’t bother. Send me an email separately because you’ve got a much better chance of me seeing it because my LinkedIn is just full of people requesting to connect. And, and by the way, in the, in the actual connection request, there’s a sales pitch. Yeah, knock it off. Right. Knock it off. Just try to, let’s get to know each other first before you start selling to me.

That’s the value, I mean, LinkedIn can be really valuable in trying to help you, you know, make more connections, legitimate, real world connections with other people. If you’re not using it that way, you’re making a mistake. It shouldn’t be just another spam platform.

Gini Dietrich: That’s right. Yeah, it’s, I mean, the funny thing about it is, and I say this about marketers in general as well, is that we all hate this stuff.

Like, we all experience this. We all experience the sales pitch on LinkedIn, and it makes all of us feel icky. And yet, we tend to get behind our computer screens and go, oh, well, this must be the way it’s done. And then we do it. Don’t do it. Because, just because it’s done that way, or you’ve seen it’s done that way, A, doesn’t mean it’s successful.

And B, think about it, how it makes you feel. You don’t, it doesn’t make you feel good. So if you’re doing that as well, it’s not going to make the receiver of your message feel good either.

Chip Griffin: And don’t get me wrong. I am not discouraging all forms of outreach because I am not, I am not of them as much as I love content marketing and things like that.

I don’t believe that most agencies can completely just sit back, publish articles, or even podcasts or videos, and just sit back and wait for business to come in. You need to do more than that in order to be getting out in front of people. And so you do need to have a real, honest outreach strategy. But it is not based on just blasting out as much as you can to as many people as you can and just hoping that enough of that sticks to the wall that you actually are able to generate business over the long run.

Because in the meantime, you’ve done tremendous damage to your reputation.

Gini Dietrich: To your reputation. To your reputation.

Chip Griffin: And you’ve taken real thought out of the process. Because when you do that, you’re inevitably hitting people that probably aren’t good fits. And then they come across and, and, and, and maybe they, they nibble at your email and so they say, sure, let’s have a conversation and all of a sudden, now you’re marching down that path and we’ve talked previously about the problem is once you get into a business development conversation most agencies are really bad at exiting even if there are red flags and flashing lights all over the place that tell them they should walk away because once you get in, you put the blinders on and you say, okay, my goal now is to close this.

In part because again, they’ve read articles and books and heard videos that say, that’s what you do, right? You know, it’s just how do you take them to the next step of the sales process when in fact that next step may very well be an exit ramp that you should be taking. So if you’re the kind of person who’s doing this high volume low quality pitching for new business.

You’re probably going to be a blinders on. Let’s just march through it. And you’re going to end up with clients. Sure. You’re going to end up with revenue. Yes, it’s going to be bad revenue. It’s going to make you miserable. It’s going to make your team miserable. It’s probably not going to be profitable.

They’re probably not going to stick around because the expectations are probably all messed up. As you can tell, I’m a little bit wound up about this.

Gini Dietrich: No, you’re absolutely right. You know, we, I have tried it all and we’ve talked about this, you and I, in both of our businesses, we’ve tried it all. And I have tried all of the lead generation.

I’ve tried the lead generation agencies. I’ve tried having a sales team. I’ve tried it all. And what I have discovered is that that kind of stuff is great for businesses that sell something. But in service businesses, to your point earlier, it’s all about relationships. So even if, like I’ve even noticed that when I am pitching something with another agency and they’re the lead agency.

We rarely win. And we rarely win because the the lead agency hasn’t taken the time to build the relationship. They’re like, Oh, I met with this person. They need this. I need to bring in somebody who can do X and we’re going to do Y. And then they go for, we go forth and prosper and to prosper. And it doesn’t prosper.

Like there’s no, you can’t. And. You know, as I get older and more wise in my old age, I’ve learned that it really is about the relationship and it’s about developing that relationship and you’re developed, you can develop a relationship first online, you can build trust and you can build credibility.

Through your content and through your podcast, all of that builds trust and credibility. You can start that relationship that way. So that by the time a person comes to you, they’re pretty, a pretty qualified warm lead. Now it’s your job to your, to your point to say, okay, is this a great client for us? Or do we need to take the exit ramp?

And that’s what you should be focusing on. You should not be focusing on trying to go out and get as many leads as possible, and have as many meetings as possible, and write as many proposals as possible. It’s really about who is the right fit. And how do you find those people and build relationships with them?

Chip Griffin: And I think the distinction that you drew between when you’re selling something versus selling a service. I, I think that’s a huge difference because the type of sale is different. It is. And even, you know, even when it is still somewhat of a consultative sale, but you’ve got an underlying product that you’re selling.

That is fundamentally different from what agencies do. And so, a lot of these things that we’re talking about, I mean, I, I have tried them all in the agency context, and like you, they just don’t work. Period. And, and I don’t think it’s because, I mean, I probably implemented them wrong, but I don’t think it’s because I implemented them wrong.

I don’t think that for 99% of agencies, and certainly most of the PR agencies who are listening, I don’t think it, it can really work. Yep. The asterisk is always, you know, those high volume digital agencies that are doing SEO and stuff like that. That is, that is a different thing. And we’ve talked about that previously.

So, you know, mileage will vary distinctly in that arena. It does work. And some of these tactics have worked for me, like with CustomScoop. When I had that business, right? Absolutely. Because we had a software as a service thing that we were selling. And they still, most of them, frankly, didn’t work as well as, you know, more traditional.

You know, relationship driven outreach, but they did work in ways that they would never work in my view in an agency world. So be careful when you’re out there and you’re, you’re gobbling up this sales advice, make sure you understand what that person’s background is, what were they selling? And even if they are an agency sales expert make sure you understand what kind of agency it was, because when you dig into a lot of them, a lot of the agency sales gurus out there, they do have good advice, but they really are targeted to that SEO, SEM, PPC, high volume digital, those kinds of things. And if you are not a high volume agency, and you can pick this up usually just by listening to their pitch, right?

You know, if they’re talking about signing multiple clients per month, chances are they’re not talking about the kinds of agencies that are typically listening to this show, right? Because if you’re signing multiple clients a month, you’re probably not in the PR space, right? I mean, that’s just not typical of PR agencies to do that kind of volume.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I would say having worked for a global PR firm, they don’t have sales teams. They build relationships and they go after new business that way. And their quote unquote salespeople are the leadership team and whoever’s going to work on the account. So they could bring in account executives all the way up to the general manager, but that’s who the quote unquote sales team is.

It’s never a traditional salesperson ever.

Chip Griffin: Right. I mean, to the extent they have anybody in that space, sometimes they have like RFP teams that spend their time just Right. You know, wasting time and money. Yes. You know, responding to RFPs because it makes everybody feel good to say that you did it.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Had to get in an RFP dig somewhere? You know.

Gini Dietrich: I, it’s really sage advice, you know, it’s, it’s really about relationships. It’s about developing those relationships and spending the time to build those relationships, both online and off. With the, with your target audience versus sending out as many pitches as you possibly can.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, and the next time that you are inclined to say, hey, I need to try something like this or, you know, that sounds like a good idea. I encourage you, open up your inbox and look through all those emails that you skipped over. Great. Click on them. Great advice. Read them. Yep. Ask yourself why you skipped over them.

Do you want to be that person? I don’t think so. If it doesn’t work with you, chances are, it’s not going to work with your ideal prospect.

Such good advice. Yes.

In any case, that will draw to an end this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I will stop ranting and raving. I love it. Move on with my day. And I encourage you to as well.

Gini Dietrich: It’s very cathartic. It’s very cathartic.

Chip Griffin: I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And it depends.

New Episodes by Email

Get the latest Agency Leadership Podcast episodes delivered straight to your inbox!

MORE OPTIONS:   Apple Podcasts    |    Google Podcasts    |    Stitcher    |    Spotify    |    RSS

Like this episode? Share it!

The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

Recent Episodes

Never miss an article, episode, or event

Subscribe to the weekly SAGA Newsletter

Subscription Form