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Real talk about agency websites

Many agencies overvalue their websites and spend too much time thinking about and working on them.

In this episode, Chip and Gini talk about what matters — and what doesn’t — when it comes to your website design and content.

They share some of their experience about the areas in which the most time (and money) get wasted and how to make sure that you get the best ROI possible on your agency’s website.

Key takeaways

  • Gini Dietrich: “When things are slowing down is not the time to be thinking about generating leads from your website.”
  • Chip Griffin: “Just be honest. There’s no need to tell a story that is not an accurate story.”
  • Gini Dietrich: “Think about who your best clients are and create your messaging around that.”
  • Chip Griffin: “If you see the words “full service” on your website, delete them. Because if you are a small team, how are you doing full service? You’re not.”



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: Gini, I think we need to talk about our website and what we should have on it.

Gini Dietrich: Okay. I like that topic.

Chip Griffin: Right after this.

Actually, you know, instead of talking about our website, why don’t we talk about agency websites? Because I don’t really… Fair. Talk about it, because that just means more work for me.

Gini Dietrich: It does mean more work for you.

Chip Griffin: I’m not feeling like doing more work right now, so I think I’ve got enough on my plate.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, you have, you have quite a bit going on, so I agree with that.

Chip Griffin: One day I’ll learn how to say no, which is probably something we’ve talked about before and probably should be another topic.

Gini Dietrich: I think that that is a, an issue for many agency owners.

Chip Griffin: It is absolutely an issue, but not the issue we’re going to talk about today. Well, it is a little bit because there are some things you should, you should say no to when it comes to your website.

And, and I think that I have a lot, not I think, I know I have a lot of conversations with agency owners who are, you know, what should I do with my, I need to update my website. You know, I, you know, my, my business is slowing down. I need to, I need to do something with my website to fix it. I, it’s coming up on the end of the year.

I want to think ahead and my planning. I, I’m going to redesign my website. And so a lot of agency owners spend a fair amount of time, at least thinking about, if not acting upon what their website has on it.

Gini Dietrich: I also know that this is not the topic of this episode, but I just need to say when things are slowing down is not the time to be thinking about generating leads from your website.

Chip Griffin: Yes.

Gini Dietrich: You can generate leads from your website, absolutely. But now when things are slow is not the time to do it. That said, there are lots of things that you can do just like you would do for your clients to help to build your pipeline and make some rain using your website. And I think that’s what we are here to talk about today.

Chip Griffin: I guess so. I mean, that makes about as much sense as anything else, but you know, it is, it is something that I think in general, agency owners spend way too much time thinking about their website and trying to figure out exactly how to make it just right. Make it look just right, make the language just right.

And I’ll be honest with you, I think that your website can provide value, can be useful from a business development perspective. But I think most agencies overestimate the value that it has. And I think most prospects don’t spend a lot of time looking at your website. And they certainly don’t read it to the level that most agency owners think they do.

Gini Dietrich: That’s correct. About two months ago, I had an experience with the company that I use to like mow our lawn and keep up our landscaping. And I, and he, the, our client service manager said something to me that triggered in my brain, wait a second, you do that. And I said, wait, you like, will take care of, you don’t just plant the landscaping, you’ll like take care of it every week?

And he goes, yeah, of course. And I was like, I did not know that. And he goes, it’s on our website. And I was like, now I know what my clients feel like. When they say, I didn’t know you did that. And I think it’s on our website. They’re not reading your website!

Chip Griffin: I mean, the other thing is a lot of agency websites are more like going to the supermarket. There’s everything on their website. Fair. And, and half of the stuff, once I get to know them and talk with them, I realize they’re just kind of listing services there. They don’t really do some of those or certainly don’t do them particularly well.

Maybe they don’t do them profitably. So there is a tendency to list way too much stuff on your website, simply because small agencies kind of have a complex about being small. And I really think you need to get past that, because being small should be sold as an advantage. It’s not something you should try to cover up.

So, let’s talk about the team page on your website. Please, dear God, list people who are actually on your team on the team page. Don’t put down people that you’ve had one conversation with and that conversation went hey, if I have a project that includes X, would you be interested in helping me? And they say, yes. At that point, you should not then follow up with can I add you to the team page of our website? And yet some people seem to think that the team page of their agency website is kind of like LinkedIn. And just because someone sends you a request doesn’t mean you have to accept it. So please, Please list people who are actually on your team. Yes.

Oh, and by the way, have a team page, please.

Because second only to my peeve about people who list team members who are not actually on the team are agencies that don’t show anybody working for the agency, including the owner. What do you have to hide? I mean, every, just about every agency website where I’ve ever looked at the analytics. The team page is the highest traffic unless they have a heavy content marketing presence, right?

And they had something that got launched. But in general, the about us, the team page, those are the pages that get the most traffic. So please use them appropriately.

Gini Dietrich: So would you include, so let’s say you’re a solopreneur and you use contractors and you use contractors consistently, would you include those contractors?

Chip Griffin: So it, I mean, it’s a, it’s a difficult call because on the one hand, they are people who are regularly participating in things. And I do understand the desire to do it. And certainly in the past, when I have been in that role as a contractor for agencies, they have listed me. That said, you have to keep in mind that once you do that, you’re now making any audit that you may undergo more difficult because it is much more difficult to claim someone as a 1099 status here in the U. S. if they are on your team page because you are now acting as if they are an employee. So, you know, putting on my risk mitigation hat, I would advise against it. You know, from a just a pure business standpoint, look, if they are regularly working with you. I don’t have nearly the level of issue. My, my issue is when it’s someone who you may never have actually done a project with, but you said, Hey, if we ever have a need for social media or graphic design, can we list you?

Or they maybe did one project with you and you say, if we ever have another one, would you do it right? Those are the ones where I think trying to do stuff to just embellish that team page is a mistake. Make sure that they’re actually people that you work with. on a regular basis because you have to keep in mind that sometimes you will have a prospect who says, Hey, I’d like to work with so and so that’s, that’s why I was interested.

And if you find out that that person is no longer interested, no longer available, whatever, it then puts you in a difficult situation. It’s the same thing with offices. I’ve, I’ve seen a number of agencies and other businesses who like to embellish their office list. Because it sounds great to have a presence in different places.

Right. You know, I have an office in Washington and New York. And so someone said, well, I’d love to, to meet with your team in Seattle. Right. Fantastic. I guess I get better go find somebody in Seattle other than my cousin, whose bedroom I stay in when I happen to visit there every other year. Like, I mean, you know, just be honest.

Yes. There’s, there’s no need to tell a story that is not an accurate story.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, and I think your point about, you know, some, sometimes as small agencies, we feel the need to look larger than we are, but it is an advantage for sure. It’s a big advantage and you know, lots of there, certainly there are lots of brands who will only work with the big agencies.

Okay. But there are many, many, many, many, many small, medium, and even large, not super large, but large companies that are very happy to work with small agencies because of many reasons, including they have access to senior leaders, they have a smaller team to work with. They have a day to day contact that like there’s all of these reasons where in a big agency, if they, if they want access to the senior leadership, it costs them a crap ton of money and they probably will never, ever see a partner or an SVP ever.

Chip Griffin: And at some point the prospect is going to find out that you’re not as big as you’ve made it out to be. May be before they sign the contract. It may be after they become a client. At some point, they are going to realize that you don’t have this giant team behind you, that you don’t have all of these offices, that you don’t perform all of these services that you claim to do, right?

Or you don’t do them well. So. So just be honest, be direct, tell the story about who you actually are. Don’t tell the story about who you want to be, who you think your prospects want to hire. Be who you are. That’s how you will get the best clients.

Gini Dietrich: And I would say to that end as well, really think about who your best clients are and create your messaging around that.

So, you know, people have talked about, do we have a client checklist where we say, which we can talk about that in a second, but we say who our clients are, or do we have a page on our website that says our clients are this, this, and this, or like how you approach it is probably up to you. And there are certainly some best practices, but really think about who your clients are and what pain points you solve for them instead of trying to be all things to all people.

Chip Griffin: Well, that’s a great point. I mean, the website is not your starting point that, you know, you don’t sit there and say, okay, well, I’m going to build a website. You start by saying, okay, you know, what is my identity and positioning? Who are my ideal clients? And you have to have all of the messaging that appeals to them done.

First now you can use the website redesign as a process to drive that if that’s if that feels more comfortable But it’s not about creating a great website. It’s making sure that the website reflects overall growth strategy. And and it really does you if you do not know who your ideal client is. If you cannot answer that question, don’t think about your website.

Go define your ideal client first. Understand everything you can about who they are, what you do, how big are they, what kind of staff do they have, what kind of teams are you working with, as much detail as you possibly can. Basically a DNA fingerprint of your ideal client. Then you will have something that will help you to figure out all of the language that you use, and the pages.

And even the design, right? Because you want it to speak. Your website should speak to the people that you want to work with. They should look at it and say, I see myself in you. I see you as the solution. And similarly, people who are not good fit should look at it and say, Oh, this isn’t the right place.

Yep. Right. If you work with landscaping companies, say you work with landscaping companies. So that if I’m a bank and I show up at your website, I don’t sit there and say, Oh, I should hire these guys because you work with landscape companies. Yes. Yes. There’s nothing wrong with saying who you are, who you want to work with.

Gini Dietrich: No. You know, I think one of the biggest mistakes we all make, I certainly made this mistake, is we say, okay, well, and to your point earlier, we list all the services that we can provide, but maybe don’t. But one of the, I think one of the biggest mistakes we make is we say, okay, well we serve all. But small businesses are underserved.

So we work with them all, or we work with all nonprofits or we only, like, I think agency owners in general are afraid to, to create a niche because it’s, it’s scary, right? Like what if somebody comes in who owns a restaurant and they need PR and we say, Oh, we don’t do that. So it takes, I think it takes as a managing director we used to have, used to say a few money.

Yeah, but it also takes some confidence, right? It takes some confidence to be able to say, we actually don’t do restaurant PR because we do manufacturing B2B, but let me introduce you to some friends who do. And you know, I, I love to be able to do that because I, we, we turn business down all the time because we don’t do restaurant PR, we don’t do fashion, we don’t do lifestyle.

It’s not what we do, and I appreciate that you want to work with us, but we’re not going to be good at it because it’s not what we do. So allow me to introduce you, and certainly I have the Spin Sucks community that I can mine, you know, for referrals. But let me introduce you to somebody who does do that, who is good at it, who knows the influencers and the journalists and the way that people buy in those industries.

It’s not us because we do B2B. It’s not us.

Chip Griffin: And, and, and, you know, I love that you mentioned small businesses and nonprofits because that’s one I hear a lot from folks. All the time. And we probably ought to do an episode about the, the problem of, of targeting easy to sell to, but hard to work with clients because that’s what most small businesses and nonprofits are.

And so yes, there are a lot of them. Yes. You’re often dealing with the owner so they can be easy to sell to. But then they’re miserable to work with because they, you know, they, they penny pinch, they micromanage, all those kinds of things. And so, you know, it’s really finding the sweet spot for you. But, but from your website’s perspective, you should be, it should be clearly speaking to those right people. So that if you don’t do restaurant PR, people know you don’t do restaurant PR. And one of the, one of the ways that you can test this is by saying, okay, if I was take any random client from your list, if I came from that client and looked at my website, would it appeal to me? Would it speak to what I’m actually doing for them now? And if it doesn’t, then you have a problem.

The second test is do a search on your website for the phrase full service. If you see the words full service on your website delete them.

Now that may be a bit extreme, but I don’t think it is for most 99.9 percent of small agencies. Because if you are a small team, how are you doing full service? You’re not. Seriously, how can you do full service? It just, it doesn’t, no matter how many partners you have and 99, you’re just not really doing full service.

You might be doing kind of sort of full service if you’re in a really narrow niche for, say, restaurants, right? You may be full service for their needs, but not truly full service. Usually when I see full service on a website, though, it doesn’t have any targeting associated with it. It’s just basically we’re a full service marketing agency.

That is really cool. What the hell does that mean? Like, does it just mean I should turn over my entire marketing budget to you?

Gini Dietrich: I think some agency owners would say yes.

Chip Griffin: They yes, they would love that. Yes. Until they actually had to do it. Right. Just talk about what you actually do.

Gini Dietrich: So to your first point… I love your point because if you’re looking at sometimes we’re too close to it.

So I have a way for you to make this easy. It’s called chat GPT. Copy and paste your homepage copy into chat GPT and prompt it with my persona is this: a restaurant owner who has three restaurants, like figure out who your ideal brand persona is. Does it speak to that audience? And chat GPT is not, doesn’t care about your feelings.

It’s going to tell you yes or no. And it’s going to say the, this addresses that this copy addresses these pain points and you completely missed these, these pain points. So, or no, it doesn’t speak to them at all. So it’s a really easy way for an outside expert to tell you whether or not your website copy is hitting your target audience.

Chip Griffin: And here’s another way you probably could use chat GPT too just, just go to chat GPT and say, can you write the homepage copy for a PR agency or marketing agency, and then compare it to what you have. And if that’s your sole prompt, and you see a lot of similarities between what chat GPT came up with, with no information and what you have.

And I bet you will. I haven’t tried this. I should probably try this just for fun to see if to see how close this actually comes to some real agency. Well, I would bet that it’s pretty darn close to what some of you have. Yes. And so if it matches based on that little information, then, you know, you haven’t thought it through well enough. Yes.

So let’s, let’s talk about some of the other things on agency websites. I mean, how much detail on websites? So let’s take a few specific things. I get asked by a lot of agency owners about case studies and, and they love spending time on case studies and putting them on the website and all that.

What are your thoughts on case studies on agency websites?

Gini Dietrich: I think they are worthless and not useful at all.

Chip Griffin: Do you think that generally about case studies or just on websites?

Gini Dietrich: I think that there are, I, okay, let me caveat this. I think that showing showcasing your expertise is important, but doing it via a case study where most agency owners use the problem, solution, tactics, budget, and maybe results template.

Maybe. Nobody cares. Nobody reads them. It’s too much. There are different ways to showcase your expertise. Blogging is a great way to do that. Podcasting is a great way to do that. Videos are a great way to do that. One of the things, and I think I’ve told this story before, but when I started speaking I had a, I have a really good friend who’s a nationally recognized, well known speaker.

And he said to me, one of the things that you want to do when you’re speaking is talk about your expertise while you’re providing tips. So, you’ll say… You know, you should implement the PESO model and let me give you a really good example of how that works in real, real time. And you talk about it from that perspective.

And when he told me that it sort of changed my, the way I was thinking about just my speaking platform. And I will tell you what happened when I started doing that is people in the audience would go, Oh, I have that same problem. She can help me fix it. And they start to see themselves in that same situation and you get referrals from that.

So it’s, I think about case studies in the same way. If you’re blogging, for instance, and you can say like, I just did a whole piece on the Taylor Swift brand playbook, right? How you can follow what Taylor Swift has built for herself from a branding perspective. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Let me give you some examples.

And then I, I tie in client examples and number one, I anonymize them. So it doesn’t like, we’re not saying the client name and you know, budget and all that, but we, I do speak to the experience and what it does is it says it, people go, Oh, I want to do that. And they can do it that she’s proven that she and her team can do that.

So I’m going to call her, email her, direct message her, whatever happens to be. So I think case studies can be used in that way versus your PDF sitting on your website underneath a case study section on your website.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I think case studies are a giant waste of time. There are bigger waste of time than credentials decks. Which I think most people know how yes little regard I have for creds decks and the amount of time spent creating them trying to present them all that kind of stuff. But I mean case studies are just they’re utterly worthless for all of the reasons that you’ve outlined in and exactly what you said. Share actual examples when you’re in conversation with prospects, because if they say, Oh, you know, I’ve been having trouble doing X and you can say, well, I was just working with a client on that last month or last week, right?

That is much more powerful and also much more timely because most case studies are woefully out of date by the time they actually get written. Cause you don’t write them in the middle of a campaign. You write them after it’s done. That’s right. And then you have to usually get the client to approve the use of it.

And so that means that the case studies you see on most agencies websites frankly, oftentimes they’re not even people who are still clients of theirs. Because the project is, you know, cause they wrote the case study three years ago. I mean, and you’re not going to spend all this time keeping them up to date.

It is a waste of energy. So don’t do that. There’s no need for that because prospects aren’t going to your website to get that kind of information. And if they are, those aren’t the kind of clients you want anyway, right? You want clients who are actually having real meaningful conversations with you to learn about your expertise so that you can talk about their problem, diagnose it, offer a solution that’s customized to them.

Your website’s doing none of those things. Your website needs to look professional, right? You don’t need to look large. You do need to look professional. It needs to, to be clear about who you are, and it needs to speak to the right clients and turn off those who are not good clients. It needs to have a good way to contact you.

I, I am baffled at, at websites that do a poor job at that. Don’t make it difficult for someone to reach out to you. I don’t have a whole questionnaire they have to fill out. Are you going to have to deal with a little bit of spam? Yeah, probably. Is it really that painful to go hit delete a couple of times on, on spam so that you don’t have a 17 question?

Cause I’ve seen some really detailed contact form. What are you looking for? What’s your timeframe? Why? Make it easy. Make it easy. Make sure you say who you are and who your team is. Don’t hide that. There’s no need to do that. Tell them where you are, please. That’s another pet peeve. I don’t understand the agency websites where you look at it and you have no idea where in the world they are.

If you’re in Chicago, admit you’re in Chicago, it’s not a big deal. Yeah. Everything that, yeah. Right. You know, I mean, I just, I don’t, I don’t understand the, the people are focused on putting all sorts of useless information on the website, but when it comes to the basics that people are actually looking for – contact, team, location, who you work with.

Yep. Those are the things that, that they make it difficult to find.

Gini Dietrich: And I would say if you look at any across the board, any website research study that looks at what pages people look at the most, it’s always team, about us, leadership if you have it, and contact. Always. Those are always the top three pages.


Chip Griffin: And there’s a reason for that. It’s because it has what people want. Correct. They’re not going seven layers deep on your services, so you don’t need to build it out to that level.

Gini Dietrich: They don’t care.

Chip Griffin: There needs to be enough information so that they know who you are but not so much detail that you’re, I mean, As a general rule of thumb, if you’re spending a lot of time writing copy for your website, that’s probably not a good use of your time.

No. And, and I think most agencies spend way too much time thinking about their websites, worrying that they need to redesign. Keep in mind, you’re the only person who’s looking at your website on a daily basis. And if you are looking at it on a daily basis, stop, unless you’re actually publishing content on a daily basis, stop looking at your web, don’t make it your homepage because you’ll just irritate yourself when it pops up in your browser and you’re like, Oh man, I’m bored with this website.

Gini Dietrich: That’s because you’re looking at it every day.

Chip Griffin: Right. Do you know how many times your prospects look at your website? Maybe once. Maybe once. Maybe once. Yeah. Maybe not at all.

Gini Dietrich: And your clients never look at it, as I’ve learned.

Chip Griffin: Correct. And why should they? Right. I mean, if, if I’m your client, why would I look at your website?

Huh. Yes. Unless I, I’m traveling and I don’t have my phone with me and I need to look up your email address or phone number. Yep. That would be about the only time I would look for it as a client. I agree. I agree. Or I need to find your address so I can, you know, send you a cancellation notice. You know, I mean.

Gini Dietrich: Please don’t do that.

Chip Griffin: So anyway, hopefully we’ve given people a few tips of least what not to do with their website. And we will have more conversations about business development topics like knowing who your ideal clients are and not trying to sell to the people who are easy to sell to but horrible to service because we need to do more in these areas because it’s the website is just the jumping off point for those conversations.

Gini Dietrich: It is. Yes, indeed.

Chip Griffin: So with that, that will draw to an end this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And it depends.

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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.

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