Weak & Unethical Agency Sales Pitches: How To Spot Them And Why You Shouldn’t Make Them
How not to win new clients. Does anyone you know fall into this trap? If so, try an intervention.
The widespread apathy about charlatanry in digital marketing never ceases to amaze me. Rewarding those who place business ethics as a distant second to Machiavellian opportunism is so widespread; it’s difficult to separate good from evil.
It seems the idea of representing your work and credentials accurately has now gone the way of non-listicle journalism and any old lowbrow, half-truth constitutes an acceptable means of acquiring new clients.
Normally, I hit the delete button pretty fast on these solicitations (and so do the clients) but there’s a larger issue here. Things like this tarnish the category of “agency” and the whole digital marketing space along with it.
Two separate clients forwarded me emails this week from companies attempting to relieve my firm of those clients’ business. The email declared our search marketing initiatives inadequate and the sales rep for this firm only sent the email out of the kindness of his/her heart.
I will refrain from identifying the firms by name, but won’t hesitate to call out these practices. There are so many things wrong with their approach, I’m not sure where to begin, but I’ll give it a try. (If you’re a brand looking for an agency, this is the kind of thing to steer well clear of.)
Deconstructing A Sales Pitch
Here are some excerpts from one of the emails and my thoughts. The email lines are in italics.
This is a pretty lowbrow tactic on its own. Referencing theft — while appropriate in this context — isn’t even the worst of it, as this firm, like many others, attempts to lead clients to believe the email might be from the Google AdWords team.
This tactic might get emails opened, but it doesn’t earn you trust from prospective clients, as they’ll learn you’re duplicitous as soon as they realize who it’s really from.
Email line 1: First off, I apologize for the unsolicited e-mail… I want you to know that I wouldn’t reach out unless I feel like there is a compelling reason for us to connect.
I think it’s pretty telling when one has to apologize in the first line of an email for sending said email. Not good, but I digress.
Email line 2: I work as a paid search auditor for
What followed here were three screen grabs of the most random search terms I have ever seen. Ok, I’ll admit it; one of the problematic terms was actually quite relevant to the client’s business. All three had such incredibly low volume that it was hard to re-create the captures. I’m not exaggerating when I say that one had about 25 searches a month nationally.
Don’t Insult Your Prospect’s Intelligence
No one believes you just happened to be surfing and emailed the client out of an altruistic concern for your fellow man. You are sending out a sales solicitation and insulting your target’s intelligence with that schtick.
While I’m on the subject, what kind of agency employs auditors? Many of us have been working hard to get the word “audit” removed from the search marketing lexicon because of its negative connotation and general irrelevance to the trade. I’d like to see the job description for “auditor” in the agency.
In this example, this is an obvious trolling email; one does not do”research” on low volume terms with any other intention than dubiously discrediting another’s work in an attempt to gain business. Unfortunately, if these boiler rooms play the numbers, eventually they will get some business.
Email line 3: I have compiled roughly 10 examples of similar magnitude and would love to connect with you regarding your AdWords efforts.
The problem with the examples above, and the other examples I pulled is the search term is very specific and the ads you guys are serving are very generic. The whole point of paid search advertising is to reach a customer at the exact moment they are looking for your offering, and in those examples you would most likely lose a customer to your competitors.
Once again, sorry to burden your inbox but hopefully we can find some time in the next few weeks to go through my findings. Let me know if I can steal 10 minutes :)
Leaving aside the assumption (again) that the target is a bit of a dolt when it comes to search and doesn’t quite understand how directive intent works, there’s another apology, another theft reference and for heaven’s sake, an emoticon. If it’s so urgent, why do you have to keep stealing time and why is it going to take weeks?
The worst part of this little journey is the company’s reference to itself (a little like giving yourself a nickname, it just doesn’t work that way, kids) as a “disruptor.” It seems like for every 10,000 digital companies referring to themselves as disruptors, we might have one or two that qualify. Disruption is not to be confused with opportunism.
If you are going to sell someone something, sell it to them. Don’t apologize; don’t pretend it’s altruism; and don’t insult them. All of us will be better for it.