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I critiqued 30 agency websites and here’s their biggest mistake

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Earlier this year, I critiqued about 30 agency websites that sell web design and other design and marketing-related services.

By about the 5th or 6th one, I’d already identified patterns in mistakes that persisted, unanimously, throughout the other 25.

All 30 websites had something in common too:

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No business comes from their websites. It’s all word of mouth. The website is a supplementary tool that helps make the sale, but it doesn’t generate the leads in the first place.

The advice below is about how to change that.

Your website should be a great tool to help push along word-of-mouth sales…

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But it should also be a powerful selling tool on its own.

In fact, 99% of our work we get from our website at Reliable PSD is from people who have never seen or heard of us otherwise until they visited the site.

If your website can achieve that, then you’re not limited to the sporadic, inconsistent nature of word-of-mouth. You can be more in control of your lead flow.

Here are the mistakes I saw preventing other agencies from achieving the same:

The Big Mistake

In my critiques, I started with a few questions before I even took a serious look at their websites. One of those questions was:

“When you get on the phone with a new prospect, what do they tell you they want or need?”

I was then given an answer, such as:

“They want to update their website because it’s old and outdated and they want something modern, clean, and professional.”

“What percent of prospects say they want this?” I’d ask.

“Mmm… Maybe 80-90%?”

“Okay, so if 10 people come to you for a website, 9 of them want it to be ‘clean, modern, and professional looking’?”


“So tell me, where on your website does it say you can deliver exactly that?”

And that’s when I could feel the lightbulb go off in their heads.

Why? Because that information, unanimously, across every website I critiqued, simply wasn’t there.

The first change I would suggest to my critiques was to make that the big, bold headline on the page.

For example:

Clean, Modern, Professional Web Design.
Ready to update your image? Let’s talk.

Notice how that headline uses zero creativity. I’m literally taking what the prospects said — stealing their words, you could say — and repeating it back to them.

Notice the line: “Ready to update your image?”

Why did I include that?

Because they told me that’s what their clients want to do.

Imagine what this would do in either scenario:

For word-of-mouth:

Before even speaking to you, people would realize you can deliver exactly what they want.

How much smoother would that make sales from referrals?

For cold prospects:

Again, before you’ve even spoken to them on the phone, you’ve told them you understand what they need, and that you can deliver it.

How many more people might reach out once you communicate that?

At the end of the day, that’s what marketing is:

You find out what your market wants, and you see how that fits into what you offer, then you tell people about it.

Simple? Yes.

Easy? Sometimes.

Your next action steps.

Here’s your plan of action:

  1. Go back through your prospect meetings and make a list of what people say they want or need
  2. Also see what problems / challenges they’re facing that make them feel they need a new website now
  3. Go back through your own marketing and see how to integrate these answers, loud and clear. You want them worked into the main headline, and everywhere else.

Your turn: Questions? Thoughts?

Let me know. Scroll on down and leave a quick comment.

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About David Tendrich

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.


More about David’s business: David is co-founder of Reliable PSD – what happened when a group of designers got fed up with PSD to Code companies… and created their own. Check them out, and see why freelancers & agencies are head over heels for this amazing new service.

Leave a Comment



  1. Great article! Proving once again that listening to your prospects helps you communicate with them better.

  2. Love this article! I have some work to do on my site now.

  3. This is so true. If i was a client, I wouldn’t stay in a website which doesn’t clearly state what its purpose is because, I for one, don’t like making phone calls for possibly lengthy periods.
    Like how you created that headline… it calls out to me.

  4. Here’s a mistake some people make on their website. Pop ups that take over the screen on mobile. It will drive people away and not want to try to read your article. Especially if they can’t find the pop up because it’s halfway down the screen.

  5. Great article! Very good advice

  6. It’s often hard to create a clear message for your own business website but this article simplifies it so well. Thanks for sharing.

    • It definitely is. Something to think about: When out talking, networking – what’s the phrase / line you keep coming back to where you see the lightbulb go off in their heads and you know they really “get” what you do and your value?

      That’s a good start 👍

  7. Hey David,
    Super helpful and actioned. Thank you.


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