Why Your Next Online Marketing Client May Live Next Door

Why Your Next Online Marketing Client May Live Next Door

Reader Comments (90)

  1. Brandon,

    Great post, we are working on this locally here in East London area.

    I can assure you once you provide the quality service to local businesses, you will be amazed the number of word of mouth referrals you get.

    It is hard to get into the door because people don’t like change, once you established the trust and show them that you can do what you are saying, then you can have lots of clients.

    Here is a deal,

    If you are starting out target service based clients like Estate Agents, Accountants and solicitors. They are easy to set up and they have good money to pay.

    Good luck with your local business consultancy.

    Thanks Brandon for sharing.

    • Smart strategies — the one major downside to working with small business is that they are (as Brandon pointed out) tight with money. But starting with the businesses that have the cash to spend just makes sense, and you can then take those results to other kinds of clients.

    • Thanks for the comment Rana. Thats amazing advice. I wish I’d Included that in my article. Definitely go after service based businesses when starting.

  2. Interesting post, and great timing! I just had a blog reader walk up to me and introduce herself when I was out shopping yesterday. Wild.

    • That’s awesome. It’s a great feeling to know that local people are reading your blog. Nothing is more awesome than having friends and people I know ask me questions about a post I wrote.

  3. This is so true and practical! We know better about the local demand and trend! However knowing alone not gonna help much if your place got low potential – for that case, generate one!

    • That’s a great point. I was at adtech a few weeks ago and the CFO from livingsocial was there. He talked about how there was a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere. But after using livingsocial, the place filled up. We can use the Internet to create demand and put unknown places on the map.

      That’s actually my next project. I’m creating a blog about my town, primarily for people considering coming here. Check it out. You should do one for your area.


  4. Great article!

    I’ve started a new company, and we are doing mobile marketing for local businesses, and sometimes i really struggle to find clients. But i have actually found out that foursquare is a great way to find new clients.

    • It does take a lot of work to get local businesses as clients. I actually just read about Chris Brogan’s trouble attracting businesses to kitchen table companies.

      However, as you probably already know, local businesses is where the demand for our services is greatest. And if it doesn’t feel like that yet, it will in another year.

  5. You’re onto something Brandon. I jumped into this market several months ago after dropping an internet niche where everyone wants something for free. Local businesses have no problem paying if you make them a reasonable offer.

    I’m finding that local small business owners are eager to get up and running with a website or change the website they already have, along with learning about internet marketing and SEO.

    The potential in the local market for now anyway is unlimited. Every single niche in almost every community is untapped.

    This is a great post for any Copyblogger disciple that’s looking for a way to make a good living. One other thing is that you don’t have to be local yourself. I review categories using Superpages, investigate the niche, then using information from Google Places listings contact the business owners with a tranquillo (not in your face) sales letter, all from a location where I have no neighbours.

    The best part is once you have a local business they are yours forever if you treat them right. Plus you make a lot of friends by helping them organize their online presence.

    • I agree. You don’t HAVE to be local to work with the businesses. But I think it helps. I grew up and still live by the beach in California. I know how beach dwellers think. But I’m not sure the same principles would apply when appealing to New York City residents.

      That’s what I meant.

      But like you said, don’t let this stop you. Any of us could go anywhere and help local businesses.

  6. Interesting post! I am drawn to this paragraph:

    “Bad Experiences
    There are business owners who are ready to embrace the web, but don’t know where to turn. A lot of them get picked up by sleazy Internet marketers, incompetent web designers, or half-baked SEO services — all of whom overcharge and under deliver”

    Over the years of doing web development I often come across sites for local businesses that are poorly developed and I wonder if the business owner doesn’t want to pursure a redesign because perhaps they figure that they never really saw a return on their initial investment from their current site so why bother…

    • I’ve run into this so many times. One business spent $50,000 on a mediocre website. I offered to do a redesign. But he already spent $50,000 and couldn’t afford it. Others simply figured, “well, my current website doesn’t bring me traffic, and I wasted $5,000 on it. Why are you any better?”

      When you go in and talk to the businesses with vrappy sites, don’t talk about how much better the site will look. Talk about how many more customers they’ll get because of an amazing looking site.

      Remember: benefits, not just the features

    • You might take a few of them to coffee and get a sense of why they’re not growing.

      It’s truly shocking to me how much local small businesses have paid for static websites that look bad and don’t work properly. And that’s still happening. There is so much opportunity for smart, businesslike WordPress developers to arm themselves with a great framework and rebuild these sites so they look great, the SEO is much improved, and they’re easy for the business owner to update for themselves.

      I can also see “micro agencies” popping up that just consist of a copywriter with strong SEO skills and a great graphics person who knows WordPress, maybe with access to resources like a more sophisticated database developer for complicated stuff. Small, powerful, and effective — and they don’t have the overhead an agency has. (I’ve done great work with agencies, but for every good one there are at least 10 lousy ones, IME.)

      • Definitely true Sonia. That’s what I’ve been doing around my town. Except I’m doing it all myself. But if people can find a team where each person is specialized, they will blow up!

  7. What a timely post! I was just thinking about how I’d like to read a local blog on gardening with a cennection to local nurseries and a community to help novices like me figure out what the heck I’m doing out there in the yard. A blog based in California doesn’t help becuase they have a different climate than we have here in the Northwest. I would start it, but I’m already overbooked.

  8. Well said Brandon!

    My goal when I started freelancing was to help smaller business who could not afford the larger firms. Oddly enough, although I started with one or two local businesses most of my freelance work came from a designer (with whom I previously worked) across the country. So, I had to start thinking like a local from the South Carolina market. (I live in San Diego and I’m from New Jersey.)

    I have since joined a local business group (smaller than the Chamber) and over the past year have made some amazing connections, which are now turning into great local referral sources and clients.

    Thanks again for the post!

    • I actually need to join a local business group. I’ve heard some people say that a lot of people looking for work go to them. Yet others say they’ve made some great connections.

      Any recommendations on groups to join?

  9. The post really hits the mark and is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    The first reason is that, even though small businesses don’t have much money to spend, they do have more money to spend than the average blogger. On top of that, there are service industries like law, real estate, accounting, and coffee shops that need simple websites, don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, want to rank in Google (yet have no idea how), and are willing to pay for these services.

    Like Sonia said above, you can have a programmer and graphics person working remotely and have enough firepower to be a “micro agency” that can fill this niche.

    This is super interesting. I’m going to have to look at this more, and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about already.

    • Thanks for the comment Josep,

      I think you should jump in and start. There is so much opportunity with businesses in your area, as you said. We just need to start educating local businesses about how important online marketing is on a local level.

  10. It’s so each to forget about local possibilities. I’m definitely guilty in this arena. However, for most writers, local clients present a very real business opportunity that should not be overlooked.

    Oddly enough, I wrote a post on this topic and published it today too. Mine was intended as a counterpoint to an earlier post I had written on the global market, but your post helps affirm that I was on track. 🙂

    Thanks for the guide, downloading it now…

    • Thanks Laura. I’m going to go read your post now. I think it’s cool that you wrote a post on both the global and local implications of the internet. I think about this a lot lately. It’s definitely interesting.

    • Hey Shelly, thanks for the comment. Not sure if you remember me, but I sat next to you at the LinkedOC event with Scott Stratten.

      Are you going to the one with Gary Vaynerchuk?

  11. Brandon,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head and you’ve exactly described what I hope to accomplish in the NewCustomerWorkshop.


    • Hey Joe. I checked out your website. That is a really cool thing you have going on. It’s exactly what small businesses need. Plus, I love the look and simplicity of it.

      Keep in contact with me on twitter: @byanofsky.

      I’m curious to hear updates on it.

  12. Another piece of advice is to use your own local marketing accomplishments as case study/social proof that you can do the same for the client. Our local marketing website ranks #1 for nearly every single one of our local target keywords despite the large number of older, more established competitors in the area. This fact, which we ask clients to see for themselves by searching Google for the services they are looking for, makes the sell for us 9 out of 10 times.

    If you can “do the same for them” and can prove it, the battle has already been won. Those that still aren’t sold and would rather kick the tires a few more months are probably not the kind of clients you want any way.

    Great post, thanks!

    • Right on Aaron,

      That’s what I’m trying to do with my local site I created. I plan on using it exactly as you described.

      And your second point is so important. If they just don’t get internet marketing, not matter how much and how long you describe it to them, they won’t change. It’s better to just move on to someone who is receptive.

  13. Local marketing requires some sales techniques that most internet marketers shy away from such as face to face communication (It’s funny and scary at the same time). Plus most local businesses (especially retail) don’t want to hear any internet marketing ‘theories’, they want to know what’s the return (hard facts).

    • Thanks for bringing this up Troy.

      I agree with you. It requires much sales technique. And that’s one area I lack. But I’ve been putting the time in to learn sales technique.

      All business people, even internet marketers, should learn sales techniques.

      As for returns, this is important as well. When I work with clients, I make sure to track as many ways as I can. For instance, after I designed a website for a client and helped them rank higher, I kept track of how many more people were going to the site. Obviously I can’t say that hiring me will give you x more dollars, but I can say that they are getting much more publicity.

      I recommend for any internet marketer to use a tracking technique to see when the customer goes into the store. For instance, offer a coupon on the website so you can see how many people found the store through the website.

    • Pam Slim’s Ethical Selling that Works is a great sales training program for those who are “sales allergic,” and is very cheap. She needs to charge more for it. 🙂 We tapped her for a Third Tribe seminar on the subject and are asking her to expand it for Authority Rules, and she knows her stuff.

      • I double vouch for Pam Slim. I didn’t take her course, but I heard her in a seminar in Third Tribe and was blown away by what she taught me.

        Highly HIGHLY recommend everyone read everything she writes and follow her religiously.

  14. Great post Brandon! Local SEO is all the rage right now and doesn’t figure to slow down any time soon.

    I have found that one of the best ways to market to the local community is to start a Meet Up on MeetUp.com — they handle all the RSVP and market the events for you. They can even manage payment processing for you.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Thanks for the comment Russ,

      I love local SEO. It’s a lot of fun.

      I’ve considered starting my own Meetup. I think it is a spectacular way to get clients. Instead of writing a post about SEO, we internet marketers can do a meet up where we teach attendees about SEO. Same principles, same content, but the face to face contact may make it easier to convert.


    (first, my background–>) I’ve been a top advertising sales rep for Superpages.com, Verizon Yellow Pages, the St. Petersburg Times (newspaper), Tampa Bay Direct (direct mail), Best Edge SEO, and Sendtec (PPC Marketing), and was also an office manager for my father’s welding and machine shop. Over the years – I’ve worked with every type of small business there is – from both sides of the table. I recently started a local internet marketing agency that specializes in the county I grew up in (Lake County, Florida).

    My customers say this:

    – I would rather work with somebody local than someone far away.
    – I don’t have the time to do this stuff.
    – I don’t have a lot of money.
    – I’m slow and I need more business.
    – I’m doing a little bit of this – but I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing.
    – I need you to supervise and tell us what to do.
    – I ‘think’ we need a new web site.
    – The other company tried to sell me stuff I already have.
    – Overseas SEO companies don’t take no for an answer.
    – I can’t believe that guy insulted my web site.
    – My newspaper ad doesn’t work like it used to.
    – Yellow pages don’t work any more.
    – Some people tell me that they found me on the internet.

    I make a lot of cold calls and speak with a lot of businesses. It’s the same story over and over again. The more we can help these local businesses – the more we can improve our local economies. Seriously.

    They need regular, good, honest help. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call them. And mention to them that you’re from around here. That this is the town you live in – this is where YOUR family lives.

    They like that sort of thing.

    • Yes, everyone follow Mikel’s advice. Definitely say your from the area, that your not some random marketing agency.

      Also, make sure you keep a copy of what Mikel wrote here. You’ll find a lot of local business will say the same things. Prepare responses to all of these statements.

  16. Brandon,

    Thanks for a solid article on the topic. One of the issues I face everyday when dealing with local business owners is the tendency to shy away from the latest technology. Many of them have a “wait and see” attitude when it comes to an updated, dynamic website, social media, email marketing, and other internet marketing avenues that many of us take for granted. A lot of these guys are afraid to be sold something they don’t understand, so educating them on the technology and how it can help their bottom line is extremely important.

    • Definitely. I think the fear of the unknown behind these technologies is one of the biggest barriers. We definitely HAVE to educate them. That’s step 1.

    • Seth –

      I understand that most of them have a “wait and see” type of attitude when it comes to internet marketing.

      I encountered the same thing for a few months. What I found was to stop trying to explain “everything.”

      Try this:

      “The newspaper and yellow pages still work. The only problem is – they went and changed forms without telling anybody. The yellow pages are now called ‘Google’ and the newspaper is now called ‘Facebook.’

      Our company makes all of it work so you come up on peoples computers and cell phones whenever they look for a tree service here in Happyland.”

      … after that don’t say anything else – just zip it.

      It works for me.

  17. Brandon (not sure if my comment got eaten) but I was pretty much saying that you’re a mind reader. Great start on your local blog by the way. I recently started a local blog as well and the experience has been awesome. only 3 months in and I’ve met many of the business owners that I’ve reviewed and have nurtured some really great contacts. It seriously has been a life changing experience for me and that is no exaggeration. Local is where it’s at, and your blog hit the nail on the head.

    You can check out the blog, I’ve linked it with my name.

      • Yes, most definitely. I subscribed to your blog and just followed you on twitter as well. Look forward to seeing how your blog pans out. I’m @365thingstododc

      • Social media marketing for local businesses. Have a look at my site. It’s really new but I think I’ve put forward some pretty cool and reasonable plans. The name is slightly tongue in check, but you never know 😉

        By the way I’ve just received the first copy of your ‘Make Money Blogging.’ Thanks it’s straight to the point, which I really like.


  18. Brandon…
    Great topic…and very timely for me. I have a domain for a local site out here in the Inland Empire but I cant decide on the best theme (from Studiopress, of course) to get started? Also, my city is about 30k but growing fast…any thoughts on the best approach? Should I target businesses or the lifestyle (lots of golf courses around me) or? Maybe we can hook up…I’m only an hour out from the O.C…
    Thanks Brandon!

  19. I would like to add a 4th reason as to why local clients are gun-shy – not only are the overwhelmed by previous bad experiences, but they often have no idea how to really define their target market and learn what motivates them to purchase and make certain choices. Sometimes they realize that they need to ask these questions, but automatically think “market research is a huge expense”, and just throw up their hands. There are low-cost solutions out there – it’s a matter of finding out which works best and can get the client’s questions answered. Thanks for the post!

  20. One word keeps coming up in the comments here — fear.

    These folks are scared to death. Business ain’t great, and they’re afraid of what will happen if they can’t get it moving again, but they’re also scared of the dirtbags who sold them the lousy website they have now, or the lousy website their friend at the chamber of commerce has now.

    So use your content to educate them out of that fear and into knowing what to do next. Walk them through some simple next steps. Give them simple how-tos for the easy stuff, and let them know you’re available to do it for them if it still seems too intimidating.

    • @Sonia – That’s an awesome approach. For some people the information is enough to get them going.

      It also gives you a way to gracefully steer the conversation if you sense they can’t afford your services.

      If you quote them a price for work and they think it’s too expensive you can always point them to the free content. Eventually they may realize that they should pay you.

    • Very important Sonia. The fear is so powerful. It’s the biggest hurdle to getting clients. Content education is sooooo crucial to being successful.

  21. Brandon,

    First off, I would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” for contributing this post.

    You have an interesting point of view about businesses which are local.

    In my experience, many local businesses are late-adopters to technology and marketing practices. Many owners are simply not aware about the power of marketing, both on-line and off-line.

    You have to demonstrate that your copywriting skills will make a difference to their bottomline: productivity and profits.
    If you write copy for them, for example, will they receive more customers? What’s in it for them? Will they be able to reap a higher return on their investment?

    Translation: will they be able to make more money?

    A few locals I have encountered are also quite reluctant to change their ways. They seem out of tune with the way we do things now. They may be skeptical of technology and may have a short-term orientation. Thus, profit means it goes directly into the bank. There is no scope for discussion. It is difficult to change such mind-sets: it is easier said than done. Others argue that their business runs just dandy without your timely intervention. They don’t need your services.


    • Very important points Archan.

      I agree. Whenever you talk to a small business, you need to show how your marketing will make them money. It’s great to say that creating a Facebook page will get them to engage with customers. But you need to explain engaged customers lead to loyal customers and word of mouth, which leads to more sales and more revenue.

      If you can’t show how you’ll make them money at some point, there’s no reason for them to hire you b

  22. Many small family owned and local businesses, especially those run by older generations, do not use the internet themselves or are not computer savvy and cannot fathom the idea of spending their hard earned dollars on internet marketing – something that’s foreign to them. Part of gaining their trust is coming up with solid ideas and showing them exactly how internet marketing can make them more money. Any ideas on how to go about getting a generation that didn’t grow up with computers and the internet to trust that internet marketing really does work?

    • There are plenty of case studies.

      What can also help is comparing it to old marketing forms. For instance, show how Internet advertising is like advertising on tv was in the 50s. More consumers go online for entertainment than tv, so you can reach more eyes. Something like that.

  23. Very inspiring article Brandon.

    It correlates personally in my life, seeing as I am currently doing marketing and web design for a small business in Delaware. It is almost ignorant of us as marketers to assume these small business owners know the first step in social media, SEO, website maintenance, and so on.

    The large problems I run into are the business owner’s understanding of what needs to be done or changed, and time. Many of these business owners need people like us BECAUSE they don’t have enough time to do the marketing on their own. This led me to the lesson of keeping a strong and constant communication with them.

    As for actually finding a job, most of my referrals come from family and close friends. My belief, and I hope you can agree, is that the people who know you and what you do the best, will care enough to say positive word of mouth when the situation arises.

    • Thanks for the comment David,

      I agree with you. People who know you do a great job will want to refer you. Not only will family and friends, but so will your clients.

      An important point here is to not be afraid to ASK for the referral, a point I read in John Janstch’s “The Referral Engine.” Many people have no problem referring you, but they may not think to do so unless encouraged.

      • Took the words right out of my mouth Brandon. One of the hardest things for professionals to do is ask for something. I guess this can be due to too much pride or not enough pride.

        I’ll have to look into “The Referral Engine.” Referrals are a strong crutch to a business so this seems like a great source to read up on.

        Another great book to look into is Ivan Misner’s “Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections.” What I took away from this book is the idea of paying your dues and scratching people’s backs. In time, that generosity and respect comes back to you tenfold.

        In my early years, I lent out my services to certain people pro bono, strictly for the experience and a solid referral.

        • Ivan Misner is a smart guy.

          What I’ve been doing lately, to build experience and a solid referral network is instead of doing pro bono, I’m giving away my time for free IN EXCHANGE for people donating to my favorite charity, Skip1.org

          • Wow. That’s a really noble way of transcending your time and talents into positive return for a great cause. Great work Brandon.

            When you love what you do, the money tends to becomes obsolete. The idea of self and customer growth becomes more of a main goal.

            This can relate back to when you discuss companies feeling disdain for outsource marketing due to “bad experiences.” Those are marketing companies that could learn a thing or two from you.

  24. Great post. These are my clients and everything you said above is true.

    I would also add one more thing. Not only do they not have the time and don’t know how, they are also afraid of the internet. They are afraid to make the leap. Even though they know that’s where they need to be, many of them secretly hope the internet will go away. Yet, deep down they know that it’s not going away.

    Unfortunately, I also see too many traditional internet marketers trying to use the same marketing approaches to sell to the local, offline business owner. Big mistake.

    Hype does not work with these people. They don’t spend a lot of time online to begin with because they are so busy, they are not entrenched in the marketing of what the rest of us see and have become immune to.

    If you can establish yourself as a no-hype, trusted friend to them, you will have more referral business than you can imagine.

    • Thanks Patty,

      I like the way you summed it up. No hype selling. It’s very true. When I started, I tried explaining Internet marketing in terms of hype. But all the business owners wanted was to know: will this bring me more customers.

      When dealing with small businesses, you definitely need to just say it how it is.

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