This doesn’t mean that the companies I am working with locally are bad, but there are many disadvantages that not a lot of people seem to think about when working with local companies.
Today I’m going to go into the advantages and disadvantages of working with local companies so you can decide for yourself whether it’s a good idea or not. Bear in mind this is based upon personal experience, and your experiences working locally may be very different.
Some of the advantages of working with local businesses as a marketer:
1: You can offer photography and video services. Whilst clients can always contact local companies to provide these, if you have cameras and skilled staff with decent editing ability, you can provide these services quickly and easily. I have worked on photography, video and shooting live video for clients which has been exceedingly useful in many marketing campaigns.
Cons: You will most likely be expected to provide these services cheaply or free. In my experience, they will also require you to do this often which can become a massive time sink. My experience is that if you provide these services often and then try to pull out of providing them, the clients will expect you to provide them as part of your relationship and get upset with you for not providing them.
My advice to avoiding this is to provide the client the service ONCE for a markdown of 90% off your regular prices, so they can experience it. You can then offer them a discounted rate. The client will only respect you if you acknowledge that money has to be spent on staff, equipment and editing. The more you give to the client for free, the less they will respect your work, and the more they will take advantage of you.
2: Local Knowledge and Connections! These can actually be really useful! If you run a local marketing company and have a good knowledge of the area you are working in, you will find that over time, you get to know a lot of people. Almost everyone that you will work with will reap some benefits of working with other local companies. You can work as the middleman between companies you work for if you can see a way that they can connect together to build a mutual relationship.
Let’s say your client runs a restaurant and you also know of a local greengrocer who provides good vegetables. You could arrange a meeting wherein the greengrocer can ensure a supply line of high quality vegetables to the restaurant for a discount, providing value to both parties. This is something you can do remotely but it’s much easier to establish relationships when you know people personally. These kinds of connections can be useful because it allows the clients to work together with things like social media, which can be mutually beneficial to business and you can get them to blog about each other, benefitting both companies.
You can also work out deals with just about anyone. Accountancy firms could give discounts to your customers, lawyers could give advice, pretty much anyone can give some benefits to other customers in the area…
Cons: If you have built a fantastic structure, your clients can start to get annoyed dealing with other clients of yours if they are offering advice or other services. If you lose clients for any reason, you have to let everyone know that some services are no longer being provided and this can make your company look bad. There are plenty of negative issues that can crop up. I prefer to avoid connecting too many people. One on one relationships are great and they leave room for you to retain a connection with your customer.
3: You can forge friendships… I currently have three local customers, all who are my friends and who I have a good relationship with. This has some great advantages in terms of free legal advice and free pizzas with other discounts here and there. Then you have the other side of the coin…
Cons: If you’ve ever been woken up at three in the morning with someone asking you to sort out a problem that can really wait, then you’ll know where I’ve been. I’ve spent weeks doing free work on websites, dealing with all sorts of things to the point where I’ve had to help selling fridges and iPhones online for people.
The thing is, this is no longer business and customer territory. This is a battlefield. This is phone calls after hours when you’re in the bath asking you if you think the new pizzeria is a threat. It’s long telephone conversations talking about advice on raising children. It’s helping your client through a horrible breakup and having them turn up at your home at 11pm at night crying and interrupting your well deserved episode of Blake’s 7. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s something you have to keep in your minds eye when it comes to it. If you’re not local, this is less of a problem.
4: You can be there quickly to fix things. If something goes really wrong for a customer, you can make the difference. Time and time again I’ve headed into town to take pictures and get them out on Facebook for one of my customers, I’ve even helped out in the kitchen as well when staff are ill.
Cons: You can probably already tell this is another disadvantage of friendship, but there is a positive to this. You can help bring your friend’s business back from the danger zone. You can shoot live video and get them customers in. If your client isn’t local, then this is impossible.
5: Person to Person business. When it comes to local clients you will get to know who you are dealing with in a way that you won’t with remote clients. You will see the inner workings of companies, if people want to show you and you will be able to get to learn the organisation you are working for.
I always recommend working with clients on a personal level so you can better understand their businesses. I have visited offices and worked actively with clients. I have waited tables and I have cooked food at restaurants, and I have visited houses and learned about property sales, looking at how my clients grade the values of property, and learned about things to look for such as blackmold and mildew, poor quality heating systems. Working for a directory client, I learned the value of their directory and their criteria for taking clients onboard. If someone contacts one of my businesses I can respond as the owners to questions and deal with most conversations. I can also handle complaints a lot better, as I will know where problems lie. I can also bring things up with clients to fix potential problems within the business whilst being an outsider.
This you simply cannot do in the same way if you are working with clients outside of your area.
More disadvantages of providing Marketing services for local companies…
1: Your enemies can and will target you. This sounds crazy until it happens to you, but your local rival marketers can turn the city red with a turf war. Whilst they won’t be lobbing Molotov cocktails at your office (in most cases) your enemies will play dirty if they see you as a threat. You can expect bad backlinks going to your website, massive botfarm likes to your Facebook page, utterly annihilating your ability to get a message out and get natural reach. They will leave spiteful and nasty reviews on gmail user accounts you’ve never heard of disparaging your services. They’ll kill you on trustpilot… the list goes on. If you are putting out messages into Facebook groups, expect to be banned, abused and attacked. It’s not worth the risk.
2: Unhappy clients will visit you. Sometimes you will find that a client is no longer happy with your company or staff and the thing you want least of all is someone barging into a meeting with a prospective client with complaints. The problem with having clients on your doorstep is they sometimes can drop by uninvited and without appointments, expecting immediate service when you have a job to do. These situations can get pretty hairy at times, especially if you are not able to calm things down quickly.
3: Overly Inquisitive Clients. Clients who are local and have an interest in the work you are doing will potentially start paying close attention to what you are doing you may find yourself in an unusual amount of meetings with them as they try and figure out how to do your job so they don’t have to pay you. You may find they have an active interest in how you accomplish all your goals. The best way to handle this is to make people pay for meetings. It’s often the only way you can show that your time is valuable, and without money being a factor, you will end up having your time drained and losing clients.
So will this happen to me?
Most of the time, clients are clients, locals are locals and you won’t end up in a situation where your whole world is being completely eaten up by nonsense, meetings, random nights where you have to go out to repair your clients car because the engine is screwed, whilst your friendly neighbourhood competition snipes you relentlessly from the cover of a thousand bots whilst ordering a huge pizza delivery to your office with pay on delivery from the sinister safety of a vpn. Most of the time, you will be able to provide a decent service. The problem is that when you are working local, there are risks, and understanding this is the first step to avoiding problems and fixing them.
Here are a few things to remember:
1: Your time is valuable, so your customer should pay for it.
2: If your customer has an account manager, they shouldn’t keep coming to you. Tell them that.
3: Don’t introduce yourself to local marketers, the less they know about your existence, the better.
4: Never become involved with a client beyond a basic friendship.
5: Don’t be afraid to say no.
6: Always get your client to email you instructions before calling you. You choose when a call happens, not them.
7: Never allow clients to compete with each other. This will only lead to disaster.
8: Never argue with a client in a physical meeting. Put your points in an email and send it after the meeting. “Oh, I checked on whether or not we could use your emailing lists and it turns out they’re not GDPR compliant so we can’t legally use them.” Will work a lot better than interrupting their flow with “You can’t do that.” It shows you’ve listened to and considered their point and are protecting their interests.
9: Never let a client eat up too much time. You need to have time for everyone, especially yourself.
10: If you have a contra deal with any client, make sure you only provide services if they keep up their side of the contra. Protect yourself above all else!
11: Avoid giving out your personal phone number to clients.
12: Always get payment from extra services even if they’re on deal or you’re trying to help out a client.
There are many more advantages and disadvantages to working with local companies, but these cover a lot of my experiences, so I hope they help.
I personally prefer to work with clients in the United States. The thing about US clients is that when I say that my prices are a certain amount, they will accept it. In the UK, everyone wants to trade a month of social media for a cheese and onion sandwich and a mug of dusty hot chocolate every two weeks. Trust me, I’ve worked with too many businesses like that over here.
I recommend working with people over 100 miles away. They can visit you if they want, but it’s a long journey. If you need to go and do photos and film work, you can easily handle it. You are less likely to fight with local marketers and you will be able to keep your relationships with customers professional and at arms length.
Don’t let my bitter cynicism persuade you to never pick up a local client, just be wary not to get too close and maintain your boundaries.
I hope this helps!
I am the CEO of Fantasoft an up and coming digital marketing firm based in the UK. I work as a blogger, SEO specialist and Web Designer, and my hobbies include making small films and writing music.