Why Local Marketing is Scarier than Osama bin Laden

Lately, I’ve been working more and more with local clients (thanks to this one blog post about lean startup dentist that went viral).

Some of them are what you’d consider the upper echelon in terms of income potential & educational achievements: dentists, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, etc etc.

One of them has so many initials (ex. John Smith, MD, MA, Ph.D) after them that their business cards look more like screenshots of Wheel of Fortune

Funny thing is.. no matter who you talk to, if they have never ever done marketing themselves, they think it happens overnight.

Yeap, even smart entrepreneurs are like new year’s resolution dieters when it comes to marketing.

They don’t realize that marketing is a freakin’ PROCESS, not an EVENT.

Here’s an email / phone exchange (summarized) between me and one of the doctors recently:

Dr.X: TaeWoo, I haven’t seen anyone send me any inquiries from the website. What’s going on? Are the ads running?

Me: Hey Dr.X. Yeah, it got uploaded last night, along with 17 a/b tests. You should see your website up and running on search engines, in couple of hours. A day at most.

<30 minutes later>

Dr.X: TaeWoo, where are the leads?

Me: Rest assure Dr.X…your ads are being reviewed. But like I said, give it time.

Dr.X: Ok, but my patience is wearing thin.

Me: -_-
<1 month later>

Dr.X: Ok, I’ve gotten about 15-20 new patients. This is not what i expected.

Me: I see… Dr.X, how many new patients were you getting from your health network?

Dr.X: Maybe 3 a month. During holidays, maybe 5.

Me: How about referrals from your existing clients?

Dr.X: I dunno. Maybe 5.

Me: Your TV ads?

Dr.X: We stopped that because it didn’t work.

Me: Your bench, radio, and all that other offline stuff?

Dr.X: Same. We stopped those. Don’t work.

Me: I see… <sharpening my assassin knife> …. and you’re getting 1 new patient ever other day from the campaigns I made for you.

Dr.X: Yeah, but this is the web. Shouldn’t i be getting like 100 a day?

Me: Let me give you an analogy. Local marketing is like going to the gym. Better it’s like a rat that fell into cream.

Dr.X: I don’t get it. What do rats have anything to do with online marketing?

Me: …..


Sidenote: Since I’m into personal motivation, there’s a fascinating study on rats & their will to live from Joel Osteen’s sermon

…  experiment that attempted to measure the power of attitude in rats. The researchers wanted to see how the rats’ attitudes affected their will to live. They put one rat in a large tub of water with high sides so it could not get out. Then they put the tub in a dark room. They timed how long the rat would keep swimming before it gave up. The rat lasted a little over three minutes. Then the researchers put another rat in the same tub, but this time they allowed a bright ray of light to shine into the room. That rat swam more than thirty-six hours, seven hundred times longer than the rat with no light.

Why was that? The rat with no light had no hope. When he looked ahead he saw only darkness. There wasn’t any reason to keep swimming. ….


As quirky as this email sounds, this is fairly common. They expect results overnight.

They think just because they have a fresh new website, that the traffic is gonna pour on and they’re gonna make millions.

If you’ve ever worked with customers who’ve never done any of this stuff, they almost always have these 3 traits.

1) They don’t want to invest in any media

Probably the biggest gripe? Local businesses don’t want to spend money or take the time to create media of their own.

Stock photos, stock web designs, stock everything.

And they wonder why their bounce rate is so damn high.

When I asked this plastic surgeon from upper west side, NYC (i.e. rich neighborhood) if he would get in front of camera, he squirmed like a high school teenage boy who I just told to go ask out that hot girl from class.

I don’t understand, because eventually wouldn’t these small business owners eventually be facing them in real life?

I mean, stock photos.. seriously? Some of these businesses spend over $200k in office design & renovation, but they can’t spend extra $2-5k to get a nice design of their website?

2) They think online marketing will solve their fundamental business problems

I will not lie. Some of the people that ask me for help have f*cked up businesses.

As much as I am tempted to take their money, I won’t because I know i’m fighting a losing battle.

Horrible ethics, zero morals, and even shittier customer service.

(yeah affiliates .. you know what i’m talking about).

No amount of marketing and smiling faces will solve their business.

Would Madoff be able to raise more money if he had the most kick ass marketers backing him?

Probably not. Here’s a little story.

CMO of a very large cleaning franchise company reached out to me.

I was ecstatic because they had HUNDREDS of locations, and wanted to test out my service for about a dozen locations. If I proved them, they would give me each and every location.

Yet, when I looked at the reviews of their franchisees, the problem became very obvious.

They didn’t have a marketing problem – they had a customer service problem.

One review I read said that one of their maids (i.e. franchisees) came two hours late without any notice, stole some small electronics, peed on their bathroom rug, and left the doors open after they left, which allowed their dogs to run away and get killed a couple of blocks away.

And their other franchisees didn’t look that much better either – 1 to 2 stars mostly, with occassional 3 and 3 1/2 stars.

On top of that, they apparently have a SLEW of class action lawsuits, not only from the customers, but from the franchisees themselves to the company headquarters.

3) They think “sales” is a dirty, 5-letter word

This is fairly common among people who’ve never done sales.

A hot new sales lead comes in and they let it sit there for hours, if not days.

Then they call back, thinking they’re gonna close them.

Even among dentists, the ones that understand the sales process are making a KILLING while the idiots are twiddling their thumbs wondering why their staff is idle.

What? Pick up the phone and actually TALK to the customer?

Yea, a foreign concept to some people.


Curious.. have you worked with businesses like these? If so, how did you deal with them?