How NOT to do business with Spanish people in Malaga


When you try to do business with Spanish people in Malaga, you will face several obstacles, starting with the language barrier, because you might not speak Spanish and they definitely don’t speak English. Of course there are some people who speak English, but most of the Spaniards doesn’t even speak proper Spanish here, just ask anyone in Madrid if you don’t believe me.

But even if you manage to get around the language problem, you are still an expat, a guiri, so they simply don’t trust you. It doesn’t matter if there is internet, electronic contracts and you can make business from thousands of kilometers away with people who you’ve never met, that doesn’t matter for Spaniards. They like to doing business traditionally, face to face with a handshake.

You might think that’s not a big deal, you can show face and shake hands. But the problem is deeper than that. Actually it’s not necessarily a problem for them, it’s just a problem for expats like you and me. Spanish people, especially in Malaga do business based on tradition. Let me explain this with an example:

Let’s say you want to sell ceramic tiles to someone. Your tiles are great quality, your price is low and your deliveries are punctual as a Swiss watch. It doesn’t matter, because they already had a supplier who’s grandpa were fishing together with the grandpa of your potential client. Even if their product is low quality, their price is higher and the shipments are always late, they prefer doing business with them because of the tradition the trust. They rather trust shit than trying chocolate.

Most of the times there is another problem too, the lack of money. Spaniards are not the most wealthy in this area. Of course, again, there are exceptions, but in general they simply can’t afford good quality products and services, and when you combine that with the trust issue you get into these ridiculous situations:

When your price is high:
– Here is my service for 1000 euros.
– I am sorry, but it’s too expensive.

When your price is low:
– Here is my service for 100 euros.
– I am sorry, I rather do business with Pablo who was fishing with my grandpa.

When your service/product is free:
– Here is my service for free.
– Free? There must be a catch, sorry but I don’t trust you.

As you can see they always has an excuse for not doing business with you. Even if you have a feeling that Spaniards are so lame in doing business and you could do it better, you could market it better, the reality is different. Several times when I look at Spanish businesses in Malaga, I have the feeling that taking any business here would be like taking candy from a child. They would never see it coming or able to do anything against it, because they lack of competitive business mentality, their customer service most of the times are terrible or non existent, they are slow and often unreliable.


But at the end, their way of doing business, even if it looks ridiculous, inefficient and ridiculous for you, their business can sail smoothly with little resistance since it matches their country and society perfectly, while you would face resistance everywhere with your foreign business model.

Here is one my failed business ideas in Malaga

I life a fit life, I do sports, eat healthy, go to the gym regularly. I had the idea that I make a website to promote gyms in Malaga. I registered a domain, created a website with nice design, then I visited many gyms in the city, made photos and wrote articles/reviews about them that I published on the website. I did some search engine optimization and social media reach-out and soon I ended up with monthly 500-1000 unique visitors coming to the website looking for gyms.

My idea was the following: If monthly gym membership costs 30 euros for example, then 1000 visitors on my website have 30.000 euros value as potential clients for the gym. This calculation is obviously not precise. Not just because not every visitor will buy a gym membership but also because the lifetime value of the customers can be much higher than 30 euros. For example I have a gym membership for more than a year, meaning I’ve spent more than 360 euros in the gym already. You got the point…

After my website was ranking #1 for all major keywords in all major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) I contacted the gyms in email and on the phone, telling them, that I have a ton of potential clients for them, I would like to have a face to face meeting with the person in charge to talk about how can I send my clients there and how can I benefit from that?

  • First, I didn’t mention that I want benefits from the deal, but pretty much all of them asked, why would this be good for me? What is the catch? So that is why I changed the pitch and mentioned that I want something in exchange. This way my deal didn’t sound too good to be true.
  • I already had the website ranking #1 position, I had the visitors coming in, validated by a trusted 3rd party provider: Google Analytics, and I had all kind of social media properties with social proof. So it was well visible that I am not selling some bullshit.

Unfortunately talking to someone in charge in a gym is pretty impossible, unless it’s a small gym where the owner is there, but those small gyms were not interested in my service because they didn’t have any marketing budget. Also, before I went to do the face-to-face meetings, I’ve setup another website with an amazing concept:

A fitness website, heavily promoted on social media with interesting, engaging, viral articles to attract more people, not just those who search for gyms, but who are generally interested in being fit and healthy, to raise awareness and drive people to the gym. The concept was unique because every article was written by a qualified nutritionist or personal trainers from Malaga. That means the reader can just go to the gym and talk to the people who wrote the articles, ask for more information on the topic or personal help in training in professional and safe environment with trainers who motivate them and make sure they have the best progress. In the age of fake news this I believe it’s a great concept, giving enormous trust since there is real person behind every article from Malaga, and not just a phantom writer from overseas who makes you believe bullshit like the new chocolate diet that conquered Hollywood is the best for you.

I went to the business meetings with a Spanish friend to make sure there won’t be any language barrier, we were comfortable having a conversation in Spanish or English, we were prepared with all the data, features, benefits, presentation of the websites, search positions, visitor’s data, everything…


The price of the service was 99 euros/month/gym, including listing the gym on both websites, including professional fitness articles written by trainers and nutritionists mentioning their gym as the best place to go for further information and help to exercise. The price also included social media promotion on all social media channels of the both websites.

In Malaga there are more than 80 gyms and we managed to land only 1 client. Most of the times we were simply unable to talk to a decision maker because some gatekeeper secretary simply didn’t want us to get in contact with the boss, and obviously they couldn’t interpret our offer correctly, I can imagine them saying: “Someone was here trying to sell us some internet marketing thing. Boss, do we want to spend money on the internet?” And the answer was obviously: No.

In other cases they said that they already work with a company to promote them online and to manage their social media channels, which was totally different than what we offered, which means they didn’t understand our offer, even if the presentation and everything was in Spanish, or they simply thought that just because they pay money to Spanish digital marketing agency that means they are in good hands. That was obviously not the case because my website outranked most of the gyms in Malaga. Meaning, if someone was searching directly for their gym by it’s name, my website was higher in the search results then them, and on social media we had 10x more engagement then their channels. But they still thought, they don’t need my services.

Long story short: I’ve created two amazing websites with great content. The visitor and social engagement numbers confirmed that my concept is working. My 99 euros/month offer was clearly in the range that a gym can afford, considering that how much they pay for electricity, maintenance, employees and other things. And at the end… I failed miserably.

At this time I was already maintaining the websites for a year, practically promoting the gyms for free, without any benefit in exchange. Since I am not mother Teresa to do charity or free promotion for the gyms, I decided to remove the content, cancel the domain renewal service and put some rather funny/offensive stuff on the website:

Even after doing that, my website kept its #1 position in Google for some keywords, which is not just super funny, but also proves that other digital marketing agencies around here are… 💩.


I hope you found the story interesting and you might learn something from it, or at least understand a bit better how business works in Malaga. Personally this was the first and the last time when I tried doing business with local companies in Malaga, in the future I prefer leaving them for you. Also, if you have any personal experience, please share in the comments section!


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Written by Surviving Malaga


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