Go Local to Grow Big: 5 Ways to Leverage Your Location to Build Your Business

Stephen Rosenberg - Thursday, March 03, 2011

It’s fair to suspect that if you’re reading this article then you’re looking to grow your business. If you have a business and you are NOT looking to grow, then that’s a topic for a different post, perhaps titled, “Misguided Missions” or “Sure We’re Out of Business, But It Wasn’t About the Money, Anyway.” Of course, growing your business is easier said than done. You need to periodically re-evaluate your business model, create corresponding goals, integrate disparate parts of your business into short term programs that support long-term objectives, and garner employee “buy in.” Meanwhile, you have to maintain the flexibility to innovate and exploit new opportunities.

In this rush to build their businesses, most companies equate business growth with geographic growth. Consequently, money is likely being left on the table. Why expend resources going after the top of the tree when there’s low-hanging fruit right in your backyard? By taking a fresh look at your local business strategy, you can build your business with minimal investment while strengthening your brand. Below are 5 Principles that can help guide your business to local growth while firming up the foundation of your business. In no particular order:

Events There’s nothing like organizing a live event for producing local leads. An event that creates value for attendees while demanding nothing in return can help drum up leads, establish your Thought Leadership credentials, and get your brand some positive exposure. You know networking is important, so why not become the hub for your industry? If you were a potential customer of your firm, would you go with the “local guys” who have established expertise, or would you trust your business to some online outfit from Whoknowswhere? Running an event is a great opportunity to leverage your locale- where else are people eager to shake your hand in appreciation of all your hard work? Keep in mind, as with everything we discuss, it’s important to take a Turnkey approach: an event with strong attendance and great buzz that is not carefully aligned with a follow up strategy may not be the best use of your resources.

Cause There’s nothing wrong with giving corporate funds to established, national charities. It’s great for the cause and demonstrates your firm’s commitment to something other than making money (i.e., it’s good PR). When you ship out your donations, though, you’re missing an opportunity to have a positive impact in your hometown. There are likely dozens of worthy causes in your area that have their own built-in networks. These organizations also probably have lower operating costs, meaning your dollars will go farther. That’s not to say that you should stop sending money to urgent causes outside of your town, but to consider a mix in your giving. Plus, keep in mind that giving to a cause doesn’t always mean money. In fact, it’s likely that you have some expertise that can benefit your community. So maybe still send money to Haiti or Amnesty International or wherever, but think creatively about how to engage and support the causes in your own town. You’ll feel great about it, and your business will thank you.

Sourcing Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their products are coming from, for all sorts of legitimate socio-economic-political reasons. Just because something costs less overseas doesn’t make it a better choice. For one, you can’t know much about working conditions, and it’s also harder to complain about supply-chain issues. More than that, though, you’re missing an opportunity to build your backyard network. If you can locally source your business’s needs, you’re tapping a potentially huge reservoir of goodwill. So what if something costs slightly more? Chances are you’re getting something of higher quality, anyway. More importantly, you’re supporting a local biz (good for the community = good for you), and they’re more inclined to evangelize for you to their local network. These sorts of local arrangements when integrated can lead to amplified results - particularly when you don’t forget to promote your successful efforts building community coalitions!

Differentiation When you start a business, you’re either doing something totally new, or, more likely, trying to improve on an existing product or service. Either way, your primary task is to communicate how you’re different and why that difference is valuable. This is commonly referred to as your Value Proposition, and it should be at the core of everything that you do. No one wants to potentially waste money on something new that they don’t understand, and why would anyone go the the trouble of switching away from a perfectly good existing option? So how do you break down these barriers by going local? For one, you can Source your materials locally, incentivizing nearby networks to check you out. You can also reflect the spirit of your community in what you offer. What are the local values? Causes? Materials? Topography? Tastes & preferences? This is particularly valuable if you are a big company doing business in multiple markets. Commonly referred to as “glocal,” short for glocalization, it’s a potentially large competitive advantage if your products and services embody and represent the places where they are sold. That doesn’t mean building something a million different ways (or anything else likely to give your engineer a heart attack). If the channels that you use to go to market (as MBAs, we like to avoid saying stereotypical things like “Go-To-Market Strategy”) include local talent, organizations, and other resources, then you’re more likely to succeed at getting your product or service adopted. Remember, your brand tells a story, and who we hear that story from makes all the difference.

Social Know what’s cooler than tons of friends on Facebook? Tons of local friends. Sure, your products or services might be available everywhere, but local friends--if you’ve done your job--can’t be beat. Local friends have had an opportunity to meet you, learn more about what you do and how they might get involved, and see all the ways you’re positively impacting the community. These local friends are thus likely more willing to “like” you, spread your message, and support your preferred causes. Intuitively, local friends are also more likely to break out out into real-life calls to action. After all, it’s hard to throw a differentiated, buzz-building, live event that benefits charity if all your “friends” are hundreds or thousands of miles away, right?

See how Events, Causes, Sourcing, Differentiation, and Social all work together? When managed effectively, the interplay between these local concepts can amplify your business and help you resonate beyond your borders. Go local to grow big!

Coming soon: How Cohesive Design and Strategy Can Amplify Your Business Objectves