Can I share an odd idea with you? And I know this is maybe going to sound crazy…
I think you need to stop thinking about your small business as a local operation. Instead, I think you (and I) need to de-localize our small businesses, maybe by going “regional,” “national” or, gulp, maybe even “global.”
Nope, don’t worry. I’m not going to burden you with some far-fetched, megalomaniacal strategy over why you want to do this. Or with any headache-inducing complexity related to the first steps you’ll take.
Rather, I want to share three reasons why we may need to, in effect, delocalize.
Reason #1: Out of Area Competitors Already Cannibalizing
Here’s a first thought, for example: I bet most of us small businesses are already getting cannibalized by out-of-area competitors. So in a sense, technology and the global economy are already shrinking the pie from which we’re trying to slice a modest but profitable piece.
Just for the record, I’m not talking about Amazon.com or eBay or some other giant e-commerce operation. Of course, those digital economy giants have displaced thousands or millions of small businesses.
What I’m thinking about are those small and medium-sized business competitors who already, unbeknownst to us, play in our own backyards.
These days, I fear, we’re not just sharing our local market with the guys across town. We’re also giving up profitable customers and interesting opportunities to small and medium sized competitors operating regionally or nationally or even globally.
The bottomline? We need to expand the boundaries we operate within just to stay even…
Reason #2: Technology Makes Reaching Farther Easier
Which nicely leads to a related reason we need to delocalize: If you or I run a small business with a niche-y service or unique product, we can now easily reach across the country or even around the world using online marketing assets like an informational website, social media activity, online forum participation, and a blog.
And this means we can economically connect with huge numbers of prospects outside our local area.
Just to use the example of a small CPA office, two or three decades ago, you wouldn’t have even had a practical way to find the names and contact information for small CPA firms in some med-sized city a thousand miles away who specialize in your industry.
Today? Today, you can find that CPA easily, all of her competitors, read personnel biographies of firm employees, schedule a service, and upload your information—all in the same time it’s taken you to read to this paragraph of my little blog post.
That’s a giant change in the landscape. And one we small business people need to be exploiting if only because the more prospects we touch, the more customers we get.
Reason #3: Giant Opportunities to Scale Up Profitably
And now one final comment about delocalizing your small business. You and I may, by delocalizing our businesses, be able to become more strategic in our operations. So let me expound on that a bit because people throw around the “strategy” word a lot without really meaning anything definite.
What I mean here by “strategy” is the textbook definition of strategy, which means your general approach for taking customers away from your competitors. The Wal-Mart strategy for example is to take customers away from competitors by offering lower prices. The Nordstrom strategy for another example is to offer higher-priced but better-quality products and service.
Here’s how this applies to a small business once you and I stop thinking locally.
If we can sort through a regional or national population and focus on a category of customers with unique needs–let’s use the example of cell phone display repair shops–you and I by going regional or national may be able to create a high-volume, high-efficiency business which lets us attract large numbers of customers and clients with low prices.
Or for another example, if we can sort through an international niche—let’s use the example of preparing tax returns for professional bloggers using advertising revenue in the United States –we surely have many more opportunities to create highly-differentiated, priced-at-a-premium services we can sell in volume if we have a global population to sort through for good customers and clients.
A Final Comment in Closing
I said earlier that I was only going to throw out three reasons to delocalize your small business. But can I toss out one other idea to gnaw on a bit?
The globalization of commerce has beat up small businesses and lone entrepreneurs in all sorts of ways over the last ten or fifteen years. But the way to react, I respectfully suggest, is not by worrying or engaging in worst-case scenario planning.
Rather, I think you and I need to use technology and an expanded definition of the markets we serve to join the party.
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