“Where is your business based?” is often one of the first questions that we’re asked when we’re speaking with potential clients.
But let me answer it by asking another question: “Why does it matter?” Because, increasingly, I don’t think that it does.
As you may know, our offices are based in Strasbourg, in North-Eastern France. However our newest client is based in Canberra, Australia. That’s a distance of 10,290 miles, or 16 561 kilometers.
In between the operational work we have weekly or bi-weekly phone calls (often for 3 to 4 hours at a time – thank heavens for VoIP) plus of course frequent email exchanges. As a result I’m in touch with the client pretty much as often as if they were located locally.
Couldn’t our client have found a marketing services business in Canberra, or at least in Australia, that would have been able to address her particular requirements? Probably. But instead she chose us (and of course we’re grateful for her business).
In fact, at the moment every one of our clients are located outside of France. Moreover, our Canberra client is not the first Australian company that we’ve worked with. (So why are we based here? Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you…)
Simply Being Local Isn’t Enough Any Longer
Twenty years ago commerce was largely local. If your business was local, then customers would buy from you – regardless of whether your product/service/pricing was “right” for them. Similarly, if you as an individual lived close by, then the local company would hire you.
But that’s no longer the case.
The best (i.e. most suitable) value proposition for any item deemed worthy of transaction is now available to anyone, wherever they may be. As a result, the market for boring, average, unremarkable products and services has reached its ideal state.
If you’re competing on the same products or services with companies that (due to location, business model or whatever) can offer the customer better / faster / cheaper, then it’s just a question of time before you’re out of the game. Examples? Look at Circuit City or Blockbuster or Borders.
Business Must Be About More Than Local
Selling things that (as far as customers are concerned) are identical to ones found in the next town is no longer enough to keep you in business. It’s hard to charge extra just for the convenience of being local when customers have accurate and immediate information about pricing, availability and delivery.
The point is that customers now have the choice. But that also means companies have a choice too.
If you’re looking to build a business – or a career – in today’s networked commercial environment remember one thing: Any task, process or practice that can be automated, will be automated. As a result, your particular value proposition needs to be based around (customer-determined) criteria that survives and flourishes because of and / or in spite of this new world order.