If there’s one entrepreneurial mantra that’s getting a little long in the tooth, it’s probably Location, Location, Location.
How much does location actually matter these days?
Before we go much further, a disclaimer may be in order. It might go without saying, but many of the points that follow won’t make sense for certain kinds of businesses. If you’re thinking about opening a coffee shop, or a bistro, or a laser tag arena, for example, location is everything.
For everybody else, I hope this is an interesting thought experiment about what our world might look like after the Internet has finished demolishing our remaining geographical barriers.
Why Location Might Not Matter
The thing about a physical location is that it caters to a very specific, and certainly very small, cross-section of the populace. Compared with the larger population of the country, relatively few people will actually see your storefront, and fewer still will actually be in your target market.
It’s becoming more and more obvious that flashy storefronts and strategic physical locations are becoming less and less important for the average company that does business online. The fact is, a well-built website, or social network campaign, or thoroughly syndicated blog post, has the potential to reach many more interested parties than your storefront or office building ever will.
This is not to say that the two are mutually exclusive—not by a long shot. But if you’re hoping to court new customers with nothing more than a flashy window display, you might have some troubles.
Why Location Will Always Matter
One of the biggest reasons to continue beating the drum of Location, Location, Location is the problem of talent acquisition. Until your company has the kind of prestige that would cause a job seeker to move across the country to join your team, you’re going to have to rely on local pools of talent. This means establishing yourself in a geographical location that’s well-suited to your industry and can attract the kind of people you want to work with.
And then, of course, we have the matter of image. Like it or not, a company located in a no-name rural town might be passed over in favor of one in a thriving metropolitan area. There will always be exceptions—WebpageFX began its life in off-the-grid Carlisle, PA—but we’re all beholden, to a certain extent, to superficiality. Prestigious or exciting locations will always speak to that.
The Silicon Valley Exodus
That’s all pretty hypothetical, so let’s get real. If you had to choose a region in the United States that’s most closely associated with entrepreneurial greatness, it’d be Silicon Valley, right?
The nickname for this part of the San Francisco Bay Area was coined in 1971, and since then the region has been a hotbed of innovation in the technology industries. The problem is that after so many years of almost relentless development, the rosy hue has worn off a bit. According to Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, younger workers are growing disillusioned with Silicon Valley’s suburbia-like qualities and are driving a mini-exodus to nearby Oakland, San Francisco, and other urban or “urban-lite” environments. He adds: “There is a migration out of Silicon Valley to places where people really want to live.”
If Silicon Valley is any indication, we may be quickly approaching a time when we’ll be able to live just about anywhere we want, and still have the tools and resources available to play a role, even from a great distance, in a thriving company with a worldwide reach.
And Silicon Valley might only be the beginning; office parks across the country may soon be a thing of the past as more and more companies start doing business where employees want to live, rather than where they’ve been told innovation lives.
Thoughts On Thought Leadership
A phrase you hear often in the Internet marketing space is thought leadership. And the funny thing about thought leadership is that it doesn’t acknowledge state or even national borders. In fact, it exemplifies the idea that the Internet can help us tailor our businesses, our wares, and even our personalities to a global audience, and it’s a further nail in the coffin of our Location, location, location mantra. One company that gets this is Tackk.
Tackk, which provides content development tools from its home in Cleveland, has managed to stake a claim in the tech sector many miles away from Silicon Valley, in a part of the country where real estate, labor, and other costs are a fraction of what they are in the more developed areas. Most importantly, they say that this has not impacted their ability to do business with international partners. Nevertheless, they do still find that they make regular trips to Silicon Valley to meet with investors and partners who haven’t been as quick to move to the greener pastures.
Another industry where thought leadership is exceptionally important is law. Harris, Mericle & Wakayama, a firm that calls Seattle home, is still able to represent (as they put it) “International and national corporations, small and medium sized regional and local businesses, municipal corporations, community organizations and individuals.” That’s a long-winded way of saying their status as thought leaders in their industry has allowed them to address a world full of potential partners and clients.
It’s All Just Commerce
A few years from now, the term eCommerce may well be redundant as we continue to live with one foot in the physical realm and one in the digital.
My experience over the years with WebpageFX has proved to me that neither quality products nor relationships should play second fiddle to location. We’ve built relationships with people all over the country and even the world—and we got our start in a little town in Pennsylvania.
The Internet has always been about making connections between the online and the offline world, and I suspect that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the ways that Internet connectivity will transform the way we live, do business, and connect with a global community.
And if that means retiring a few cliched business mantras along the way, I say bring on the progress.
This article was written by William Craig from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.