Why Your Next Business Should Think Locally–Not Globally
Free, unsolicited advice on how to create the next Uber, Bumble or Postmates.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Even as we become more connected and spend upwards of 11 hours per day online, local culture still matters.
I've written about the technical talent pool in South Dakota, the wave of fitness-centric millennials flocking to Madison, the startup hub in Raleigh, and local leaders who have made Columbus the new business capital of the Midwest. Despite the rapid development of our digital selves, we continue to actively engage with local communities.
I've talked about how consumer social responsbility initatives are a better marketing spend than advertising. Creating a coding academy, a diversity and inclusion accelerator, or something that shapes a community is a better long-term investment for businesses large and small.
Impact is how you should judge any marketing effort. As marketers we tend to fan outward on how we view impact.
Tech Builds Bridges
Forward-thinking apps and digital tools are helping people connect locally, bridging the divide between screen life and physical life. Creating tools that help us connect locally are incredibly valuable.
Uber, Airbnb, Postmates and others are technically all local apps. They provide specific services in a close geogrpahic radius. Bumble, Hinge and Tinder are the same. It's hard to date someone five states away so these again run on proximity.
What this tells you is that however global our thoughts are as marketers there is still great value in connecting locally. And these apps don't have to serve large purposes. You can simply create something that better connects interests.
Cities specfically are eyeing tools that facilitate this. GoNation, which helps local businesses, such as restaurants and popular merchants, communicate and connect with customers, is working with over 30 cities directly.
"Engaging with city organizations isn't difficult because, for the most part, cities are all undergoing a digital transformation and we are positioned to fit the needs of competitive cities," said GoNation CEO Chaz Tanase.
Be In The Connection Business
If you look at Target's acquisition of Shipt last year, a grocery-delivery app and service, you can see where local opportunities are forming. Delivery has made a huge leap in the last two years.
But this will open up in to other services. Amazon has put a huge dent in local retail. Couple that with thousands of online stores successfully using Instagram to target consumers and it's hard to envision local retail competing.
But where others see decline, I see opportunity. If you can create an app that better connects consumers directly to local retailers, which carry their products and deals--you have something of great interest to hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide.
Creating one central portal for people to access local finds is essentially the Bumble of retail. But with local first movements in lots of cities, consumers are willing to spend locally. They just don't have an easy way, yet, to find these items. And they can't be expected to walk through a mall or get on Google to find them.
This usually occurs naturally through word of mouth. But right now, Amazon and Instagram are better sources.
So, think locally from a connection standpoint--and then duplicate that process nationally.
This is just one space of many where you can logically start to see where connecting people locally to commerce, services, healthcare can be of immense value to both businesses and cities.
Plus as you expand an idea, you access enough data to create more value for cities and businesses to access and improve their offerings. With enough cities and users, you can start generating data that can improve local businesses, the way Uber Eats or Open Table generates better data for restaurants.
When you are looking to create a business there are hundreds of different directions you can go. You should always stay close to your expertise. But beyond that there is still an underserved market for making local connections.
And that's the biggest key to creating a successful business. If a wave of services and apps zig toward one market, zag to the other.
Startups that want to position themselves to bring communities together can take away this key lesson from GoNation. By targeting multiple groups with a common interest, the app becomes a touchpoint of utility for each group. Startups that want to bridge the gap between our digital and local lives can learn from GoNation's strategy of making real life simpler and easier for its users. Local communities who want to benefit from this app, well, you'll just have to get in line to knock on their door.