Im embarrassed to say that, after 3-1/2 years in business and almost 12 as an internet professional, Ive only recently made sure my company was listed in local search. Sure, some of it was the usual problem of the cobblers children going shoeless, but its more than that. As an internet consultant, I just dont think of myself as a local business. After all, my online reach is global, right? Sure, in theory, but here are 5 reasons why, in practice, were all still local businesses:
1. Your Reach Is Limited
Unless your product is 100%, completely virtual, you still have barriers. Its easier and cheaper to sell to your local market. Even if you have a virtual product or sell services, that product will likely be affected by cultural differences, language barriers, time zones, etc. Your site may be available globally, 24/7, but that doesnt mean you have a global audience.
2. Your Network Is Local
Lets say, for arguments sake, that you do have a global product, or at least a national one. What about the other aspects of your business? When you go looking for talent, word-of-mouth, funding, and even your first few customers, where are you going to start? You start with your network, and more than likely that has a huge local component. If location were irrelevant to the internet, there would be no Silicon Valley as we know it.
3. Presence Builds Trust
Building a website is relatively easy, at least when it comes to the basics. Anyone can set up shop and put up a veneer of credibility, but having a real, physical location is still vital to gaining trust. Even if you sell a global product, you have an office and a phone number, and that real-world presence matters to customers.
4. Local Search Is Growing
Search is evolving, and local search, with the advent of smart-phones and GPS, is changing rapidly. If you havent established yourself in local search, youre probably missing out, no matter how big you think your market is.
5. Virtual Beer Sucks
Sorry, but getting a virtual beer on Facebook is just plain lame, even if it is free. We wouldnt still have conferences and tradeshows if face-to-face contact didnt matter. No matter how virtual your business is, its still ultimately about people, and (for now, at least) youre more likely to do business with the person you had lunch with than the one you met on LinkedIn.