Local vs. Global: Which Is Best for Small Business?

When faced with a decision between staying local or expanding to international markets, small business owners need to consider their ultimate business goals.

Go global, or stay local. That’s the question.

Small-to-midsize business owners (SMB) are often faced with contradictory advice. Article after article explains the benefits of buying local and working with homegrown businesses. Yet SMBs are also encouraged to harness technological advances to realize their global aspirations.

When faced with a decision between staying local or expanding to international markets, small business owners need to consider their ultimate business goals, target market/audience, and ultimately, their bandwidth.

Small is the New Big: The Benefits of Staying Local

The benefits of focusing on local markets are undeniable. Small businesses that hone in on their local market benefit from a deep knowledge of their customer base, and networks of support in the community.

By choosing to engage purposefully with your community, businesses gain access to the SMB owner’s best weapon: local marketing.

Local marketing is more efficient and affordable than one-size-fits-all approaches. Hyper-focused and specific messages will resonate with local customers compared with a generic tagline tailored to fit multiple audiences.

More recently, local marketing has gone digital. Digital local marketing isn’t an oxymoron—it’s a key strategy for businesses. According to a recent study, 50% of people who searched for a store or business visited that location within 24 hours and 60% of searchers said they make use of the information they find on local ads or the business’s webpage. Business owners can even use the geotargeting features offered by online advertising platforms to ensure that local customers can find your business.

Will customers be able to find information, reviews and contact data for your business? In today’s digital world, an online presence is vital to growing any business. Consumers and business partners don’t trust businesses that don’t appear on Google. Invest in search engine optimization services for your website, build your social media profiles and make sure to actively participate in localized online directories like Yelp and Google reviews.

Once you’ve established your online presence, you need to maintain it. Encourage customers to leave reviews on the platform of their choice. According to one survey, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Keep in mind that Millennials trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Actively manage your online reputation by responding promptly to both positive and negative reviews. Social media is about conversation. You have to listen as well as speak.

Choosing to stay local provides the SMB owner with a unique opportunity to really tune into their audience. Whether that’s online, on the street or at the local carpool, small businesses who embrace their community reap a variety of benefits.

Go Global: The Benefits of an International Market

So, what about businesses whose products aren’t localized?

Online services, internet-based products and specialty goods are all businesses that are primed for globalization. In an increasingly connected world, there’s no need to limit your business to customers in the same geographical region.

Many small businesses already have a narrow focus or niche market. This intense focus on a particular space often makes going global easier.

With this razor-sharp focus on a particular target market comes a stellar reputation among that unique audience. The more narrow your niche, the easier it is to build your reputation. An established brand reputation is essential for a small business that is aiming to go global.

If your target market is narrowly defined to begin with, limiting your audience further by location will hurt your bottom line. Expanding your products or services to international markets increases the overall size of your niche, the amount of customers you can reach, and therefore your bottom line.

Despite its many benefits, globalization can seem out of reach to the average small business owner. Navigating different cultures, international suppliers, and global money transfers are hurdles that can be overwhelming.

Choosing between local or international markets is not a one-market-fits-all situation. Like many things in the SMB universe, it depends on your product, your customers and your business’s goals. Modern technology allows even the smallest businesses to expand globally, but the benefits of staying local remain.

Ultimately, as the boss, the choice is yours.