Don’t get lost: The downsides to Geographical ThinkingJune 30, 2014 | By Wayne O'Neill
Many firms think that they connect best with their clients when they think geographically. They focus on having an office in every major city, so they can feel physically close to them and more available to meet needs as they arrive. What they don’t realize is that clients are more interested in someone that understands them and connects on a deeper level than can be limited by quantity of miles.
The impact of the internet
We live in an age in which clients are thinking bigger. The web gave us access to ideas to be shared, but little outlet to create a means of finding that information. Enter social media. People are connecting to people based on common goals and niches, are understanding more efficient ways to run their businesses, and they’re doing all of this without consideration of physical boundaries. They’re emphasizing culture and a similar understanding of challenges. They’re getting ideas and support from a global economy, rather than their competitor down the street. They’re thinking big.
Social media is getting people more interested—even obsessed—with sharing information. You miss a clue when you hoard information or focus on a client being “your territory” rather than sharing things within your company. Clients don’t think of themselves in that way. That’s limited thinking, and it leads to more limited thinking.
Going to market
If you set up your go-to-market strategies emphasizing that because you work in the healthcare industry you need to consider where to put your offices in relation to Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, you’re missing something. It’s not wrong, but it’s not as spot-on as you expect it to be. You must consider that your clients are more driven by ROI than any other external factors.
Sometimes, the Hub and Spoke mentality is more effective. This is a way of setting up shop so that you don’t have to be in every major city, just a couple, and then you have a spoke to an area that adds to the connection. You don’t have to close your office, but you can certainly make it a skeleton and make the center of your universe in Irvine, California or Topeka, Kansas–it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re connecting with your clients. You thought that spending a million dollars of overhead for an office in Houston meant something…it doesn’t. It buys you nothing.
Across all boundaries
Often, you’re looking for a solution to or an understanding of business and political issues. And those aren’t limited by geographic boundaries. People in Phoenix, Arizona want to learn from the people in New Hampshire, who want to learn from someone in Orlando. If you make the mistake that someone in Phoenix only wants to learn something from someone in Tucson, you’re experience the limits of traditional sales thinking. It’s okay that one person is in this region and you’re in another.
The thing is, they aren’t buying whatever you’re selling, they’re buying solutions. And solutions aren’t geographic.
Here’s The Bottom Line…
There’s been a shift overall in the way society works. It’s a global society, not a local society. Non-territorial thinking. Team thinking.
A hub and spoke model allows you to be somewhat near your clients without the high overhead of too many offices.
My caution is that geography can be misleading in connecting with your target audience. Address is irrelevant, caring about the issues is what consistently matters.