Local or global? That’s a question that faces many businesses. Not all, of course: in some cases, the nature of the business will determine the answer. A baker’s shop necessarily has to serve the local community, as does a hairdresser-unless, of course, they’re a hairdresser to the stars and can jet off all over the world.
On the other hand, if your business relies mainly on mail-order, it’s unlikely to have any physical locality to cultivate. What counts as “local” for Amazon, for instance?
Some of us, though, don’t have such a predetermined set-up and have to choose what balance we’re going for. On the one hand, local gives me relationships, the personal touch; on the other, global opens my market to anyone, anywhere who speaks English (and some who don’t).
Of course, doing business globally doesn’t rule out forming relationships with clients. Through the wonders of this thing called the internet, it’s possible to communicate directly with people anywhere. In other sections of my life, particularly as a fiction writer, I have friends I’ve never met face to face from America to Australia, and most of the people who’ve published my work are thousands of miles away.
The same kind of relationships can be built up in business. Online networking is huge, and it isn’t all about pictures of cute cats. (Not that I don’t like pictures of cute cats.) Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the rest give us the means to interact with potential clients or partners in ventures with an intimacy that an exchange of letters can’t achieve, and without the prohibitive costs of long international phone-calls.
Then again, we’re a tribal species, and we tend to like interacting with people we can identify as “one of ours”. That can mean many things, but staying within the locality can be a big selling-point. Even online networking can’t quite compare with actually meeting someone, talking to them, deciding what we think of them by the same means humans have used for thousands of years.
This can be particularly useful for me, if I’m writing to represent the client. Speaking to that person, hearing their inflections, seeing their body language as they communicate: all this gives me an insight into the personality I need to get into the copy.
Fortunately, local business networking is thriving. I go to several groups and I’ve met plenty of people who are interesting in their own right, besides being potential customers. I’m looking out for more.
Modern technology, such as the internet, is a huge benefit which opens up dizzying new possibilities, but should it simply replace the tried and tested? Certain groups of people are forever proclaiming that old approaches are dead, replaced by a brave new world. Ebooks will replace print, downloads will replace CDs and so on. But new technology is supposed to expand choice, not merely replace one option with another.
I certainly hope books-real, physical books I can handle-will never disappear, regardless of how wonderful it is to have ebooks too. I also hope the open horizons the internet gives us won’t kill local, personal contact and relationships. I don’t see why it should and, from what I’ve seen, these are alive and flourishing in Hertfordshire.