Local vs. global markets: which is better for small businesses?

5 min read

What’s the right market fit for SMBs

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

Small business owners 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.

What is a small business owner to do?

When faced with a decision between staying local or reaching for international markets, small business owners need to consider their target market, desired audience, and the nature of their product or service.

Small is the new big: the benefits of staying local

Globalization is the cool new kid on the SMB block, but the benefits of focusing on a local market are undeniable. Small businesses that hone in on their local market benefit from a deep knowledge of their customer base, networks of support in the community, and localized marketing.

Localized marketing is a specific marketing plan targeting potential customers of a physical store, service, or restaurant. Local marketing focuses completely on customers within a small range, such as a particular region, town, or neighborhood. By choosing to engage purposefully with your local community, you gain access to one of the SMB owner’s best weapons: local marketing.

Local marketing is cheaper and more efficient than traditional standard, one-message-fits-all approaches. Hyper focused and specific messages are more likely to resonate with your local customers than a generic tagline.

Emphasize your commitment to your local community with sponsorships of local events, sports teams, or related conferences. For example, if you own a bike shop, sponsoring a local bike safety event is a no-brainer. Maybe you run an organic soap business: why not organize a community clean up of a local park or green space?

But local marketing is much more than handing out business cards at the neighborhood Christmas parade: like most other things, it’s gone digital.

Digital local marketing isn’t an oxymoron, it’s a key strategy for locally focused small businesses. 50% of people who searched for a store or business visited that location within 24 hours. 60% of searchers make use of the information they found on local ads or the business’s webpage. Use the geotargeting features offered on online advertising platforms to ensure that local customers can find a business.

Another key aspect of digital online marketing is reputation management and brand presence. Will customers be able to find information, reviews, and contact data for your business?

Not having an online presence isn’t an option anymore. Consumers and business partners won’t trust a business that doesn’t show up on Google. Invest in SEO services for your website, build your social media profiles, and make sure to actively participate on localized online directories like Yelp, Google Maps, Angie’s List, etc.

Once you’ve established your online presence, you need to manage it. Encourage customers to leave reviews on the platform of their choice. According to a recent study, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. 91% of the coveted millennial cohort trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Actively manage your online reputation by responding promptly to both positive and negative reviews. 86% of consumers read reviews before supporting a local business. Remember, social media is about the conversation: just like in kindergarten, 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 particularly localized?

Online services, internet-based products, and specialty goods are all prime businesses that can benefit from 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 (it’s pretty hard to start a business that sells everything, unless you own a gas station). This intense focus on a particular space often makes going global easier: you don’t need to define your offerings, because you likely already have.

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

In fact, remaining locally focused can hurt small businesses with an incredibly narrow focus. If your target market is narrowly defined to begin with, limiting your audience further by location is just going to hurt your bottom line.

Let’s go back to the bike shop example. Even if you do happen to be located in Moab, Utah (the mountain bike capital of the world), you’re missing the opportunity to sell to the over 5 million Canadians who visit the popular adventure tourism regions of British Columbia every year.

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 like a pipe dream to the average small business owner. Navigating different cultures, finding international suppliers, and dealing with international money transfers are hurdles that trip many SMBs.

Luckily, your business isn’t the first to encounter these hiccups. Many resources are available for business owners looking to go global, including Veem’s own International Business Guides.

The biggest challenge: payments

Arguably, the most difficult issue faced by small business owners are international money transfers. Large banks charge hefty fees for international wire transfers, and offer little security or customer service. But you don’t need to sacrifice your bottom line to send money online.

New players in the emerging fintech industry are stepping in to fill this gap. Veem is a global payment platform that allows businesses to pay and get paid with ease. With Veem, you can send and receive money online quickly, affordably, and securely to over 100 different countries. Say goodbye to expensive international wire transfer fees; send money online with Veem.

Local or global – it’s up to you

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.

Highly specialized and niche products are better suited for global markets, as they can reach a wider audience internationally. A narrow focus helps small businesses reach their niche audience and accelerate their growth.

Conversely, localized products and services can reap the benefits of local marketing. If your business serves a dedicated audience in your neighborhood, lean into the power of your local community.

Modern technology allows even the smallest businesses to expand globally, but the benefits of staying local remain. Ultimately as an entrepreneur, the choice is yours. And isn’t that why you decided to start a small business in the first place?

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* This blog provides general information and discussion about global business payments and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.