How to be local and build a global business

Guest Author

Nowadays, it’s so much easier to build an online business without any real borders or physical limitations.

Do me a favor, will you? Check out the websites of the top three online brands that you love doing business with. Go to their “about” or “contact” page. And find out where their “main office” is located.

You’ll be a little bit surprised to find out that not all of them are based in your home country, right?

The same notion was true when we started WooThemes a couple of years ago – it was founded in Cape Town, South Africa – and yet, majority of our customers are located all over the world!

Now, the idea of building a business from anywhere and scaling it large enough to reach worldwide sales is great, sure. On the other hand, this kind of broad thinking may cause us to miss out on helping our brands reach “the tipping point”.

What is “the tipping point”, you ask?


“The tipping point” is a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell which means that this is the critical moment when an event, trend, idea or product ceases to be marginal and becomes massive instead. You can check out this helpful summary of Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” book to learn more about it.

Basically, the tipping point is when you or your business crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

It’s the moment when your idea, business or brand becomes viral because it’s spread by “connectors”, “salesmen” and “mavens” and simply because your brand is memorable enough to encourage people to take action.

Surely, you’d want your business to reach the tipping point, don’t you?

However, simply learning about the tipping point isn’t enough. You need to understand why certain people act a certain way and respond to certain brands, too. Seth Godin exemplifies it best on his book This is Marketing when he says:

“For most of us, from the first day we are able to remember until the last day we breathe, our actions are primarily driven by one question: “Do people like me do things like this?”

People like me don’t cheat on their taxes.
People like me own a car; we don’t take the bus.
People like me have a full-time job.
People like me want to see the new James Bond movie.

Even when we adopt the behavior of an outlier, when we do something the crowd doesn’t often do, we’re still aligning ourselves with the behavior of outliers.”

This narrative of “people like us” influences our behavior – even our purchasing decisions and the way we go about life. Think about it: before you do something, buy something, or even respond to something, you think about what your peers or other like-minded people would do first, right?

We act the way we do and we respond to certain brands because “people like us” do the same thing.

Now, to further drive my point about being local and building a global business, let’s talk about how Facebook and Uber started.

Facebook started on a per-campus basis. They started at Stanford, and once they’ve reached the tipping point on a specific campus, they move on to another one, over and over again. Doing this helped them build a strong base, so when they finally launched publicly, they had a solid momentum that grew steadily upwards over time.

Uber did the same thing: they started at San Francisco and once they’ve reached the tipping point on a specific city, they moved on to the next one over and over again. Because of this, they’re able to grow into the global business they are today.

Here’s how you can apply these interconnected concepts into your business:

Where are you based?

First, find “people like you” by focusing on your own locality. Get your first 10 or 100 customers by being true to your local roots. Cater to their needs, wants & desires as consumers. Speak to who they are so you can influence how they respond to you. Like-minded people are more likely to engage with each other. Doing this can help your business become viral.

When you’re locally focused, it’s much easier to reach the critical mass and gain the momentum you need to expand outwards – you simply need to take the momentum you’ve gained from the first location and move it to the next one.

Also, a little bonus point is infusing your heritage and your roots into your overall branding efforts makes you stand out from the crowd more. Share what you stand for. Talk about where you came from. Include a little bit of local flavor into your visual identity and similar-minded people can relate to you more.

After all, we behave according to what “people like us” behave, remember?

I truly hope today’s video helped encourage you to build your business and turn it into a global brand by integrating the concepts of “the tipping point” and “people like us” in your strategies – be more targeted, focus on a niche first, and start with your own location. You’re well on your way to building a better business.

Any thoughts you’d like to add? Questions you’d like to ask? Or valuable personal experiences you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below! See you next week. Cheers from Cape Town.


Here’s how the tipping point can apply to your business’ growth and sustainability. Click To Tweet Know why people act the way they do + know what makes your business viral = build a sustainable and global business. Click To Tweet Want to influence how your customers react to you? Speak to who they really are and talk about what they stand for. Like-minded people are more likely to engage with each other. Click To Tweet Focusing your business locally first can help you find the critical mass and the momentum to reach the tipping point. Click To Tweet We behave according to how “people like us” behave. Here’s how you can use this concept to help you build a global business over the long run. Click To Tweet