THE BLOG

What I Learned This Week: It's What You Are, Not Where You Are

05/05/2014 01:06 EDT | Updated 07/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Many moons ago, fresh out of university and in the process of launching my own marketing and promotion agency, I shared an office with a grizzled vet of the retail franchising industry. He was obsessively methodical about everything, including delivering long-winded sermons for my real-world educational purposes.

One day, explaining the ultimate real estate benefit of being situated in a central, densely populated spot, he used an adage for the first time that I was to hear again and again throughout my career:

"The secret to success is location, location, location."

Cut to the past two weeks, which saw me travel from San Francisco, California to Whitehorse, Yukon to New York, New York. In each city, I was taken to dinner in some off-beat, off-the-beaten track place (one at the far, far end of a dead-end alley) that was far away from any "location" to speak of. Granted, it would've been WAY easier to chow down a few steps away from my hotel, or in some instances even downstairs in the lobby, but instead, we chose to seek out the unique, the chance of discovery and/or the opportunity to share a story.

Now I know we're only talking about a small sample of three restaurants here, but the trend of "plop your place in high-traffic areas and reap instant and easy rewards!"seems to be a bit passé these days. Whether in the spheres of bricks and mortar or digital, if you have something unique to offer, people will not only find you...they will come to you. And do so happily.

The concept of location now is not so much about a physical presence, but about a state of mind; a "place" you occupy in people's heads.

It may sound archaic now, but in the early days of the Internet, start-ups paid hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for "locations," namely easy to remember URLs that would guarantee eyeballs, traffic and hopefully, revenue. Today, the URL has almost become irrelevant, as people find the new, the hip, the interesting and the pertinent predominantly through the shared words and recommendations of others...the same way I found those eateries in San Fran, Whitehorse and NYC.

In fact, instead of being a detriment, perhaps out-of-the-way trumps location-cubed. To modify a cliché, "Life's a journey AND a destination." But ONLY if the destination merits the journey...which significantly ups the ante for whatever business you're in, be it a restaurant, a hotel, a blog, an app or a whatever.

I'll give you another example. I'm a hockey player. Granted, not a very good one, but passionate enough to play every week for the past 25 years. High-end equipment stores are usually on the outskirts of town, and I will travel far to them to check out new gear, or to get the proper half-cut edge skate sharpening. They got me.

But let's say a high-end hockey store was located in a bustling mall or smack-dab downtown. Does anyone think the "improved location" would result in more business? That it would convert common passers-by into hockey players? That it would be worth the additional rent? Yeah right...I have a better chance at scoring four goals in a game.

Again going back a bit in the adage-generating time-machine, the film Field of Dreams brought us the classic "If you build it, they will come."That's not enough anymore; there are dreams, and there are delusions.

Build it and if it's WORTH IT, they will come. In fact, more than that, if it's REALLY worth it, they will seek you out and hunt you down.

So this week's learning is another one of those paradigm-shifters:

WHERE you are isn't as important as WHAT you are.

Or put another way, "Relevant, unique, exciting is the new location, location, location."