This guest post is from Andy Nulman — President of Just for Laughs and author of “Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise.” See the original post this was adapted from and more like it on his blog.

arrow and targetMany 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 tenets of his business to me, 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.” — namely the ultimate real estate benefit of being situated in a central, densely populated spot.

Now cut to the two-week period 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. Certainly 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 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 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 Francisco, Whitehorse, and New York City.

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 the lesson here 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.”


About Andy Nulman

President of Just For Laughs, world's biggest comedy organization. Former mobile tech entrepreneur. Wild public speaker. Wilder public dresser. Author. Hockey player. Gym rat. Needs a longer bio.

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  1. Rahul

    I always thought that “location, location, location” in real estate meant that the “right” place for any particular individual or family was based on where they wanted to live, rather than what features they wanted their house to have. Meaning that location is more important than number of bedrooms, bathrooms, size of yard, pool, fireplace, finished basement, etc. Some people actually want to live in the country, or the suburbs, or the off-the-beaten-path location at the end of an alley. Others want to live to live in the centre of densely populated areas. All at the expense of what else they are seeking their home to have. I don’t think this applies to marketing your business and making it valuable so that they will seek you out. Where do you want to live is not the same as where do you want to find your products and services.

  2. Paul Sherblom

    Funny article, but slightly off the mark – especially posted on a website promoting Word-of-Mouth marketing. In that field a ‘location’ inference through a relevant domain name is paramount – unless and until (through great expense) a unique ‘location’ is widely branded.

    Your implied premise that location and quality are mutually-exclusive is faulty. All things being equal, businesses of similar caliber will survive based on location – in the real world and more significantly online.

    As a marketer, I think you would concede that one of the companies in the following analogy would prevail based solely on their ‘location’ – all other things being equal:

    Two companies selling cast iron fry pans (a bit of hyperbole for clarity) – one named Cast Iron Fry Pans, Inc. and located at and the other named GobbleDeeGoop, Inc. located at Imagine the marketing campaign differences in time, money and results through various methods: billboard ads; eMail addresses (eMail marketing); organic search results; paid search conversions; radio ads; print ads, business card authority; bumper stickers; store sign (if brick-n-morter also); every marketing effort; etc. …… but most of all in reference to WofM marketing, which company do you think would enjoy the most – and more perpetual – marketing boost coming away from a casual cocktail party when the discussion inevitably turned to cast iron fry pans? This is the element that equates to giving your friends directions to that great experience you have discovered – online or in the real estate world. Of course, a lot of natural traffic by your door never hurts – all those passer-bys can easily share if the ‘name is in the brain’.

    Point being, location ‘IS’ marketing and the business behind the front door is merchandising. They both lead to building your brand. Grasp, retain and share – the tenets of Word-of-Mouth marketing!

    Yes, the improved location would result in more business. And, yes, it would be worth the additional rent. This is proven science. I have no knowledge of your goal-scoring talents.

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