Bellingham marketing – A unique small business challenge

The quirkiness of the consumers in Whatcom County has always interested me. I have concluded they are an overlaping mix of these buyer personas:



  •  The Subaru buyer
    • This is an affluent yet thrifty group. They purchase their cars nearly 3 years before anyone else and over 1/3 pay cash. They are eco-friendly and value the freedom to go where they want, when they want. They don’t seek to buy “a thing” as much as they pursue “an experience.” They lack a desire to understand how everything works and as such can be easily bewildered when placed in complicated scenarios. They are able to see things in shades of gray as opposed to simply black and white. They are extremely susceptible to fall prey to “feel good” causes simply on face value.
  •  The engineer
    • Engineers make decisions that, when wrong, can have disastrous results. As a result, it is difficult for them to make a decision until they are certain they have all the information possible and have considered all possible options. They create daily routines and systems that they find painful to change. Ever move the stapler on an engineer’s desk?
  • The Missourian
    • Missouri is known as the “Show-Me” state. It conotates a certain self-deprecating stubbornness and devotion to simple common sense. (credit)

Another interesting perspective came from a phone book salesperson. After hearing that I had no use for a business listing in their phone book (I was marketing a national online service at the time), they indulged me as I picked their brain regarding the state of their sales efforts. She conceded that Whatcom County, and Skagit to some degree, was the last bastion of successful phone book busines listing sales for Washington State. Apparently, phone book usage remains high, she conceded, because her clients in Whatcom County were reporting continued success with their listings.

I have made several presentations to industry groups in Whatcom County regarding online marketing and visibility. And I have always followed up to see what efforts were made by those in attendance. Rarely have I seen anyone appear to implement many if any of the steps detailed in my presentations. Perhaps I failed at delivery but at the same time I get approached after these presentations with people asking great questions, seemingly engaged and understanding the concepts, who appear to be heading out the door to help themselves. But when I check a few months later, there’s nothing.

One symptom of this appears in the fact there are premium domains sitting unclaimed, ready for the taking for a mere $10. Domains that would have been purchased and made use of ten years ago in any other market remain untapped. This last year I was stunned to discover,, and were all unclaimed. They’re mine now.

I am left to believe the Subaru-Missourian-Engineer consumers of this county have been trained not to bother searching online for local businesses, products, services and activities because the business community as a whole has failed miserably at rewarding such behavior. There’s no experience to be had, no information to dive into and, lastly and most tragic, no response when asked. They’ve been driven back to the old tried-and-true methods of research, like the phone book.

What will it take for local industry groups to encourage (mock?) their peers into stepping up? Or am I trying to swim upstream with this notion. Maybe there are other more effective channels that are already being taken advantage of.

What say you? What are some of the exceptions to my findings? comes to mind (nicely done, John!)