How Bandon, Oregon, USA Is Riding Out the Recession

by Joanne Steele on August 30, 2010

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We ran away from home for a few days to the Oregon Coast. We planned to drive until we came to a small tourism town that seemed to be making it through the recession in one piece. We found what we were looking for in Bandon, Oregon.

What’s working in Bandon.

“It’s the people,” says chamber director, Julie Miller. “ We may not always agree, but we support each other and work together on our common goals.”

Bandon has the same problems that other small rural communities have:

  • Aging population
  • Poor regional access to broadband
  • Businesses owned, operated, marketed by, cleaned and stocked by the same person.

But, it’s Monday and the streets are packed with visitors! Why??

Here’s what I heard from the visitors themselves:

“It’s half way between San Francisco and Seattle. That makes it a great spot for our families to meet every year.” (Location)

“It’s the beaches! They’re close to town and we can get to them without going through private property or a hotel.” (Geography & attractions)

“It’s the coolest town on the Oregon Coast. We live in Coos Bay and we bring company here instead of our own downtown because of the cool downtown scene.” (Amenities, ambiance and reputation)

“No distractions. Our family can spend quality time together here.” (Meeting customers’ expressed needs)

So, how are they doing with Internet marketing?

Bandon is typical of many small tourism towns. They’re moving very slowly into the Internet Age.

Broadband is available within their city limits, but outside of town, where many of their chamber board members live, people are still on slow, slow wire.  Thus the attitude that we’re doing just fine without much access.

As with so many small towns, demand is driven by need. Here, locals are doing quite well without email or Google searches or Internet shopping. These small owner-run businesses don’t have IT departments pushing for new online marketing techniques.

And, the town is full of customers. For now, traditional marketing is still working for the most part working.

Marilyn Pounder, owner/operator of the Bandon Fish Market and Bandon Coffee Café has websites. She is listed on Google Place Pages and advertises this in the windows of both businesses. She feels that her success is built on quality, location, return customers and traditional word-of-mouth.

But, she understands the importance of Internet marketing. She knows that those regular positive Yelp reviews are helping too.

What are the lessons we can take from Bandon

Bandon is benefitting from all its past efforts.

So, get busy! Don’t let the recession undermine efforts to revitalize your town. It might not turn you around tomorrow, but work now is building your future.

In Bandon:  Its business community supports its chamber. People work together for the sake of the town regardless of their differences. Signage, ambiance, etc. in the town center is pleasing and inviting – that has taken lots of time effort and money.

Don’t rest on your laurels.

Every business in Bandon should be following in the Pounders’ footsteps and start some Internet marketing by getting listed in online directories and review sites.

Nowadays, if you’re comfortable with your marketing, it means your falling behind. We’re in a paradigm shift when it comes to marketing.  Do some Internet marketing every month. Get comfortable with it, then add another online technique. Here’s the checklist I use in workshops: “An Internet Marketing Checklist For Rural Tourism Business Owners.”

If you think you can survive without changing, remember the dinosaurs.

1 Brent Dahl September 1, 2010 at 11:54 am

Great article!! Bandon is doing it right.

Here’s an additional observation or bit of advice (for any rural and small town businesses) — put down the mouse and pick up the phone. Long distance phone bills need to be higher than they are now, month in and month out. And those phone bills need to show strategic calls made to out of town strangers, not friends and family. Get on the phone for an hour a day and find a focused way invite people you don’t know to come visit you and do business in your town. If a shopkeeper or a business owner burns up time, thought, emotion, and energy talking to total strangers (potential visitors, potential business partners, or thank you calls to previous visitors) that do NOT live in their immediate area, they face lots of rejection but by doing so they’ll uncover new customers and new cash flow from zip codes outside their community.

2 Joanne Steele September 2, 2010 at 10:00 am

Hi Brent,
I’m not sure I agree with you, but it’s an interesting idea. For small business owners I’m always looking for ways they can maximize their marketing time, and an hour of targeted online marketing can reach hundreds, maybe even thousands. While telephone cold calling will reach maybe 10 or 20 max in the same length of time.
Any other thoughts on this?

3 John Soares August 30, 2010 at 11:35 am

Joann, Bandon’s beauty, location, and past efforts definitely help fuel its present success, even in this recession.

I think Bandon is helped tremendously by truly being one of the most beautiful places people can stay on the entire west coast of North America. I think other beach towns that don’t have the beautiful beaches Bandon does will have a more difficult time of it.

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