Whether we like to admit it, us Western Australians are a parochial bunch.

Pretty much everywhere outside of WA is affectionately referred to as “over east”. When people from Perth meet someone new, they immediately ask where they grew up and what school they went to, so they can establish mutual connections. Because the chances you know someone who knows them is pretty high – it is a small town after all.

People from Perth pride themselves on the fact that it’s the most isolated city in the world; no conversation is complete without reference to the weather (which is, of course, the best in Australia – as are the beaches); and it’s perfectly reasonable to pay up to $5 for a coffee in the city.

Like it or loathe it, Western Australians move to the beat of their own drum. And they love the sound of the beat.

We recently completed some brand tracking research for a Perth-based FMCG client who was surprised by the strength of their brand. Why? They didn’t have much of a presence on supermarket shelves and had done little, if any, mainstream advertising.

Yet their unprompted and prompted awareness far exceeded competitors in their vertical, and unprompted free associations with the brand were overwhelmingly positive.

Ultimately their brand is benefiting from the parochial nature of Western Australians (or Sandgropers) and our affinity for all things local. The client is a WA brand with a long history in their industry, and commercial value is being driven by strong consumer perceptions of them being a local, trusted brand.

Having grown up in WA, I can identify with the fierce pride that West Aussies have in their state. But there are some important implications that anyone looking to do business in WA needs to understand.

  • Think local – WA clients are largely focused on what’s happening in their own market – any experience you might have in other states is interesting but not important.
  • Get physical – if you want to build a successful business in WA, it’s important to have a physical presence. The fly-in, fly-out approach may work to a point, but at the end of the day clients want to see that you’re committed to their market.
  • Network – like any city, but perhaps even more so, Perth’s business community is built on relationships and referrals. The next opportunity is more likely to come from who you know than what you do, so get out there and network as much as you can.

Western Australia’s economy might not be booming like it was five years ago, but that’s not to say there’s not an abundance of opportunity in the West.

WA’s gross state product (GSP) was $249 billion in 2014-15, 15% of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP)[1].

Healthcare, tourism, agriculture and business services are all likely to drive growth in WA in the next five years as the state’s economy diversifies away from mining – the healthcare and social assistance industry is WA’s biggest employer, accounting for around 10% of the state’s workforce.

Innovation will drive growth, particularly in high-tech industries, and professional services will diversify its focus as opportunities shift from the resources sector to new areas.

The current deflationary environment makes things challenging for business, with household savings at record levels and consumers opting to pay down debt rather than spend. But those who position their business for growth by identifying untapped opportunities, building relationships and really getting to know their customers’ needs and wants will be well placed to capitalise on the market recovery.

[1] FACTsheet, September 2016 – Committee for Perth