HalloweenCostumes.com Mankato, Minnesota
“The Internet has turned us from a small local rental company into a worldwide business.”Tom Fallenstein, President & CEOHalloweenCostumes.com has $70 million in annual sales.link www.halloweencostumes.comThe Fallenstein kids were the envy of their neighborhood, thanks to mother Jenice’s creative, homemade Halloween costumes. In 1992, sisters Lisa, Heather, and Julie started renting out their old costumes from their garage. Brother Tom joined in part-time while studying computer science in college. After graduation, he decided to scare up new business by selling specialty costumes online. "I started building websites for us in 2004," Tom says. "By October 2005, everything exploded." They took over their mom's house, stocking inventory and shipping packages. "We had to unplug the phone because we couldn't take any more orders," Tom says. The family has since turned their garage operation into a full-fledged business in their hometown.
HalloweenCostumes.com sells costumes for adults, children, babies, and pets, as well as accessories and decorations. They've used AdWords, Google's advertising program, since 2007 to attract customers looking for particular types of costumes. "Our biggest traffic driver is AdWords, bringing in millions in sales," Tom says. They've redone their mobile-friendly website to appeal to shoppers using smartphones and mobile devices. Their social media, including Google+ and YouTube, showcases their vast inventory, demonstrating everything from mask-making to makeup-application techniques, and conjures up interest in costumes people never dreamed of (even in their best nightmares). Google Analytics lets them track what people are searching for and how they use the website.
Since their humble beginnings in their family garage, the business has outgrown two buildings. They now occupy a 200,000-square-foot facility, employ 150 full-time staff, and hire 1,500 seasonal workers during Halloween. They've launched two speciality websites (fun.com and shirts.com) to keep business hopping off-season. And they're expanding their brand internationally. "My sisters and I stand in the aisles here and say, 'Wow. This has come a long way from our parents' house,'" Tom says. "Google created the opportunity for me to bring a small costume shop online—and then bring it to the world."HalloweenCostumes.com has $70 million in annual sales.link www.halloweencostumes.com
Sportsman’s Lodges Baudette, Minnesota
“We’ve really concentrated heavily on online marketing in the recent years and we've seen huge returns from it.”Jacki LaValla, Marketing Director15,000 guests annuallylink www.sportsmanslodges.comWith three locations in and near tiny Baudette, Minnesota, along the Canadian border, Sportsman’s Lodges offers year-round relaxation and entertainment. The fishing is absolutely terrific in what locals call the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Guests also enjoy fine dining, an indoor pool, and live entertainment in three locations. Families, corporate groups, and friends have vacationed for decades at this popular resort, founded in 1971. Marketing Director Jacki LaValla has worked for the family-owned business for over 20 years, and knows that the remote location in northern Minnesota can be a marketing challenge. She overcomes it by aggressively using the Internet to reach potential new customers.
Sportsman’s Lodges built their first website in the early 1990s and have been updating it regularly ever since. “We use Google Analytics quite heavily," Jacki says. "I'm not sure what we would do without it to figure out who is checking out our website. It’s been great to help us make better decisions, and spend less on things that aren't working and more on things that are.” The resort also relies on AdWords, Google’s advertising program. They’re using it now for remarketing—reaching a prospective guest more than once. “One of the statistics in the industry is that someone will hear your name seven times before they really consider booking with you,” Jacki says. “We really think AdWords is a great, great tool for us.” They also use a Google+ page to stay in touch with guests, and Google Docs and Google Drive for collaboration among employees.
The resort credits the Internet and Google tools for helping them thrive even in tough times. Since the economic recession struck in 2008, their sales have grown by nearly one-third. “We feel that our 32 percent growth over that time is phenomenal,” Jacki says. “When most businesses were turning down, we started to go up.” Today, they’re building more new cabins. “We definitely see a lot of growth potential going forward.”15,000 guests annuallylink www.sportsmanslodges.com