110% growth YoY
At Prairiewood–a boutique retreat with first-class accommodations, event space, and community programs–it’s all about connections. “We want people to retreat, rest, connect with themselves, connect with each other, and connect with the land,” says Beck Katzenmeier, who founded the retreat with her husband, Kail, in 2010. Prairiewood lies in the shadow of Kansas’ Flint Hills on nearly 500 acres of privately preserved tallgrass prairie; the couple takes active measures to protect and restore the plants and wildlife native to the fragile prairie ecosystem. They used Google Ads from the start to spread the word about lodging and recreational options on the preserve, and they post YouTube videos so prospective guests can explore the property. Kail points out, “We don’t need to present ourselves as anything more than what we are, we just need a way to tell the story that already exists.”
Mer-Sea & Co.
Lina Dickinson and Melanie Bolin had a lot in common when they met at their children’s preschool in Kansas. Both were recent transplants from California who missed the coast and wanted to find a creative outlet by starting a business using their marketing and sales experience.. In 2013, the pair founded Mer-Sea & Co., a lifestyle brand offering clothing, accessories, and home fragrances rooted in the joy of travel and the tranquility of seaside escapes. They initially focused on selling through retail partners, and Mer-Sea products are now offered in over 1,200 stores. But over the last few years, Melanie and Lina have placed more emphasis on their e-commerce website. “We love the control that online gives us over our messaging and imagery,” Lina says. They used Google Ads to help them make this adjustment, and in 2019 56 percent of sales and 54 percent of new customers came from their Google Ads campaigns. The proportion of the company’s online sales increased from 10 to 45 percent in two years, leading Inc. Magazine to name them Kansas’s fastest-growing business in 2018.
With a strong online presence, Mer-Sea was well-positioned to weather the uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Though disruptions to their supply chain caused some issues, Lina says being a small business allowed them to be nimble and react quickly as challenges arose. They adjusted descriptions on their website to emphasize that their stylish yet cozy and comfortable clothing and wraps—touted pre-pandemic as perfect for travel—were equally suited for working from or lounging at home. They added a line of face masks, and had custom hand sanitizer on the market within four months. Using Google Analytics to optimize their website and Google Ads to reach both new and repeat customers, Mer-Sea enjoyed a 95-percent year-over-year growth in online sales. “As we continue to grow, Google Ads will continue to be a key partner,” Lina says.
In 1976, Annie Hurlbut was researching anthropology in Peru when she fell in love with the extraordinary handwoven textiles sold in the markets of Cuzco. Then she gifted an alpaca sweater to her mother, Biddy, who became equally as fascinated with its craftsmanship. These experiences inspired them to start Peruvian Connection, a luxury women’s clothing company that designs and sells artisan-made Peruvian clothing and accessories. “The amount of detail and care that goes into each garment is unheard of in the industry,” said Elise Longbottom, director of marketing and brand strategy. In 1997, the company launched a basic website, but it didn’t start focusing on its e-commerce business until 2006. “Since then, it has just snowballed,” said Jason Owen, director of e-commerce operations. “We started doing some paid search around that time, and that’s really helped grow our overall presence online.”
Today, 28% of the organization’s total web traffic and more than 15% of its online sales come from Google Ads. “Google Ads is one of our biggest traffic drivers, especially for new visitors,” said Jason. “We started out very small- scale, but it’s something that we continually use to help leverage and grow our business.” Peruvian Connection also uses Google Analytics to monitor its paid search campaigns and Google My Business to display information about its retail stores in London and the U.S. “We rely on a number of Google products in our various day-to-day activities,” Jason said. “Google tends to be at the forefront of a lot of different technologies, so that’s a big attraction for us.”
Peruvian Connection remains connected to its roots by supporting philanthropic organizations and nonprofits that serve women’s needs across Latin America. “Being a female-founded and -owned business, we really love the mission of female entrepreneurship,” said Elise. Despite their success, the team at Peruvian Connection hasn’t forgotten how it all started. “We’re a family-owned business, and we make sure the whole team feels like a family,” said Jason. “It creates this extraordinary community where we’re able to do amazing things.” Moving forward, Peruvian Connection plans to keep using the Google platform and start running ads on YouTube to better reach the next generation of shoppers. “We need to make sure that we’re telling our story and that it’s connecting with that audience,” Jason concluded.
Mpix employs 650 people during peak season
The Miller family has been developing high-quality photos in Pittsburg, Kansas, since 1964. For decades, they catered their services exclusively to professional photographers. But when the industry transitioned from film to digital in the 1990s, their business evolved with it. “Digital cameras became much more readily accessible for consumers, and the Millers realized that there was now a market of amateurs, hobbyists, and aspiring pros looking for high-quality photo products,” explains Marketing Coordinator Paul Rotter. In 2003, the family launched Mpix, a web-based photo lab for emerging professionals and photo enthusiasts. “In the simplest terms, Mpix prints pictures—but it’s much deeper than that,” Paul says. “We help customers go back to a special moment. We print memories that they can preserve for generations.”
Mpix began investing heavily in digital marketing in 2013 and has since seen steady revenue growth. “We have yet to have a down year in sales,” Paul notes. The company uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to bring customers from across the U.S. and Canada to their online photo lab. “About 30 percent of our new accounts come directly from AdWords,” he adds. And Google Analytics equips them with the insights to make data-driven decisions. “When you’ve been around for as long as we have, it’s easy to start operating on instinct,” says Paul. “But thanks to Google Analytics, that’s not the case for us. We know where we should be focusing our efforts and what we’re getting out of them.”
To date, Mpix has delivered treasured memories to over 2 million customers, processing an average of 67 million images per year. They have expanded their line of products to include photo books, wood prints, and “just about anything that falls under the printing umbrella,” describes Digital Marketing Manager Matthew Salberg. To keep up with demand, the company has upsized their lab over a dozen times and is now one of the largest employers in Pittsburg. Behind their growth and success is their firm belief that a personal touch goes a long way. Every order is handcrafted by a member of the Mpix team, and every photo is personally reviewed to ensure that it is printed with exceptional color. “Like we said, in the simplest terms, Mpix prints pictures,” Matthew says. “But we know it’s much deeper than that for our customers. That’s why we deliver all of our photos with homemade care every single time.”
For Wichita Furniture, the experience of buying furniture is as important as the furniture itself. President and Founder Jay Storey stands by the idea that “associate experience” plus “guest experience” equals success. “Every day we come to work, we try to figure out how to improve the process.” Part of that process is ensuring that employees (associates) “believe in what we’re doing and are a part of our family,” says Jay. The other part is embracing what customers need. With that focus, Jay began as a one-man show in 1989, selling on consignment and transporting furniture to people’s homes in his pick-up. Today, Wichita Furniture has a 59,000-square-foot showroom of brand new furniture and delivers 3,000 pieces each week.
Jay is focused on building a robust e-commerce platform. “We already know that 90 percent of our customers go online and shop before they come into our brick-and-mortar location,” he says. In this effort, Google has become an indispensible resource. Their website traffic increased almost 50 percent in 2016, and Jay attributes the lion’s share of that growth to AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “AdWords not only drives traffic to our website, it brings qualified customers through our doors—people who have seen our products, know what they’re looking for, and are ready to pull the trigger. As a result, we’ve seen a drastic increase in our sales per guest,” he explains. They also use Google Analytics to gauge the effectiveness of their website and marketing campaigns, while YouTube lets them share content to familiarize people with their brand and products. “Just last year, we saw 14 percent growth because of our web presence,” says Jay.
Wichita Furniture served over 35,000 customers in 2016 alone. “And we’re just getting started,” Jay remarks. Now they’re developing a new web platform, where the consumer can not only make purchases, but track orders, schedule deliveries, and arrange service calls. “We want to be the best furniture company that we can be, and digital tools are going to get us there. This year, it’s our goal to just dig in and get maximum extraction out of everything Google and the web have to offer,” he explains. As Wichita Furniture forges ahead, they’ll continue to focus on their customers, employees, and community. “When you’re generating enough business that you can give back and grow within your community, that’s the most gratifying part,” Jay says.
Overland Park, Kansas
Prairiebrooke Arts has been in business for 26 years
In 1990, when the art sales company where she worked went out of business, Brooke Morehead seized the chance to create her own operation. For the first nine months, she ran the business from her basement with help from her husband, Mike, and a part-time framer. After working from a rented office space for seven years, Brooke wanted a retail presence, and moved the company into a 6,000-square-foot auto dealership that dates back to 1928 in historic downtown Overland Park, outside Kansas City. For the last ten years, their daughter Megan Hoban has also been working for Prairiebrooke Arts to help them grow the business. Today they are a regional leader in original art and conservation-framing services for both residential and corporate clients.
Although framing is a very traditional industry, Prairiebrooke Arts has embraced the web and Google products. They now distribute email marketing campaigns and newsletters, and rely on social media to communicate with current and prospective customers. The business has a strong, new website that they developed in-house, which includes a blog they use to educate and showcase their expertise. Google Analytics helps them keep the site’s content fresh and relevant. YouTube videos introduce visitors to the business as well as to featured artists. Gmail and Google Calendar help the staff to collaborate and keep in touch. Google Maps gives customers a 360-degree panoramic display of the gallery, “from the opening of the front door to the back of the frame shop,” Brooke says.
Brooke’s approach is working. In 2005 the company was awarded the 25 Under 25® Award by Kansas City publication Thinking Bigger Business and in 2014 was named the Kansas Woman-Owned Business of the Year in Retail. They now have eight employees with plans to add others, and in 2010 they launched an e-commerce sister company, Artsy (artsyarts.com), to scale the business, because, “there’s only so far you can go with brick-and-mortar,” says Brooke. With sales up by 20% in 2015 and the future looking bright, she plans to keep learning and using digital solutions. “With the Internet, you can be bigger than you are.”