Prairie Fire Pottery
Beach, North Dakota
Prairie Fire Pottery serves more than 20,000 customers annually
Tama Smith was working in advertising in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when she had an aha moment. “I wanted to go back to school and study art,” she recalled. At the encouragement of her husband, Jerry DeMartin, who Tama calls “her biggest supporter,” she earned a fine arts degree, specializing in pottery. Thirty-five years later, she is still doing what she loves as the owner of Prairie Fire Pottery. Tama handles the pottery studio, and Jerry runs the business side. Together, they have created a must-stop attraction for travelers passing through the upper Midwest.
To ensure that potential clients’ road trip plans include a stop at Prairie Fire Pottery, they use a website and an array of digital tools. “Our biggest challenge is to communicate effectively with the traveling public,” said Jerry. “We have to tell them who we are, what we have, and how to find us. Google does all those things and then some.” Prairie Fire Pottery relies on Google My Business along with Google Search and Maps. “Google Maps puts us right there on tourists’ phones as they head down the road,” said Jerry. “It tells them everything they want to know, including store hours.” Google also allows customers to write reviews, and Prairie Fire Pottery has proudly earned a five-star rating. “We get a lot of credibility from having five stars with Google,” Jerry said. Prairie Fire Pottery also uses Google Search Console to monitor its search ranking by keyword, Google Alerts to inform them when they are mentioned online, and Google Drive to back up the website. Recently, they also began Google Ads to reach even more customers who are in search of handmade pottery. “Until now, we’ve been concentrating on organic search results,” he said. “Now that we’ve secured that organic standing, we’re moving on to paid search.”
Prairie Fire Pottery has experienced 600% revenue growth since it first launched online in 1999. “That’s about a 5-10% growth rate per year,” said Jerry. Prairie Fire Pottery serves 14,000 digital visitors annually and an additional 10,000 who visit its popular brick-and-mortar location. “That’s 10,000 people who might not otherwise have stopped here, but now they do,” he said. “And once they’ve stopped in Beach, they discover other stores and restaurants in town.” Prairie Fire Pottery plans to keep using digital tools to reach pottery lovers far and wide. “In the old days, tourists would’ve been one-time customers, but not anymore. Now, we’re able to not only find customers but develop ongoing relationships with them — and that’s all because of Google.”
Heat Transfer Warehouse
Fargo, North Dakota
Kirk Anton returned to Fargo in 2009 because of his father’s ill health. With the city faring better than many others during the recession, he decided to stay and look around for local business opportunities. Because Kirk had experience in warehouse distribution, his friends suggested that he create a one-stop shop for heat transfer materials used in the garment and textile decorating industries. He took their advice and, together with Co-founder Tricia Huson, launched Heat Transfer Warehouse in 2010. “It was just us, the dog, and a telephone,” Kirk recalls. “We began importing heat-applied films, reducing them to the quantities and sizes people wanted, and calling potential clients.”
Heat Transfer Warehouse has had a website since day one but did not begin marketing online until 2013. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, “was the first platform we went to,” Kirk says. “I remember setting up our first ad campaign and waking up the following morning to a $700 sale. That was a magical moment for us, because we realized then that we could market our products 24/7.” By April of the following year, Heat Transfer Warehouse stopped taking orders over the phone and went completely digital. About 35 percent of the company’s sales now come through AdWords. “And we get about seven to twelve times the return on investment,” Kirk notes. They have added Google Shopping campaigns to their advertising mix, optimize their web presence using insights from Google Analytics, and even share helpful content like heat application tutorials on YouTube.
The company today is on a “hyperbolic growth curve,” says Kirk. They have averaged 70 percent growth over the past four years, and have gone from “two people and their dog” to a forty-person team. With locations in Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, and North Dakota, they now service over 85,000 customers across the globe. To fellow entrepreneurs who wish to follow in their footsteps, Kirk recommends “surrounding yourself with people you can learn from and who will support you.” For Kirk and Tricia, that sense of community came from the people of Fargo. “Everyone here wants you to succeed, and they want to hear your story. It’s like a big small town in that sense,” he explains. “So it means a lot that we’re able to grow in Fargo, hire local students, and contribute to the city’s entrepreneurial energy. It’s the best part.”
Fargo, North Dakota
Powerful innovations have long come from American garages, and Fargo's Pedigree Technologies is no exception. Founded in 2004 by entrepreneur Alex Warner, Pedigree Technologies brings cutting-edge remote-monitoring and asset-tracking solutions to life. “It's pretty exciting to see a product you’ve built changing businesses and making lives easier,” says Director of Product Management Josh DeCock. Today, their technology is used by companies all across North America to keep track of high value assets—everything from trucks to construction equipment—and diagnose problems remotely. “In the beginning, most of our customers were regional. We now have a much larger customer base with global reach,” Josh remarks.
To get this far, Pedigree Technologies has relied on the Internet to keep their own business operations as innovative and dynamic as their products. They use AdWords, Google's advertising program, to target and attract customers. “On any given month, 33 percent of our traffic has been from Google Search and AdWords,” explains Marketing Manager Clay Kraby. “They’re the biggest sources of traffic to our site.” Google Analytics helps them track their website performance just as closely as their clients' equipment. They also share eye-catching tutorial videos on YouTube and collaborate in real time with G Suite tools Gmail, Docs, and Drive. “Google's products are robust, reliable, trustworthy, and just make things much simpler to do,” Josh says.
With over 450 customers across the United States and Canada, Pedigree Technologies has long outgrown their garage. Half of their marketing budget is now committed to digital, driving 50 percent annual growth and fueling hiring initiatives to keep pace with their ever-increasing demand. They also have countless stories about how their products are impacting people’s lives. “We’ve been able to save people’s jobs,” says Marketing Management Director April Dennis. “Following truck accidents, for instance, our technology has been used to prove that drivers were driving just as they should’ve been and that the accidents were out of their control.” With plans to introduce several new lines of high-tech products this year, Pedigree Technologies can expect many more stories about how they’re improving operational efficiency and safety for their customers. “A lot of really cool things are coming down the road,” Josh says. “We’re excited to see them come to fruition and make a difference.”
Mighty Missouri Coffee Co.
Bismarck, North Dakota
Brian Jackson believes a cup of coffee should delight the senses, get the blood pumping, and inspire possibilities. "I grew up on Lake Sakakawea with a strong sense of the spirit of adventure," says Brian, an avid swimmer, cyclist, and runner. After graduating from college, Brian wanted to start a company inspired by his love for the rugged outdoors. He founded the Mighty Missouri Coffee Co. in 2013, paying homage to the river that runs through Bismarck. He imports what he calls "Third Wave, origin-centric" coffee from all over the world. The company mantra—"Another day, another adventure"—is stamped on every bag.
This speciality craft roaster relies on the Internet to keep business percolating. “In lieu of a brick-and-mortar store, our online presence becomes our storefront," Brian says. "Our focus is on Google advertising and social media marketing campaigns.” He used AdWords, Google's advertising program, to help launch the brand. Now they enjoy robust online sales and distribute to coffee shops and grocery stores throughout the Dakotas, with AdWords bringing in more than half of the website’s visitors. Google Maps shows coffee lovers where they can buy "Mighty Mo" blends, while Google Analytics shows Brian where website traffic is coming from. Gmail and Google Docs keep him and his partners connected.
In the spirit of giving back, Brian partnered with Nashville-based charity Blood:Water, donating a portion of online sales toward clean-water efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa. "Doing good" resonates with customers, and within two months of rolling out the partnership with AdWords and social media campaigns, online sales jumped 50%. Brian also sells music that complements his coffee and is building a YouTube channel to showcase musicians. His brand is an experience he plans to share with a larger national audience, with the help of Google My Business tools. "When I go back to Lake Sakakawea and I have Mighty Missouri Coffee right there with me, it's sort of surreal," he says. "This is my dream."