Vermont Smoke and Cure
Founded in 1962, Vermont Smoke & Cure has been dedicated to crafting delicious smoked meats for nearly 60 years. As the business has grown, it’s shifted its focus to specialize in sustainable and better-for-you meat snacks. Locals have long loved Vermont Smoke & Cure’s products, but when Tara Murphy joined the business as CEO in 2016, her top priority was sharing these treats with a larger audience of health-conscious snack lovers across the United States. At the time, Vermont Smoke & Cure had a basic website, but it didn’t have e-commerce. “There were other people selling our products online, but we weren’t really capitalizing on that,” Tara said. Tara knew that beefing up the company’s online presence was the key to connecting with a wider audience of snack lovers and those looking for snacks that fit specific diets, like paleo, keto, or gluten-free.
To make sure it reached consumers who were searching for meat snacks or similar products, Vermont Smoke & Cure turned to Google Ads, which now drives more than a quarter of its online sales. “Google tools are great for capturing the consumer when there’s some seed of interest in something related to your product,” said Tara. “Now we can really connect with someone searching for a protein-rich or low-sugar snack who may not be aware of how great a meat snack can be in their lifestyle.” As more of Vermont Smoke & Cure’s ad budget goes to digital, its return on investment continues to grow. The company also uses Google Merchant Center to keep its product information updated and relevant and Google Analytics to identify which aspects of its digital platform need tweaking to create a seamless customer experience.
Since it started using Google tools, Vermont Smoke & Cure has experienced 30% year-over-year growth. “We were able to educate ourselves by using Google Ads and then testing and learning what was making a difference and with whom,” said Tara. “That influenced new product innovation and even our brick-and-mortar channel strategy.” As a Vermont benefit corporation, Vermont Smoke & Cure works to minimize its carbon footprint and supports local community farmers to make the state an even better place to live. “We want to be a thriving business in Vermont for many years to come,” said Tara, who hopes to quadruple business over the next five years. “I see Google playing a role in us continuing to grow.”
Darn Tough Vermont
The Cabot family has been making premium wool socks in the Green Mountain State for three generations. Until the early 2000s, they manufactured socks for other brands. But as business began to leave the country, the family found themselves at a crossroads. “Times were tough,” says Founder and CEO Ric Cabot. “The mill went from two shifts a day to two shifts a week, 401(k)s were cut, and the company was close to insolvency. We had to seriously ask ourselves whether it was still viable to be an American manufacturer of premium socks.” They decided that it was, and in 2004 the family shifted business models and launched their own brand, Darn Tough Vermont. “The world said we didn’t need another sock brand,” Ric recalls. “But we believed in our product so strongly, we chose to unconditionally guarantee our socks for life—a commitment we carry on to this day.”
When the Cabots shifted business models, their digital strategy changed with it. “We now share our story and commitment to quality with consumers around the world,” explains David Tyler, Director of Digital Commerce. Darn Tough Vermont uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach customers looking for what David describes as “the most comfortable, durable, and best-fitting socks you can own.” They share the mill’s history and values on social media and YouTube. “Video is an ideal medium for bringing customers closer to our brand, and YouTube is a strategic platform for reaching and engaging the modern consumer,” David adds. And with insights from Google Analytics, they can better understand what resonates with their customers and improve their marketing accordingly.
Today some 1,800 retailers in the U.S. carry Darn Tough socks, and the company’s international distribution is growing in Canada, Europe, and Asia. “We've had nearly 30 straight quarters of growth, with double-digit growth in recent years," says David. All of this is good news for Darn Tough’s home in Northfield. To keep up with demand, the company has expanded to a nearby 47,000-square-foot mill and doubled their workforce over the past three years. “We feel very strongly about reinvesting in this community and creating opportunities for the people here,” Ric explains. And they plan to do so for many years to come. “That willingness to never give up, to never be satisfied, to always go for that next peak—that’s what we’re all about.”
King Arthur Flour
Companies who’ve survived for centuries are few and far between. Founded in 1790, King Arthur Flour is one of them. “We started as a family-owned flour company 227 years ago. The fact that we’re still selling flour as a major part of our business is amazing,” says Bill Tine, Vice President of Marketing. Today, King Arthur Flour is 100 percent employee-owned. They sell their signature flours and baking mixes directly to consumers online and wholesale to 5,000 U.S. retailers. They also run a local bakery and café, have two baking schools in Vermont and Washington state, and are a major content producer for bakers across America. “We’ve really grown into a national company that focuses on all things baking,” Bill remarks. "Our consumers' experience via our website, social media, and email marketing have been a huge part of that growth.”
Since getting online in 1996, the historic New England company has flourished. Their website has evolved into an e-commerce store as well as a popular baking recipe destination, drawing over 20 million unique visitors a year. "We want to have a direct relationship with bakers in the U.S.," Bill says. "That starts with people buying from us directly. And 85 percent of that happens online." AdWords, Google's advertising program, brings in 20 percent of their e-commerce revenue. Google Analytics provides them with the data to better understand and meet the needs of their customers. They use social media, including YouTube, to share baking tips and other goodies. "We also use Google Trends to look at seasonality and guide our product research and content planning,” adds Aime Mason, Director of Digital and Content Marketing.
From their unbleached and unbromated flours to their whole wheat breads, King Arthur Flour is proud to be, as Bill describes, “number one in most product categories that we sell in.” They were named one of the 2016 Best Places to Work in Vermont. Their Bake for Good program teaches thousands of kids how to bake and also encourages them to “bake it forward.” And they hope to soon be the first resource all bakers turn to for advice, inspiration, and education. “Whether you’re a kid making bread for the first time or an expert struggling with a new technique, we want to help you have the best experience possible,” says Bill. "That’s what we strive for. To have a meaningful impact on our bakers, and to save the world, one recipe at a time."
Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean
Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean retrieved 130,000 pieces of trash in the summer of 2015
Rachael Miller, her husband, James, and their two Newfoundland dogs visited remote Matinicus Island, off the coast of Maine, for a short vacation in October 2009. They were shocked by the amount of trash that had washed up onto the beach. Rachael spent the first day pulling it all up above the high-tide line. "You hate ocean trash,” James said. “Let's do something about it." So they did, by founding Rozalia Project, named for Rachael’s great-grandmother. The nonprofit group protects and cleans the ocean using technology, innovation, solutions-based research, and engaging STEM programs. They focus on urban and coastal waters, specializing in the remote islands and shorelines of the Gulf of Maine, and solving the problem of synthetic microfiber pollution.
“We had the Internet in mind from the beginning,” Rachael says. “Knowing that people could go online and get our story straightaway was important.” Rozalia Project soon began sharing their mission via short videos. “YouTube is a pretty spectacular tool for us because it's so popular, so central, and so easy to integrate across other platforms,” Rachael says. YouTube’s analytics help them understand their video audience, while Google Analytics provides useful insight into their website visitors. The group also began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, thanks to a grant from Google Ad Grants, which helps them connect with potential volunteers and donors. In addition, volunteers and staff use the Google Apps for Work suite of tools, including Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs.
Rozalia Project has grown steadily since its inception, thanks in large part to the Internet and technology. They now conduct summer expeditions on a 60-foot sailing research vessel, American Promise, with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to work on the sea floor. Numerous volunteers assist two year-round employees and a summer captain or two. The group cooperates with such partners as the University of Georgia and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to track and retrieve ocean debris, and as many as 30,000 people enroll in their online education program. Rachael could scarcely have imagined it all while cleaning that lonely beach at Matinicus Island. “That's what we want,” she says. “We want impact.”