Appalachian Botanical Co.
Foster, West Virginia
West Virginians are used to being self-sufficient, and when they have a good idea, they’ll make it blossom. When a federally funded grant project growing lavender–a hearty plant that loves rocky soil–on reclaimed coal mine land ended, team member Jocelyn Sheppard knew she had found a good idea for a business–and for her southern West Virginia community. “We’re employing former coal miners, veterans, people who didn’t finish high school, and people who just need a second chance. They enjoy growing lavender, and don’t have to move away to make a living,” Jocelyn says. Appalachian Botanical Co. stands as a bold alternative to the 98 percent of lavender that is imported into the U.S., selling premium aromatherapy, body care items, and culinary products made from Boone County’s own lavender fields. And as Appalachian Botanical Co. makes plans to grow demand for West Virginia’s finest across the country and around the world, they’re using Google tools to help make it happen.
Climbing New Heights
Martinsburg, West Virginia
30% revenue (or 50% customer) growth over 3 years
When Chris Price left the Air Force after 12 years, he tried rock climbing as a way to regain his civilian footing and developed a passion for the sport. In 2017, he bought a rock climbing gym, Climbing New Heights, from a fellow veteran in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Chris and co-owner Jordyn Truax wanted people to discover the joy of climbing, so they reoriented the business to welcome beginners and hosted veteran and adaptive climbing events. “Our staff is trained in making people feel comfortable,” Jordyn says. “We’re committed to growing the local climbing community.” They turned to Google Ads to promote events and classes, and their Business Profile on Google helps climbers find their location and hours. They’ve seen 30-percent revenue growth and a 50-percent increase in customers over three years, and have since added an outdoor climbing and guide service. “Our passion is getting people outside,” explains Jordyn. “For them to see their indoor training come to fruition when they summit is pretty cool.”
Chris and Jordyn had to adjust quickly when COVID-19 forced restrictions on gyms. While shutdown, they installed a MoonBoard, an interactive training wall with programmable routes and app-progress tracking to attract new clients when they reopened. Once open again, they offered members extended hours for private sessions, which became extremely popular. Their Business Profile on Google was crucial for alerting customers about changing hours, mask requirements, and other new policies. Google Ads helped attract new customers—some from several hours away—whose regular gyms had closed. Chris and Jordyn have lots of plans in the works, such as adding a climbing team for kids, more outdoor offerings, and special New Year’s resolution events—and they plan to promote them via Google Ads campaigns. “Google is really important to us,” Jordyn says. “At this point, when we’re growing as a business, they are influential in determining our success.”
Mountain View Solar
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
When Mike McKechnie settled in rural West Virginia, he never imagined he’d become a successful, self-employed business owner. For years, Mike worked as a handyman, doing small projects for local homeowners before he learned enough to acquire a contractor license in 1996. Mike found his niche building high-end, energy-efficient homes, which spurred his interest in wind and solar energy. By 2009, he had completely shifted his focus to renewable energy systems and established Mountain View Solar. Mike quickly acquired a number of residential and commercial clients, and Mountain View was on its way. After a few successful years, he began looking for ways to grow his business even more. “I needed quality solar leads that were in the demographics we wanted,” he said. To reach more people actively looking for or interested in solar solutions, Jabari Baker, business development manager at Mountain View Solar, suggested running Google Ads. “We were looking to grow the business, and traditional print ads and billboards weren’t doing the trick anymore,” said Jabari. “We’ve always had a word-of-mouth type of business, but we were looking to expand that.”
Mountain View Solar launched its first Google Ads campaign in 2015, which ended up being its most successful year up to that point. “That’s when we saw a big spike in our gross sales,” said Mike, citing a 200% increase in revenue from 2014. “When I saw the numbers coming in, it was easy for me to get rid of the antiquated marketing and advertising campaigns we’d been using for a decade and get into something more modern.” Today, roughly one-third of the company’s leads come from Google Ads, contributing to a steady yearover-year revenue growth of 10-15%. Mountain View Solar also relies on G Suite tools like Docs, Sheets, and Drive to run business operations smoothly. “Google gave us a platform to modernize and move our data operations to the cloud,” said Mike.
The company’s success with Google Ads encouraged Mike to allocate 80-90% of his advertising budget to digital. “We consider Google a major part of our business,” said Jabari. “As Google continues to grow its automation tools, we plan to keep using them to reach our audience.” Mountain View Solar is committed to spreading the word about the importance of renewable energy online and in schools. “We go to schools and we talk to the kids about how energy works — it’s been a great way to interact with our small community,” said Mike.
Grogg’s Home Services
Parkersburg, West Virginia
In 1996, Tim Hanlon and his wife, Carma, took a leap of faith in purchasing Grogg’s Home Services, a heating-and-air-conditioning business founded by her father, Leon Grogg. Operating first out of their home, Tim learned the trade while working a second job, and Carma juggled phone calls and scheduling with raising their children. They dispatched service calls from their kitchen, and on one occasion, the neighbor’s dog stole a pair of their employee’s work boots off the porch. “He had to get to the job, so I gave him $50 to buy a pair of boots on his way to the customer’s house,” Tim recalls. Their hard work and philosophy of exceeding expectations have made Grogg’s Home Services a success.
The company has been online since 2006. While Tim admits he resisted technology at first, “eventually, I became the driving force behind totally getting out of the yellow pages,” he shares. Today AdWords, Google’s advertising program, accounts for 80 percent of their online sales, according to Director of Finance and IT Adam McDowell. They use insights from Google Analytics to optimize their ad campaigns, improve web traffic, and keep customers engaged. The Internet has allowed the company to expand their service area from West Virginia into Ohio, and informs customers about new service offerings. “Online advertising has helped us reach further than what typical print media will allow us to reach,” says Adam. “And having that online presence to say we now provide these other services has been huge.”
Grogg’s Home Services has long since outgrown the Hanlons' kitchen, adding a Clarksburg branch to their location in Parkersburg. They service nearly 10,000 customers a year, and have expanded into electrical, plumbing, and other services. Despite their growth, Adam says, “Grogg’s is still very much a family environment.” They offer extensive training—75 to 100 hours a year—to their employees. “We invest in them because we want them to stay here, and to have the tools they need to be successful,” he explains. They also give back to the community by donating to charities and supporting local families in need. “We always try to do the right thing, even if it costs us money to do so,” Tim says, which has earned Grogg’s a reputation for providing reliable, quality service, and for doing right by customers and employees alike.
Eleanor, West Virginia
110 employees in West Virginia
Parkline, Inc., manufactures metal buildings and provides electrical systems integration services for a variety of industries. Their roots go back to the 1930s, when the oil-and-gas industry needed durable and rigid buildings to use in production fields. "Sometime in the last 10 or 15 years, the market shifted," explains Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Repp. "Customers started asking for modular buildings that offer plug-and-play convenience." Now Parkline manufactures prefabricated, custom-designed metal buildings and also supplies materials to customers who want to assemble the buildings themselves. "Our buildings can house anything from electrical switchgear to gas metering and protective relay equipment—just about anything you'd want to keep in a clean and dry environment," he says.
Parkline is developing their digital marketing strategy to find customers searching for their industrial products and services. They’ve used AdWords, Google's advertising program, since 2009 “to get in front of people who otherwise would never know we exist,” Mark says. "AdWords gives us the best investment for our money. We have a small sales force, so it’s important for reaching a broader audience.” Today, 30 to 40 percent of Parkline’s marketing budget is spent on digital advertising, and AdWords drives about 30 percent of their leads. They also use Google Analytics to better understand their customers and see which marketing tactics are most effective. "The industry has changed, and we've changed along with it. We're working with Google to learn more about effective digital marketing. We know we're pointed in the right direction," Mark says.
Parkline acquired Texas-based Bebco Industries in 2016 to meet the growing demand for custom-built modular buildings. This added another 90 employees to their base. In their West Virginia headquarters, they continue to be, as Mark describes, "a good local citizen,” whether by supporting local schools’ sports teams or participating in food and gift drives during the holidays. “West Virginia has gone through some challenging times economically, so when businesses here, large or small, succeed and grow and get involved in the community, it’s only a good thing,” he explains. With strong aspirations for growth in West Virginia and now Texas, Parkline plans to be a good local citizen for years to come.
Capon Springs and Farms
Capon Springs, West Virginia
Capon Springs and Farms has 7,500 seasonal guests
Four generations of one family have owned and operated Capon Springs and Farms since the depths of the Great Depression in 1932. The company originally bottled the spring water, before resurrecting the historic resort destroyed by fire two decades earlier. Many current guests are descendants of people who first visited 80 years ago. Activities include golf (regular, disc, and fling), hiking, swimming, fishing, spa services and more. “It's an all-inclusive getaway and a step back in time,” says Jonathan Bellingham, Marketing Manager. “It's humbling what the place means to so many people. Some of them came here as kids and have now gone through generations of their family, just like ours.”
Located 100 miles west of Washington, DC, and open seven months a year, the resort for decades relied solely on word-of-mouth to attract new guests. And it was the regular visitors themselves who encouraged the business into expanding their presence on the web and social media. Since 2013, the resort has revamped their website, including making it mobile-friendly, and has learned to use many digital tools. Google Analytics helps them make good business decisions and keep their website relevant. A YouTube channel lets them share videos. Google Docs and Sheets let the extended family communicate easily with one another about the business. Jonathan’s niece helps keep their social media fresh and interesting.
“We're not trying to go from zero to sixty, but we're certainly going from zero to thirty and learning along the way,” Jonathan says. After decades of mostly steady business, Capon Springs and Farms saw more than 6% additional guests and an 8% jump in revenue in 2015. As a successful business in a remote area, they employ 125 seasonal workers, 20 full-time staff, and help support the local fire and rescue squads. The resort’s digital surge “has been very reaffirming and very reassuring that the future is bright,” Jonathan adds. “Is there a real need in the marketplace and in the world for a place like this? What I'm hearing is a resounding yes.”