Since 1903, Schlemmer Brothers has been serving the heating needs of the Wabash, Indiana, community. The century-old metalworks and retail hearth business offers everything from wood stoves and gas fireplaces to grills smokers and fire pits. They also do installation, maintenance and repair work on the products they offer. Current owner and Schlemmer descendant Kent Henderson takes pride in the business's legacy and the number of people they've employed over the years. "I believe that the staff is everything," Henderson says.
Henderson and his team of passionate experts have a simple mission: To continue offering high-quality products, top-notch customer service, and to keep warming Indiana homes for years to come.
Dealing with seasonality
With a metal fabrication workshop, a retail storefront and the maintenance services they offer, Schlemmer Brothers theoretically has three sources of revenue. However, Henderson was consistently using the revenue from the manufacturing side of the business to subsidize the other two areas. The reason? Seasonality. Working in the heating industry, Schlemmer Brothers experienced a drop in demand for their services during the warmer months.
"Service is the killer. All those service guys, during the summertime, we don't have work for them," Henderson says. But taking those service workers off of the payroll isn't an option for him. "They're well-trained, they're good guys, they're great employees and I can't just say 'hey, come back in the fall and we'll get you busy.'"
And while the services side of the business isn't profitable on its own, Schlemmer Brothers wouldn't be able to run the way it needs to without them. Customers choose Schlemmer Brothers because they know that they'll get the heating products they're looking for and have an expert install and maintain their purchase.
Henderson also struggles with retail. "We bleed profusely on the retail until the season begins. We'll go into the season, probably a couple hundred in the hole."
Heating up retail sales
Having a strong history helps a business, but you still have to be ready to adapt and grow if you're going to survive. To remain sustainable and keep revenue up throughout the year, Schlemmer Brothers would need to increase retail sales.
Kris White, manager of the Schlemmer Brothers retail store, understands how important it is for the store to be a revenue driver. But marketing the business is a challenge for him. "I am horrible at marketing," White says. "I know the product, I know the pricing. Reaching the people, reaching more people, that's where I need help."
To promote their business, White and Henderson have experimented with radio and TV. They also built a website. But so far, they haven't seen much difference in sales.
As one of the six businesses in Wabash chosen to benefit from a Small Business Revolution makeover, Schlemmer Brothers would work with the Deluxe team to develop a strategy to reach their target audience and bring in more retail customers throughout the year.
Reaching customers online
After examining their marketing approach and exploring how consumers in the Wabash area choose home heating options, the team at Deluxe identified three opportunities for Schlemmer Brothers to improve their sales:
Create a mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate website that showcases the owners’ unique expertise and offerings
Optimize each webpage to help search engines find the website
Modify their Google AdWords investment to capture consumers seeking heating solutions
The Deluxe team also worked with Henderson and White to develop four guiding principles that they'd weave through all aspects of their marketing.
Schlemmer Brothers are experts in heating
They know the area better than big-box competitors
They deliver quality work at a good value
Their staff is helpful and friendly
Building a new website
The business's original website was basic — it provided information on their products and services, and company updates. But it didn't offer an exceptional user experience and it wasn't optimized for search engines. To give Schlemmer Brothers a fresh start, the Deluxe team redesigned the site and developed a digital strategy that aligned with the business's strengths.
The new website communicates knowledge of the area and weather conditions. It also showcases their quality products.
One major focuses of the redesign was ensuring that people could find the new site online when they were looking for the products and services Schlemmer Brothers offers. To do this, the Deluxe team applied six search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to improve the ranking of each page of their website, including adding key information like business name, address and phone number on every page.
Developing a Google AdWords strategy
Next, they enhanced Schlemmer Brothers’ advertising campaign on Google. The new plan targeted messages to the right types of buyers. Google AdWords improvements included:
Lowered bidding on mobile ads: The new mobile-friendly website opened new opportunities to reach customers.
Removal of unqualified searches: The business is now less likely to spend advertising dollars on consumers searching for seemingly relevant terms that are unlikely to lead to a sale. For example, searches for “chimney sweeper” return a Schlemmer Brothers’ ad, but searches for “chimney sweeper salary” do not.
Optimizing the ads: Deluxe made several improvements to the ads themselves. One Google ad highlighted Schlemmer Brothers’ A+ rating with the local Better Business Bureau. This message results in a larger ad, offers a third-party trust factor and primes the visitor who clicks it to understand this is a trusted business.
Tailoring the ads to the searcher’s intent: Deluxe also focused the ads more specifically on the search query. Searchers looking for “chimney sweeper” see an ad specifically speaking to the chimney sweeping services, which includes copy about Schlemmer Brothers’ certification with the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Continuing the tradition of excellence
At the core of Schlemmer Brothers is a culture that rewards its employees for taking care of every customer that walks through its door. Now, with an updated professional website and an online ad campaign that meets the expectations of online visitors, the company is in better shape to endure another 100 years. "We’re already seeing customers in the store that we weren’t going to see before," says White.
New website is mobile reponsive:
New website communicates knowledge of the area and weather conditions:
New website showcases quality products:
And finally, the new website makes it easy to contact both retail locations: