Don't Fence Me In
Prior to its utilization of newfangled marketing software, Louis E. Page Mesh and Fence Supplies was the embodiment of old-school American enterprise. Passed down from father to son to grandson, the once-tiny western Massachusetts wholesaler had just four roving salesmen. Now, thanks in large part to marketing solutions and shrewd business acumen, the company serves customers from Pawtucket to Hawai’i to Antigua.
In 1897, Louis E. Page moved from Maine to Boston, where, because of an abundance of horse-drawn wagons, he saw the potential for selling hay. By the time World War II was ending, it became apparent to Page’s son Alan that farms in New England were being replaced by housing blocks—a shift that would severely diminish the demand for hay.
Alan began the company’s transition into wire, forming the foundation of the company’s customer base for the next few decades. Along the way, Page expanded its inventory to include bulk items such as peat moss and garden bark, and began specializing in the distribution of lawn and garden fence, farm fence, agricultural posts, twine, and barbed wire.
“We moved tons of products every year,” says Duncan Page, the founder’s grandson as well as the company’s current president. The third-generation owner recalls the burgeoning success of megaretailers Home Depot and Lowe’s and their damaging effect on small businesses similar to his own. “When they hit the scene we sold less and less every year,” Page says. “A lot of the products we were selling—especially in the lawn and garden line—became commodity items.”
Many of Page’s customers cut back on what they spent on fencing; some went out of business completely. So the company transitioned again—this time into specialized products, or what Page calls “the things you can’t get at your local hardware store, Home Depot, or Lowe’s.” In other words, the company was able to continue selling to fence companies because those buyers prefer a higher-quality product than they might find at more-mainstream venues.
Still, many small businesses find it difficult to get noticed, and Page was no exception. Before launching the company Web site, Page’s four salesmen were able to speak to perhaps 50 customers a month, Duncan recalls. Catalogues were mailed; cold calls were placed.
Those days are long gone.
With the help of HubSpot software and the utilization of social networks, the Louis E. Page site recently logged 5,069 visitors in a 30-day span—3,399 of whom were first-time visitors.
The success is attributable to more than mere technology. On its Web site, HubSpot describes its corporate vision to provide not only a killer marketing application but also “great advice to small businesses…, enabling them to leverage [the] disruptive effects of the Internet to ‘get found’ by more prospects shopping in their niche and to convert a higher percentage of prospects into customers.”
“We believe that the best way to grow your business is to do the right things online with inbound marketing,” says Mike Volpe, HubSpot’s vice president of marketing. “That includes publishing a lot of content like blogging, being active in social media, [and] optimizing your site for search engines. We’ve built a methodology and training and software around that process and that’s what [Page] was able to do.”
And the 19th-century company has certainly reaped some 21st-century benefits: In the past year, Page has logged 121,580 visits, 273,364 page views, and a 2.31 percent conversion rate—not bad for a former supplier of dried grass.
The HubSpot technology has also allowed Page to listen to and respond to customer demand in real time.
“There have been a couple of product lines [the company] expanded based on the inbound interest [it has] received,” Volpe says. Because of a comment posted on the blog regarding polyethylene mesh, for example, Duncan created a new page on the Web site featuring it. Another blogpost was added, and the product was introduced on the home page.
The high level of customer engagement suggests the company’s success is likely to continue, but if so it will have to be run by someone not of the Page bloodline. Duncan’s two sons have chosen careers outside of the family business—his older son, married and living in North Carolina, is interested in electronic technology; the younger one just got out of the Navy and attends college in Seattle.
Since implementing HubSpot software, Louis E. Page Mesh and Fence Supplies:
- has logged 121,580 visitors, reaching a rate of approximately 5,000 visitors per month;
- received 3,399 first-time visitors in February of this year;
- generated 273,364 page views; and
- has seen a 2.31 percent conversion rate.