Friday January 18, 2013

Hidden Springs Maple's Internet strategy is a success

PUTNEY -- In 2011, Hidden Springs Maple used Deal Chicken, an online coupon and marketing site, to advertise its products to Deal Chicken's mailing list.

"The results were impressive, but not unexpected," said Hidden Springs Maple owner Peter Cooper-Ellis.

In 2012 he once again used Deal Chicken to market his company's product, but this time the results were completely unexpected, he said.

In November he ran a 10 percent off coupon special, which was mailed to Hidden Springs' 5,000 customer mailing list and also posted on its Facebook page. The coupon did not have an expiration date.

"In December, we offered a 25 percent discount on some overstock items," said Cooper-Ellis. "We advertised this special on Google Ad Words, on our Facebook page and to our mailing list. We had a decent response, about a hundred orders, as we expected. Then, suddenly last week things went completely nuts. Orders suddenly started piling into our web sit at a rate of about one per minute."

Cooper-Ellis noticed that every order was coming in at 35 percent and discovered that one of Hidden Springs' customers had figured out he could combine the 10 percent coupon with the 25 percent discount for a total of 35 percent off.

"We had anticipated that some customers would do this but we did not expect that to be the rule," he said. "However, what happened is that this guy posted this information on the user forum at a deal site called slickdeals.com. There was a great deal of discussion about this on the forum. Additional deal sites picked up the information and sent it to their mailing lists. The result was that we got completely swamped with orders. We took over 2,000 orders in three days. We shut down both the special and the coupon on Dec. 31."

Social networking and sites such as Deal Chicken and Groupon have helped to increase Hidden Springs' mailing to about 10,000 customers, said Cooper-Ellis.

About one year ago, Hidden Springs opened a storefront in Putney, but by far, the majority of its sales is online, he said.

"We sell primarily through our website and Amazon," he said.

Cooper-Ellis, who grew up in Brattleboro but left in 1997 for a software job in Boston, now lives in San Francisco, though he's still in the software industry.

About three years ago, he and other family members started Hidden Springs Maple and he utilized his insider knowledge in the software business to market their maple syrup.

"We could apply this same technology in Vermont and do amazing things," said Cooper-Ellis.

Hidden Springs Maple got its start in the late 1950s, early 1960s as CE Maple, a family-owned sugar maker. About 20 years ago, Cooper-Ellis and his brother Fraser became 50/50 owners in the business.

Today they boil sap at their sugar house in Putney and Peter sells maple syrup via Hidden Springs and Fraser sells maple syrup via Fraser's Vermont Maple.

Along with the sap they harvest themselves, Peter Cooper-Ellis said they are also buying from a bunch of farms in Vermont to meet demand.

"We are trying to stay focused on small farms and getting better value from our product and take advantage of any channel to get customers," he said. "And its working."

BEEC receives education grant

BRATTLEBORO -- Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center recently received a grant from the Proctor & Gamble Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. These funds will go to supporting BEEC's "Environmental Education for All" programs. These programs strive to expand BEEC's reach to a greater diversity of participants in the community through environmental education and conservation initiatives.

Bonnyvale Environmental Center is located 2.2 miles up Bonnyvale Road in West Brattleboro. This grant will further our mission to sustain the vitality of our southern VT bioregion through education and action. For more information about our multigenerational programs please visit our website at www.beec.org