How a historic property was brought back to its former glory, winning the trust of their guests to be their first choice for a post-pandemic getaway. The fourth installment in a 5-part series exploring how the right partnerships create thriving businesses.
Necessity is the mother of all invention they say, or at least that was the case for Washington House Inn in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. In 1984, James Pape revitalized a historic mill in the heart of town into a small winery and shopping center. He focused on hosting unique festivals, and the mill soon became a major tourist destination and helped bring vitality to the town. However, an important piece to this tourist hot spot was still missing – a great place to stay! That’s when his eyes turned to another historic building in town, at that time storefronts, but that had once operated as a hotel in the late 1800s. James and his team, including Wendy Porterfield, poured their hearts into the property until it shined once again, and more than doubled its size along the way!
What brought you to the boutique hospitality industry?
Wendy: Like so many other people in town at the time I was peeking in the windows, curious about what was going on at the property. My brother was a carpenter on the renovation team, and before I knew it, I was helping with painting and cleaning. I also worked with the Circus Parade at the time, but before long the hotel claimed all of my time and I’ve been here ever since. I had no real hospitality experience, just a lot of common sense. We started with just 15 rooms in 1984, added five more in ’86, nine more in ’89, and finally added our Schroeder Guest House in 1994.
How long have you been working with White Stone Marketing?
Wendy: Better than 10 years I would say, it’s hard to remember now. Our owner, James, had gone to an innkeeping conference and saw Scott and Allison’s [founders of White Stone Marketing] presentation. We had built our website in-house. It was clunky but functional, and pretty darn good for the 1990s I would say! [Laughs] He started looking at their websites, and we had one done by White Stone Marketing not long after that.
“Working with White Stone Marketing has opened a lot of doors for us.”
What piece of your marketing program has had the greatest impact on your business?
Wendy: Definitely the website. Your website is what presents you and shows the world who you are. While we have a huge amount of repeat business, because people like what we do here, the website is what gets them in the door. We have also been doing a newsletter, and the email blasts White Stone Marketing does for us are attractive and well put together and we get a lot of engagement on them.
How has working with White Stone Marketing changed your business?
Wendy: I want to make the guests happy. Building websites and crunching numbers are not my strengths, and I don’t want to stare at the computer all day! Now I don’t even really worry about what is going on with our marketing, and although I like keeping my finger on the pulse of it, the reports alone would take us days to put together in-house. Working with White Stone Marketing has opened a lot of doors for us. For example, because of White Stone Marketing’s recommendations, we went with ThinkReservations which has made everything very seamless here. Although it was an arm twist for me and I went into it clinging to my pencil and paper, I now see how valuable it is. There is no such thing as a double booking in my world now!
What’s your next big goal at Washington House Inn?
Wendy: Hanging on! It’s been quite a ride through the pandemic, but now this summer is shaping up to be our biggest season ever. It has been so gratifying to hear guests tell me we’re the first place they wanted to travel because our property is so well run. It’s a huge compliment that they have that confidence in us.
Washington House Inn is currently on our Campaign Marketing Program, which includes:
PPC Maintenance & Optimization
SEO Maintenance & Optimization
Google Analytics Monitoring
Monthly Strategic Meetings
Social Marketing Monthly
Email Marketing Monthly
Over the last 5 years, they have seen amazing results!
Bottom line, we help our clients make more money.