Hilton Machine and Tool in Clarksville lost its biggest customer just as COVID began. Josh Hilton, who operates the company his father started in 1979, knew he needed to attract new business.
“With the pandemic, I couldn’t just beat the bushes or hit the streets,” he said. “Because of COVID, it was hard to get in to see people.”
Instead, he turned to the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas Tech University.
The center’s Ronda Hawkins connected him with a new opportunity to build an online presence for the shop, which makes custom machine parts for manufacturers and other industries.
Through ASBTDC’s Business Recovery Services, Josh worked with Think Idea Studio to create a Hilton Machine website. The site, hiltonmachine.com, features fresh photos, customer testimonials, and updated descriptions of the company’s services.
ASBTDC added the BRS program during COVID to connect client businesses with vendors for one-time or short-term projects, at no cost to the business.
“We’re small, so if I had to pay someone to do that website, that cuts into my paycheck. I had no clue who to call, and it was so easy and seamless. Once I made the call to Ronda and she got me in touch with Justin (Johnson) at Think, it was done.”
The website “gave me a huge platform to get started with,” said Hilton. “I had a business card, and that’s all I had.”
Think also created a simple brochure that matches the site.
As the pandemic lingered, Hilton continued to consult with Hawkins and took part in ASBTDC webinars about the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and other pandemic funding.
This spring, he accepted Hawkins’ invitation to participate in a semester-long project with ATU marketing students. Through the high-impact learning experience, a group of five students designed a marketing plan for Hilton Machine and Tool.
“I was very pleased with the way it turned out. They way exceeded my expectations,” Hilton said.
“Some of the stuff they suggested, like LinkedIn, I hadn’t even thought about. I had an account, but…I didn’t even know how LinkedIn works. Once I had the Zoom call with them, it clicked, that yes, I need to do this.”
Now, instead of only a business card, Hilton Machine and Tool has a website, a brochure, and a marketing plan – perfect tools for the business-to-business company’s newly hired sales professional.
“Anybody who needs metal work is my customer. Our niche is some kind of factory or plant that has a lot of moving parts, lot of machines. If they break down and need a part right now, we do that,” said Hilton.
As he works to grow the business, Hilton will continue to call on Hawkins and the Arkansas Tech ASBTDC.
“She’s been unbelievably awesome,” he said. “Honestly, when I took this business over, I didn’t know something like this existed. I don’t think my dad did either. From the first time I talked to her, ever since then, any time I’ve had a question, I ask Ronda. She always has an answer, and it’s the answer I need.”