Sarah Berns of Spring Creek Ranch took the leap and found that the investment in a thoughtfully crafted website paid off. This is our favorite kind of story to hear, and is what drives all of us at Aeolidia to bring our best to each small business web design project. Sarah’s inspirational story is below.
Spring Creek Ranch had already been operating as a nightly rental/vacation property for sixteen years by the time I decided we needed a website. In 2007 I hired a local web company to design a website for the ranch that had photos and offered a description of who we were and what we had to offer. This initial website carried us for the next 7 years, but over and over again I would receive feedback from our guests that sounded something like this, “Thanks for our stay, wow the ranch was so much (choose an adjective) better, nicer, bigger, more comfortable, well supplied than we expected.”
Even though I was happy that guests were continually satisfied with their experience, I realized that our website wasn’t giving online shoppers a realistic portrayal of what they would be paying for. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of seeing something online and then seeing it in person and being disappointed, but our guests were having the opposite experience and that isn’t a good business model. I knew that we needed to overhaul our website aesthetically to present a more accurate visual representation of the ranch and that we also needed to incorporate an online booking feature to accommodate our growing clientele. But doing all those things costs money and I wasn’t sure how much money we could or should spend…
Starting in 2000 Spring Creek Ranch also started hosting about five to six weddings a season. Again, the wedding couple and guests were incredibly satisfied with their experience but I was at a loss for how to convey that “experience” our on site. One summer we hosted a rehearsal dinner for a wedding couple who were having their ceremony and reception at our local 4 star lodge. The bride came over to me at the end of the evening and quite matter-of-factly stated, “You know, if I had known what Spring Creek Ranch was really like, we would have had our wedding here.” This interaction was like a final push for me. I felt confident that we had a solid “product” to offer since the feedback we consistently got from guests and wedding couples was so positive, but I still didn’t know how to communicate what a Spring Creek Ranch experience was like to someone living in a distant city, looking online for accommodations.
I actively looked and worked with two different web developers for a year (after initially contacting Aeolidia when they were not able to take us on as a client), which was a great learning experience for me and allowed me to formulate a rough draft of what I wanted. But, I still hadn’t seen the right aesthetic quality I was looking for.
My sister-in-law, Mara Zepeda of NeitherSnow.com had designed a new logo for us and when I lamented to her that I was still looking for the right feel for our new website she encouraged me to contact Aeolidia again.
It took reaching out twice to Aeolidia but I couldn’t be happier with the website they designed for Spring Creek Ranch. I really believe that guests show up at the ranch not only knowing what their experience will be like here, but actually choosing Spring Creek Ranch because they are seeking exactly what we have to offer: comfortable accommodations, expansive space, on-site trails and river access all within a ten minute walk of town.
The website redesign definitely took a leap of faith and a serious commitment but one year after our new website launch, we’re about to finish up our busiest summer season ever complete with ten weddings, one high school reunion and a successful second season for Celestial Cinema, our outdoor film series. And I’ve already booked four weddings for NEXT summer.
Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah! People are always concerned about the return on investment for a website redesign. I was personally so wowed by the website that I’ve taken my family there twice for mini-vacations this year. I can personally attest to how the new website communicates the real Spring Creek Ranch. Recommended if you’re ever in Eastern Washington: Spring Creek Ranch.
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