Our friend Justin is like a lot of small business owners. His business, a small property rental company operating in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, was doing fine on word of mouth. He had no problems renting out his properties using Craigslist and rarely had vacancies. Why would he need a website? Perhaps, more importantly, was a website worth the investment of time and money in building and maintaining it.

My partner Josh and I spoke with Justin over the phone and gave him a quick pitch about our business, experience and previous projects. Our primary message was simple: having a business website in our age of technology, is a must. Why? Think about it:

With people becoming increasingly accustomed to finding information in a millisecond via the Internet, it’s essential a business maintain a web presence—any business and every business.

Being a savvy businessman, Justin seemed reticent. I could hear that hesitation over the phone—that tone that says, “You’re just trying to sell me something.”

There’s a difference between selling something that no one really needs, like a foot tanner (and yes, there is such a thing) and selling something that is essential to business. Besides, we really love what we do and using our skills to help people like Justin and their businesses.

“Our philosophy,” I told Justin “is to get to know the business before we do any work and to provide long term support and training.” We build relationships with our clients and are proud to be part of their success.

Within a week, we were working on Justin’s website—Not on a paid basis, mind you. The contract had not yet been signed. At this stage, our first goal was to get to know Justin, his business and his philosophy, so that we could build a site that really reflected him and his values– a community-centered individual with a focus on strong family values and quality service.

Next, we provided Justin with a basic framework and design, giving him an idea of what direction what wanted to take him in. This isn’t just a simply process of picking out color schemes or templates, but in building a highly navigable website that highlights his content and truly reflects Justin.

With Justin’s contract in hand, we could move on to content  Again, we wanted the content to convey Justin’s perspective, the idea that his rentals were much more than just property rentals – they were homes. No surprise many of his tenants rented from him for years!

We departed from the tradition of dry home descriptions that listed square footage and number of bedrooms and described properties with plenty of adjectives, inviting a potential client to imagine themselves in that home, eating at that dining room, by that fire place, looking out upon that spacious yard. And, of course, there were pictures—and plenty of them—to deepen the web experience.

Our content writers and graphic designers made sure to convey Justin’s message loud and clear. The end result was an attractive, well-structured and highly usable. We implemented WordPress as the base content management solution, integrated Google Maps and direct contact options. We customized the site for search engines and added a double layer of security. And, yes, the website was customized for the mobile user. Potential renters can access J&A Properties anywhere, any time and on any device.

It took us about a month to complete the project and because we worked so hard to get to know our client and his business, Justin did not request many iterations.

Yeah… but what about the numbers? I’m so glad you asked. Within a week of full launch, website visitation numbers soared. Justin tested the website with a property vacancy by posting a reference to the website via Craigslist. On day one alone, the website had more than 60 visits and 340 page views! Justin’s website became the main source of information for his web users.

It also helped him to collect leads through a handy contact form we included in the design.

Justin’s worry about maintenance? That’s precisely why we chose WordPress—an extremely user-friendly publishing platform. In no time, Justin learned how to independently update his website through the WordPress content management system (though certainly we’ll always be available to Justin if he should have any questions or issues with the website).Want to check out the final result? Visit http://www.myhomeiowacity.com/