The Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA) recently held its second online chat session for members, with the topic “Tech Issues”. I joined in the discussions as a Storman representative and quickly found myself providing comment & information to other members within the chatroom. As you’ll see from the transcript of the chat (provided in this news post), questions ranged from ‘The usefulness of online link directories’ to ‘providing an online reservations / bookings services for your customers’… and everything in between.
With so many great questions being asked of other members and the SSAA’s resident Technical Guru, Sto Rageit (get it?), I thought it only fitting to expand upon the session by providing some more information about the elements that are my forte… namely online services & online marketing.
Before we get into the finer details, I thought I’d run through a bit of the background stuff; firstly my background and then a bit about my department here at Storman. I spent the first 6 years of my working life managing the “Web Services Division” of a Brisbane Internet Service Provider (ISP). We specialised in Dialup & Satellite internet for remote areas but eventually moved into business-grade ADSL & SHDSL as well before starting my own business on the side while switching over to Storman in 2005.
Having started out at Storman on the phones doing Technical Support, I’ve now grown into another type of ‘manager’ – this time, the Customer Experience & Marketing Manager. I do everything from managing the Storman website, to designing the look & feel of screens in our software applications, writing blog posts (like this one), and designing / editing posters, print ads, business cards, email newsletters, and so on.
One of our growing business areas here at Storman is the design section, known as ‘Storman Business Services’… where we design websites, fridge magnets, discount coupons and brochures for self storage facilities and marinas.
So how does an online chat session fit in with all of this?
Good question! Essentially, I’m going to tie into some of the things that were discussed during the SSAA’s recent chat session, so that you can take the next step with your own business. First things first, though… a website. Let’s say you’ve got a new self storage, marina or rental business and you want (need!) a website. I say need because your business really will need a website – without it, your competition will likely win the deal if your customer is price-shopping. So let’s take a look at the steps involved with building a website.
Building a website
There a four main steps to an internet presence. These are:
- Registering a website name (aka domain name)
- Hosting the website
- Designing the website
- Promoting the website
Each of these steps is outlined in more detail below…
Step 1: Registering a website name (aka domain name)
A domain name is the name attached to your website – for example, stormanau.wpengine.com is one of our domain names. Yours may be xyzmarina.com.au or xyzstorage.com and so on. You can register as many of these as you like, as they are relatively cheap… and we recommend you register at least two – your normal business name, as well as what you do and where you do it. For example, if you run a self storage facility called KB’s Self Storage Centre (in Keppel Bay), then we would recommend that you at least register kbselfstoragecentre.com (or .com.au, .co.uk etc – depending on your region) as well as keppelbayselfstorage.com (or .com.au, .co.uk etc – depending on your region).
You may also like to think about getting just keppelbaystorage.com (without the word ‘self’) and a few other variations. Additionally, if your business name is hard to spell (or can be spelt numerous ways), we recommend registering domain names for each of the possible spellings – for example, Kasey Anne Marina may be spelt Casey Anne Marina, or Casey Ann Marina or even Kasey Ann Marina.
Okay, so now you’re probably asking if having so many names is going to cost a lot of money. But it won’t. Not when you think about the benefits. Firstly, realise that each domain name is generally paid either annually or bi-annually and the price isn’t even triple-figures (around $90 for two years in Australia, but it depends on your region and the type of name you wish to register). A measly $0.12 (yes, 12 cents) per day is nothing in your business, am I right? Good. Secondly, if you have some nearby competition, there’s nothing stopping them from registering a domain name similar to yours – for example, if you only register keppelbayselfstorage.com, your competition has every right to register keppelbaystorage.com (without the word ‘self’). If for whatever reason their website ranks higher in Google than yours, you may well loose a customer to them. Yet for an extra twelve cents per day, that person could have been your customer. So think about the advantages an extra domain name or two may bring you.
With the above in mind, your next question is now probably be something like “won’t it be hard to maintain 5 different websites for 5 different domain names?”. Absolutely not… because you would just pick a ‘primary’ (main) domain name and all of the others are redirected to it. Some internet companies charge for redirecting websites, but Storman doesn’t. If you have some extra domain names in mind, write them down now and let us know.
Step 2: Hosting the website
Hosting is the process of having a fast, secure, always-on internet server ‘serve’ (hence the name) web pages to internet surfers. There are a number of web hosts out there, one of which is Storman. Hosting is normally made up of a small ongoing monthly fee to continually serve your web pages to the world. Email addresses are also setup at this stage – something like firstname.lastname@example.org – or whatever your primary domain name (from Step 1) is.
Before I get onto Step 3, however, I’d like to point out that while you may get a number of free email addresses with your internet connection from your internet company (for example, Telstra / Bigpond in Australia, Xtra in NZ, etc), it does nothing but advertise them. Seriously! Look at the email address they’ll likely give you… it’ll be something like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. And what happens if you change internet companies? You’ll have to reprint your business cards & flyers because email@example.com is now something else. Either that, of you could continue paying for an email address at an ISP that you no longer use. Talk about a waste of your money!
Why stick with that, when you can have firstname.lastname@example.org? Or, better still, email@example.com …now that looks professional! An added bonus is that users will instantly know that your website is going to be the bit after the ‘@’ symbol. To find out more about why you too should stay away from ISP-provided email addresses, please refer to my blog post from 2008, appropriately entitled “What does your email address say about you?”. If you’d like to find our more about website hosting or email addresses, please let us know.
Step 3: Designing the website
Okay, on to Step 3… the fun part! There are a number of different things we can do for you here – anything from a simple website that shows off your services, right through to a website that has an online reservations and / or online payments system so that your potential customers can make a reservation and existing customers can pay their bills.
If you’re interested in having us design a website for you, please get in touch and we’ll run you through the information we need from you.
Step 4: Promoting the website
The final step is promoting the website. It’s all well and good to have a website, but if no one visits it, then you could have some issues. Promoting the website can be done a number of ways…
- Add the website to Google (free; we do this for you if you’ve asked us to design your website).
- Submit your website to your local Self Storage Association (if you are a member of the SSAA, we will do this for you if you’ve asked us to design your website).
- Get other websites to link to you – but it needs to be a relevant link.
- Use Google AdWords to promote your website based on search terms & keywords (a paid service by Google).
- Use Google Analytics to track your campaigns & the website in general – where do people go on the site, where to they exit, how long do they stay…?
- Use Facebook and Twitter to build up a base of fans or friends… but you must make them feel special. Provide Twitter-only (or Facebook-only deals) to provide an incentive for people to sign-up.
- Give people a reason to go to your website in the first place… hide coupon codes for 5% off specific merchandise on your website. Do what the airlines do and offer “online-only” pricing at a slightly cheaper rate or use Storman’s Online Reservations systems to take bookings online, or the Storman Payments system to take payments online.
- Promote the special things you do, online. Helen from Safeway Storage on the Gold Coast always had nice cakes and snacks out on the counter for customers. Robina Storage Centre on the Gold Coast (must be a Gold Coast thing) offers a boardroom and faxing services to its customers. If you do something special, or a little “out of the ordinary” for your customers, put it on your website. People use the web to compare – so if it’s apples vs. apples, they’ll likely go for the cheaper facility. But if you have a point of difference and promote it well, you may end up winning the business despite having slightly higher prices; remember – you get what you pay for. I wrote (another) post blog about these types of stand-out points back in February 2009 (beware of the spider at the end, though! You’ll see…).
…these are just some of the many ways you can promote your business and its website.
So where does Storman come into all of this?
It’s not (yet) too well-known in the industry, but Storman can do all of the four steps outlined above. It’s actually my role within the company & I do it every day for us internally. So if you’re interested in registering some more domain names for your businesses, looking into hosting or having a website designed (or redesigned) and the promoted to the world, please get in touch with me.