The owner of a small self storage facility needs to wear many hats – more so than ever before, given we need to work harder to make our business stand out from the crowd. You have to chase payments, clean sheds, input customer data, respond to emails, follow-up leads (sales enquiries), process move ins / move outs, and much more …and these are just the core tasks!
In addition to these are tasks that didn’t even exist a decade ago – such as respond to social media messages & posts, update your website, post on social media, and search for storers on StorerCheck …just to name a few!
Shifting the Focus
At first glance, it looks as though the advent of technology over the last decade has just created more work for us. The flip-side, however, is that technology has also brought better automation. Tasks that required human intervention previously – such as some of these listed below – are now mostly automated;
- Remembering to lockout overdue storers (Storman does it automatically, if linked to a compatible Access Control system)
- Sending welcome emails & SMS’s to new storers (Storman does it automatically)
- Chasing overdue payments & collecting payments (Storman integrates with Ezidebit to collect payments automatically)
- Customers can complete move-in paperwork online from the comfort of their home, or on an iPad at your facility (see Storman Reservations & Move-Ins)
In essence, our focus has merely shifted to other things. The jobs are still getting done – just not by us. Technology is moving the workload so that we can focus our efforts on areas of the business that make us money… such as getting referrals, positive reviews, selling merchandise items & chasing leads.
Marketing Processes within the Storer Lifecycle
For today’s post, we’ll focus on marketing aspects… after all, it’s the title of this post and my area of expertise. As per the diagram below, there are many components to a storer’s lifecycle (Prospecting > Move In > Ongoing > Move Out > post Move Out), but when it comes to marketing, most of these components are at the start. It’s also where you’ll spend the majority of your marketing budget, so doing a good job is imperative.
Stage 1: Prospecting
This is the start of the storer’s lifecycle. It’s where the storer realises they have a space issue (be it due to moving house, renovations, etc) and starts to research possible solutions. This could take the form of asking a friend whether they have some space in their garage, or they may simply type ‘where to put my stuff when renovating’ into Google.
It’s right now that your marketing machine needs to spring into action!
That friend they asked? Hopefully they’re a promoter and will respond along the lines of “Sorry, no space in my garage but I used XYZ Storage a few months ago and they were really good!”.
That Google search they did? Hopefully your Google AdWords advertising campaign is setup to recognise that someone nearby is looking for self storage and your ad copy catches their eye. Or, better still (because you don’t have to pay for it), you’ve written a blog titled “Where to put your stuff when renovating” and it comes up in the organic (non-paid) search results.
The beauty of self storage is that it’s only useful for those in a relatively small catchment area. Unlike an online clothing store, you’ve likely only got a few competitors in your area, so you can really refine your advertising and spend very wisely.
Things to think about…
- Post regularly on social media & on your website (see my free download below for some ideas)
- Use relevant search keywords regularly – but also think about how people search for you (not everyone searches the same way!)
- Use email to do the selling for you and remember that not everyone realises self storage offerings can differ vastly between facilities (shipping container on a vacant block vs. 24-hour onsite manager, CCTV, individually alarmed units, etc). If you know your facility costs more, make sure you & your staff can explain why the extra cost is worth it.
Stage 2: Move In
Your marketing machine shouldn’t stop once the customer has moved in. Remember, it’s all about ensuring the customer is happy – because retaining an existing storer is far easier, and cheaper, than getting a new one! Once the customer reaches the point of becoming a promoter, they’ll actually start to do the selling for you.
Customers are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. (Source: Neilsen)
Things to think about…
- Use video where possible, because visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text (Source: NeoMam Studios). Filming is easy & you can do it on your phone. Create branded videos that show people…
- how to best pack their ute / trailer / truck come move day
- how to best pack the storage shed
- how to pack unusual items, or what type of storage carton they should buy for packing glasses & crockery (be sure to use your own, branded carton in the videos you make)
- Automatically send useful content to your storer by email (such as links to the aforementioned videos) a few days before move in. Timing is critical here – because sending a video about ‘how to best pack a box’ is pointless if sent a week after they’ve moved in to your storage facility.
Stages 3 & 4: Ongoing & Move Out
Knowing when a customer is about to leave (‘churn’) is one thing. Knowing it before they do, is even better. Customer churn can be predicted based on past activities and trends. For example, customers on automatic set-and-forget payments are less likely to move out when you run a rent increase than those who have to go out of their way to manually pay you. As such, it’s important to make everything as painless for the storer as possible.
Reports such as Storman’s “Anticipated Move Outs Report” can be very useful for predicting future churn, too. Run these regularly to see when storers are due to move out and ramp-up marketing efforts in the months prior to ensure cash flow doesn’t suffer.
The more a customer is reminded about their storage unit with you, the more they’re likely to reconsider their need to have it in the first place.
Things to think about…
- Survey your storers X weeks after move in and a few days after move out
- Ask them to rate your business on a scale of 0-10 (read more on detractors vs. promoters)
- Ask them what your business did well
- Ask them what your business could have done better
- Action positive feedback by saying thanks and asking for a testimonial
- Action negative feedback by promising to do something about it – and then doing it
- Analyse the changes and ask storers to reevaluate if possible
- Work towards making every storer a promoter & ensure your staff are on board, too
Free Resource: Modernise your Self Storage Marketing
During the SSAA (Self Storage Association of Australasia) 2016 Convention, I presented a session on how to ‘Modernise your Self Storage Marketing’, which expands on the findings presented above. If you’d like to grab a free copy, simply enter your details below to download a copy of my presentation…
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