The Self Storage Association of Australia (SSAA) recently held its second online chat session with members. The topic for this session was “Tech Issues”, and featured the SSAA’s resident tech expert, Sto Rageit.
Because the chat included a lot of discussion about internet-related topics such as online marketing, websites and Google AdWords, our in-house internet expert & blogger, Andy, has written a post to accompany this transcript, entitled “Building a website for your business“.
A transcript of the chat session is provided below, with thanks to the SSAA…
Welcome to the SSAA chat session on Tech Issues
Please post questions and write your coments and thoughts throughout the session. If multiuple questions are asked at once we will endevour to answer them all in time.
If questions get too technical then I will note them down and have someone respond directly with you at a later date
The session will run for 1 hour
It is an interactive session so don’t be shy ask questions and post your comments
Rennie from x.x.x.15 joined the chat 69 minutes ago
Rennie: Hi Kathryn and Cathy, you are nice and early
Sto Rageit from x.x.x.15 joined the chat 68 minutes ago
Nel from x.x.x.70 joined the chat 68 minutes ago
Kathryn – NSW: hello, just getting myself all organised thank you 🙂
Rennie from x.x.x.15 cleared the room 71 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: Hello everyone, does anyone want to get in early with a question that is burning them up?
Tony from x.x.x.13 joined the chat 65 minutes ago
Lorraine Christian from x.x.x.215 joined the chat 64 minutes ago
Julie from x.x.x.43 joined the chat 64 minutes ago
Kathryn – NSW: I might think of something later, I’m just hoping to learn some things today!
Sto Rageit: Everyone so quiet. Is anyone currently using Google Adwords to market their website
supreme from x.x.x.60 joined the chat 62 minutes ago
Tony: Yes I am
Andy from x.x.x.202 joined the chat 62 minutes ago
Cathy: Hi just wondering if you have any tips for free directory web sites ?
liz from x.x.x.210 joined the chat 61 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: Free Directory websites are a very mixed bag, some allow you to increase profiles based on cost and premium services, were there any in particualr you are reffeing too?
Kathryn – NSW: I’ve only just got a website designed & uploaded, so I’m very green at it all. I got a $50 Google ad-words voucher to use, but couldn’t really work it all out!!!
Andy from x.x.x.202 changed name to Andy (Storman) 60 minutes ago
Kathryn – NSW from x.x.x.126 changed name to Kathryn 59 minutes ago
Cathy: Feee Local or the like?
Sto Rageit: Free Directory websites – My rule of thumb with these things is would I use them? First I would Google them and also google self storage in your local area and see if they come up high on the rankings
Sto Rageit: If they don’t come up very high then you need to ask even if it is free is it worth advertising?
Andy (Storman): @Kathryn – NSW …yes, it can be a little confusing at first, can’t it. Heaps of options & settings – but there are some good videos on YouTube which show how to use it and what seems to work best.
Sto Rageit: A simple marketplace is a good market, if there are lots of different search listing sites for storage then it is just confyusing for the customer, a lot of these free siotes strat off free and then end up charaging you for premiim listings and such, so it is not always a good idea just to take it up becaue it is free
Sto Rageit: So take caution in just signing up for a site becauie it is free, stick to the known brands like true local, and the ones that have a good google ranking and are populated with real details on businesses, not just address and phone number
Sto Rageit: Google Adwords – This can be confusing but I suggest you start simple. Set up an account with a maximum spend of $1.00 a day. Set up a few search words and let it run for a month or so and see what words have worked and what have not
julie from x.x.x.229 joined the chat 52 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: Of course Google adwords can bring people to your website but your website needs to be good enough to hold them, I’ll get to that later
Cathy: You are right about starting up free and then payning- we listed on true local and then got a call telling us we would have a better profile with a premium listing
Sto Rageit: The trick with adwords is to be clever about your word selection. Self storage is a really commonly searched item, it is also a well used adwords term, probably by most of the bigger operators
Andy (Storman): When looking for relevant keywords, try Google’s keywords tool – or give www.googlefight.com a go… enter two keywords and the site pits one against the other in a “fight” to see which is more popular (eg: “self storage newcastle”, or “newcastle self storage”) – can come in handy when trying to find out which is a more popular phrase to use within your website’s text, etc…
Sto Rageit: Look at terms like Self Storage (suburb) with your local suburb, it will be cheaper and you will get better results. Also put your terms in quotation marks ” ” this way you only get people that search for exactly that
Sto Rageit: Also have a think if there are any nearby suburbs that don’t have self storage businesses in them, or only one or two, try runing adwords on those suburbs
Lorraine Christian: Hi Sto and everyone. I am interested in your thoughts on Facebook, i.e. business’s such as ours joining facebook.
Sto Rageit: googlefight is good to compare different ways of saying the same thing, eg self storage newcastle vs newcastlt self storage, but be careful in using it to compare different terms or suburbs. More results is not always best if they do not convert to sales
Kathryn: I was wondering about placing a Facebook ad too!
Sto Rageit: Facebook is a usefull tool for businesses if used properly here are my rules for facebook
Andy (Storman): It may also be worth checking if a website name (aka Domain Name) like www.SelfStorageInPerth.com.au is available, and the registering it & redirecting it to your own website. This may appeal to searchers who view the Google Ads – it says *what* you do, and *where* you do it – all in the name. Many of our web-design clients have had success with this tactic.
Andy (Storman): (…where Perth = your local area or suburb-name.)
Sto Rageit: 1 – only join it if you are going to be active, facebook users hate people that join and then do not post regularly or leave their page inactive, it could actually cost you businesss
Sto Rageit: 2 – Get all your customers to link you as friends, maybe give them an incentive to do it
Tom from x.x.x.132 joined the chat 44 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: It is all about networking so you wnat as many people to link to your facebook page, this way when any of their friends are looking for self storage then they will see your business
Sto Rageit: Think about holding a facebook event, a BBQ or wine tasting at your site, don’t make it a public ad on facebook but privately invite all your friends and customers
Lorraine Christian: Ah, ok – thats good to know, I set one up and haven’t done much with it.
Sto Rageit: You want all your facebook freinds to work as a refferal network for you, so when tehir frineds need self storage they will reccomend you, this is what Isee as the real potential for facebook as a business tool
Sto Rageit: Ok my typing is getting bad need to slow down
Sto Rageit: I personally do not hold much belief in paid facebook ads for your industry, I am not sure they would provide good value. I would put time into developing it as a refernce tool instead
Sto Rageit: Think of it like this, for some people they would regard a reference from the facebook friends above anything else and they will ask them what they think before starting something new, like self storage
Lorraine Christian: Heres another one for you. On line surveys. Spam compliance both in Australia and NZ is pretty strict. Like many operators I would like to get my existing customers to undertake a survey but am holding off contacting any of them in case it comes under the Anti Spam laws. Can you enlighten me?
Sto Rageit: Any other questions before I talk about websites a bit?
Sto Rageit: How many of you have the ability on your website to book a unit?
julie: We pay for our site to be kept up the top of the page. We pay $$$ for clicks. How do they do this? How does it work?
liz: no we dont book on line
Sto Rageit: Julie are you talking about facebook, search engine or directory listing?
Cathy: We don’t book on line either – just email enquiry
Sto Rageit: I’ll come back to booking online in a minute but will quickly discuss pay per click
Sto Rageit: Pay per click is essentially how google adwords and many other websites direct traffic to your site. You pay $ for every person that clicks on your liink on a certain page.
Dallas from x.x.x.198 joined the chat 32 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: If you are serious about using this kind of thing as an ongoing tool then you should be able to quality check it.
Sto Rageit: This means getting some good analytical software running on your wesbite. This kind of thing will tell you where people come to your website (thier entry portal) ig Google, SSAA site etc. It can also tell you where they go and how long thehy spend n your site
Sto Rageit: This way you can really evaluate how effective your pay per click is, you can see theh they are actually spenfing time on your site, and you are not paying them to come in and close it down straight away.
Kathryn: anyone via my website can order packaging, but not pay for it online, pay upon collection…not able to book units online though, just make email enquiries.
Sto Rageit: If you have a page to book stoarge on then you can see how many pay per click actually visit this page and really evaluate whether that pay per click was worth paying for.
Sto Rageit: OK in my humble opinion everyone with a website shoud at the very least have an ability to send in an online enquiry for storage, if not book it online
Andy (Storman): Google offers an excellent, free analytical tool (see http://analytics.google.com) – all your web designer needs to do is copy & paste some code from Google into the pages on your website and the system begins tracking & logging data about those who visit your website: what they do on the site, how long they stay online, popular pages, where they exit the site, etc.
Sto Rageit: There are far too many sites, including most of the major operators that you can now book a storage unit online through, if you don;t have this service then you are missing out
Cathy: How does this system know which units you have available?
Sto Rageit: People use the internet for convenience, some people want to book online and they will shop around until they find a place they can book online. You need to turn your website from an information site into an action site
Lorraine Christian from x.x.x.215 left the chat 26 minutes ago
Sto Rageit: I am sure Andy will comment on the unit availability, but a good self storage management system should be able to integrate into your website so that it shows the availability of units
Andy (Storman): @Kathy: It depends on the system you use. Storman’s “online reservations” system communicates with the website, so it only shows unit types that you have available – and only unit types that you want to show online (so your competition cannot mystery-shop you online). Many of our customers have special “online only” deals (like the airlines)… so an online customer may, for example, get a slightly better deal than someone who cals the facility asking for a price. It depends on the software system that you run, however.
Sto Rageit: even if they send off an order form to you which then posts a message to say we will contact you ASAP, at least this way you get their details and can contact them.
Sto Rageit: If you are looking at google adwords or any online marketing then you really should have an online ordering sytem first, otherwise what are you paying for people to come to your site for, what will they do when they get there?
Sto Rageit: If you want people to use your website to find your phone number then use yellow pages online or maybe a local business directory, people that search for your website using Google or other search engines want more than a phone number
julie: How do I know what is good response from my paid for clicks. What is a reasonable time to spend on a page for example? Are there standard benchmarks?
Sto Rageit: Andy do you have any stats on how much more effective on online sales module can be for self stoarge?
Andy (Storman): If you don’t have the ability to show your units online, then the next best thing (as Sto described), would be to get potential customers to contact you in some way (email or phone) – that way, they change from “anonymous” to “known”… at least then you have a foot in the door, so to speak. So how do you drive them to ring or email you? Try a call-to-action… perhaps “Call us for a quote and mention ‘ABC123’ to get 5% off – or 2 free boxes upon move in! Valid only until 1/3/10″… this creates some urgency too.
Sto Rageit: Julie – someone who is just looking will spend less than 15 seconds on your site generally these people are not worth paying for. 15 – 45 seconds they could get a phone number or other reference, 45+ seconds they are doing real research, but it cal also depend o how many pages they visit while on your site
julie: Andy, any chance of storman creating a waitlist capability in the near future?
liz: What do you mean by waitlist
Cathy: Andy, how much does Stormans online reservations system cost – does it run with the current verson 7
Sto Rageit: Sepaking of boxes, have a think about driving box traffic to your website, maybe place some adwords for selling boxes, add box sales to your key words on your website
Andy (Storman): @Sto: The SSAA’s recent demand study (as i’m sure you will have seen) says more and more people are looking for storage online. This is slowly translating into “booking” online, too. It’s just so much more convenient, too. Some people don’t like pushy sales staff, so they will do everything they can online …anything to avoid using the phone. Providing online resources for your customers on your website can be very helpful in this regard… as it fulfills that niche. Particularly with younger couples who may be buying the first homes, etc and have been brought-up to use the internet for everything.
Sto Rageit: Like someone mentioned earlier you can sell boxes thorugh your website
julie: We have customers wanting sizes we don’t have available just no. So I would like to be able to record these people and then as those units become available, they get linked.
Rennie: I think you can contact Andy directly re pricing for Storman
Sto Rageit: Re waitlists, how about giving them an offer of upsizing to a bigger unit if there are lots of them available
Andy (Storman): @Julie: Thanks for your question – yes, Storman’s new release has a waiting list function. Rather than clog up the chat with internal information, could you please contact me via http://stormanau.wpengine.com and I can email you a video on how to setup and use it 🙂
Sto Rageit: Thanks for that Andy, we have about 10 mins left, any other questions or topics
Andy (Storman): @Cahy: Please contact me via the site (linked earlier) and I can provide you with the info.
Cathy: Thanks Andy
Rennie: Does anyone send out bulk e-mails to thier customers? How about your past customers?
julie: No. How do you do this?
Sto Rageit: Good question Rennie, you guys have a great customer database, how many of you are using it to send out e-mails?
Andy (Storman): I have a question for all… I have seena few storage websites with videos that automatically play as soon as you visit the website. The videos are usually of a person talking about the facility. They tend to “auto play” when you visit the site. Do any of you use these types of things, and what feedback have you had? Has anyone else also seen websites that use these types of videos?
julie: Hate having my time controlled by a video. I use internet to get quick advice not a video and jingle I can’t get away from. Its called assult.
Sto Rageit: Re videos on auto play, I think websites should be kept simple and easy to use/load. By all means place vidoes on them but do not set them to autoplay, particularly on your home page, have a click on link to play the vidoe for thise that want to see it
Andy (Storman): @Julie: Personally, I agree 🙂
julie: GBH on the earhole as terry used to say. ( Grevious bodily harm).
Sto Rageit: Also think about the fact more people are using their mobile phone to surf the net, they need simple sites, how many of you have had a look to see how your website looks on an Iphone or Nokia N97?
Sto Rageit: You can send bulk e-mails using MSWord and Outlook or Excel if you want
Sto Rageit: Get your mailing list with name, e-mail and any other data you want into an excel spreadsheet or a contact group in Outlook
Cathy: Good point about how web-site looks on phone, hadn’t thought of that- will have to have a look
Sto Rageit: using word the same way you would for a mail merge (tools letters and mailings depending on your version) create a new mail merge
Andy (Storman): Regarding websites via mobile phones… there are tricks around this so that a website can both look good on a phone and on a computer. One is called “Stylesheets” – where you can automatically have a website revert to a simpler look & feel if the website detects the visitor is using a mobile phone. Ask your web designer about “stylesheets for mobile phones” and they should be able to assist you in this regard.
julie: Can you do bulk email ‘thru Storman?
Andy (Storman): @Julie: Yes you can… either via print or email. Bulk SMS is coming soon, too.
Cathy: Thanks for your time today Sto, plenty of food for thought.
Sto Rageit: It will ask you do you want letters, labels and there is also an e-mail option. Select the email option, then write your e-mail as a template in word, add in the name and other fields as a merge field. When you are done hit the merge button, it will come up with an option to select the field that has the e-mail address and also a name for the message, hit go and all the messages will be created and sent through your outlook onutbox
Andy (Storman): @Julie: Just shoot me an email and I can show you how to use it 🙂
julie: Will do. Tks.
Sto Rageit: The mail merge will only work if you are using teh sanme version of word as outlook, eg all 2007, 2003 etc
Sto Rageit: OK last call for questions
Andy (Storman): @Sto – any thoughts on when the next chat session will be (and the topic?)
Andy (Storman): …actually I should probably have asked Rennie that one… 🙂
Rennie: We are looking at running one session a month, I think the next one is on marketing but I am not sure
Andy (Storman): @Rennie: Thank you.
Sto Rageit: Looksm like that is it then, thanks all for your time and I hope it has been of benefit to you
liz: Thankyou this has been very interesting
julie: such a good idea.
PS: Thank you to the SSAA for allowing us to publish a transcript from their recent webchat. Not yet a member of the SSAA? Find out why you should join your local industry association.