5 Things Self-Storage Operators Should Be Doing to Rent More Units
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Bob Copper|
|Posted on: 06/02/2012|
If you own or operate a self-storage facility, you want to rent more units and make more money. That's the core of your business. But how do you accomplish this?
You could invest in marketing to get the phone to ring more often, create more walk-ins and make it easier for people to find you online. You should do those things, but the first step in renting more units is to maximize the leads you’re already getting and increase your conversion rate. There’s little point in doing in more marketing if you’re not doing your best to make the most of current efforts. Instead, try these five strategies to rent more units and generate more revenue.
1. Learn How to Answer the Phone
If you want to rent more units, learn how to answer the phone. I conduct several mystery-shop phone calls each month and, frankly, most facility managers are not very good on the phone. Sure, they can answer it, but so can all six of my grandkids. Effectively answering the phone means being able to convert callers into renters. It means giving prospective customers a reason to visit your store. With approximately 85 percent of potential customers calling before they visit a site, shouldn’t you make sure you know how to answer the phone?
Self-storage is a need-driven purchasing decision, and almost 90 percent of people looking for storage end up renting. Yet many managers believe that when they don’t rent a space, the potential tenant was “just looking.” Really? Who "just looks" for storage? If you didn’t rent a unit to a prospect, you can assume one of your competitors did, and that should not be OK with you.
To be effective on the phone:
2. Supercharge Your Referral Program
Your referral program is the only marketing effort for which you only pay when it works! But many storage operators are far too cheap when it comes to their referral program, and then they wonder why it doesn’t seem to work very well.
Offering a customer a $25 credit on his account is not a strong referral incentive. Why will you only pay a current customer $25 for a rental when you’re paying Yellow Pages and Internet aggregators much more than that for leads, whether the prospect rents a space or not? That doesn’t make sense!
To supercharge your referral program, start offering cash or gift cards, up to $50 or $75, and make the program a really big deal when you review the lease with a new customer. Expand your sales force as large as you can. Open your referral program to the local pizza-delivery guy, as well as all local apartment managers and real estate agents. When you consider the value of each rental, the investment in a great referral program is one of the best you’ll ever make in your self-storage operation.
3. Set Up a Lead-Tracking System
When you’re only getting one or two chances a day to rent storage space, you have to learn to treat every lead like gold. Whether those leads come in by phone, the Internet or as walk-ins, you can’t keep up with rental leads by using yellow sticky notes. Since every rental is worth $1,000 or more, every loss is a expensive for your business. Consider the cost of not renting space:
The most successful managers rent to a large number of their leads after a follow-up contact. One of the most important pieces to the lead-tracking puzzle is follow-up. Failing to follow up is tantamount to letting a prospective customer know you don’t care about his business and you really don’t want his money. You simply cannot afford to lose the sale.
4. Use a Call Center
It’s surprising in this day and age that so many self-storage operators still trust their rollover phone business to an answering machine or their managers' cell phones. Most potential customers will not leave a message on an answering machine, and it’s impossible for a manager to give a 100 percent sales effort while standing in line at the bank or out sweeping units. When you calculate the value of a rental at your facility and the costs of generating each lead, the value of using a call center seems clear.
Figure the cost of using a call center and the return on investment if it rents just one unit per month. You’ll find this service offers one of the highest returns of any of your other marketing efforts. Using a call center helps an independent operator more effectively compete with the big guys and increases his level of professionalism and customer service.
5. Put Your Rates Online
Today's self-storage customer expects to be able to do business with you online. If you’re still stuck in the dark ages and expect “Contact Us for a Free Quote” or “Reserve a Unit” to work, without publishing your rates, you really need to get with the program.
If the industry's largest operators, ones who’ve spent a gazillion dollars on customer and market research, believe it makes good business sense to publish their rates online, why not take advantage of their findings? They’re not stupid. Do you really think you can outsmart them by withholding your rates online? You can’t.
Adding online reservations with rates allows you to be more competitive with the major players. Statistics show that customers prefer seeing rates online, and every day your rates are missing, customers are passing you by. Unless you’re getting 10 to 20 leads a day, you cannot afford to let anyone pass you by!
Bob Copper is partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. It also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. For more information, call 866.269.1311; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.selfstorage101.com.