Memorable Self-Storage Marketing: Using Promotional Products to Make a Lasting Impression on Prospects
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Gina Kudo
Posted on: 01/16/2012


“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large,” according to the American Marketing Association (AMA). For the average self-storage manager, marketing is a bane of his existence. How the heck do you make a self-storage facility enticing to the average consumer, especially when you're in over your head and don’t know what to do or how to proceed?

For starters, you need to know your customer base and circle of influence. Then you need creative and memorable ways to reach that target audience. Following are examples of inspired marketing promotions that can make a long-lasting impression on your self-storage prospects.

Cochrane Road Self Storage Promo Items***Using Promo Items

Take a look at your city’s community calendar to see what events are likely to draw good crowds and provide marketing opportunities for your facility. Next, jump onto a reputable promotional-products website and peruse the options available. Have a budget in mind and determine which items would make a good fit for the events that interest you.

For example, one year during a local July 4 parade, it was particularly hot, and we noticed people fanning themselves with whatever they could find. That was an “Ah-ha!” moment. The next year, we passed out 500 hand fans with a patriotic image on one side and our company logo with a discount promo on the other. We associated ourselves with a great event, helped alleviate a comfort problem for spectators, and offered a product and solution. In the end, our $200 investment netted half a dozen long-term tenants.

Our self-storage facility also uses personalized pens, key chains and other items as giveaways in the office, and we strategically put them into play in creative ways. For example, we make reusable welcome bags printed with our logo for the community's new teachers. The bags generally include our key chain, some paper clips printed with our website, and Sharpie pens, also printed with our logo. Teachers store their materials during the summer months, and if they routinely see your logo during the other nine months of the year, why would they go to a competitor?

The single hottest item we've tried is our talking stress head, which has our contact info printed on the back. The thing is really dorky looking, but it's a barrel of laughs. Every person who crosses our threshold receives one, even if it's just the mailman or UPS delivery guy. Our goal is that no one leaves our office without a smile—which people do the second they hear the item say, “Relax. Calm down now. Don’t stress. Take it easy.” Even if a customer is just planning ahead or insists on shopping around, we give him one of our stress guys. Guess who they remember when making their final storage decision?

Cochrane Road Self Storage Stress Head***We order the talking heads in bulk and, although they're a bit pricey at roughly $2 per unit, they're well worth the cost. We've garnered many a rental from this little guy, so he'll definitely remain a part of our marketing bag of tricks. We've even had people wear out their item and come back begging for a new one a year or so later. One lady asked for five stress heads for her women’s group. I received a very nice thank-you note from the group, thanking us for helping them relieve some stress.

Do you see what’s happening here? Our customers are distributing our marketing materials for us! We've created a positive image of our company among our prospects, and they'll share their impressions with friends. We've expanded our circle of influence without ever leaving the office.

Remember an effective marketing piece can be an unusual business card or postcard mailing, a flier, or an inexpensive promo item. We once had a huge field of weeds behind our facility that we plowed and planted with wildflowers. We ordered seed by the pound and wound up with much more than we needed. So many people raved about the flowers that the next spring, we purchased some tiny manila envelopes, filled them with seeds, and added a label with our facility information. Our total cost was about 30 cents per packet. The seeds were a hit with the community and helped our image. We strategically targeted our market, and the wildflowers beautified the area.

Cochrane Road Self Storage Goodie Bag***Finding What Works

Not all marketing promos will work for your particular self-storage audience. The point is to find what works for your site, clientele and budget. That might mean a terrific ice-scraper in cold-weather climates or perhaps a reusable green shopping bag for eco-friendly communities. A smart approach is to align your marketing decisions with your community’s focus or identity.

Self-storage facilities that follow this type of strategy achieve the AMA’s marketing concept: They effectively communicate their offerings, and their company name lingers in a customer's mind when he needs storage.

Not every idea will be successful. In trying various approaches, we've had our share of flubs. Start small and see what works for your faciilty. Once you find an item or tactic that resonates with people, you’ll know you’re onto something good, and then simply let the marketing piece do the work for you.

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 15 years of self-storage experience and a strong customer-service and sales background. She is also a moderator for Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online forum and community.