Converting Your Website Visitors to Paying Self-Storage Customers
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
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Posted on: 10/18/2012



 

By Christopher Baird

There's a lot of talk in the self-storage industry about the importance of getting people to a facility or business website. Search-engine optimization (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM), pay-per-click (PPC) and every other acronym related to Web marketing are always part of the discussion. Each plays a critical role in obtaining customers online. While the first step is building an SEO-friendly website, followed by SEM, the final step is rarely talked about—converting website visitors into renters.

Getting people to your self-storage facility is not as easy as it once was. It used to be that if you built it, customers would come. It wasn’t much different online. About 15 years ago, if you developed a website, you could be on the front page of a search engine in 60 seconds or less. Today, just as a storage facility needs marketing to bring in more customers, a website needs the same attention.

A website will not perform well simply because it exists. I speak to a lot of self-storage operators who just want someone to build them a website. They don't care how as long as it’s aesthetically pleasing. I also speak with operators whose only concern is to get good ranking. Even if you care about both, there's still a vital piece to consider: What happens once people get to your website?

Today you have to deal with billions of Web competitors, including many that offer online rental capabilities. How will you compete and convert visitors to renters?

How Is Your Website?

If you have a great website and are marketing it online, how is it doing? I don’t just mean where you rank in searches, maps, directories or on Facebook, I mean how many new visitors come to your site and how many of them become renters? Successful marketing means getting people to your website and converting them to customers. Following are a few questions to help improve your website in this area.

  • Is your website appealing? According to Google, recent research suggests that users decide to stay on or leave your site in just a few seconds. "This limited window of time in which to grab and retain a user's attention makes optimization crucial. By designing a website where users can quickly find what they want, you'll make it easier for them to reach the conversion page and take the action that means business results for you.”
     
  • Are you competitive? The Internet is largely price driven. Make sure what people see is enticing enough to look further. Offer a special that motivates them to buy right now, and make sure your special stands out on your website. Don’t force people to hunt down important information.
     
  • Is your website trustworthy? Offer quality content and keep your contact information visible so you can be reached whenever people are ready. Never advertise something that is not easily found on your website.
     
  • Are there parts of your website that users find frustrating? Make your site easy to navigate so prospective customers don’t get lost or confused. Keep your layout clean and simple, with clearly marked navigation and links and consider your audience. Don’t rely on your view of how the website should function. What makes sense to you may not make sense to others.

Once you have answered these questions, you need to determine whether your website offers quality information that will allow prospective customers to make and act on a decision immediately. If you have the right content and offer the ability for them to choose a size but no way for them to reserve a unit, they may just move on to the next website that does. There are those who prefer to call your facility, but if you don’t offer a way for people to reserve online, you'll lose those potential sales. So why take that chance?

Your website should have the following as a basic set of tools:

  • An interactive map so customers can find you
  • A unit-size guide so they know what to rent
  • Information about sizes and rates, and a way to reserve the unit online
  • A short (and I mean very short) form for inquiries
  • A phone number prominently displayed for those who are not ready to reserve online

Measuring Success

How do you track and verify the effectiveness of your website? I don’t mean simply tracking Web visitors or search-engine ranking. Even though they are a part of the overall marketing equation, we're mostly interested in rental tracking here.

If you get 1,000 visitors to your website, isn’t that good? Just about anyone who understands the basics of Internet marketing can deliver 1,000 website visitors. The real question is, what are those visitors looking for and do they buy anything? What if you were paying for those visitors and they only purchased at one tenth of one percent? Is that good enough? What is the return on your investment for these visitors? These questions will help lead you to find the right answers.

For example, if you received 1,000 clicks to your website and paid $2 per click, you just spent $2,000. Some would stop here and say that's a good deal. However, you can’t determine how good a deal it was until you know how many rentals came from those clicks. It's a good deal only if you acquire each tenant at an acceptable cost per acquisition. If you end up with 20 rentals ($100 per rental), that may be a great deal for you; but if you only receive two rentals at $1,000 each, that doesn’t seem like a great deal after all.

In short, there are three things you need to do to successfully promote your website. First, build an SEO-friendly website that looks good enough to keep visitors engaged. Second, continuously market that website everywhere you can. Third, make sure the site functions well enough to convert at the highest possible percentage. Remember, if you can track the rental conversions back to the dollars you spent, you have yourself a roadmap to success.

Christopher Baird is the CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based Automatit Inc., which offers full-service Web development and marketing services to self-storage companies nationwide. He has more than 15 years of experience in website marketing and search engine optimization. Prior to joining Automatit in 2001, he was a freelance Web designer. For more information, call 520.293.4608; e-mail chris@automatit.net; visit www.automatit.net.