Containerization: A New Marketing Edge
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Harley Rolfe|
|Posted on: 11/01/2001|
The simplest and most profitable type of self-storage operation is one that operates as a commodity. It offers conventional self-storage units with no bells or whistles. If an owner can operate that way, stay full and apply steady rate increases over time, he is in self-storage nirvana.
I know there is a lot of talk about the increasing role of marketing in the self-storage industry. The reason to engage in marketing is to solve a problem confronting the operation and, usually, the problem is the onset of competition. I sometimes speak to an operator who tells me he has a killer feature that saves him from aggressive competitive pressure and, generally, it's location. Then I ask if he regularly gets calls asking for the rates on a 5-by-10 or 10-by-20. If he says "yes," I know his prospects don't regard him as unique and he is being shopped.
With competition comes the endless tussle to make your offering different and, hopefully, better. The process is continual; the ideas that work will be copied and you'll drop the ones that don't. Our job as marketers is to continuously come up with approaches that dazzle prospects and confound rivals. Let's take a look at one approach that holds promise.
Horse of a Different Hue?
In the January 2001 issue, I commented on the market power of convenience in the design of self-storage offerings. When convenience is evident to a prospect, he will accord preference and premium to it. "Preference" means he buys your product over that of others, and "premium" means he'll pay more for it. Since tenants often dread the grubby work associated with the use of our product, an approach that relieves that woe is welcome.
One approach does just that. Known by several names, I'll refer to it as "containerization." You may know it as mobile or portable storage--the use of transportable vaults to store tenants' property. The portable storage unit is delivered to the tenant's home or office, filled with his property, then picked up and transported to a storage location until the tenant is ready to access it again. This approach offers several advantages for a self-storage prospect:
The portable-storage approach also offers some advantages to the operating facility:
Keep in mind not all storage applications are well served by the portable-storage approach. Applications that require regular access are awkward. The way to accommodate that situation is to have a secure room dedicated to a particular tenant for purposes of access. The container is taken from its normal location and placed in the access room. But there is administrative clumsiness in this approach. The tenant must make and keep an appointment to get to his property and, inevitably, he must be charged extra for that effort. But in situations where the tenant can store the container and forget about it, the container approach is superb and should earn you the convenience premium.
The portable-storage option gives you the chance to tout something new and different. I've written before about the power of choice in appealing to tenants. Many of the options offered tenants are contrived. This one is for real. It offers a real difference replete with great advantages. Even if few actually take advantage of the option, you can change the focus of tenant consideration from choosing among rivals to choosing among your offerings.
As the press of competition increases, more operators will be searching for ways combat it. Many will make their appeal through traditional self-storage. Others will understand that to be truly unique, they need to look at the problems confronting prospects and solve them. And that solution may be the offering of portable storage.
Harley Rolfe is a semi-retired marketing specialist whose career includes executive-level marketing positions with General Electric and AT&T. He also owned lodging and office facilities for more than 20 years. Mr. Rolfe holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Wabash College and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Indiana. He can be reached at his home in Nampa, Idaho, at 208.463.9039. Further information can also be found in Mr. Rolfe's book, Hard-Nosed Marketing for Self-Storage.