Self-Storage Marketing Lessons From AOL and Coca-Cola
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Derek M. Naylor
Posted on: 01/05/2009



 

What do marketing campaigns produced by companies like Coca-Cola, AOL, Microsoft and McDonald’s have in common with you, the self-storage operator? My answer may sound brutally honest: very little. On the other hand, there’s a great lesson to be learned. Confused? Let me explain.

The Giants

When small businesses create marketing materials and strategies, they often look at the corporate giants for ideas. Yes, self-storage owners try to create memorable slogans, cute logos and graphics that are super-cool looking. Sound familiar?

Heavy disappointment sets in when all of the time and money doesn’t even begin to pay off. Don’t get me wrong, because the marketing campaigns executed by giant corporations do work very well for them. But, it works because of their markets, their products and their billion-dollar budgets.

Here’s the good news: Behind all of the glamour in their marketing departments is a strategy that works very well in the self-storage industry. In fact, I’ll bet you’ve seen it in action firsthand more than once already this month.

It’s called “integration marketing,” which basically means developing alliances. Let me give you an example by assuming you’ve bought a new computer in the past five years. Remember back to when you opened the box and were all excited about getting your hands on your shiny new specimen. It’s an electric feeling knowing you’re holding so much power in your hands.

After you unpack the box, get all of the cords and pieces connected, you can finally turn on your new toy. The first time your computer desktop pops up, you witness integration marketing at work. You have an antivirus software, Internet service provider, online music company and a few other software companies offering you free trials of their products. Most of the icons on your new desktop are not needed for the computer to function properly. Instead, they complement basic program needs. The oddity here is they are from third-party companies.

Obviously not everybody uses the free trials on their computers. But a significant percentage of new computer users will use at least one of the software programs pre-installed on their new systems.

AOL is one of the early pioneers of this strategy and still does it well to this day. Smartly, AOL marketing innovators realized people will need an easy portal to the Internet when they buy a new computer. If they’re not loyal or partial to a particular brand, they are likely to take the trial and, eventually, AOL will land the full deal.

The same is true of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. If you go to McDonald’s, guess what you’re drinking? A Coca-Cola product, baby! Have you noticed there aren’t any “Coke stores” around? Coca-Cola has mastered the art of integration marketing. The CEOS there realized salty and greasy food will make people thirsty. If soda is on the menu, it should be integrated with the French fries and hamburgers to create a full meal. And there you have it: integration at its most satiating!

Back to You

Hopefully you’re beginning to see the power of integration marketing. If you are, you’re certainly wondering how to do this in your self-storage business. That’s what I’m here for.

Ask yourself this: “What businesses in my market are selling a product or service to local residents that will prompt or expose the need for self-storage?” Let me save you a few brain cells by offering the following suggestions:

  • Fire and flood restoration companies
  • Movers
  • Realtors
  • Remodeling contractors
  • Boat and RV dealers
  • Car dealerships

Now, I realize this industry is well aware that forming alliances with companies in these industries is fruitful. But, integration marketing takes that proven principle to the next level. Rather than taking them a bag of candy and a stack of brochures, you should integrate with a fundamental process these businesses must go through to complete their jobs.

Take the fire and flood restoration company, for example. Fortunately, I’ve never had a home damaged by flood or fire, but I have worked with them for an integration marketing program. Thus, I know their process includes an assessment of damage before the restoration work begins, along with an estimate and plan for the job. Usually this includes advising the homeowner he’ll need storage for the belongings he’d like to keep.

If you have an alliance with this company, you might get a referral. But that’s it. If you’ve integrated with this company, the conversation with the homeowner should go something like this:

“Well, Sue and John, we’re sorry this happened to your home. But we’re confident we’ll be able to fix the damage and restore your home to almost-new. In the meantime, you’re going to need storage for your belongings because this process is dusty and we need to replace the sheet rock and carpet.

“We’ve arranged VIP treatment for you at XYZ Storage. Based on what I see you’ll need to store, I recommend a 10-by-20 space. I’ve marked that on this lease for you. Take this down to XYZ facility, right next to Bill’s Barbeque on Main Street. The owners will show you the right size unit and, should you approve, they’ll take your credit card for payment.”

See the difference? You’ve integrated with a process the company must go through to get going on their job. It’s a much more powerful approach that inevitably seals many self-storage rental deals.

Incentives to the Relationship

You can even go as far as to make arrangements with those you integrate with so that they are collecting payments from their clients and you just bill them for the units they occupy. This gives them the opportunity to mark up storage space and create an additional profit center for their own business and bottom line.

You’ll first need to consider what incentive to offer to those involved in your integrated marketing campaign. Once you do, you’ll be just like computer manufacturers making a good profit from those who put icons on the desktop of new computers, and like McDonald’s operators who profit from every Coca-Cola product sold through its restaurants.

The best way to do this is determine what your cost-per-new-tenant acquisition is through other marketing channels. If you are OK with paying $100 for a new tenant through Yellow Pages advertising, you should be perfectly fine giving $100 for a new tenant through integration.

Integrated marketing campaigns can take time and imagination to cultivate, but if you consider these relationships can be worth dozens of new tenants every month, this extra mental exercise is very worthwhile. While I don’t recommend storage operators mimic marketing campaigns devised by the Fortune 500s, I hope you grasp the power of integration marketing and use it as a reliable and inexpensive source of new tenants for years to come.

Derek M. Naylor is president of Storage Marketing Solutions, a full-service, results-oriented marketing and advertising agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a free subscription to his e-newsletter, call 800.941.4805; e-mail dnaylor@storagemarketingsolutions.com; visit www.storagemarketingsolutions.com.