A question self-storage managers constantly ask is, How do we get more new customers, and what is the real reason they choose us? The answers are many, but having a basic understanding of the most common denominators can give you a competitive advantage that spells the difference between success and failure.
For example, can you identify why customers choose your site instead of competitors facilities in your market area? Was it because you are closest to home? Do you have the best price or offer the best security? How do you quantify these answers?
To learn more about our renters, we have a created a New Tenant Questionnaire to present when customers sign a lease. The form, which takes less than 30 seconds to complete, asks the following information:
1) How did your hear about us? Was it through the Yellow Pages, a drive-by, fliers, coupons, website or a referral?
2) Why are you seeking self-storage? Is it for personal or business reasons, vehicle storage, etc.?
3) How far from our location do you live? Are you 0-1 mile, 2-3 miles, 3-5 miles or more than 5 miles from the facility?
4) Why did you choose to rent from us? Did you shop for the best price, the facility closest to home, best security, customer service/management?
5) If you were referred to us, who made the referral? Was it a friend, relative, a current or previous tenant, a competitor?
6) How many other storage facilities did you consider before renting with us? Did you look at 0, 1, 2, 3 or more?
In addition to the above information, the form asks tenants for their names, phone numbers and rental-unit numbers. The managers send the completed forms to the main office each month, where the original is placed in each customers file. In this way, our managers have complete data to use when making marketing decisions.
Many Uses of Data
The information generated from the New Tenant Questionnaire has been used in a number of different ways. At the end of the month, we take the data and determine what percentage of our customers came from Yellow Pages, drive-bys, etc. By having this information, our management can better determine if advertising dollars are being spent effectively.
For example, if we expected more clients would be generated through drive-bys, we may decide to try and increase the size of our signage to attract more attention. Or, perhaps we might consider changing the colors of the sign or the facility. Maybe we would give the building a new window look, all with the hopes of catching the eye of passersby and increasing business. If we are getting a large percentage of our business from fliers or direct mail, and the majority of our tenants only live within a mile of our store, we may decide to increase the amount of times we use this method because it has already proven its effectiveness.
By collecting this data over a long period of time, and reviewing it regularly, we can also be aware of patterns or marketing shifts. For example, if last year most of our tenants rented from us because we had the best price, we may want to check the competition and see how our rates compare. If we are considerably lower in price, we may decide to raise our rentsjust enough to increase profits but still undersell our competition.
On the other hand, if we see we have received a large number of referrals from competitors, perhaps we should find out why they are sending us business. Are they full? Do we have sizes they dont? Knowing the answers to these questions and relating them back to customers needs will give us a better understanding of how to leverage our facility against the competition.
Having knowledge about why customers come to our store, why they rent from us, what they are going to be storing and how our competitors stack up to us is extremely valuable information. A simple form to collect the information is priceless. Self-storage managers need to know this data if they are going to effectively market their facilities, maintain a competitive advantage and stay in touch with the needs of potential as well as existing customers.
Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, based in Tucson, Ariz. The company offers facility management, consulting and development services to the self-storage industry. For more information, call 520.319.2164; visit www.proselfstorage.com.