Marketing Events and Entertaining

OVER THE PAST THREE AND A HALF YEARS, MY HUSBAND, DAVID, and I have worked for an excellent company whose owner has shown us support in numerous ways. An owner should always be attentive to his managers' creative sides--some of us have great ideas, especially when it comes to marketing. Most of the time, managers come to the table with a variety of skills and knowledge picked up from miscellaneous jobs they've had. If you think you have a clever idea for a marketing event, don't hesitate to put it in writing and pitch it to your owner. If you don't have a creative bone in your body, ask friends, family, even tenants what they like to do on the weekends for entertainment--this should generate some inspiration.

If you have an event you'd like to host, you must first have a plan. Do not just give the owner a vague thought. Sketch out a preliminary budget, know if you have the right support staff, and create a list of what you need to buy, rent, have donated or make yourself. Then make a list of the companies with which you'd like to work.

Use your chamber of commerce to find local business listings. Once you've decided on a date and theme for your event, you can send these businesses a letter asking them to donate goods or funds in exchange for a sponsorship. You'll be able to follow that letter with an invitation to your event, whether or not they contribute. Use a notebook to store all your quotes, in-house invitations, fliers and any other related materials. This way, if your owner asks you to further present your ideas, you are one step ahead with organized notes.

I have held several business after-hours parties through our chamber of commerce because it will advertise the event and reach maximum potential customers--especially if your thrust is file, merchandise and equipment storage for the business owner. These professionals want a short party where they can come right from work. They want to network, eat and drink, see a limited tour of your facility and leave with some giveaways. You may not earn any immediate customers, but the referrals and positive conversations at attendees' respective offices on the next day could do your location wonders.

I held my first party in one of our climate-controlled buildings just six months after opening a property. I used 10-by-10s for catered spreads of food, 10-by-15s for rented golf and toss-football games, and a 10-by-20 for rented bar tables and chairs. The feedback was extraordinary. The common theme of comments I received was, "I didn't know storage facilities could be so nice."

In October, I was given authorization to host a Halloween haunted house in which I used climate-control and traditional units in themed ways. The 10-by-20 became a graveyard, the inside 10-by-15 a haunted livingroom, and a 5-by-10 featured a hanging ghoul and coffin. I also used several units for pumpkin-carving, face-painting, games and food. I wrote to local businesses--small and large--to assist with the costs. I even asked our local grocery store to donate apples and called Pepsi Cola of Buffalo, N.Y., for a donation of soda.

Remember, you cannot charge admission to your marketing events. They should be community-oriented and kid-friendly. Most important, always give your sponsors plenty of recognition. Last but not least, make sure every one of your guests leaves with a brochure, business card, referral voucher, etc. And don't forget to track your response in calls and rentals. If you earn a dozen customers from your event, chances are your owner will approve it again for next year.

David and Tina Fleming are an award-winning management team with Premier Self Storage Inc. of Western New York. David has more than 10 years of experience in the self-storage industry, having managed facilities in three states. He is currently a corporate trainer and senior site manager overseeing five locations. He and Tina work as full-time resident managers of Premier Self Storage in Lancaster, N.Y. To contact the Flemings, call 716.651.9500; e-mail [email protected].

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