Marketing: Small Steps, Big Results

Its been years since I met a self-storage professional who didnt believe in the value of advertising and promotions. But simply believing in something doesnt mean it will be done effectively. So while most of the larger chains have well-run, professionally produced marketing campaigns, its a different story for smaller multi-sites and independents. Following are some simple initiatives that can deliver big results and go a long way toward building your business.

Make a Grand Entrance

Grand openings are golden opportunities to announce your presence in the industry and, more important, the immediate community. Hosting a party is a great way to give customers a positive impression of your business and awareness of your location and products. Plan it for a weekday afternoon. Invite local officials, businesspeople and the press. Give tours of the facility, provide light refreshments, and award door prizes including special offers for retail products or rentals. Print up formal press releases to send to reporters.

A grand opening should be just that: grand. Use banners, balloons and other point-of-purchase displays to let passersby know youre open for business. Place ads in local newspapers about your opening, and hand out fliers a couple weeks before so customers can anticipate the launch.

Fair Trade

Be creative in your advertising by thinking outside of the typical marketing box. Partner with local businesses by offering trade specials for extra exposure. For example, hold a monthly drawing for a gift certificate to a local furniture store and arrange for that store to do the same for you. Simply have customers drop their entries into a fishbowl on your counter, and use the contact information you collect to send out mailings and e-mail blasts.

Radio stations can also be a good way to reach prospects. Offer to trade rental and product gift certificates for on-air mentions or the sponsoring of a broadcast.

VICs

Treat your very important customers to special promotions. Give them frequent-buyer cards for retail purchases that earn discounts or free goods. Extend a thank you to the firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians of your community by hosting quarterly sales just for them. (They simply present their badge or ID for special deals.) And dont overlook your commercial prospects. Mail them special corporate-account cards that reward them for long-term use.

Special Events and Giveaways

Use your property for something other than business by holding holiday-themed events to attract attention in the community and the papers. For example, host pumpkin-carving contests, Easter-egg hunts and holiday cookie-decorating. Maximize attendance by choosing an event that is kid-focused. Even if theyre not the children of current customers, their parents mean increased foot traffic, which translates to impulse retail purchases and increased awareness of your facility. You can collaborate with neighboring businesses to sponsor larger events.

Giveaways are another great way to increase recognition. Key chains, flashlights, magnetic calendars and travel mugs are all good tchotchke items people use on a regular basis. Give these away with new rentals, or entice people to give you their contact information by offering a free gift.

When considering advertising or events, compare your investment to the sales you will need to make up for the expense. There are ways to alleviate costs and maximize exposure by being clever in your planning. Announce your events by stuffing fliers into invoices or passing them out to local businesses. Write releases about events or other notable happenings, and send them to local newspapers and news stations. Use tenant contact information for bounce-back promotions or e-mail blasts.

Smart self-promotion doesnt require an MBA in marketing. All you need is some creativity and the desire to get your name out there. And, trust me, a little goes a long way.

Roy Katz is the president of Supply Side, which distributes shipping packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including the U.S. Postal Service, The UPS Stores, Kinkos, Mail Boxes Etc., Uncle Bobs Self Storage and Storage USA. For more information, visit www.suplyside.com.

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