By Pamela Alton
As most of us are aware, the Yellow Pages ad is where most tenants first learn about a storage facility. It is probably the largest advertising expense a facility owner has, so it should be made to count.
In some areas, a good Yellow Pages ad could cost as little as $500 or as much as $1,800 or more per month. The larger the ad, the more visible a facility will be, especially when it's in a saturated area. Statistics indicate that typically, a prospective tenant will call four ads before they choose the site they want to rent at; therefore, does a self-storage business need to be the first in storage section of the Yellow Pages? Probably not. However, an owner shouldn't scrimp on the size of his ad, as most placements in the book are based on the size and length of advertising. An owner with a new facility should budget for the largest ad possible. You can't expect a new facility to be full in six months when you have an eighth of a page ad on the last page of the storage section. It just won't happen.
There are several companies that offer telephone books in most cities: GTE, AT&T, PacBell and their subsidiaries, and local directories such as the Donnelly Directory. Prices of ads will vary, depending upon which book you go into and its distribution. In larger cities, it can be very costly if you try to advertise in all books. An owner should just concentrate on his local area, since most tenants will not drive more than five miles from their home or business to store their goods. Of course, these companies will try to talk you into their directory, saying they are the best to advertise in. It's important to keep in mind that it's the salesperson's job to sell space and get owners competing with each other's facilities. An owner should stand firm and choose the directory that is within his budget, the one distributed where most potential residents will come from.
When designing an ad, use good-quality graphics or photos. Allow a picture or graphic to speak 1,000 words for you. Some software programs, such as Microsoft Publisher or Front Page, have several Yellow Pages templates for your convenience, plus they usually have an extensive graphics package. Start planning next year's ad right now, even if it's not due for several months. Don't wait until two days before the Yellow Pages closes its ad space. If not enough time is spent on the design of an ad, you could end up with something you aren't happy with, but stuck with for a whole year. Allow yourself plenty of time so you will be pleased with the outcome of your ad. Make a list of all of the items you want to put in your ad, design it, then be critical. Is it too wordy and busy looking? Is it too plain?
Evaluate other ads in the same book, not just self-storage ads. What draws you to one ad over another? Use the other ads to give you design ideas. You may want to consider having a professional design company design your ad for you if you don't have the time or the artistic talents. A large map indicating the location of your facility is a must in any Yellow Pages ad. Once a person has decided they need storage, they pick up the book and begin cruising the ads. After the first couple, they typically zero in on maps to find a facility close to their home or place of business. If you have more than one location, you may want to consider a consolidation ad that consists of maps of your various locations.
The word storage should be in the largest print type in your ad. You may be proud of the fact that you named your facility after you, your children or the street corner it is located on, but a tenant couldn't care less if they store at Thompson's Self-Storage or not. Storage is what you are selling, so make that stand out in your ad.
Now, I know some of you have the dreaded "s" word--security--in your facility name; however, avoid the use of that word when describing the features of your site. Instead of "security gate," use electronic gate; instead of "security alarm," use individual door alarm; instead of "security cameras," use video cameras, etc. If you have rental trucks or accept charge cards or have extended access hours, state that in your ad.
Personally, I don't think you should waste your money on red or blue print, or white background. Spend the extra money to enlarge the size of your ad. When placing your ad, you may want to contact a national Yellow Pages advertiser that groups several ads together to receive a discount.
One thing about storage: You usually don't have to sell the person calling you from your ad on storage. They have already decided to store their goods--that's why they called you. However, you must compete with the other storage facilities in your area. That is why being competitively priced and having effective telephone closing techniques are so important. The cost to advertise may break down to $5 to $15 per call, just to make the telephone ring. Remember: Great closing techniques will go hand in hand with an effective Yellow Pages ad, so make each call count.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, the largest nationwide manager-placement service serving the self-storage industry. Mini-Management also offers full-service and operations-only property management, policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections and audits, consulting and training seminars nationwide. For more information on the various services offered by Mini-Management, call (800) 646-4648.