Attracting Business With a Discount
DEAR WALDMANS: I am an avid reader of your column and enjoy reading about the different experiences of storage operators. I have owned a facility for about two years. It is evident that I need to do something different from the normal rental-unit rates. I want to run some specials that will increase my occupancy, but I really want something distinct in addition to our usual telephone advertising. Can you give me some advice on different kinds of discounts and what works best? I know every business offers sales, but it seems different in the service area that we are in. I want to lure more tenants, but I also want to make money in the process. Please share some of your experiences with various discount programs.
--How to Make a Discount in Euclid, Ohio
DEAR DISCOUNT: You are right. It does seem like discounting is quite different in a storage facility. Basically, it all works out the same. Maybe the rules are different, but a discount is a discount and people love saving money. Department stores advertise (sometimes with extremely large ads in the newspaper) in order to get the public to respond to sales. Surveys show that people responding to department store sales buy items they really don't need, but because they appear to be such a great deal, they cannot resist the temptation.
Our line of business is different. One is not going to see a wonderful ad for a discount storage facility and rent one because it is too good to pass up. Therefore, the consumers that you reach with your discount theories really do need a unit for storage. It could be that the discount you offer is just better than the one down the street.
Keep in mind that your facility needs to make a good first impression. Neatness and cleanliness are very important. Even if you give a tremendous discount, if your facility does not show well, people will not rent. After all, they are storing their belongings. That means when people store something, it must mean something to them. Why waste the time and money storing valuables that aren't valuable?
Put on your thinking cap and determine where your nearest customers may be hiding. Sometimes, we have potential tenants near us that we just haven't tapped. OK, if you have a college close to your facility, what a great source of summer income. Lots of students need to store their books, clothes and furniture during the summer. I realize these customers are short term, but I will bet you will enjoy seeing the students return year after year. Place several brightly colored fliers on the bulletin boards at the school just before summer break. Call the school and find out where you can place your fliers. This has worked very well for us. We place fliers in as many locations as possible. After a while students will tell others about your facility. Offer a student discount with the proper ID.
Find out where the apartment complexes in your area are located. Contact the property manager and build a rapport with that person. Maybe they will have a place for a flier and be willing to let tenants know about your services. After all, it is just another courtesy on the property manager's part to have helpful information. Then, there are probably businesses that need additional space. Call and make an appointment to speak with the person in charge of that area. It just takes a little extra time and energy, but it is worthwhile in the long run. This idea doesn't require a lot of extra money for advertising, just a little more planning in your marketing strategy. It really works.
Other great discount ideas include offering one-year renters the last month free and offering new customers and the person who referred them a discount. Don't forget holiday specials. For example, give customers who store over the July 4th holiday the next month free. There are so many great discounting ideas that you will be able to use. We wish you luck in finding new business.
|A father-daughter team, Stanley and Jill Waldman
are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys. In
addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment
law from Georgetown University. Together they have
co-authored a number of books on self-storage operations,
including Getting Started in the Self-Storage
Business, Self-Storage Business Management Forms, The
Policy & Procedure Manual for the Self-Storage
Business, Selling Your Self-Storage Business and
The South Carolina Tools Manual for Self-Storage
Comments and questions may be sent to: Ask The Waldmans, P.O. Box 21416, Charleston, SC 29413; or via their Web site: www.askthewaldmans.com.
Editor's Note: Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.