By Jeff Miller
By now you have probably received solicitations from a variety of companies promising to bring you new business by advertising your facilities on the Internet. The purpose of this article is to: 1) clear up some common misconceptions about Internet advertising, and 2) give you the facts you need to decide if Internet advertising fits into your marketing strategy.
It doesn't matter who puts me on the Internet, as long as I'm there. (Also known as "If you build it, they will come.")
This couldn't be farther from the truth. The Internet currently contains several hundred million pages of information. Having a page on the Internet means absolutely nothing unless people are actively brought to that page. Without proper marketing, an Internet page is like an advertisement in a Yellow Pages book that has never been delivered to the target market.
Your money will be best spent placing an advertisement with an online service that will make the necessary expenditures to consistently attract large numbers of users to its Internet site. Chances are, most of the services that have contacted you won't even spend a dime to bring people to your page. Always ask the vendor, "How do you market your site?"
I don't have Internet access, so I can't possibly advertise online.
You don't have to read the newspaper in order to run an advertisement in it. Likewise, you do not need Internet access or even a computer to advertise your facility on the Internet. Online services will do all of the programming for you and even send you print versions of your online advertisements so that you can see what they look like. Some services can even make your advertisement interactive by allowing prospective renters to send inquiries directly to your fax machine from your Web page.
Internet advertising is just a bunch of hype. No one is really renting self-storage after finding a facility on the Internet.
Wrong. This advertising medium definitely works. Storage companies advertising on the Internet are reporting a large number of monthly rentals. Even more interesting, tenants from the Internet have been shown to rent more space for longer periods of time. Self Storage Net, an online service specializing in self-storage, records thousands of searches each day through its interactive self-storage directory at www.selfstorage.net.
Why would people use the Internet to find storage? Imagine what you would do to find suitable housing, self-storage and other relocation information if you were moving to another city or state. The Internet has made this proposition much easier, and it has fundamentally changed the way people relocate.
There are more than 100 million people on the Internet today, and these people are increasingly turning to their computers for the information they need. Products such as WebTV are putting Internet access in the homes of millions of people who couldn't have normally afforded a computer, so this medium will continue to grow in importance for even the simplest businesses.
Internet advertising is expensive and complicated.
Mark these words: When done with a legitimate service, Internet advertising can be very cost effective. In fact, compared to your Yellow Pages advertisements, Internet advertising can be a true bargain. It has been estimated that advertising dollars spent on the Internet will surpass those spent on the Yellow Pages in just a few short years. Internet advertising is not a luxury, it is a necessary investment. With a successful Internet marketing strategy, you may find that it is possible to reduce the size of your Yellow Pages ads and actually reduce your overall advertising costs.
As for Internet advertising having a complicated start-up--try about five minutes. Most of your work has already been done for you. By submitting a copy of your print ad and a few pieces of basic information, your facility can be online and in front of potential renters within as little as 48 hours.
Conceptually, Internet advertising is no different than any other form of advertising you may utilize. You first have to get a highly targeted group of people to see your ad and then present enough information in a way that will compel them to act on it. The high-quality services will publish color photographs, maps, unlimited text descriptions, facility amenities and, most importantly, direct e-mail or fax links from your ad to your office. More importantly, they will also spend a lot of money to market their site and get people to see your information.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that all services offering to put your facilities online are the same. They are quite different from each other. Spend a few minutes and educate yourself about the differences between the services soliciting your business. It won't be that difficult to figure out who is legitimate and who is trying to profit from all the hype. Look for a company that understands more than the technical aspects of Web publishing. The service you choose should be able to demonstrate marketing skills. Your Internet presence should not be about technology, it should be about marketing, advertising and sales.
The truth is that there are only a few online services that have proven their ability to produce rentals. Those services truly work well and will introduce renters to you much faster than you expect. You will literally see leads coming out of your fax machine as soon as your ad is published. Ask around the industry; the successful services will be easy to spot.
Easy to Test
One final piece of advice: Give Internet advertising a try. It is inexpensive enough to test a few different services to see which one brings you the most renters. Who knows? You may find that Internet advertising is so successful that those expensive Yellow Pages ads are a thing of the past.
Jeff Miller is the national product manager of Self Storage Net, a division of Rent Net. For more information, call (415) 229-1000.