By Fred Gleeck
I've seen a lot of mistakes made in the design of Yellow Pages ads for self-storage businesses. Many operators have been misled in this area. I'd like to give you some cold, hard facts about what works and what doesn't in the design of a Yellow Pages ad.
If you just renewed your ad, you're going to be upset with me. I apologize in advance. Unfortunately, graphic designers--not marketing experts--have probably assisted you in the past in designing your ad. But this is like asking an interior designer to design your buildings. Designers know how to make them look pretty, but the architect knows how to make them structurally sound.
First, we need to define what makes an ad successful. The only way to tell if a Yellow Pages ad is effective is to measure the number of calls it produces. That's the only job of such an ad. It's your manager's job to "sell" people once they call. So, you first have to collect data on the number of calls you receive. Without this data, you have no way to know if your ad is really working.
How do you do this? You should make sure your manager records every call. Each call should be coded based on what produced it--Yellow Pages, a referral, a flier, the Internet, etc. At the end of each month, you'll know what percentage of your calls came from each marketing method. These numbers won't be perfect, but they will certainly work for the purpose of comparison.
The most important element of your ad is your headline. Many storage owners put their facility name at the top of the ad. This is misguided. Your headline is the "ad for your ad." Although it may be gratifying to your ego to see see the name of your facility at the top of the ad, it makes no logical sense. Think about it: Do people flip through the storage section of the Yellow Pages and stop at the ad with the name they like best? I don't think so. But by putting your name in the coveted headline position, that's what you're saying you believe.
Instead, you should use your USP--unique selling proposition--as your headline. Highlight what you do that no one else in your market area does. If you don't have something like that, then you're in trouble, and you need to develop such a feature. But that's another article.
Let's say you're the only one in your market who offers 24-hour access. State that fact in your headline, and make sure to word the ad in a compelling way. You might use: "Why you must have 24-hour access to your goods." You might also go with: "The only facility with 24-hour access!" Remember, the headline is the single most important element of a Yellow Pages ad. It will stop people in their tracks if you use it effectively.
The majority of potential renters reading your ad have not rented storage before. This being the case, you can't assume they have a working knowledge of the storage business and the terminology we use. It is, therefore, critically important that you attach a benefit to every feature you list.
Here's an example: Let's say you list the feature "individual door alarms." You must then attach the benefit: "These allow us to know when an unauthorized person has attempted to enter your unit." If the feature was "24-hour access," the benefit would be "so you can get to your belongings at any time, night or day." Make certain every feature you list has a benefit attached to it. We might know why a certain feature is important, but we must spell it out to our potential customers.
Every Yellow Pages ad should list a "storage hotline" number in addition to your regular office line. This is a separate number accessing a recording that highlights all of your features and benefits--especially your USP(s). To get people to call your storage hotline, you must give it a compelling title, for example, "The seven things you must know before renting a storage facility."
This separate number should be attached to a machine or voice- messaging system that operates as a "greeting-only" device. Do not allow people to leave messages here. The hotline becomes your 24-hour electronic salesperson. This salesperson works 24/7 and only gets paid a flat monthly fee. People will call the hotline before they call your regular office number because they know that no one will try to sell them anything. It's a nonthreatening way to get information.
My data indicates more than 50 percent of all calls made to this hotline number take place during non-business hours. The keys to making the hotline work are how you title it, the message you use and how you promote it.
A small but readable map should be included in every Yellow Pages ad. It must provide your major cross streets to give people a good idea where you're located. Rarely will a person drive to your facility without calling first. The purpose of the map is to show people what area you're in.
The map should also highlight well-known landmarks in the area, such as the local Wal-Mart or other popular retailers close by. And position the map toward the bottom of the ad. Some operators have their map taking up virtually their entire ad. This makes no sense. Your map shouldn't be larger than about a sixth of the size of your ad.
You must let people know in your ad if you accept credit cards and which ones. The average renter who pays by credit card stays twice as long, so if you aren't yet accepting credit cards, you should start. At a minimum, you must accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express. When shopping for companies to provide you credit-card services, be sure to compare rates of several different places before you sign up.
Every Yellow Pages ad must have a web address prominently displayed at the bottom. This is no longer an optional item. If you don't have a website yet, again, this is something you should pursue.
You now have a roadmap for success in Yellow Pages ad design. Follow these suggestions and you can probably do most of the work yourself. If you do get someone to assist you with your ad design, be certain to use someone who has a marketing background with proven results.
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant. He helps storage owners before and after they get into the business. He is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! and numerous other training items for self-storage operators. To get regular tips on self-storage, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; call 800.345.3325.