If you don't offer units for $9.95 at your facility, you should.
Forget how you're going to offer them for the moment and just think about the concept. How many more people could you get to visit your facility if you had units that rented for just $9.95? What size unit could you rent for that price? Obviously, a very small one.
Since we know the key to renting units is to get people to call and visit a facility, a low price point will help make this happen. Owners who have adopted this marketing concept have been able to design very interesting Yellow Pages ads. Think of a headline in the storage section of the phonebook that reads, "Units Starting as Low as $9.95 per Month." The ability to use this price in your advertising is one key reason for offering it, but we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let's first consider some of the other issues.
Where Do You Get Them?
Before you rent the units, you've got to have them available, which means you're either going to have to buy or build them. Building these units can be fairly expensive. It would take you a while to recoup your losses charging a whopping $9.95 per month. Instead, buy the units used. Where do you get them? Some owners have found them by going around to the local schools and buying discarded lockers.
Approach the school and ask for the building-maintenance or physical-plant manager. Tell him you are looking to pick up some old lockers but don't have very much money. In most cases, he will be prepared to discard them without getting a dime, so you're in good shape if you offer him any money at all. You don't have to buy a lot of them, but you can't have just one. This looks like you're obviously playing a game. Instead, have at least 20 units available at the $9.95 price. One suggestion is to make sure you always have one unit available to show people. That way, when people come in to inquire, you can prove the $9.95 offer is for real.
Let's be honest: The $9.95 unit is, for the most part, a gimmick. The vast majority of people who visit based on the $9.95 pricing will see the unit and say, "No way. I can't fit anything in there." (Though I've heard from owners there are many happy customers hiding--er, I mean storing--some interesting things from their wives and husbands in these small "units.") Your answer will be, "We do have a lot of them rented, as you can see. Would you like to see some of our slightly larger units?" This will make it possible for you to show--and maybe rent--them a 5-by-5.
Maximizing Your Effectiveness
I'd like to give you some ways to use the $9.95 units to build traffic. First, mention them in all of your print advertising--not just your Yellow Pages ad, but in any fliers, postcards and other promotions. If you are the only facility in town that offers a $9.95 unit, highlight this fact in your ads as well.
Mention these units on your answering-machine or voicemail message. Say something like "Hi, and thanks for calling ABC Self Storage, the only facility in town with units starting as low as $9.95 per month..." Also mention your $9.95 units in any conversation you have with a prospect over the phone. You don't want it to become the lynchpin of your sales pitch, but you should mention it--especially if it's a unique selling point (USP) in your market.
You can also combine your $9.95 unit pricing with another USP (or two or three) to create a powerful sales message in any form. In the marketing business, we call this technique "piling on." Make your offer attractive enough on its own and then add more benefits to make it irresistible. Here's an example of how it might work over the phone:
Manager: Hi, thanks for calling Fred's Self Storage. How may I help you?
Customer: I'm looking for a 10-by-10 unit. How much do you charge for it over there?
Manager: Well, let me grab my price list ... It's around here somewhere (stalling) ... By the way, are you calling around?
Customer: Yup! I sure am.
Manager: Well, no matter who you rent from, make sure that they've got (insert your primary USPs). Also make sure they can rent units as low as $9.95.
Customer: You've got units at $9.95? Are you serious?
Manager: We do. But it sounds like you know what size unit you want. Can I ask what you'll be storing to make sure you're pricing the right unit size?
At this point, you've engaged the potential renter, got him opening up to you, and there is a strong probability he will visit your facility. Is it strictly because of the low-price units? Not in this case, but in some cases it will be. Remember, the $9.95 unit is just another weapon of your marketing arsenal.
If you think about it, your revenue per square foot per month will probably be higher on the $9.95 units than any of the others you offer. Demand for these units won't be overwhelming, but I have heard of facilities that have as many as 60 lockers, 57 of which are rented. Consider putting these lockers in or very near the office. You'd be surprised how many people who rent these lockers will also buy packing and shipping supplies and boxes from you. The total revenue these renters generate is much more than the price of the units.
Although the $9.95 unit pricing is admittedly a gimmick, it is an effective one. I have two signs posted in my office these days. One of them reads, "Measurement eliminates argument." The other one reads, "Upsell everything." By using $9.95 units, you can measurably increase the number of calls you turn into visits. I'm also willing to wager you can upsell a substantial number of prospects to larger units once they visit.
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant who helps owners/operators during all phases of the business, from feasibility studies to creating an ongoing marketing plan. Mr. Gleeck is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! as well as the producer of the only professional training videos on self-storage marketing. To receive a copy of his Seven-Day Self-Storage Marketing Course and storage marketing tips, send an e-mail to email@example.com. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification on Manager Monitoring
Last month, in his column titled "Monitoring Managers' Phone Performance," Fred Gleeck wrote, "I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I do know you need to inform your employees they are being monitored on the phone. Make them sign a consent form that agrees to the monitoring." Several managers interpeted this to mean it is illegal to tape-record them on the phone without their consent. This is not true.
According to D. Carlos Kaslow, legal counsel to the Self Storage Association ("Is It Legal to Record? Employee Privacy vs. Employer Rights," The Self Storage Legal Review, 1994), an employee has no legal protection from an employer who wishes to conduct mystery shopping of his self-storage facility via the telephone. While intercepting personal calls is illegal, federal law does allow employers to monitor their employees' business calls, providing they have a legitimate business purpose for doing so. Similarly, companies that provide mystery shopping and other evaluative services are not breaking any laws or violating self-storage managers' rights.
If you are a self-storage manager, be aware every call you make could be monitored and assessed by your employer or a service he has hired. The best way to avoid negative consequences is to make every call professional and courteous.