THE WORLD WIDE WEB CAN BE A TREMENDOUS TOOL for self- storage owners. The problem is, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding how to use the Internet to market a storage facility. Here are some good ways to make the web work for you and your site.
In the storage industry, the ultimate goal is to get people to rent units, not win awards with our websites. When it comes to Internet marketing, many people don't understand this. The only thing your bank accepts is money. This being the case, you need to create a website that sells. Can it also look good? Sure. But the selling power of the site should take precedence over its aesthetics, bells and whistles.
How do we define a website's success from a sales standpoint? From the number of renters it generates. Many visitors to your site will not rent a unit online. Most interested parties will want to physically visit your site before renting from you. (But I still encourage you to create an online form they can fill out to rent a unit if they should so desire.) The goal of your website, then, is to provide a seductive enough offer to make prospects want to visit or at least call you.
What should that offer be? Before you make that decision, figure out the value of every visitor to your facility. How much is every prospect worth? Without that knowledge, it is impossible to make an intelligent decision regarding how much to spend and offer to get people to visit.
Here's how to make that determination: Take the total number of new people who visit your facility in a given month and divide it into the net amount of dollars you generated from those visits. For example, let's say you had 100 prospects visit. (You won't normally close every visitor, but for the purposes of this example, let's say you do.) Let's also assume the average person rents for seven months and the average rent is $100 a month. If you net $300 out of the $700 gross receipts for each person, you produce a net revenue of $30,000. Divide that number by 100 prospects, and you now know you can afford to spend up to $300 per visitor and not lose money. Of course, you don't want to spend that much, but you know you can if you need to.
The key to cost-effective marketing is to pursue those avenues that provide the greatest leverage. The web is one of those avenues. Let's say you were to offer people $50 just for dropping by. You know the average visitor is worth $300, so if you have to give away $50 bills to get people to come by, you'll do it--provided you've tried every method of marketing that costs you less than $50 first.
The nice thing is you don't have to offer people $50. You only need to offer them something that has a very high perceived value but low cost to you. This should appear on your website as an "Internet special." Create a unique offer that appears only on your website so you can track its effectiveness.
Make sure the offer is front and center on the website's first page. I know most owners want to put the facility name in the most prominent position on the page, but truthfully, this is not important to a prospect. Instead, highlight your irresistible offer. For example, you might have a line that says, "$50 in cash for everyone who takes a tour of our facility" or "Free first-aid kit (value of $38) for everyone who tours our facility."
Your site should be simple and easy to understand and navigate. Test the site on a 6th-grader. If it's too complicated for him, you need to go back and redo it. A simple site that shows a picture of your facility, and highlights your unique selling points, features and benefits will work. Also make sure people don't have to scroll forever on a page to get your information.
You should have no more than five pages linked to your home page. Those should be:
- A map to your facility
- Contact information
- Helpful storage tips
- Pictures of the facility (not too many)
- Description of unit sizes and what they can hold (no prices!)
Driving Traffic to Your Site
After you've designed a site that sells, you have to draw Internet "traffic" to it. A great site without traffic is worthless. First understand that, for the most part, storage is local. Promoting your site to a national audience doesn't make a whole lot of sense (unless you're a large national company like Public Storage).
Find ways to link with others who get a lot of local traffic and might help your cause. This would include local real estate agents, moving companies, schools, churches, chamber of commerce, etc.--any business people might contact if they were moving into the area.
Getting high rankings in the search engines will help you a lot. There are many search engines through which you can register for free, such as Yahoo! The next key area is paid search engines, where you pay to have traffic directed to your site. One of the most popular is www.goto.com, where you can register on a trial basis for $25. Some search engines charge a monthly or annual fee, others use a "pay-per-click" method (for a complete list, go to www.payperclicksearchengines.com. Registering on the search engines is very simple to do, and there are many out there.
The most important thing, when registering on search engines, is to select the right key words under which people might search to find you. Let's say your facility is in Orlando, Fla. You may want to choose the key words "Orlando," "Storage" and "Self-Storage." This will ensure you come up in a top position any time someone types in these or any other key words you select.
There are many other ways to create a website that sells and drive traffic to it, but these will get you started. I will cover this topic in greater detail in future columns.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail email@example.com.