Casaforte Self-Storage S.p.A.’s marketing strategy has evolved over the last six years, becoming an increasingly more targeted and professional process. As a team of people who believe in the project, the Casaforte group has worked on this process, turning its marketing strategy into a highly responsive mechanism. It is always sensitive to market changes, but also aware of the practical aspects of each individual advertising campaign. This is especially required when approaching the Italian selfstorage market, where customers still must be sensitized to the service, and marketing tools must continuously be readjusted to the public’s changing needs.
Casaforte’s marketing strategy is flexible and structured through a series of steps. First, the staff performs a study to identify the perfect location for a self-storage facility. The objective of this analysis is to verify the existence of a potential target market in the area.
Second, more research is done to profile the local target market. Size, age, income and lifestyle of the resident population are some of the evaluation criteria. This phase is critical to the definition of the marketing plan. The marketing staff uses official statistical data, interviews and the support of local partners to identify specific categories of consumers within the target market to design direct marketing actions devoted to them. While addressing its communication efforts to the general public, Casaforte considers subgroups of potential customers with particular needs in terms of storage services.
The local market is examined in regard to many aspects, including:
- What types of media do the consumers prefer and trust?
- How do these consumers use the Internet?
- What type of marketing contact do they like best (telephone, direct mail, newsletters, etc.)?
- What contexts (local fairs, trade fairs, special events) are more suited to the presentation of self-storage, and which events do these target groups attend?
The Marketing Plan
After the analysis, the marketing staff draws up its final plan, which usually includes different types of intervention. Casaforte has always achieved the best results by applying a mix of marketing tools. National and regional differences in Italy and Europe—in media preferences, habits, language and lifestyle—mean frequently changing the mix, making the experience more challenging but ultimately more successful.
Casaforte’s communication to the general public aims to be attractive, to encourage people to visit a facility and help them understand the core concept of the new service. Massive distribution of leaflets, availability of detailed information through the Internet, presentations of the service in malls or at local fairs or trade exhibitions, numerous ads in the local newspapers, and commercials on local radio and television are all means of making contact with potential customers. These means are defined and scheduled through a specific advertising plan.
In addition to these standard marketing actions, Casaforte has successfully experimented with a very “Italian way” of getting in touch with people and effectively spreading the word about self-storage. It is very easy: You just need a small portable gazebo, leaflets and brochures to distribute, a couple of outgoing and nice people from the management staff, sweets and chocolates, and the right place to set up your stand.
Casaforte typically uses a stand during the spring and summer months on a few select Sunday mornings. It chooses strategic spots, like central plazas, with high levels of foot traffic. In this relaxed context, people stop, ask questions, exchange opinions with the staff, collect advertising materials and eat the sweets. The occasion ends up looking more like a family reunion than the promotion of a new service. Also, the feedback has always been very encouraging: One in six people who stopped by the stand called the self-storage facility to ask for more information.
For direct marketing, Casaforte produces letters addressed to people with filing needs that require increased archives: lawyers, professional accountants and notaries. In some areas, where particular customer groups could be interested in the self-storage business—such as Chinese Importers in the center of Italy—commercial letters have been written in the language of the addressees, taking into consideration their cultural habits and usages.
The Advertising Plan
The advertising as well as the marketing plan always involves a mix of media. The ideal mix includes newspapers ads, and radio and television commercials. Casaforte facilities are always located in points of greatest visibility, which already represents a strong advertising medium.
Usually, the plan provides for a launch phase. During this period (usually three to four weeks), the incisiveness of different media is tested and customers’ reactions are monitored. People who visit the facility or call for information are always asked how they heard about the facility. Strong relationships are developed with the press, television and media agencies.
In Italy, it is critical to the visibility of the business to organize an event for the opening. Journalists, opinion-makers and representatives from the local media are invited personally to the event through letters of invitation and follow-up calls. Usually, they enjoy a visit to the facility and a presentation on the business by the investors. They are then invited for lunch or a cocktail (our popular “aperitivo”), the Italian way. Thanks to this friendly way of managing public relations, Casaforte has gradually gained spontaneous attention of the mass media and, as a consequence, a lot of free visibility.
After the launch phase, the efficacy of each advertising medium is evaluated. Following the results of this evaluation, a maintenance-advertising plan is defined. The maintenance plan aims to preserve public interest in the topic, widen public knowledge about self-storage, and attract specific target groups.
The Internet as a Source of Interaction
Casaforte devotes a great deal of resources to the development of its increasingly interactive website. The site, www.casaforte.it, contains a detailed description of what selfstorage is, for what it is used, and who uses it. Each facility is fully reviewed in the “Where We Are” section. Maps and interactive-map services are provided to help people locate and reach the facilities. Pictures of the facilities with interiors and details of each structure are displayed on every link.
The website also offers interactive tools. The “Space Calculator” and “Transport and Handling” help a customer get a detailed estimate. The “Casaforte Store” is the virtual store where customers can buy packing materials. “Logistics” estimates shipping or transport costs that can occur during a move.
Involvement and Collaboration
In defining the marketing and advertising plans, Casaforte’s marketing staff involves interlocutors from various local institutions who have a thorough understanding of regional habits and cultural peculiarities of the resident population. These interlocutors are always professors from local universities, opinion-makers and intellectuals who actively participate in the formation of public opinion.
Direct contact with locals is also highly regarded. In fact, the managing staff is always made up of people selected from the area. These people are asked to collaborate in the development of the marketing and advertising strategy. Involvement of local interlocutors, along with collaboration with the resident staff, has proved to be the most effective way to meet public expectations in terms of communication of what self-storage is and what the service itself involves.
Branding, Branding, Branding
Casaforte’s brand name is identified by specific colors (yellow, black and red) and identification marks. Bright, distinctive colors and strong unmistakable marks have proved to be very effective in attracting attention and affirming the brand.
Great effort is made to adhere to the image standards in the production of ads and other communication material. Free gifts bearing the company logo, such as pens, hats, lockers, stickers and pins, are distributed to customers and people who visit the facility.
To reinforce the idea of a strong coherent image, all Casaforte facilities respect the same standards of structural efficiency and customer care. The managing staff is trained according to the same program, and they approach and take care of the customers following the same procedures. Either in defining standards of structural efficiency, human-resources management, and customer- care standards, Casaforte has codified specific procedures, which have to be followed in every facility. By sharing the same procedures, every facility can provide customers the same high-quality service, strengthening the branding coherence.
With its strong brand name, Casaforte is working toward becoming something more than a self-storage service. It aims to become a common concept where customers feel they are home.
Sabrina Tordo is the marketing and communication manager for Casaforte Self Storage S.p.A. For more information, visit www.selfstorage.it.