“Self-storage is the hottest thing we have going,” says Rick Hunter, national sales manager for document-production company SouthData Inc. Entering the industry just over a year ago, the company experienced 30 percent growth in sales last year and an additional 30 percent as of press time. Founded in 1985, the company specializes in document production for a variety of industries, including financial services, municipalities and homeowners associations.
But Self-Storagehad not been considered a possible market until a serendipitous event. One day, sales representative Joy Adams noticed a self-storage facility while pumping gas. Intrigued, she checked it out and found the facility did not use any kind of payment coupon book. Research showed there were more self-storage units in the United States than apartments. “We did a lot of research and found no other company offered a payment book for the self-storage industry,” Hunter says.
Payment books are a very simplified and easy way of receiving payment and are used by mortgage companies, apartment complexes, homeowners associations and a variety of industries requiring regular monthly payments. The self-storage industry was ripe for this kind of product. SouthData custom designs and prints booklets for individual facilities. The manager marks the unit number, cost and any late fees on the outside of the book. Each month, the customer sends in his payment coupon and check.
The multiple services SouthData provides are the brainchild of President John Springthorpe, who formerly worked as a computer programmer with private defense contractors. He and his brother founded SouthData, and later, Springthorpe became the sole owner. The Mt. Airy, N.C-based firm has earned a national reputation for outstanding customer service, and designing and printing cost-saving payment products. It produces millions of payment books, billing statements, tax documents and related items per year.
Tradeshows are SouthData’s primary method of marketing to other industries, and the plan to enter self-storage was no different. “We attended our first self-storage tradeshow in Las Vegas in September 2002,” Hunter says. “The response was phenomenal. People were lined up 20 and 30 deep wanting to talk to us.” Now tradeshows are the company’s principal method of marketing, and SouthData attends more self-storage shows than those of any other industry. Sales have increased so much the company hired Carol Alderman as an additional sales representative.
Naturally, any company entering a new industry sets goals, but in its short time in the self-storage industry, SouthData has landed some heavy-duty customers, including: U-Store-It, ranked No. 6 in Inside Self-Storage’s 2003 top-operators list; The Pegasus Group, No. 38; and American West Management, No. 39.
What are clients saying about SouthData’s coupon-book payment system? Denise Rhodes, owner and manager of Marble Falls Public Storage in Marble Falls, Texas, began looking at billing options. The family-owned facility was on an anniversary-date billing system and sending out monthly statements when it decided to change. All rents became due on the first of the month. But the storage company also wanted to eliminate mailing statements following the recent increase in postage.
“SouthData offered the perfect product for us and our customers, who were used to having a tangible reminder of their payment due date,” says Rhodes. “Many of us who make payments on a car or house are accustomed to payment coupons, so this was not a new idea to anyone.”
Marble Falls started using coupon books in February. Rhodes is pleased with the customer service she received from SouthData, particularly from Adams, as well as the coupon-book system. “Not only did SouthData provide us payment coupons, it worked with us to implement all the additional ideas and information we needed on each coupon, such as credit-card information.”
Although SouthData manufactures more than 18,000 unique products for more than 1,300 clients in 40 different states across a variety of industries, plans are in the works for new products serving self-storage needs. “We are listening to the self-storage industry, and future items will be based on what we hear the customers need,” Hunter says. “Self-storage is the biggest growth industry for us.”
For more information, visit www.southdata.com or call 888.453.2460.