Many companies will tell you their direct-mail campaign was a failure because they only had five new customers result from a 30,000-piece mailing. But when asked, they admit to not sourcing, documenting or recording every call, or spending any time to work an effective phone presentation. Most are simply quoting a rate, listing a few features, offering an invitation to the site and saying good-bye. Unless we source every call, monitor the conversation, and compel the potential customer to come see us, our advertising cost and effectiveness is mediocre at best.
To justify advertising in any form, your services and products must be differentiated from competing goods and services. Otherwise, why would a potential customer pick you over your competition? The answer is, a prospect would choose your business because you offer unique selling propositions (USPs). These are the features and techniques that make you stand out among your rival facilities.
Some examples of USPs are air-conditioning, climate control, wine storage, vault storage, individual alarms, computerized access, conference rooms, business centers, truck and driver pick-up services, and kids’ play areas. I suggest everyone find their own USPs, then start using them in phone presentations and advertising. You will be surprised about the positive effect on potential customers.
There are three components that must be present to obtain a new customer: advertising, consulting and selling the space. If we fail at any of these three elements, we will most likely lose the prospect.
The first component is advertising, which has one objective: to get the customer to call. It will not do anything more, but it can do a lot less. If advertising does not effectively differentiate your facility from others, the phone will not ring. Thousands of books and consultants describe ad structure and content. If you are not an expert in this field, find one; this is money well spent.
Here are some simple tips on designing your advertising. Give a legitimate, compelling, good offer. Keep it simple, open and clean. Most ads give too much information and never get read or noticed. Use your name sparingly. Humor, color and theme are all differentiating factors that may be used effectively. Size and position make a difference in the Yellow Pages. Keep radio and TV spots short with high saturation. Use high-volume direct mail.
There are many ways to advertise. In a self-storage business, we need to pay attention to the less obvious marketing we should be using every day: site cleanliness, effective display of signs, clean landscape, well-displayed retail products, respectful and well-trained staff, and a set of clean and well-lit model storage rooms. Again, these are a few ideas that can differentiate your self-storage business from the competition. This is advertising!
To begin, create a simple ad budget similar to the accompanying table. You do not have to get bids to plug in your numbers. This is more of a wish list at first. As you may know, Yellow Pages generally dominate the budget, especially for a site in lease-up. All forms of advertising in the table have been used successfully. I recommend using something comparable and adding other options based on your market.
Eighty percent of all customers use the Yellow Pages to contact your storage business. Hire a specialist when designing your display ads; it is worth the cost. Differentiation is paramount. Size and position are very important. The closer to the front of the heading, the better the chance you have to expose your business. Color works well, however, it is an additional cost. New to Yellow Pages advertising is the in-column display ad. Approximately 10 percent of Yellow Pages users make use of the in-column listings. Most companies only allow you to have two.
Television is a very effective way to differentiate and advertise your storage business. Your spot should be 30 to 60 seconds. High saturation works best. Generally, effective TV budgets for storage businesses range from $5,000 to $10,000 a month and are excellent tools for bringing in 50 to 100 new customers per month.
Radio advertising can be purchased similarly to TV, only it less expensive. The production cost is usually free. Effective radio advertising is done during morning and evening drive times. Saturation is important. When combined with TV, radio is even more effective. Traffic report sponsorship is also efficient and inexpensive.
Direct mail, if purchased correctly, can produce excellent results. It is purchased in bulk and works with high saturation. You may count on an approximately .1 percent response on your mailing. The cost is about 3 cents per piece.
Professionally designed door hangers have proven to be a very successful self-storage medium. I recommend a quality laminated 3-by-9-inch piece, full color, with a perforated offer card at the bottom. Door hangers cost about 20 cents each and are available in varied quantities depending on the market.
Colored fliers are another advertising option that can be distributed to competition, realtors, attorneys, insurance companies, auto dealerships, etc. These are just a few examples that have shown successful results.
Effective advertising causes the phone to ring, brings in clients, accelerates lease-up time and fills vacancies. Your staff should be competent enough to convert leads on the phone to sales at the site. Each phone call is worth about $800 to $1600, and a well-planned ad campaign will benefit you in the long run. Now, go out there and get ‘em. Your customers are not waiting!
Greg Call is owner of StorageWorks, a think-tank that has provided new ideas for the self-storage industry for the past 22 years. The company consults, designs, manages and brokers self-storage from its base in Irvine, Calif. For more information and a free demographic report on your site, call 949.813.3003 or e-mail selfstorage firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.selfstorageworks.com.