By Fred Gleeck
I have a sign hanging in my office that reads, “Measurement Eliminates Argument.” Without measurement, business decisions are made without context. If I were to try and teach you to shoot a bow and arrow, for example, I would hand you the bow and some arrows, show you some basic techniques, and ask you to start shooting. But what if I didn’t give you a target at which to shoot and mark your progress? How would you know how well you were doing?
Many owners and managers operate their businesses in a similar way. If you were to ask any McDonald’s franchisee how many Big Macs he sold between 1:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. yesterday, he could give you an exact number. Ask a storage owner how many calls he got last month and he will most likely give you a very perplexed look. If we’re running a real business, we have to measure certain critical elements. In the storage business, there are some basic things that must be measured to make intelligent decisions.
Number of Total Calls
First, you need to know the number of calls you receive every month. Since the majority of your marketing efforts are geared toward getting people to call you, this number will give you a good idea of the effectiveness of your work in this area.
If you’re asking how many calls you “should” be getting, that isn’t the right question. The absolute number of calls will vary based on how much advertising you do and where you are located. The important thing to watch is the relative number of calls that come in from month to month; so the first thing you need to do is start tracking the number of inbound calls you receive. If you normally receive 350 per month, and then receive only 300 during a particular month, it could be an indication that something in your marketing or sales approach is no longer working.
How do you measure the calls? You’ll naturally want to separate the number of new callers from existing tenants; but even if you don’t, tracking a gross total over time will still give you a good indication of your marketing efforts’ success. You can track calls manually, or use a phone system that tells you how many inbound calls you receive. Whichever way you choose to track, start measuring this important item.
After you’ve measured, take your numbers and graph them for you and your staff to see. It’s sort of like going on a diet—the visual representation can be very reinforcing. What you’re after is a positive trend line. You want to see an increase in the number of calls you receive each month.
Number of Calls Converted to Visitors
Next, you’ll want to record how many of the individuals who called you actually visited your facility. This ratio will let you know a very critical factor in this business: how well you’re doing in the area of telephone- closing ability. Once again, you’ll have to establish a baseline measurement in this area. Once you determine this number, you can compare your results from month to month to see how well you’re doing.
If you make any changes to your phone-sales approach to improve your conversion number, only change one variable of the presentation at a time. This way, you’ll be able to accurately assess which approaches are working.
Number of Visitors Converted to Renters
Most storage operators claim they “close” more than 90 percent of people who visit, convincing them to rent a storage unit. I had one manager claim he closed 100 percent of his visitors. This is a nice goal, but practically impossible.
Like the two items discussed above, this measurement has to be looked at in comparison to previous months to truly judge your progress. The measurement you’re taking here is your ability to close people in a face-to-face environment. You are essentially measuring your managers’ sales skills.
How successful are you in the area of customer service? There are some things that make it clear. For one, you can count how many repeat and referral customers you get each month. The more of each of these you receive, the better you’re probably doing in the area of service.
To really see how well you are doing in customers’ eyes, hand people a postcard-format, customer-service “survey” when they move out. Keep it short, but ask people questions that rate your facility and its service on a scale of one to five or one to 10. Compile these numbers over time, and you’ll know how your facility rates in this crucial area.
Source of Calls
In addition to the absolute number of calls you receive, you’ll want to measure how many calls you get from each of your marketing sources. You can do this manually or automatically. To do so automatically, you can ask people to press a given key on their touch-tone phones when they make their initial call, with each number identifying a different source where they found you. Although this automates the process, it could hurt sales and annoy customers.
It may be better to track this information manually. Simply keep a tally sheet next to the phone, then ask each customer where he heard of you. Count how many calls you receive from each of your marketing methods over the course of a month. This will tell you where your efforts are having the greatest success and which ones you can ignore.
To determine your facility’s overall success and which marketing and sales methods are working for you, you must consistently measure your results. When you go into a doctor’s office, the staff will always measure your weight, blood pressure and temperature. Why? These are your vital statistics. Listed above are the vital statistics of your storage business. They need to be measured and monitored for your long-term success. Calculate all of the critical criteria and you’ll be able to make changes that will have a substantial impact on your bottom line.
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profitmaximization 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 selfstorage 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.