The challenge of every self-storage owner is to demonstrate to potential renters that his facility is different from the competition. Why? Because the average renter thinks all facilities are basically the same. In the minds of the general public, storage is a commodity. What’s true about commodity products? The only way they differentiate themselves is by how much they cost.
If you don’t have at least one particular feature or benefit that makes your facility distinct from others—a unique selling position, or USP—the only item on which you can compete is price. That’s a losing game! Let’s talk about some of the ways you can make your facility different and help to make the issue of price irrelevant.
Before You Build
If your facility is not yet up and running, you’ve got a great opportunity to examine your competition and do something that will make your self-storage project unique. Whatever you do to make your facility special will probably increase your construction costs; but it is almost always well worth it.
I have never heard an owner say—after adding a feature such as climate-controlled units, for example—that he should have saved money and not included it. I have heard owners say they regret not having spent some additional dollars up front for features that would have given them a substantial edge in their market. The lesson? If you can afford it, incorporate additional attractions that will make you stand out in your marketplace.
Why Have a USP?
If your facility includes special benefits or characteristics, it will be easier for you to charge more money for your units than the competition. Why? You are comparing apples to oranges. You are no longer selling a commodity, you’re selling a unique product none of your rival facilities offer. You’re not just selling storage, you’re selling that indispensable feature only you provide.
What are some possible USPs? Following are some options.
There are many others, but these will give you some ideas to get started:
- Security—If you are the only person in your area with video surveillance or individual door alarms, this is a valid USP. Security is not perceived as a “soft,” or unnecessary, item—these days, it is paramount.
- Units for $9.95—Although I don’t want you to use price as a selling point, this idea works. In previous articles, I’ve discussed the virtue of getting some inexpensive, small lockers and offering them to people at below $10 a month just to bring them in the door. Having units that start below $10 or $20 is definitely a USP. Once you get a prospect to visit you, you can upsell him to a larger unit.
- Climate Control—In areas with extremes of heat and/or cold, this USP is a good one.
- On-Site Manager— Having a resident manager is a USP that highlights security and convenience. This is a great selling point, particularly if your competitors don’t have a manager living on their premises.
- "X” Different Unit Sizes—This is a light USP. Having a lot of different sizes is a claim many storage operators can make. The key to using this one is to offer more unit sizes and configurations than your competitors. If you don’t have a USP other than this one, consider some of the others listed here. The number of possible USPs you can create and/or provide is limitless.
Your USP will help you convince prospects to rent with you once they visit your facility; but it’s also an ideal tool to convince them to visit you. Every manager should be taught the value of explaining USPs over the phone. If you’re the one on the call, before you hang up, say something like, “If you’re looking around, just make sure to ask every manager you talk to whether his facility has (insert USPs here).” This will significantly increase your number of visitors. You should never get off the phone with a prospect without reminding him of your facility’s unique offerings.
Finally, remember the rule of feature and benefit: Always pair your USP, which is a feature, with a benefit. For example, if you say, “All of our units have individual door alarms,” never forget to add, “so we know if an unauthorized person enters your unit.” First present the feature, then explain why it is an advantage. We sometimes forget to connect these two items when talking with people. But prospects, most of whom are learning about storage for the first time, need to be shown the valuable benefits of your assorted attributes.
What Is Not a USP?
When I conduct marketing seminars with storage owners and managers, I ask participants to tell me what is unique about each of their facilities. Many quickly say, “Our service!” They may be right, but this does not work as a qualified USP. Why? Because service is an intangible item.
Besides, customers hear countless businesses proclaim their “superior service” every day. How many ads do you see on TV or hear on the radio in which the vendor is touting “You, the customer, are No. 1”? We’ve seen and heard this line so often, we respond internally with “Yeah, right!” Nobody believes this anymore. The key to an effective USP is it should evoke a positive response in prospects, not one of cynicism or incredulity.
As I mentioned earlier, there are certain items owners and managers consider to be USPs, but they don’t really qualify. If any of your potential customers yawn and say, “So what?” when you highlight your USP, you’ve got one that doesn’t work. Here are some examples:
- Location—This is not a valid USP. You are where you are—great. But you can’t rely on this to identify your facility as extraordinary from all others.
- Service—Your service may be stellar, but potential renters have heard this line before and are very skeptical.
- New Facility—It’s great that you have a new facility. But the value of its novelty to a prospect is minimal, particularly before he’s visited you.
If the facilities that compete with you are smart, they will start trying to copy some of your USPs. In most cases, however, they will be months or even years behind you. This means your goal is to continue to add USPs to your facility to make it stand out in the marketplace. Always keep an edge on your competition by coming up with more items to make your facility unique.
To effectively market your storage facility you must have a USP, preferably more than one. If you’re facility is in the beginning stages, spend some money to create one or several unique selling positions. If you’re a veteran, find as many unique elements you can to persuade customers to visit and rent from you.
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. He is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success— Revealed! (available for purchase at www.selfstoragesuccess.com) 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 email@example.com. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; email firstname.lastname@example.org.