The Free Report
By Fred Gleeck
As a promotions strategy, self-storage marketers frequently recommend operators use a giveaway item they can distribute to key influential people in their areas, such as apartment-complex managers. The idea is to visit these folks personally and leave them something that will help them remember the facility. Most of the time, the item is candy or some other consumable, usually in a coffee mug printed with the facility name. Then, the operator or manager goes back to these individuals on a regular basis to refill the cup or whatever else he brought them.
This is a great marketing idea, but there is an even better one. Why not give business owners and other influencers something they can, in turn, distribute to their own customers, something with real value? My suggestion is a free, informational report about self-storage. Free reports aren’t the same as brochures, as they are generally longer and a lot more detailed. A brochure is general, a report is specific.
The purpose of the free report is to provide valuable information on specific storage-related topics to groups who may have an interest in the product. Walk into any chiropractor’s office, and you will see great examples of the free-report concept. If you ask for a brochure from the same practice, you will get a more general piece that advertises its specific services. A free report first informs, then sells. This is crucial for every storage owner to understand.
Your facility brochure and your free report both have their place in the operation of your business. The brochure is cheaper to produce and, therefore, should be given to just about anyone who asks. The free report is more expensive and should be given out more selectively. It can be produced in smaller quantities as needed.
The free report, like your facility brochure, should not be too slick, nor should it look cheap. I prefer to have it saddle-stitched (stapled two or three times down the middle), with card stock used for the cover. The report should be a minimum of 16 pages, but you can make it as long as you want—the longer the better. I have seen some as long as 48 pages, packed with just about everything you could possibly think of as it relates to storage.
The free report must also have a price printed on its cover, even though you give it out for free. People are more apt to hold onto items to which there is an assigned value. If you print “free report” on the cover, people will be more likely to throw the report away. The goal is longevity, so when people require storage, they will look to your materials and, hopefully, contact you.
The report should address a specific target group or a storage-related question. It should be highly informational and start with a story that illustrates how a particular market segment uses the self-storage product. This will provide readers real-life examples of the value of storage.
You can gather the content for your report from anywhere: the Internet, industry publications, self-storage associations, even your competitors. Include any and all information that relates to storage, such as tips on what and what not to store, how to pack specific household items, how to determine how much can fit to a particular size unit, etc. Don’t hold back—the more information you include, the more credibility the report will have with readers.
Make sure the report provides the phone numbers of any available information hotlines—particularly the one for your own facility. The report should pull people into your marketing system in a variety of ways. After all, some readers will be convinced to store with you after reading the report; others will need more convincing. If they call your personal hotline for more information about storage, they will be “looped back” into your marketing efforts. Similarly, you can refer callers to your hotline or facility phone to your free report—they all work to support each other.
Of course, the report will also include your facility’s pertinent details: name, phone numbers, mailing address, web address, etc. Place these subtly toward the back of the piece, remembering you want people to distribute the report as an educational item, not advertising. Finally, include a coded coupon for your facility so you can track the marketing success of the piece.
Be a Specialist, Not a Generalist
If you are handling your marketing right, you are carving up your market into bit-sized pieces—in other words, niche marketing. In doing this, you are not selling to everyone; you are selling your services to a few very definable groups. For example, residential renters can be further broken down into apartment renters vs. and homeowners. You can then break them down into even smaller categories if you so desire.
The reason niche marketing makes sense can be illustrated with a story. Let’s say a pharmaceutical rep walks into your facility. He is looking for storage space and visiting several facilities to determine which one he will use. You happen to rent to a number of pharmaceutical reps and have designed a report that specifically targets that group. The prospect will likely rent from you, because you have demonstrated specific knowledge of his profession and its use of storage. You have targeted his unique needs.
Consider this: When you have a heart problem, do you go to a general practitioner? Of course not—you go to a cardiologist because he is the specialist in the field you require. It is possible for you, as a storage operator, to “specialize” in more than one niche market? Absolutely. With this in mind, you should produce multiple reports to distribute to the niches you serve, such as boat/RV storage renters, commercial renters, residential renters, wine-storage renters, etc.
It’s great to have freebies to give directly to potential customers or to those who may have contact with your prospects. Why not come up with something much more powerful than candy or some other valueless item? Why not create a free report, which has low cost, high perceived value and market credibility?
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage consultant who helps owners/operators during all phases of the business, from the feasibility study to the creation of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail email@example.com.