By Fred Gleeck
Whether you offer spaces as part of a self-storage, marina or RV operation, this article will show you ways to rent more spaces at higher prices. There is only one way to calculate your success: Compare how many dollars you spend on getting people to rent from you vs. how much money you make. Track your numbers carefully so you can continue doing those things that work and cease those that don’t. First, remember you are a niche marketer. Not everyone owns a boat or RV, so you have to properly target these groups—separately.
Open Road to Success: Reaching Your RV Market
If you’re still in the construction phase of your storage project, look at your competition before building. Try and differentiate yourself from competitors by providing features otherwise absent in the market. For example, in some markets, you’ll want to offer covered spaces. Although more expensive to build, they can rent for a premium of 25 percent or more. Some facilities set up dump stations for RVs.
Visit any RV dealers in your area and talk to salespeople and general managers. This will not only help you discover what RV owners are looking for in a facility, it will give you an opportunity to win referrals. When I bought my own RV, one of the first questions I asked was, “Where can I store this vehicle after I buy it?” A smart storage operator will visit dealers and leave them with his promotional literature and some discount coupons.
RV owners are also likely to check with fellow owners before making a decision on where to rent, so give everyone you rent to excellent service—the word will get around. Consider providing current renters referral coupons to encourage them to tell people about you. You could even offer an incentive such as rental credit. Once you get going, repeat customers will be your bread and butter. Your goal will be to keep these customers until they sell their RVs. That means giving everyone great service and bending over backward for regulars.
Finally, you may want to advertise, particularly in the Yellow Pages. In your ads, don’t only say you offer RV storage, but highlight the features that will make owners want to consider renting from you. Before you can sell prospects on your storage site, you need to get them to call and then visit you. This will only be possible if you entice them with the benefits they crave.
First and foremost, address the issue of security in all of your advertising. Customers will want to be sure your facility is safe, as an RV is a major investment. You’ll want your site to be well-lit and perhaps offer other amenities, such as computerized gate access and video surveillance. Your ad will read, “Yes, we offer RV storage.” Underneath, it should state, “Safe and well-lighted.”
Location is another important factor RV owners consider when deciding on a facility. They want one close to where they live as well as near a major highway for convenience when they travel.
Smooth Sailing: Targeting Your Boat Market
To win new customers in this market, you’ll want to focus on two groups: boaters or potential boaters, and those who sell boats and boating supplies. To target storage prospects themselves, it’s good to have a friendly connection with those who own, operate or manage boating facilities.
When contacting sellers or marina professionals, explain your facility’s features and benefits and provide an incentive for referrals. Chances are some of them own boats themselves. Give them a preferred rate—or even a free space—to get them to store with you personally. When they make sales presentations to potential boat buyers, one of the common concerns they address is storage. It’s a great marketing technique if they tell prospects they rent from you.
Also, provide suppliers and marina operators preprinted referral sheets they can distribute to their customers. These should be coded to let you know who is sending business your way. At the end of each month, take care of the folks who took care of you. This might mean doing something as simple as sending a pizza to their office, courtesy of your facility.
Making Waves in Both Markets
An effective marketing technique that works for both markets is a hotline. Set up a separate phone line that plays a dedicated outgoing message for your boat and RV prospects. All you need is voicemail, which will cost peanuts from your local phone provider.
First, personalize the name of your hotline. For example, if your facility is in Osh Kosh, call it “The Osh Kosh RV (or Boat) Storage Hotline.” Include its name and number in all of your advertising, and emphasize it is available 24/7. People will often prefer to call a hotline number for information because they know there won’t be a salesperson on the other end of the line.
When people call the hotline, the corresponding message will list your facility’s features and benefits. It should highlight what makes your facility different from competitors in the area. Don’t worry about how long the message is—it can never be too long, only too boring.
If you’re interested in potential press coverage, set up the hotline as a public-service message that gives out valuable tips about boat or RV storage. In this case, any references to your facility will have to be subtle. Send out press releases about your hotline to local media. If you are in an area where boating or RVing is seasonal, send just before the season begins.
Another effective way to drum up publicity is to join online forums and discussion groups in the marina and RV industries. To fi nd them, visit websites such as www.google.com or www.yahoo.com, which feature links to search for different online organizations. When participating in “discussions,” you can provide a detailed signature file that explains who you are and what you do, and even includes your hotline number.
Some final things to consider are advertising on the web or in industry publications. The RV and boat industries have trade publications in which you can consider classified or display advertising. Always direct people to your hotline in your ads!
The Rental-Rate Debate
To determine your rental rates, start by finding out what your competition is charging. Set your prices comparatively at first, then increase them based on demand. You never want to be out of spaces when someone calls to rent, so when you’re 90 percent occupied, bump up your rates. This way you’ll always have something to rent and can maximize your profitability.
The RV and boat markets are great niches for storage operators. The key is to target them with your marketing. First concentrate on the least expensive methods for driving traffic to your site. Monitor the results of your marketing to make sure you’re not spending foolishly. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll rent more spaces at higher prices.
Fred Gleeck is a profit-maximization consultant who helps self-storage 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.