Storage by the Numbers

Fred Gleeck Comments
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A guy decided to go on a diet and announced it to his friend, who was happy to hear it and in full support of the idea. After a month, they bumped into each other in the mall. The friend asked how the diet was going. The guy responded, “Really good. I feel a lot thinner these days.” Perplexed, the friend asked, “That’s interesting that you feel thinner, but how much weight have you lost?” The response: “Oh, I’m afraid to get on the scale!”

Many storage operators are afraid to get on the “marketing scale.” They’re scared to measure the results of their efforts for fear of what they may or may not find. But they should realize you can only make good decisions if you have good data! To get good data, you have to track your numbers.

In the storage industry, there are some key facts to follow. Keep your eyes on them, and you will always be able to adjust your marketing efforts to ensure the greatest success. There are three important elements to making this work. First, you have to know which numbers to track. Then you have to know how to track them. Finally, you have to know what do to move the numbers in the right direction.

All of these figures are best evaluated on a monthly basis. A week’s worth of data would be too little and anything from longer than a month wouldn’t allow you to make adjustments quickly enough. In this Internet age, you also have two sets of figures to track: your offline and online numbers. As an operator, you’ve got to fire your guns with both barrels. Neglecting either of these will put you at a competitive disadvantage.

Offline Numbers

1. How many calls do you get?

Whether you track this number manually or using a sophisticated phone system, you need to know how many calls you get each month. Since most of your marketing efforts are geared toward getting people to pick up the phone and call you, this is an essential element. If the phone isn’t ringing, your marketing efforts aren’t working. A phone call normally precedes a rental. If you’re in a high-traffic location, you’ll probably get a lot more people who just walk in without calling fi rst, but even then a phone that isn’t ringing spells trouble.

2. How many of those calls result in visitors to your facility?

The percentage of people you convince to visit your facility lets you know how effective your phone skills are. If you can’t get prospects to come to the store, you need to work on your phone-sales technique. If your closing ratio is below 50 percent, you have a problem.

3. How many of those visitors rent a unit?

The percentage of people who rent from you after a visit shows how good your sales skills are on a face-to-face basis. If prospects have made the effort to visit you, chances are good they will rent a unit. In fact, on average, more than 90 percent of visitors will buy. If your percentage is less than 90, you need to work on in-person sales.

4. How many referrals do you receive each month?

How many times each month do elated customers give you a list of prospects for your manager to call? Let’s admit it, this is wishful thinking, but referrals are critical to success. Why? Aside from repeat customers, they represent the cheapest form of marketing.

You need to do everything you can to encourage referrals. In addition to the obvious task of treating customers extremely well, you also need to let them know you want referrals. Ask for them, and make sure to thank tenants when they give them to you. You may also want to provide incentives for those who refer.

5. What is the average length of stay of each customer?

This has a huge impact on profitability. If you can get existing renters to stay a few months longer than average, it will dramatically increase your revenues and you won’t have to spend nearly as much on finding new customers. Treating people right and making their storage experience pleasant and enjoyable will help extend the average person’s tenancy. Many will stay longer than they need to because you’ve made it comfortable and easy to do so.

6. How happy are people with their experience at your facility?

Numbers in this area tell you whether you’re giving customers the service they expect. Provide lousy service, and it will come back to bite you. Everyone knows and preaches that service is important. The problem is few have a quantifiable method to let them know where they stand.

Ideally, your customers should be surveyed by phone. Given that this is extremely expensive, however, consider at least having a postcard people can fill out when they visit or move out of your facility. Keep it short, with a maximum of five questions that ask them to rate your site and service on a 1-to-5 scale. This is not an extremely sophisticated tracking tool, but it will give you an indication of where you stand and which way the numbers lean.

Online Numbers

1. How many “unique” visitors hit your website each month?

Unique, or new, visitors represent the true numbers as they relate to your site. If someone hits your site on 10 occasions, he should not be counted every time.

Talk to your webmaster to make sure you can separate new visitors from repeats. The numbers are there, it’s just a matter of extracting the data. This is similar to tracking the number of calls you get offline—it’s the key indicator of how good your marketing efforts are.

2. How many of those people request information?

Just like a properly handled phone presentation, your website should convince visitors to take a specific action. The three desired responses from web prospects are that they 1) request information, 2) call you on the phone or 3) visit your facility. Keep track of each of these actions to evaluate the quality of your online marketing.

3. How many of those prospects become customers?

You want your website to incite prospects to action. You want the benefits and features of your facility to inspire them to rent. Again, if you can get people to visit you, nine times out of 10 they will rent a unit. Remember to always ask prospects where they heard about you, whether it be a Yellow Pages ad, a referral from a friend or an Internet search. Tracking where your renters come from is crucial to spending your marketing dollars in the right places.

I have only one sign up in my office. It reads, “Measurement Eliminates Argument.” There can always be discussion on how to improve the numbers in your business. There should never be a question of what the numbers are. Track the figures mentioned above and you’ll be able to make the most intelligent decisions regarding the marketing of your storage facility.

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. He is also 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 tips@selfstoragesuccess.com. For more information, call 800.FGLEECK; e-mail fgleeck@aol.com.
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