First, how competitive is the market in terms of ancillary products and services, and how will this affect your retail sales? Do you want to offer conveniences solely as a benefit to customers, or do you wish to create a viable profit center? What are the demographics in your market in terms of population, average household income, housing growth, disposable income, etc.? These will have an impact on the profitability of retail sales.
Find out what your competition offers in the way of ancillary products and services. Is there anything you can provide that other facilities in your area do not? If you can light upon an unfulfilled need in the market, you can create a key selling point for your facility. Often, a storage location will provide retail products and services but fail to promote them to customers. If this is true of your competition, you have yet another advantage. A simple “mystery shopping” trip will easily determine if this is the case.
Retail products and services allow customers to take care of all their moving and storage needs in one place. Tenants can rent a unit and moving truck, as well as purchase boxes, locks and other supplies. This one-stop-shop philosophy appeals to our culture, and most customers will pay more for such convenience. In fact, the No. 1 reason someone chooses a specific self-storage location is ease of access and use. For this reason, retail products add tremendous value to a facility.
Once you decide on the products and services you want to offer, how do you market them? First, incorporate these benefits into every single sales presentation. This will add great value in the eyes of the customer and allow you to differentiate your business from others in the market. Prospects can now perceive you as a “full-service” operation that specializes in storage while also addressing the task of moving. Generally, if you can meet all of their needs and make them feel comfortable, customers will look no further.
Promote your retail products and services in all of your advertising, including Yellow Pages, brochures, direct mailings, press releases and any other forms of marketing you use. This will reinforce the advantages you offer and keep your features and benefits in front of the customer. It may be a prospect is drawn to your store by an advertisement that mentions the sale of boxes. His initial interest may turn into additional retail sales or possibly a storage rental. If a rental is not achieved immediately, it may be earned in the future. In addition, you can give the customer a great sales experience that can turn into valuable referrals.
The Extent of Sales
There is a full array of products and services that can be offered in a self-storage environment. The most common include rental trucks, boxes, locks, packing supplies, moving dollies, shelving units, etc. In more densely populated areas, you can offer additional services, such as shipping and packing, fax, e-mail, photocopies, mailbox rentals and records storage. Find your niche and focus only on what works in your particular market.
It is not uncommon to see a self-storage operation neglect its primary business because employees are “strung-out” offering too many ancillaries. For instance, there are operators who spend 60 percent of their time selling retail products and services, when they contribute just 3 percent to overall income. This can be detrimental to the long-term success of the facility. The time would be better spent on marketing and follow-through with potential customers.
Keep in mind that storage rentals are what keep food on the table and ultimately determine a facility’s profitability. If the average unit is worth $80 per month and the average length of stay is seven months, each rental is worth $560. Streamline your retail offerings and focus on those items that provide the greatest return and benefit to your operation; but never lose focus of your fundamental business.
The self-storage industry has become increasingly competitive. To succeed, you must find creative ways to differentiate your operation. Retail products and services can achieve this goal. Promote your offerings to every customer and in all your marketing materials. You’ll find convenience and added value will please prospects and pad your bottom line.
Brad North is founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in on-site sales, marketing, feasibility and operational training for the self-storage industry. He has produced two live videos and a workbook titled “Maximizing Your Sales and Marketing Program,” which can help managers improve their sales and marketing efforts. He most recently launched A TelePro, a mystery-shopping service that assists in educating, evaluating and improving the phone-sales performance of self-storage professionals. For more information, call 513.229.0400; visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.