Walk-Around Marketing

Sharon Pallas Comments
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Have you ever been interviewing a potential hire and everything was going great until you mentioned the word “marketing”? Your candidate gets a stricken look on his face, declares he doesn’t know anything about marketing and is positive he won’t be able to do it. What he doesn’t understand is marketing is fun and easy, and he can do it every day without even thinking about it.

Even those employees who break into a sweat at the mention of a cold call can handle “walk-around” marketing. It’s simple, takes little preparation and easily fits into daily business and personal activities. Great storage managers already know the secret: They carry a supply of business cards—or referral cards, if their company uses them—and hand them out while pumping gas, shopping, dropping the kids off at daycare or any other time an opportunity arises. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with a total stranger if you’re both engaged in the same activity.

Some managers leave a business card with their tip when they go to restaurants. Others keep their favorite local cashiers supplied with pens printed with their facility’s name and phone number in hopes that shop customers will “steal” them. These simple gestures require very little effort but can be great sources of unexpected business.

Plan this type of marketing around events attended by large groups, such as chamber of commerce network meetings, charity functions, high school sporting events, etc. All are great opportunities to hand out a business card, pen or keychain without a “no soliciting” sign barring your entry. (By the way, we “never” see those signs when we market unless someone brings them to our attention!)

To the Expo We Go

Local tradeshows and expos are a great opportunity to reach potential commercial customers. There are typically 100-plus exhibitors at these events, so grab your cards, and start walking! Visit every booth, introduce yourself and leave something with your facility name and phone number. Don’t forget to pick up one of each company’s business cards to send a “saw you at the expo” follow-up letter that includes a special offer if they rent from you in the next 30 days.

If you are an exhibitor at an expo, attend all the exhibitor functions, for example, the opening-day breakfast or the evening reception. These are great venues for networking. Many of these events are sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, so check the chamber’s website for event times and locations (you should be a member). Also check the web for other types of events in your area. Even the local mall can provide marketing opportunities through its public functions. Personally, I can’t resist shopping and marketing at the same time!

Bring Them to You

On-site events at your facility are another way to market to large groups. My favorite strategy is to host an annual “garage sale” for people to clean unwanted items from their units. It has little impact on your budget but draws a lot of traffic—it’s easy marketing!

Include all current and past customers. You can also rent vacant units for $5 or $10 for the day so those who are not tenants can participate. Once the sale starts, walk around with a bag full of pens, referral cards, candy, etc. Hand out the goodies to everyone and welcome them to your facility, or hire a clown to do this. You can have fun marketing to many prospects with no stress involved.

Drive-Around Marketing

Does your facility offer free use of a move-in truck? If so, add “drive-around” marketing to your list. Aside from being an incentive to attract new customers, the truck serves as a moving billboard. When it’s not in use by a tenant, you can drive it around while you run your errands to the bank, post office, office-supply store, etc. You’ll find the truck can also be a conversation starter, as there is always someone who wants to know how the “free-truck thing” works.

Tracking Results

Of course, you want to know how to track the results of all this marketing. Mark your business or referrals cards with a code that identifies the event or business where it was distributed. For example, put a “YS” on all the cards you passed out at your yard sale. There may be some you won’t be able to track, but if you mark the majority, you will be able to identify the others through a process of elimination. Your return on leases will determine which efforts worked best. Those will be the tools to use when preparing next year’s marketing plan and budget.

Now you should be a pro. You’ve had a great time discovering that marketing is fun and easy. Use your new knowledge to expand your target areas and set personal marketing goals. Your success is only limited by your creativity. Happy marketing!

Sharon Pallas is executive assistant to M. Anne Ballard and an area manager at Universal Management Co. in Smyrna, Ga. Universal manages 30-plus facilities in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia. For more information, visit www.universalmanagementcompany.com.

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