Effective Coupon Ads

Fred Gleeck Comments
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Some storage operators use coupon ads to promote their facilities. A popular example is the Val-Pak mailer, but most communities have a coupon pack they mail out to local residents. These ads are a great idea—if used correctly. In most cases, there are two problems: First, the ads aren’t well-designed. Second, they aren’t tracked. To make coupon ads work, you must have a good visual concept and measure your results.

Before I go into detail, let me warn you about the folks who sell these coupon-type ads. Every last one of them will claim repetition is the key to success. They’re right—the key to their success, not yours. If your ad doesn’t work, it isn’t because it hasn’t been seen with enough frequency, it’s because it stinks! Following are some keys to building a successful coupon ad.

A Few Quick Tips

  • We all sort our mail over a trash can. Your first goal is to get people to take your coupon out of the stack and put it in the “let me look at these before I throw them out” pile, or the “A-pile.” You cannot accomplish your goal if the ad is simply trashed.
  • At any given time, less than three out of 100 people will have a pressing need for storage. Don’t try to appeal to those who don’t need it, simply address those who do. They are the ones who will set your coupon aside.
  • The less the coupon looks like an ad the better.
  • If all the other ads in the mailer use color, go with black and white. If other companies are using a lot of graphics, make yours heavier on copy.

Design a Great Headline

The coupon headline serves as the “ad for the ad.” It should contain an offer or promise that will cause the casual browser to stop and look at your coupon. What should you offer? It depends on you and your facility. It could be something as mundane as $X off, or as elaborate as a chance to win a free cruise. Test your market to see what works best. Once you’ve gotten your prospect’s attention, you’ve dramatically increased your chances of getting him to read further.

Whatever you choose for your headline, make sure it’s genuine. The worst thing for your credibility is to make a promise you can’t or won’t keep, or use something that is titillating but misleading. Make a bold statement on which you can follow through—for example, “Storage Rentals for as Low as $9.95 a Month.” The units in question might only be locker size, but they do make the offer valid, and the offer will grab people’s attention. In short, use your headline to highlight your greatest benefit or unique selling position.

Highlight Benefits and Features

Similar to your Yellow Pages ad, your coupon ad needs to highlight your facility’s benefits, not just its features. Because storage operators work in the industry every day and are so familiar with the product, they have a tendency to assume people reading their ads will connect all the dots; but many will not. That being the case, pair every feature you list with its corresponding benefit.

For example, when you say you have 12 different size units, you need to point out what that means: Customers will only pay for as much space as they need. People will not necessarily know and understand this if you do not tell them. Even if they do, you must remind them why this particular feature is valuable. Providing a simple list of features is worthless. You must show how each translates into a benefit to the customer.

Use a Hotline

A coupon ad, generally the third of the size of a standard sheet of paper, doesn’t leave a lot of space in which to tell people everything you want them to know about your facility. That’s where a storage hotline comes in, a separate phone line with an informational recorded message. Print the hotline number in your ad, and readers can call for more details.

Make sure you identify the hotline as a 24-hour free recorded message so people know they won’t be pressured to buy anything when they call. You also need to give the hotline a compelling title, for example, “Seven Things You Must Know Before Renting a Storage Unit.” The hotline message itself should provide solid, general information about self-storage to gain prospects’ trust and, hopefully, entice callers to visit your facility.

Highlight Your Web Address

Your web address should be printed along the bottom of both sides of the coupon, as many prospects these days will want to research you online. That being the case, make sure your website is set up to sell. Regardless how pretty the pictures are and how well you educate visitors to your site, the ultimate goal is to get them to rent from you. Always use a .com (not a .net or .org), and try to incorporate the name of your city and the words “self storage” into your URL. You can always direct different domains to forward to a single location.

Using Incentives and Deadlines

You should record and tabulate how many renters you get from each form of marketing you use. To track your marketing expenditures and measure the results of your coupon, provide an incentive for customers to bring the ad with them to your facility. This way, you’ll be able to see how much business you’re garnering from your efforts. Without a means of tracking, you are lost in a marketing wilderness. The best way to measure results is to insist people present the actual ad to receive whatever “deal” you offer.

Another important tactic is to use a timesensitive offer. If you don’t, people will usually put the coupon away without taking action. Make your ad compelling and include a deadline that will incite prospects to contact you sooner than later. Your ad rep should be able to give you a close approximation of when the ad will “hit” the public, which will help you choose the proper date. If someone comes in after the deadline, ad in hand, you can always make exceptions based on current occupancy.

Marketing Value

If your ad doesn’t draw business after the first run, tweak it and try it again. To determine whether the cost of running the ad is worthwhile, figure out the value of your average renter. Take the standard price of your average-size unit and multiply it by your customers’ typical length of stay (if you don’t have these numbers, you should). Let’s say the cost of your average unit is $100 per month and your customers’ normal length of stay is eight months. If you know your net profit after expenses is about half the total, your average rental is worth $400. If it cost $700 to run the ad, you only need to attract two new customers with the coupon to break even.

As long as this or any method of promotion or advertising you use is paying for itself, stick with it. If your coupon ad doesn’t work the first time, test it again with a new headline—that’s usually the most important item to adjust. Make coupon ads a piece of your marketing mix, and make them work for you.

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. He is also the producer of professional training videos on self-storage marketing. To receive his regular insights via e-mail, send a blank message to tips@seminarexpert. com. For more information, call 800. FGLEECK; e-mail fredgleeck@mac.com; visit www.fredgleeck.com.

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