People in the self-storage industry talk about marketing as though it’s something you have to add to your business. But the fact is your business already uses marketing. The question is whether it is being handled properly. In the Frontier Days, traders traveled from settlement to settlement, carrying their entire inventory in their packs. These pioneer peddlers had to decide what to carry, how much to stock, how much to charge, and how to convince prospects their goods were worth the price. In doing these things, they were engaging in marketing.
This little bit of history is meant to make a point: Marketing isn’t some exotic, newfangled notion. You’ve been using it since the first day you decided to go into business. I know there are sophisticated techniques and high-tech formulas that earn the people who have mastered them a lot of money. But for our purposes, let’s focus on how your natural sales skills can be the basis for some simple yet effective strategies.
Good sales skills enable you to anticipate what customers need before they know they need it. For example, if they’re renting storage for household goods during a move, you know they could probably use garment-storage bags, furniture covers, desiccants, cartons, bubble wrap, tape and so on. You sell these items to customers all the time, so it’s not exactly ESP. But what if you were to apply the same approach to people who haven’t come in to rent storage space, those who visit your facility with the intent to purchase retail products?
Given time, these customers may become renters. But since you don’t currently have a business relationship with them, how do you anticipate what they will buy? You probably already have a better inventory of moving supplies than most retail stores. And your employees have learned through experience what people need during a move. So the real question is: How many retail prospects are in your area and how do you reach them?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent to 20 percent of Americans move their homes every year. Homeowners move every 8.2 years and renters move every 2.1 years. That being the case, there should be a good number of people in your market interested in purchasing retail moving products.
How do you reach them? Traditional outdoor signage may attract drive-bys, but there are more active ways to promote sales. Ads in the local shopper publications might work, but think also about places these prospects frequent, such as real estate offices, apartment complexes and supermarkets. A well-placed flier at these locations could garner the right attention.
What about your current customers? How do you encourage them to purchase more than space? Include a coupon for retail purchases with your monthly invoices. Even if your tenants don’t use it, they might pass it on to a friend. Remember, once people connect you with moving supplies, word-of-mouth will come into play, saving you real marketing dollars.
There’s no better source for commonsense marketing ideas than your own imagination and experience. If you’ve had success with a promotion you’d like to share with others, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to pass along what I’ve learned from friends in the business.
Roy Katz is president of Supply Side, which distributes packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including Storage USA, the U.S. Postal Service, Kinko’s and Mail Boxes Etc. For more information, call 800.284.7357 or 216.738.1200.