Boat and RV storage may seem a lot like self-storage, but when it comes to maximizing profit, it has unique requirements. To successfully market an RV/boat-storage facility, keep these seven key things in mind: pricing, partnering, profitability, personnel, performance, persistence and patience.
The biggest question often asked about operating boat and RV storage is how to price the spaces. The quick answer is: based on availability. To maximize revenue, you want to have space available at all times that will rent at the highest price the market will bear. Countless owners have lost thousands in revenue because they wanted their facility to constantly be full. This may be gratifying on some level, but it isn’t savvy.
Shoot for 93 percent to 95 percent occupancy in every unit or space size. For example, if you have 300 spaces—100 each of small, medium and large—you should maintain at least five to seven open spaces in each size. If you have fewer than five available in any category, raise your price immediately.
Many a manager will say, “I can’t do that!” Why not? Pricing shouldn’t be based on anything but data. As soon as you near or hit your target occupancy rate of around 94 percent, raise your rents. If you get another renter at the higher rate, raise it again. Don’t worry if one person is paying $20 more per month for the same size space as another. Have you been on an airplane lately? Is everyone paying the same price for the same quality seat? Case closed. Price your spaces rationally, not emotionally.
Partnering will allow you to get units filled with a nominal marketing investment. Start with your obvious partners and expand to every one you can imagine. The more partners you have, the more profitable you’ll be.
How does partnering work? Look for those businesses in your area that are most likely to be asked for information on where to rent RV or boat storage. Two obvious candidates are RV and boat dealers. Whether someone is buying a new or used vehicle, one of his first questions will be about available storage. Some residents are allowed to park their RVs and boats at home, but strict homeowners’ associations have changed that scenario. Here’s where you come in.
You want to be the first facility dealers recommend to their customers. How do you accomplish this? First, you need to make contact. Visit the dealers with a flier containing your facility’s contact information as well as its features and benefits. On your first visit, it’s also wise to bear gifts, such as one of your promotional products, cookies or pizza. Present your offering and explain your promo sheet (which should be coded for each individual dealership, by the way). When a customer comes to you, thank the dealer with an immediate phone call. Then deliver another clever but inexpensive gift that will help him remember you to his customers in the future.
To be most profitable, you need to concentrate on the expense and revenue side of the business equation. Most of your marketing efforts will focus on revenue, but you’ll also want to evaluate your costs. Look for ways to intelligently reduce expenses without impacting sales.
Examine each line of your profit-and-loss statement. Look for things you can do to even slightly reduce your costs in each category. For example, replace your light bulbs with the new energy-efficient bulbs available today. They’re more expensive in the beginning, but they pay for themselves over time in lower electricity bills. The savings may not be big, but if you make these kinds of changes with every expense item, you’ll buy yourself some nice additional profit.
You also need to find the right people to help make profitability happen. In the case of a storage facility, this means hiring the right manager. How good is your manager, and how are you measuring his results? What criteria do you use to evaluate his performance?
The only thing that really matters is your numbers. What are your occupancy rates and net profits each month? If the numbers are going in the right direction, you’ve got the right manager, regardless of whether he is a “nice” person. The ultimate determining factor is occupancy. Remember, 100 percent occupancy is not the goal. If your manager can hold you at the 94 percent range and raise rents when necessary, he’s getting the job done.
To see how well your facility is performing, you have to measure its results. Very few operators keep accurate measurements of their marketing efforts. Whatever plan you put into place—partnering, Yellow Pages, direct mail, etc.—have a way to evaluate each effort. Review each marketing method regularly and make adjustments as necessary.
If you think marketing is a “do it once and it’s done” affair, think again. Promoting your boat/RV storage facility requires an ongoing and consistent effort. For example, if you use partnering, you’ll be most successful when you thank people for referrals and give a gift—every time, without fail.
Many campaigns take a while to work. The biggest mistake you can make is using “one-shot” marketing in which you execute a great idea but fail to follow up on or repeat your efforts. This is almost worse then doing nothing at all. Be persistent. Once you’ve decided on a course of marketing action, follow it as planned, consistently.
Finally, marketing a boat/RV storage facility takes patience. If you are consistent in your efforts and follow the guidelines above, you can expect to see results in three to six months. Don’t get discouraged—it will happen with time. Follow the seven Ps, and you’l be amazed at the profits you can make with boat and RV storage.
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage coach and consultant who helps owners and operators maximize profits. He is an expert in the field of information and seminar marketing and the author of more than 10. For more information, call 800.345.3325; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.selfstoragesuccess.com. To subscribe to his e-zine, send an e-mail to email@example.com.