Although the Yellow Pages (YP) is not the most effective means of marketing, self-storage operators spend more on this method of advertising than any other. I suspect there are two reasons for this: the “follow the leader” marketing psychology most operators have adopted, and the fact that YP is simple and easy.
YPis a good place to start, but you should dig deeper to find out how much business this method really gets you. In many cases, your ad rep will convince you to buy more space than you need, design an ad that barely works, then sip mint juleps on the yacht he purchased with your hard-earned money. Yes, YP ads are effective, which simply means they bring in more money than they cost. But they are far less successful on a per-cost basis than many other marketing methods.
You need to consider your ROMD (return on marketing dollars). For example, if you spend $1 and make $10, that’s a 10:1 ROMD. Measure the effectiveness of each tactic, and invest in the ones that generate the highest yield. Keep in mind some customers will only respond to certain methods, so one technique will not reach all prospects. You need a few to reach the widest target market.
For the record, I don’t recommend you abandon YP advertising entirely. Just don’t rely on it exclusively. There are other opportunities to explore, and some will be essential to your overall profitability. When you do purchase a YP ad, make sure it includes the following five items.
A Great Headline
Don’t use your facility name as the headline of your ad, which is what 90 percent of owners do. It makes no sense. People don’t rent from you because of your name, they rent based on location, convenience, price, amenities, etc.
What should you use as a headline? Consider your USPs (unique selling positions). You’ve got a number of options, depending on what makes your facility different from others. For example, you could use “Individual Unit Alarms” or “Climate-Controlled Space.” If you’re strictly after the low-price shoppers, consider “Units Starting as Low as (insert cheapest unit cost here).”
A List of Features and Benefits
Most storage owners only include the features of their facility in their YP ad without also listing the corresponding benefits. While the advantages of things like different unit sizes and climate control may seem obvious, you need to help customers connect the dots. They may not have considered these things before. For example, when you say you have 12 different unit sizes, explain, “So you only pay for the amount of space you need.” Every feature you list in your ad should have a benefit attached to it.
There’s only so much space in a YP ad, and most customers will want to know more than what they see there. They can call for information, but what if it’s after hours or they don’t want to deal with a sales pitch on the phone? Enter the 24-hour free recorded message, also known as the self-storage hotline. Simply provide a phone number that goes to a voicemail or answering machine. The message can tell them everything they need to know about your facility as well as provide general information such as storage tips.
In addition to identifying the message as a free recording, which makes it non-threatening and accessible at all hours, consider giving it an intriguing title, such as “Seven Things You Need to Know Before Renting Storage Space.” Then prepare a script that lists these items, particularly highlighting the features and benefits of your own facility.
For example, if you offer individual unit alarms, point No. 3 might be, “Never rent a unit that doesn’t have a door alarm. Without one, criminals can break into your unit undetected.” This is a subtle way to steer customers toward a feature you offer, cleverly disguised as friendly advice. If the hotline appears as a public service, people are more likely to call.
These days, after finding your YP ad, most customers will seek you out on the Internet for more information. For that reason, a website is not optional, it’s a must. Always include your web address in your ad, and keep your domain simple as well as easy to spell and remember.
Once customers get to your website, it should be clear what you want them to do. Do you want them to call you? Visit you? Contact you via e-mail? Rent a unit online? At the very least, capture their e-mail addresses so you can send them e-mail marketing pieces in the future. With the help of your webmaster, there’s other information you can gather through your site too, such as how many new visitors land on the site each month and how many sign up to be on your mailing list. To know how effective the site is, you have to measure its results.
Your YP ad should always include a map that makes it easy for customers to find you. Stick to main cross streets as a general reference. The map doesn’t need to consume half the ad space, it just has to tell people quickly whether you are convenient for them.
Don’t waste your money on things like color, as research shows it doesn’t significantly affect the response rate. All it does is help your YP rep make more money.
Finally, while you may have spent a lot of money on your logo design, it won’t get people to rent from you. If it takes up selling space, leave it out. You can also forget about facility images. Keep your ad copy intensive.
If you must use YP to advertise, do it right. Include these five key elements, and your ad will be more effective.
Fred Gleeck is a self-storage coach and consultant who helps owners and operators maximize profit. He is an expert in the field of information and seminar marketing and the author of more than 10 books. To learn more about new marketing ideas revealed only in his live events, visit www.storageseminar.com. For more information, call 800.345.3325; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.selfstoragesuccess.com. To subscribe to Mr. Gleeck’s e-zine, send an e-mail to email@example.com.