We love to read about things we should and shouldn’t do. In recent years, The New York Times best-seller list has touted such books as Your Best Life Now and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which give us the secrets to becoming better and more successful.
But how often do we put into practice the things we read? Many of us know we should do a lot of things differently in our work and personal lives, whether it be eating right, exercising, giving to charity or improving at our jobs. But do we?
One of the things many self-storage operators need to do more effectively is facility marketing. It’s one of their biggest annual expenses, yet many cannot determine with certainty the return on their marketing investments.
This article will discuss two major marketing mistakes many operators make. I challenge you to not only read about these errors, but to actively avoid them. It will not only increase your occupancy; it may save you thousands in potentially wasted marketing dollars.
Mistake #1: Ineffectively Tracking Your Marketing
This is one of the most common and costly marketing mistakes. Many operators have some tracking methods in place, but the accuracy is questionable. Some just flat-out don’t track at all. I believe there are two reasons owners are not properly tracking their marketing: Either they don’t know how to track or are not willing to take the time to do so because it seems like there are many more pressing issues.
While tracking does take time and energy, it will pay off. Consider this: If you knew someone was stealing $3,000 per month from your facility, how long would you wait before you took the time to investigate and stop it? Not long at all, right? You would take every action possible as quickly as possible. You should feel the same about tracking your marketing. If you don’t take the time to put proper methods in place from the outset, you’re wasting money each and every month on ineffective marketing without even knowing it.
As the industry gets increasingly competitive, operators simply can’t afford to spend their valuable marketing dollars blindly. To be successful, you must know how to bring tenants in the door at a reasonable cost. Without proper tracking, there’s no system to determine which marketing efforts are successful and which aren’t.
There are lots of easy-to-use tracking techniques, many of which can be implemented with very little time or money. Things like unique phone numbers, promotions and coupon codes, and website URLs can provide you with essential data you won’t get anywhere else. If you’re only tracking based on feedback from your customers as to how they found your facility, you’re making a costly marketing mistake. Customer feedback is only somewhat reliable and must be coupled with the other tracking techniques listed above.
Many owners rely on their managers to track the source of each customer but without giving them the tools to properly do so. Make sure your managers are trained to know what to expect from each of your marketing campaigns. If they’re not, they can’t accurately track customers. Managers must be able to understand your promotions, get prospects excited about them and then track them.
Mistake #2: Failing to Convert Prospects
The goal of marketing is to bring interested prospects to your phone line, door or website. Unfortunately, that is as far as marketing can go. It’s up to the manager or, in some cases, the call center to convert those interested prospects to tenants.
I talk with operators every day, helping them analyze the effectiveness of their marketing, online and off. I continually find that unconverted prospects result from one or a combination of three things:
- No response
- Slow response
- Poor response
No response is a missed call or unanswered e-mail. Missed calls are an easy problem to address. Because you’re investing marketing dollars to get the phone to ring, it’s crucial to answer every single call. There are great call centers in this industry that specialize in answering calls when your managers aren’t able to. I encourage you to take advantage of them.
Unanswered e-mails are a growing concern in the industry. With the continual growth of the Internet as a marketing tool, it’s becoming more important to know how to respond to Internet-based customers.
I want to pause here and point out that Internet marketing does not result in only email-based customers. The Internet is a valuable tool that will provide you with more phone calls, more walk-ins and, in some cases, online reservations via your website. That being said, Internet marketing will provide you with an increased number of prospects who e-mail for more information.
There are many things you can do to encourage managers to respond to e-mail inquiries. First, make it easy for them to check e-mail often, and give them incentive to do so. Equip the office with high-speed Internet access and an easy-to-use e-mail system. Second, design a response plan that is easy to follow. Make sure it gives managers clear direction on how to check their e-mail, how quickly you expect them to respond to these inquiries, and what crucial information should be included in their response.
It’s not only critical to respond to these prospects but to do so as quickly as possible. The Internet makes it easy for prospects to “shop around.” If someone has e-mailed you, it’s critical to respond to him quickly before he receives a response from your competition. I encourage a same-hour response. Of course, that’s not always possible, but it should be a goal. If you can provide a response to a prospect within minutes of his inquiry, you’ll see your conversion rates skyrocket.
An important thing to point out is just because a prospect comes in via e-mail doesn’t mean you have to respond via e-mail. If he has provided his phone number, call him immediately, and then follow up with an e-mail if you don’t reach him.
The most effective way to help your managers respond quickly is to develop e-mail templates. These will not only ensure a quality message is sent every time; they will relieve the manager from having to come up with a new e-mail for every prospect.
Poor response is the third weakness I see when helping operators evaluate the effectiveness of their online marketing. Often, a facility will stress the importance of a quick response to every single e-mail but forget that message quality is also key. Your response has to be compelling; it has to show your excellent customer service, address the customer’s needs, and present your facility as his best option.
Every e-mail you send in response to an inquiry should follow these guidelines:
- Introduce yourself and greet the customer by name.
- Address any specific needs the customer has mentioned, such as unit size, climate control, etc.
- Include compelling features your facility offers that directly correlate to the customer’s needs.
- Provide the facility address and easy-to-follow directions to the site.
- Invite the prospect to call and reserve a unit over the phone or set an appointment to visit. A compelling special often helps speed this process along.
Mystery shopping is a great way to ensure your facility is not only responding to these e-mail prospects, but responding quickly and in a compelling manner. By letting managers know you will be mystery shopping for e-mail response, you are reinforcing its importance. Always remember to incorporate the results into your incentives and bonus plans!
Marketing is a huge investment. Don’t let these all-to-common marketing mistakes occur at your facility. Take the time to properly evaluate and track your marketing to ensure you will succeed in the competitive years ahead.
Megan Eckert is the executive vice president of USstoragesearch.com, which helps more than 9,000 facilities increase occupancy through affordable Internet marketing. For complimentary Internetmarketing tips, call 866.880.0742 or visit www.usstoragesearch.com.