Marketing Self-Storage Facilities in a Rapidly Changing World

Lisa Wolfe Comments
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How many of you have gotten caught up in the media version of Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling”? Relax, take a breath and feel superior in knowing the media has correctly predicted 18 of the last two recessions. Then, get yourself up to speed with marketing strategies for today’s times.

There are several key realities or secrets to survive and thrive in today’s self-storage market. Knowing them will allow you to operate scot-free of a doomed economy. Or maybe try Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s approach, “There might be a recession, but it doesn’t mean I have to participate!”

Have a Plan

Somewhere in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing it must be the quickest gazelle in the world to outrun the fastest lion. Likewise, a lion wakes up knowing that, to eat today, he must be faster than the gazelle.

The moral to this story? When you wake up in the morning and face operating your self-storage business, you had better hit the ground running ... especially when it comes to marketing. Without marketing, you’ll never outrun, or even keep pace, with the competition.

Running a business today is like flying a plane. Author Brian Tracy’s book, Flight Plan, outlines simple rules to surviving in this fast-paced jungle. First and foremost, you must have a plan, not swimming around in your head, but written down. Next, you must launch, or put your plan into action. Don’t plan to the point of paralysis. If you don’t take off, you’ll never get anywhere. Just get a solid outline and know you need to make course corrections along the way.

Many times pilots must redirect because of weather conditions or equipment issues. A self-storage owner must also make course corrections because of the economy or customers’ changing needs. For example, a new facility might only need to open its doors in an underserved market to attract business initially. Once competitors move into the area, though, a strategy such as offering climate control or online billing might be necessary to keep customers coming around and signing leases.

When you launch your marketing plan, there’s no guarantee it will be a success, but once you start, you will learn the lessons you need to succeed if you constantly make course corrections. You might find that you will land nowhere near where you had planned. For example, maybe you launch a direct-mail campaign that flops, but upon reflection and a re-launch, learn that by creating a bold website you can attract a dozen new tenants.

The Right Course

So, how do you make the right course corrections? You’ll want to write this down, too!

  • Learn more stuff—the average American reads just two books a year (see “Marketing Smarts” sidebar)
  • Learn continuously—what you know today will be obsolete in just two years. In today’s market, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.
  • Know that creating and retaining customers is your job—not selling a specific product or service. If you don’t know how to create and retain customers, you have no one to sell anything to.
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