Marketing Self-Storage Facilities in a Rapidly Changing World

Lisa Wolfe Comments
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The only thing you can know for sure is that everything is changing. Traditional marketing does not always work, particularly because there is no such thing as a traditional economy. Market conditions jump around just like the economy. Don’t ever get caught in a rut of only marketing in one way. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is never a good marketing foundation.

Consumers are changing. Do you “own” your tenants like you used to? Do you even know your customers like you used to? Are you behind the lifestyle curve of your own prospects? It’s a simple generational change. Have you changed with the times?

These days, a 6-year-old can surf the Internet as comfortably as a 30-year-old. Do you have the Internet presence to attract these savvy shoppers? Moreover, once these customers can find you, will you provide them with the technology they have grown accustomed to, the services that allow them convenience every step of the way? Can they rent from you 24/7? Make payments online? Correspond with you via e-mail, if necessary?

If so, make sure your marketing campaign acknowledges this, and that you are targeting those specific consumers who’ll cherish those offerings.

The Customer Base

Changing expectations of consumers and erratic economic shifts require a dramatic shift in self-storage market requirements, too. Many businesses must re-invent themselves. If they don’t, the perception is bad customer service or the lack of ability to provide the modern products and services needed, so the consumer finds it somewhere else.

Recognize that your customer base is fragile. Don’t mistake customer satisfaction with customer loyalty. How many of your customers would defect to a competitor for a minimal discount? How much is a tenant worth to your business over his lifetime?

The secret of customer retention is giving them a reason to do business with you. As a generalization, self-storage businesses that have succeeded in recent years have molded their brand around customers who are on-the-go, with a me-me-me lifestyle.

With the current economic shift, self-storage branding may shift as well. Maybe a bulk of your new customers are moving from a large home to a smaller one; or maybe they are in foreclosure and desperate for a place to store their furnishings and keepsakes. Are you ready to market to this shifting clientele?

Most business owners find that 80 percent of their business is from 20 percent of their customers. Is this true of your self-storage renters? Are you mining this rich environment for gold, or are you overly caught up in finding small nuggets—the customers who’ll stay with you just for a month or two? How many owners have contacted customers who’ve been with them for a while to see if their needs are being met? Maybe their units are full and they would consider renting another, if asked. Or perhaps they didn’t know the facility offered wine storage or had spaces available for boat/RV storage.

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