It is now several weeks since the economic-stimulus package has been signed into law by President Obama. I am not expecting it to provide any great stimulus for our industry directly—unless your facility is being taken by eminent domain for a local highway project. I laugh at all the Internet scams people are already running like, “Click on this link to expedite your stimulus check” or “Fill in information to determine the size of your stimulus check.” Thousands of people will fall victim to these scams just because of the media attention.
Have you considered creating your own stimulus program to attract new customers? Unlike the scammers, we have a real product—storage space and moving supplies. We need to create a menu of incentives. It might be “Spin the Discount Wheel of Stimulus” as a closing technique. How about the old carnival dart game with a specific stimulus prize or discount in each balloon? Maybe it’s a personalized letter to current customers letting them know that although street rates are going up, their rates will stay the same for the next six months.
Would an across-the-board increase in everyone’s rent at this stage of the economic cycle result in move-outs? Right now, more than any time in recent history, it might make some people ask themselves why they’re paying $125 a month to keep a pile of stuff they might never use. Increasing rents of current tenants could result in move-outs and create more lost revenue than the increase you might have achieved.
I have always encouraged owners and managers to raise their rates. I still believe that if you are one of the fortunate individuals seeing strong rental activity and occupancies on select unit sizes above 85 to 90 percent, raising rents could still be a good strategy. However, for the rest of us struggling to stay positive in a negative environment, I urge you to look for creative ways in retaining current customers.
Once you have your own stimulus package in place, get out there and promote it. Go back to prior customers; visit the apartment managers and professional offices. Have an aggressive referral program in place that allows the referring tenant and the new customer to receive a benefit―not just $15 or $20 off next month’s rent, but maybe $50 or $75.
Ask yourself: What is a new customer worth? The extra referral incentive may help keep existing customers or persuade an apartment manager to start handing out your brochure to everyone that walks in his door.
Don’t let the federal government be the only source of a stimulus for Americans.
UPS Store Will Call You—Big Deal!
Watching United Parcel Service’s (UPS) recent TV and Internet advertising campaign is almost laughable to me. The company's big marketing claim is that when you get a letter or small package in your mail cubby at one of its stores, it will text or e-mail you an alert. I have news for UPS: Self-storage managers and owners have not only been doing that for years, but also accept big packages or even entire product shipments for their customers.
Behind the new UPS campaign is the belief that this is a new customer service small businesses and individuals just can’t do without. Guess the company's officials have never set foot in a busy self-storage facility that caters to business customers. UPS and FedEx in addition to Roadway Express and a variety of other common carriers are regular delivery couriers throughout the course of the day.
Managers are constantly on the phone, e-mailing or texting customers to inform them their shipments have arrived. So, UPS, I urge you to keep looking for some really new customer service the self-storage industry has not already been offering for years.