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Weighing Risk and Reward in Self-Storage Marketing Messages

Derek Naylor Comments
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Finding Balance, Taking Risk

We all want more sales, but we don’t want to paint a legal bull’s-eye on our foreheads either. It's a hard line to walk.

Legal departments often take things way too far and kill the effectiveness of many advertisements out there. This costs operators a fortune in potential sales and wastes advertising dollars. I know attorneys are simply doing what they can to keep you out of hot water—and that’s exactly what they’re paid to do. But as a business owner, you must generate sales at the lowest possible cost and weigh all factors.

One way or another, you’re taking risk. If you run an ad with the blessing of a good attorney, you’re risking potential revenue. If you run one that is powerful in terms of message, you run a chance of getting sued somewhere down the road. There's no black-and-white answer to this debate. I lean toward stronger marketing with more risk than “safe” ads that don’t generate the same volume of sales. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially with a good lease in place that clearly outlines what you do and do not warrant in regard to advertising claims.

"Safe" and "secure" aside, the word "free" is also under attack in this industry. For example, “free use of truck” or “free month of rent” are two favorites used by operators. The legal problems come when you advertise “free” and don’t really give anything without consideration of something in exchange.

My answer to that is not complicated ... really give a free month of rent! No strings attached. No admin fee. No minimum commitment. Many will think this is a form of business suicide. Sure, you’ll have people move in and out within 30 days and you won’t make a profit from them. But you’ll have many more that move in with that offer because it’s hard to refuse, and they'll stay for several months or even years. Weighing the difference between gain and loss is critical.

I’m not an attorney, nor should this be constituted as legal advice. It seems to me you can use just about whatever language you find effective in your marketing as long as you keep up your end of the bargain and have a good lease agreement in place.

In this tough economic time and ultra-competitive marketplace, we must be creative and make bold offers to those considering our facilities. Think outside the proverbial box and get creative. Like anything else in life, we must weigh the risk and reward of everything. Challenge commonplace advice and beliefs before making a decision. You just might be surprised at how little “real” risk there is and how big the upside can be.

Derek M. Naylor is president of Storage Marketing Solutions, a full-service, results-oriented marketing and advertising agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a free subscription to his e-newsletter, call 800.941.4805; e-mail; visit

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