Reaching and Serving Boat/RV-Storage Customers

Ed and Terri Heil Comments
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We recently got a call from a potential tenant who asked if our boat/RV-storage facility is going to run any specials on 30-foot spaces since the economy is so poor. We were able to tell him that our 30- and 40-foot spaces are full and we have a waiting list. We know that’s hard to believe in this economy, but it’s been true for us for the last two seasons.This particular customer added his name to our list, saying, “Your place is so clean and secure; I’ll just wait until I can get in.”

We’re often asked by fellow storage operators which marketing programs have been successful for us. We try to create programs that cost as little as possible, and we continually monitor our efforts. Here are some of the techniques that have worked for our business. 

Know Your Customer

A large percentage of RV and boat storage spaces are rented for emotional rather than economic reasons. These customers are more concerned with convenience and amenities than price. To attract and keep this niche, focus on service and add-on offerings: clean restrooms and showers, boat detailing, coin-operated wash bays, RV dump stations and air stations top the list.

We offer a boat wash at our facility, and tenants love it. If you don’t have a boat wash on site, you can work something out with one of the boat- or car-wash businesses in town. We also rent a space to a detailer who is bonded and insured and has great references. We give him a discount since he sends us referrals. His detailing service is one of the best draws for our boat crowd.

Adjust Your Space

Not all facilities have the ability to change the size of its spaces, but this can be a great way to increase business. We recently looked at the demand for storage in our city, which is for 30- and 40-foot spaces. We had some 60-foot drive-thru spaces that weren’t moving as fast as we wanted, so we split them in half. This was a very inexpensive way to meet customer needs. It worked so well that we’re thinking of converting 10 more spaces this season. We can always revert them back to 60 feet if the demand changes.

Your facility may have similar potential to draw more business. Just make sure you’re not ruling out any options. The more aware you are of the demand in your competitive area, the easier it will be to make those decisions.

Customer Service

We talk about customer service all the time, but do we really give it our best? If you go the extra mile in this area, you will reap the rewards. We bake cookies for customers on holiday weekends and hand out free bottles of water when the heat is more than 100 degrees. We make sure our facility is spotless and has 24-hour access. We work every weekend and holiday, which is one of the main reasons we’re taking business away from our competition. Tenants love our concierge service and the flexibility of our facility hours.

Last season, we started sending thank-you notes to new tenants, and this has had a good response. We do it the old-fashioned way: We mail them. It makes it more personal and has the added benefit of allowing us to verify tenant addresses. 

Referrals

Our facility has always had a referral program. We give someone a $20 gift certificate to any major store if he refers a customer to us. If an existing tenant brings us a referral, we give him $20 off one month of rent. This is one of our best marketing programs.

When gas prices went up last year, we gave out $20 gas cards for referrals. With gas prices climbing again, we’ve put our program back in place. The local gas stations love that we’re supporting them.

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