One of the most important aspects of every manager’s job is marketing. A facility’s marketing program can comprise print, grassroots and online strategies. “The playing field is changing here dramatically,” says Robert Cerrone, senior vice president of self-storage operations for Strategic Storage Trust Inc.
Five years ago, most operators relied heavily on a Yellow Pages ad and drive-bys, but now a large majority of people seeking self-storage are turning to the Internet to find it, Cerrone points out. “It’s not just on company websites but from social media, storage aggregators and, to a lesser degree, Internet Yellow Pages.”
Online marketing includes everything from a facility’s website and social-media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to online directories and classified ads. “The online customer can communicate quickly to a large number of storage locations and the manager who’s the most savvy in follow-up with the customer will get the rental,” North says.
To become proficient at online marketing, property managers should search for storage the way their potential customers do, says Alyssa Quill, vice president of Storage Asset Management Inc. That means making sure your facility shows up in searches, on aggregator websites, and has good reviews on sites like Google and Yelp.
Managers should also advertise in online classifieds such as Craigslist and display Web coupons through many channels. “The number of leads we’re getting from the Internet surpassed Yellow Pages a couple years ago, and continues to grow every month,” Quill says. “Going into the future, drive-by visibility, referrals and the Internet will continue to be the main sources for leads.”
A Good Marketing Plan
When creating a marketing plan, Tharpe suggests reviewing not only what’s worked in the past, but also strategies that didn’t yield the best results. Operators should also be aware of their facility’s statistics, including highest rental months and highest move-out months. “You should break it down by year, month and weekly, keeping in mind the busiest time of the month vs. the slowest time,” she says.
Good marketing also crosses several marketing channels, including word of mouth, print, Internet and events, Quill says. “It fits within the budget, and is achievable with the available resources.”
Creating a broad marketing plan to encompass as many mass-media marketing avenues will typically achieve better results for operators in busy markets, Cerrone says. “In addition, it’s necessary to address the local market with a plan that covers attendance to professional association events, civic events and regularly scheduled marketing visits to local businesses.”
A manager who’s comfortable with local marketing and who can follow up on leads will help his facility achieve higher occupancies and a larger revenue share. “When you partner with various nonprofit organizations and charitable endeavors, you garner public relations dollars no amount of money could purchase, and the partnership brings organization members to your property,” Kudo says. “You reap what you sow, and if you sow goodwill, it will return to you tenfold.”