By Sheryl Connelly
The list is endless when it comes to marketing information portals and outlets. Radio, television, billboards, e-mail, text messaging, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Digg represent only the “short list” of venues you can use to attract and engage prospects and customers. In our technologically advanced society, consumers have access to any information they want, whenever they want it.
With so much information at our fingertips, it's no surprise that business marketing and advertising efforts are suffering. Look at your own e-mail inbox or postal mailbox and you can see why many of a company's marketing and advertising messages have been termed part of the growing “noise.”
How do you get above that noise and grow your database? Can you win the battle of the bulk so your prospects pay attention to you? What will prevent them from pressing the delete key, trashing that direct-mail postcard, or tuning you out? You need to send the right message to the right customer at the right time.
Hitting Your Target
It sounds overly simplistic, but most businesses continue to employ the best-guess solution when creating marketing messages and choosing with whom they advertise. Many come at it strictly from the business-owner view and talk at a target base of consumers. Most of the ad copy created tells the prospective customer all about the features and benefits of doing business at their self-storage facility. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads with a photo and a bullet-point list. Most facility operators create ads like this because they’ve been told “it’s all in the numbers” by the local-media sales rep.
I’m not saying that features and benefits aren’t important, but what I challenge you to do is look at your self-storage business from the other side of the coin. Are you truly going to where your best prospects are, or are you leasing marketing breadth in hopes that a fraction of an avenue’s readership meets your ideal customer criteria? What is it your customer expects, wants and needs to hear from you?
Let’s start with this: How do you know you’re targeting the right demographic? Use the old adage of like attracts like. Take a look at your current customer base and determine their common traits. Some of the questions you may ask:
- What geographic area (ZIP code) do most of our customers share?
- What kind of living situation do most of your storage customers have in common? This could include apartments, outgrowing a home, in transition, etc.
What kinds of items are these people storing at our facility? Are they storing a car, boat, furniture, business items, band or athletic equipment, etc.?
Can’t get your hands on that information? Still don't know where to find new customers or what your prospects want to hear from you? Then ask. That's right, reach out to your current customers and ask for their details and opinions. Talk to them instead of at them. That is the influence of marketing, my friend. Knowing and giving the end user exactly what he wants, when he wants it.
Unsure about the best way to gather information? Here are a few ways to get the knowledge you seek:
- In-person focus groups
- Customer-appreciation events
- Polls, surveys or open-ended questions on social-media networks
Using your blog or Twitter feed as an information-gathering tool
The price of information has changed. Just giving customers a newsletter in exchange for their insight and e-mail address isn't sufficient. Whatever you do to gather customer feedback, make it worth their while. Offering a "chance" at $100 for calling an 800 number and pressing buttons for 10 minutes really isn't the best way to garner honest opinions. Often, that invitation finds its way into the closest trashcan or stuffed in a pocket until laundry day.
Instead, how about offering a percentage off their next month’s self-storage rental, or a free gift such as a mouse pad, coffee mug or other item with your self-storage logo? Even a small denomination gift card to a local eatery or gas station can be a great incentive.
In the long run, identifying where to find your ideal customers and giving them the information they want helps you get above all that dreaded marketing noise. Taking a few calculated steps toward marketing savvy not only saves you precious advertising dollars, but can lead to satisfied customers, word-of-mouth referrals and great information. For the time and financially conscious business owner, that type of return on investment is priceless.
Sheryl Connelly is CEO of Marketing Media Management, a boutique full-service online marketing agency specializing in using social media and digital content to help advertise and promote small businesses. For more information, visit www.managemmm.com.