By Randy A. Smith
I read every industry magazine I can get my hands on. It’s with interest and amusement that I flip through the pages looking for the latest and greatest idea to attract tenants. From car washes to vet clinics, moon jumps to flea markets, the length and expense to which self-storage operators go in hopes of drawing new customers amazes me. Sure, all those ideas get people on the property, but do they make the cash register sing?
In this industry, we seem to have the mindset that our service is unlike any other product out there. We ignore what other industries do to attract customers and come up with crazy approaches to market our facilities. So-called experts have become close-minded and blind to what’s working in other businesses. In fact, strategies that are considered “traditional marketing” in almost every other industry are non-traditional marketing in self-storage. Let me explain.
Three Best Mediums for Marketing
How many flea markets or community garage sales do you see happening at McDonalds? How many vet clinics at the local car dealership? Get the point? Why don’t successful businesses in highly competitive industries use the concept of “door turns”? Because their multi-million-dollar marketing departments and Harvard MBA grads know what sells burgers and cars: radio and TV.
Stop and consider why all of the companies you see on TV and hear on the radio are there, week after week, month after month, year after year. It’s because that advertising medium works! Why do we in the self-storage industry use gimmicky things like pencils and balloons, candy jars delivered to apartment-complex managers, or nail files printed with slogans like “Your files are safe with us”? There’s a reason no other industry uses these tools.
At Another Closet Self-Storage, we’ve run the gamut on every marketing idea out there. I’ve come to the conclusion that the three best mediums for marketing self-storage are radio, TV and the Internet. Using these three mediums predominately over the last four years, we’ve seen double-digit growth annually. This year we’re on track to grow our revenue 20 percent to 25 percent over last year. In 2010, revenue was 18 percent over 2009.
Want to grow your business? Do what no one else is doing. In self-storage, it seems like almost no one is using radio or TV ads except some of the national operators. If you have no competitors on radio or TV and you run a campaign, you automatically become the top self-storage facility (perception-wise) in the market (even if you aren’t) just by virtue of the fact that you’re the only one advertising there. Do you know how many vice presidents of marketing in other industries would love to be in that position?
Tailoring Your Message
In Another Closet markets, we have a lot of Spanish-speaking residents, so this year we opted for a branding campaign with a custom-made jingle, one in English and another version in Spanish. The 30-second song was free in exchange for placing advertising on a particular TV station, and the production was free, as is almost always the case. We paid $300 for talent to appear in the commercial so both versions look professional. We also used the jingle for our radio spots so we have a unified message across the entire market.