By Aycha Williams
The self-storage industry has come a long way in the past two years in terms of understanding the importance of a business's online presence, which can be crucial to generating a high number of quality leads. Nevertheless, it seems a lot of smaller self-storage operators still hesitate to invest in an online presence for their facilities.
One reason is they are confused about how to implement online strategies. Web-based marketing can be overwhelming, particularly because new service providers seem to emerge on the scene nearly every month. Some offer similar if not the same services, but claim to be different. Some have better versions of the same product, while others’ products are hard to understand. In general, most are pricey.
Meanwhile, every single one of the 11 self-storage facilities my company manages in Florida and Houston is receiving about 50 percent of total leads online. Some are even getting more. We know because we’re tracking them via various methods on a monthly basis. With the increased use of mobile devices, this number will only grow.
Despite the learning curve, it’s critical self-storage operators begin to embrace online marketing. Here are 10 marketing channels every operator needs to master to stay competitive.
1. Search Engine Places and Maps Listings
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have special sections dedicated to “local search.” This is how your prospects do their online search. They either go to the “maps” section of a search engine such as “maps.google.com” and search for “self-storage” in “Costa Mesa, 92663,” or they type, “www.yahoo.com” and search for a location by typing keywords relevant for that location, such as “storage in Maitland, FL, 32751.”
The search returns, in geographic proximity, a list of locations. It’s an easy, convenient and accurate way of finding businesses online. Internet users prefer this search method when looking for a specific area. This is why you need to make sure your facility is listed as part of the local search. For this you’ll need to find and claim your listings on all main search engines. Once you claim them, you’ll be able to add company information and photos, and ensure the Google map is pinpointing your location correctly. You can also further customize your listing.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Your website is your online home base for your business. In addition to being up-to-date and accurate, it needs to be search-engine-optimized so it can have a higher organic listing ranking. When you have more than one link available to your business on the first page of a search engine, you’re basically increasing the odds of that customer clicking to one of your links to visit your website.
3. A Website That Markets Your Facility
It’s crucial to have a search-engine-optimized website so it can be found quickly and easily. Once customers are on your website, the second half of the battle is to keep them there and convince them to take action. If they’re looking for storage, then you’d like them to either reserve a unit online, call your facility or, at the very least, request an e-mailed quote.
If it’s an existing customer looking to make a payment, your website should offer effortless online payment options. In short, consider equipping your website with all the tools necessary, and it will market and sell your facility for you.
4. Mobile Marketing
I use Google analytics to track the online traffic to our facility websites. It’s a free yet comprehensive tool that provides not only extensive information on Web traffic, but tells us what type of device the customer is using to find our websites. Even our facilities in rural areas have increasing number of customers each month who find our locations via their mobile device. Some people even use their mobile devices as their primary Internet source (instead of a laptop or PC) to search for products and services.
The next technological leap for your website is to become mobile-device friendly. The self-storage industry has various vendors that can recreate your website to be automatically mobile-friendly. Information should be easy to access, payments should be easy to make via a smartphone, and directions to your site should be simple to find.