3 Ways for Small Self-Storage Operators to Compete With REITs and Other Large Players in Their Market

By Matthew Van Horn Comments
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To compete within your market regardless of who owns competing facilities, you must have a well-planned and solid marketing plan. Notice I didn’t write “a random and sporadic advertising plan.” To be effective, regardless of the medium used, your plan must include two things. The first is the ability to track campaign performance. How many rental inquires and actual rentals did the particular campaign produce?

The second is the ability to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of each campaign. For example, if the campaign provided three rentals at $100 per month, and the average stay at your facility is 10 months, then the assumed revenue generated is $3,000. If the marketing campaign only cost $1,000, then it was successful. This can be calculated in a simple spreadsheet. If you don’t have Micosoft Excel, try Google’s free spreadsheet application as a replacement.

Consider placing telephone-tracking numbers on all your campaigns to track the inquiries they generate. Phone-tracking numbers are a convenient and cost-effective way to measure your marketing efforts.

If you need help designing your print materials, consider using a service such as 99designs.com. It’s actually fairly cost-effective to create solid and good-looking marketing collateral.

Customer Service and Curb Appeal

When the national Self Storage Association asked potential customers to identify the most important criterion for choosing a self-storage facility, the answer was a simple: “close to my home or business.” Your potential customers want a facility that’s geographically close. Typically, your facility will pull customers from a three- to five-mile radius. The more urban the area, the more the radius may shrink; the more rural the area, the more it may expand.

Customers also want great customer service and amenities. Here are some of the simple things they desire:

  • Cleanliness. Sweep out your hallways, keep trash off of the property, wash your doors and windows, keep your office clean and clutter-free, and make sure your units are always kept in a presentable fashion.
  • Friendliness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited a self-storage facility and thought the office manager was being held against his will. Potential customers will rent where they feel comfortable. I look for a manager who’s great with people and has empathy and a great personality. You can train the rest.
  • Services. Consider offering free bottles of water, WiFi or a conference room. If you have someone moving items from a 30-foot truck, order them a pizza. A pizza costs $10, but the goodwill is endless.

Revenue Management

The REITS are phenomenal at revenue management. They know how to increase revenue and NOI on an annual basis and don’t apologize for it. Smaller operators typically have issues with rate management. As an owner, you must raise your rates on your existing tenants and monitor the rates of your competitors. Your expenses go up on a regular basis. Whether it's payroll, utilities or property taxes, it just happens.

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