By Nick Nichols
Unless your self-storage operation is unusual, your facility is likely located in a cluster of other businesses, near residential areas, or both. I call these your trade-zone communities. Worked properly and systematically, a community-marketing program can boost your occupancy levels significantly for little or no extra cost. Try these simple efforts to bring new tenants to your facility.
There’s also a little-known community-marketing secret that can allow you to keep getting paid a monthly income from tenants who move out. I’ll reveal how this works at the end of the article.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
The most common form of community marketing is membership in a local chamber of commerce. Chambers typically host periodic networking functions, after-hours mixers and other gatherings that provide the opportunity for members and guests to mingle and exchange business cards. Most of the time, however, these functions are unstructured and unfacilitated, making success a hit-and-miss proposition.
By this I mean most chamber-style events are somewhat of a free for all. Your success depends on who you happen to run into or sit beside. You may or may not be able to interact with people who you can refer business to you. So what can you do to make the most of the situation?
First, when you or your staff are at a chamber event, take the initiative and start approaching people. Remember, they are there for the same reason you are—to network—so don’t be shy! Start with the universal ice-breaker, “What brought you to the event today?” Their answer or even their name tag may reveal the type of business in which they work. If not, ask at the first opportunity. Once you know their business, you have a tremendous advantage because you can use a special 10-second elevator-pitch strategy that can be extremely effective.
Let’s say the person is a dentist. You can say something like, “How’s business?” Then let the person answer while you make mental notes of any problems the person reveals that you might be able to solve directly or indirectly.
Ideally, at some point, the person will ask what you do. And here’s the magic answer framed to a dentist, “I help dentists keep their offices neat and tidy to create a better patient experience by providing safe, secure storage space for supplies, extra furniture and other items that should be relocated out of the way.”
This is what I call a targeted response, and it works to create interest in what you do for three reasons. First, because you framed your response to the person's specific business, you create the perception that you specialize in that industry. Second, you state a feature-benefit combination that might just resonate with the person. Third, you differentiate yourself because there’s a 99 percent chance you’re the only person who’s ever framed an elevator pitch that speaks directly to that person’s business and its probable needs.
If you can master this strategy, people will know exactly what you do and be in a position to rent from you now or in the future. They can also refer others to you.
Offer Another Type of Value
Another form of community marketing is a value-based incentive program. It works extremely well, especially in competitive markets.