One of the more serious Internet-marketing mistakes I’ve seen self-storage operators make recently is improperly using industry aggregators. You may be making the same mistake, and it could be negatively impacting your business.
Here's an example of what I mean: One day I get a call from a concerned client who asks why he’s getting more reservations from an aggregator website (let's call it BookStorage.com) than his own corporate website. To know the answer, we have to consider a few things:
- How is the corporate website placing in searches in comparison to Bookstorage.com?
- Is the corporate site optimized for conversions?
- Does the corporate site have the same basic capabilities and information as Bookstorage.com?
- How comparable are the rates on both sites?
I check and find the corporate site is comparably placed, able to convert and equipped with tools. However, customers are finding the best price for an available unit on Bookstorage.com. At first glance, this can be viewed as seemingly minor; in this situation, it’s having a serious impact.
Look at it from a consumer's perspective. Say you were searching for a widget and found two websites on which to purchase one: the company that made the widget and an outlet store that simply sells widgets among other things. My guess is you would purchase the widget from the company that made it; but if the outlet store had a better price, it would probably sway you. That’s exactly what’s happening in our example.
Now let’s consider the business owner’s perspective. In an effort to drum up business, you allow BookStorage.com to rent your units at a price better than those offered on your own website. But now BookStorage.com competes with you directly for customers who want to rent with you. You also pay Bookstorage.com a fee for each transaction, and you potentially allow BookStorage.com to remain in the customer’s memory as the go-to place for storage solutions. In short, you sold your product for less money, paid a fee to do it, and created competition for yourself at the same time. When said that way, it sounds bad.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn't use BookStorage.com—quite the opposite, in fact. You should use it as long as what it produces for you comes from its own efforts, without your assistance. I’m advocating that you give your website a competitive edge and not drive people from it to BookStorage.com.
If you're paying $100 to acquire a customer from BookStorage.com, why not just offer the same rate there as on your corporate website, but offer a better special on your website by $100 or even just $50? The net to you would be the same or more, but you'd be making your website the more attractive place to buy. This way, when rentals come through BookStorage.com, you’ll know it's very unlikely that those customers found your website first.
When examining your online marketing, it's critical to take a global view and consider all of your marketing efforts as a whole. Look for overlaps that might cause unnecessary costs, duplicated efforts, or even areas where you’re setting yourself up for competition. Be smart with your marketing dollars, and you’ll find your efforts will pay off.
Christopher Baird is the CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based Automatit Inc., which offers full-service Web development and marketing services to self-storage companies nationwide. He has more than 15 years of experience in website marketing and search engine optimization. Prior to joining Automatit in 2001, he was a freelance Web designer. For more information, call 520.293.4608; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.automatit.net .