By Criss Marshall
To say that effective digital marketing is essential for the success of a self-storage business is a tremendous understatement, particularly for companies with a growing portfolio of facilities. According to BIA/Kelsey, a research and advisory firm focused on local advertising and marketing, 97 percent of Americans use online search engines to find answers to their self-storage inquiries. In addition, 47 percent of all self-storage searches on Google take place via smartphones, with more than half of these resulting in a purchase action (click, call or visit) within one hour of the search—just one hour!
Below are 20 ways to maximize your company’s digital marketing effectiveness and avoid missing any online leads or opportunities.
- Optimize your mobile user experience. Make it easy for future customers to do business with you. Having a mobile-friendly website isn’t just about reducing site content, it’s about simplifying the interaction by altering calls to action, eliminating data fields in contact forms and improving touch targets.
- Create high-quality, customer-centric content on your website. Write about what’s important to your customers. In addition to listing unit sizes, educate website visitors with useful explanations that will help them make confident storage decisions. For example, you might provide tips for choosing a unit size or storing delicate items.
- Tell a story on your website. Tell stories about your customer, not your facility. Consider that people seek storage at major transitional moments in their life—military deployment, dividing/combining households or growing/downsizing a business. All represent fantastic opportunities to connect emotionally with prospects and communicate that you’ll take care of their prized possessions.
- Tune up your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Without SEO, your website’s like buying a beautiful new Corvette without a motor. It may look pretty, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. You need an optimized Google+ page, webmaster tools, Google Analytics and a single keyword strategy by page (think “wine storage” vs. “RV storage”).
- Use mobile pay-per-click. Own the mobile screen! Nearly 70 percent of the screen that appears during a Google smartphone search is filled with paid search advertising. If you want more than your fair share of mobile searchers to call your facility, make it real easy for them.
- Use online outreach marketing. Make the time your managers spend on offline marketing pay dividends online. Add authoritative links to your website to improve SEO, such as links to the local chamber of commerce, neighborhood associations, and local multi-family and senior-living properties.
- Don’t “set and forget” your website SEO strategy. Google changed its search algorithm 500-plus times in the last year alone. That’s right—Google is constantly changing how it decides when to show your website in search results. Driving a constant stream of qualified leads to your storage locations requires vigilance and adaptability.
- Have a plan before you start using social media. There’s a ton of noise in the marketplace about social media marketing, much of it distracting to the bottom line. Know why and how you’ll use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn before you commit the human resources. And most important, have a way to measure results.
- Monitor social media conversations. What’s the old adage about one mouth and two ears? Listen to what people in your local markets are discussing. Social monitoring provides great insight to hot-button topics and ways to talk about your services that resonate with future customers.
- Set up a Facebook for Business page. At a minimum, take advantage of the SEO value provided by Facebook for Business. Short of creating a vibrant online community, Facebook can help push lead aggregators to the second page of search results by giving your business more first-page real estate.
- Provide compelling social content. Post content that helps educate potential customers, demonstrate your commitment to local businesses or convey charitable causes that are important to you. These are all powerful ways to build positive perceptions of your company.
- Start using native advertising. In the print world, native advertising was referred to as “advertorial.” In the digital world, social media platforms provide an excellent forum to deliver your advertising message in a way that benefits the user. Everyone wins!
- Invite all new customers to write an online review within 72 hours of move-in. Ninety-two percent of consumers say they trust earned media, such as online recommendations and reviews, above all other forms of advertising, according to global marketing-research firm Nielsen. Tap into the selling power of current customers to increase store success.
- Respond to all online reviews within 24 hours. Whether good or bad, reviews impact your online reputation. Responding to all reviews according to a sound strategy helps amplify positive reviews and minimizes the impact of the occasional negative review.
- Display star ratings in your stores’ search results. Consumers look to star ratings to help decide which search result on which to click. Build up your number of reviews on third-party sites like Google+ to infuse your stores’ search result with attention-grabbing star ratings.
- Lower the cost of managing online reputation across locations. Find a technology partner to help you automate online reputation management across your entire store portfolio. Your payroll budget will surely benefit.
- Know your cost per lead and cost per lease. Don’t rely on activity measures that are poor substitutes for performance measurement. These metrics help marketers make smarter spend decisions and more easily demonstrate their contribution to financial success.
- Understand how you’re doing against the rest of the industry. Times are good, and everyone’s numbers are up. It’s easy to be impressed with crooked, positive numbers. But what if that “up 7 percent year over year” actually lags the industry by 40 percent? Your opinion would change drastically, wouldn’t it?
- Measure performance by lead channel. Understanding the cost per lead and, ultimately, cost per lease by lead channel will quickly illuminate the value of each business source—and help you find ways to maximize the profitability of each store.
- Too much data isn’t a good thing. Measuring marketing ROI (return on investment) is the No. 1 pain point mentioned by marketers. Despite the available sea of data, they still struggle to measure actual performance. Focus on what’s important, and figure out a way to keep your finger on the pulse of your entire portfolio, store by store.
There's a lot to be done to avoid missing online opportunities. Focusing on these areas will help you stay focused and reap the best results through your digital marketing:
- Sites: Get a powerful motor with that fancy-looking sports car.
- Search: Be found when it counts: on mobile devices when folks are in buying mode.
- Social: Invest your precious time wisely.
- Advocacy: Tap into the selling power of your fans across sites and search.
- Analytics: Measure and benchmark marketing performance to help spend marketing dollars where they’re truly effective.
Criss Marshall is vice president of Marketing at G5, which provides Digital Experience Management (DXM) software and marketing services to the self-storage industry. She’s responsible for all aspects of the company’s marketing, including brand management, general strategy, corporate marketing and product marketing. She has an impressive record of success in developing and executing marketing, brand and communication strategies that generate excellent return on investment and increase sales. For more information, visit www.getg5.com.