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The 7-Second Snap Impression: How ‘Fresh Eyes’ See Your Self-Storage Facility

By Magen Smith Comments

You have only seven seconds to make a first impression. Seven. Actually, seven seconds might be too generous. When I’m driving down the road and see self-storage facilities with letters missing from their signs, broken gutters and trash near the driveways, I judge them in less than seven seconds. I don’t even know their names, but I know I would never rent there.

As potential customers drive by, how do you want your facility to be perceived? What’s the first thing you want them to notice? Curb appeal plays a significant role in which self-storage business a customer chooses. Because you see your facility regularly, it’s impossible for you to see it with fresh eyes. You’re too personally involved and likely biased. To understand how your property may be seen by customers, you need to bring in someone who can give you a different perspective, for example:

  • An industry consultant who can give you honest feedback
  • A friend who hasn’t been to your property and won’t hold back to spare your feelings
  • The spouse of a business partner who’s able to give you truthful criticism
  • A focus group you create through Craigslist, in which you hire a few people to fill out a questionnaire about the appearance of your facility

No matter who you bring in to be your “fresh eyes” (we’ll call this person your viewer), you’ll need to give him some guidance on where to look. Here are some key areas and items that should be examined.

First Impression, General Appearance

When customers first see your property, what’s their initial impression? What catches their attention? What are they thinking during those critical seven seconds?

Our brains are wired to observe, sort and discard information that isn’t needed, so whoever serves as your “fresh eyes” needs to write down his initial observations. Try not to give too much guidance on what to look for in this first step. You’ll get valuable information by letting the person tell you about his impression. It’ll very likely be close to how your customers feel about your facility the first time they see it.

While a first impression is the feeling a person has when he first sees your facility, the overall appearance is more about the look and feel of the buildings and property as a whole. What’s yours? Your viewer should pay attention from the moment he first sees the property while driving until he stops in the parking lot. Is the site clean and welcoming, or dirty and disheveled? What rating would a prospect give it on a scale from one to 10?

Signs, Banners and Flags

Make sure your viewer looks up to see any signs, banners or flags. Your primary sign should be in excellent condition. If there’s space for custom messages under your business name, make sure all the letters are present and in good shape. Other signage or banners should not be torn, discolored, faded or tattered. If they aren’t in perfect shape, remove or replace them.

Correctly displaying flags is also crucial. When I managed a self-storage property, I once had the American flag hung incorrectly, and a gentleman came into the building to educate me on proper etiquette. I’ll never forget that lesson and the embarrassment I felt.

Buildings, Doors and Gates

Your viewer should assess the state of your buildings, doors and gates. Have him walk completely around the structures that comprise the facility. This simulates what a potential customer sees during a tour. He should consider these questions:

  • Are the buildings in good shape and visually appealing?
  • Does the site need fresh paint or a new façade?
  • Is anything dented or broken?
  • Is all glass intact?
  • What’s the state of the unit doors? Are they clean and free of dirt and smudges?
  • What about the manager’s office?
  • Does your gate offer instructions on how to input the access code?
  • What does the gate look like? Does it need a fresh coat of paint or replacement?
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