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Exploring New Tech Tools for Self-Storage

By Cheli Rosa Comments

In his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System,” Bill Gates wrote, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can meaningfully talk about one without talking about the other.” This is even truer today in the Digital Age than it was when Gates published the book in 1999.

Technology helps you streamline your self-storage business and makes you a more efficient facility operator. Its use also makes customers feel more confident in your ability to serve them.

Technology will also help you reach one of the biggest demographics in the marketplace today: Millennials, a mobile, tech-driven audience that now makes up most U.S. consumers. In contrast to Baby Boomers, who used resources like the Yellow Pages and were drawn in by your sparkly LED sign, Millennials are looking for you on the Internet and expect you to be techno-savvy. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely they are to do business with you.

In addition, the industry’s real estate investment trusts (REIT) are embracing technology. Not only are they spending millions of dollars each year on Internet marketing, they’re developing internal programs that use technology to automate operation.

Very few operators have the same kind of budget to invest in technology, but there are many tools available to small and mid-sized operators to help them compete with the bigger players. These tools can be expensive, but many are reasonably priced. Some are even free! Let’s look at a few apps and programs that can help you reach prospects in today’s tech-driven environment.

Free Tools

Messaging and collaboration platforms such as Slack or HipChat allow you to set up your own inter-office forums. If you have employees in various locations, you can set up a Slack channel for your organization and open various discussion threads in which everyone can communicate. For example, you can create a marketing or retail thread, enabling staff to exchange ideas quickly and easily. Here are some other free tools to explore:

  • If you’re looking to enable face-to-face communication, video-chat programs like Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to get the personal interaction you need without expending time and resources on travel and in-person meetings.
  • Apache OpenOffice is a free office-productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office. It offers access to word processing, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, presentations and more.
  • PicMonkey is a free photo-editing program that allows you to edit photos you might use on your website, social media channels or marketing materials.
  • Canva is a free graphic-design program that allows you to create presentations, fliers, brochures, social media photos and ads, infographics, and so much more.
  • Dropbox is a file-hosting service that allows you to store forms and documents in a centralized location accessible by multiple users. This might be a good place to keep employee forms and anything else your staff needs.
  • Udemy, an online learning platform, provides free educational resources for the world at large. You can find classes on using Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, improving customer-service or sales skills, and pretty much anything else you might need. Some classes require a fee, but many are free.

Paid Tools

Recent user polls have shown that when it comes to self-storage, consumers value security over many other factors, including price. To capitalize on this, consider upgrading your security technology. For example, you can invest in new wall monitors for your office to showcase your property’s security systems at work, or consider individual door alarms. Some operators are replacing key locks with electronic locks.

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