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5 Areas Where Technology Can Make or Break a Self-Storage Business

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By Kevin Kerr

While some people may tell you there’s no right or wrong way to do things in self-storage, I’m here to say there’s most definitely a wrong way. The good news is most mistakes are completely avoidable. By planning an effective operation strategy that involves technology, you’ll begin to see streamlined workflow, higher tenant satisfaction and increased profit. Here are five areas where technology can make or break your business.

Tenant Engagement

Tenants are the life force of any self-storage business. It’s the facility operator’s responsibility to know the difference between keeping them informed and being an intrusion.

The wrong way. While it’s important to stay connected with prospects and existing customers via social media, texts and e-mail, don’t overload them. This is especially important if you combine your personal and business social media accounts, which can result in a landslide of posts.

Deluging tenants with messages is a type of “brute force” marketing. While your intentions may be good, continuing down this path could lead to a long-standing smudge on your company’s reputation as well as quickly being dropped into the spam filter of every possible tenant in your area.

The right way. Don’t be afraid to use these basic tools, but don’t overdo it. Most important, offer value to your message recipients. Build engagement by offering special promotions, referral programs or contests in which they can participate. Then broadcast these opportunities through every medium you have available including:

  • E-mails: Offer value in your subject line, such as “Want 50% Off Next Month’s Rent?”
  • Text messages: If a tenant has opted to receive text messages, take advantage of the incredible open rate (average 98 percent) and see how well tenants respond.
  • Kiosks: Promoting specials directly from your onsite kiosk is easy and requires zero interaction from staff.
  • Display terminals: This is a hybrid solution between a kiosk and tablet. It features a customer-facing screen that allows for promotional slideshows while not in use.

Overall, it’s better to have a wide range of deployment options than to continuously hammer recipients from limited sources. By diversifying your delivery, you should see a direct improvement in the results.

Marketing Tracking

There’s a natural cost to running a self-storage business. While it’s unavoidable, it’s crucial to identify and shift expenditures to increase your return on investment (ROI). Let’s look at your marketing.

The wrong way. If hiring someone to assist with corporate marketing isn’t an option, you’re probably handling some of these responsibilities yourself. When attempting to track the effectiveness of these efforts, it’s important to gather as much data as possible. Without properly tracking the source of each new tenant, you’re unable to determine the ROI for your efforts, which could lead to false assumptions and bad spending.

For example, imagine putting an advertisement in the local newspaper and seeing a 10 percent increase in new rentals the following month. Without tracking the source, you might assume the ad was directly responsible for the increase in rental activity when, in fact, it was due to a ferocious squirrel infestation at a competitor’s site. Without accurate information, you would believe your ad had a high ROI, which would lead to poor investment choices in the future.

The right way. There’s nothing wrong with handling your facility marketing on your own, but it’s critical to follow through and gather information properly. Here are some tech-based methods that have proved effective:

  • Create your own online surveys. This is an easy, low-cost solution on websites such as SurveyMonkey.com.
  • Purchase pre-made surveys. Surveys established by self-storage professionals are readily available from several resources.
  • Enter and track the results using your management software. Most software will allow you to create and track lead sources so you can view results on easy-to-read marketing reports.

Site Maintenance

Now, let’s look at mistakes operators often make in regard to tracking their facility-maintenance tasks.

The wrong way. With site upkeep, there’s often more to manage than you might think. This includes warranties, suppliers, maintenance staff, etc. It may seem easier to shoot from the hip when things need to get done. But not only does this leave you unorganized and unprepared, it can become a severe drain on staff resources and lead to longer completion times.

The right way: Stay organized and integrate your work orders and warranties with your management software. By using your program to track these issues, you not only have your information consolidated, you can better assign charges and manage the budget.

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