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Amy Campbell

Amy Campbell
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acampbell@vpico.com

The Practical Web: Surefire Ways Self-Storage Operators Can Improve Online Activity

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By John Siefert

For many of us, the premise of building a website, using it for marketing and leveraging social media is a bit of a mystery. Reality is there are definitely technical aspects (like coding, security and hosting) that are better left to professionals. But when it comes to using the Web to drive your self-storage business, it’s time to start thinking of it as a practical tool.

We’ve gone through some interesting evolution on the Web—from the early days where people created websites just to say they had a “.com,” to Web 2.0 technology offering cool graphics and engagement, to today where businesses are really centering on the practical applications the Web can enable for their company and customers.

I’m going to be speaking a lot about this concept during my workshop at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, but thought I would outline a few things here to get folks thinking.

First, think about how your customers are using the Web. Most are going online to get an answer to a question, find a product/service or research something more broadly. In short, they’re going on for a specific purpose.

Even business-centric social media—like LinkedIn and, increasingly, Twitter—are becoming areas where people go to “search” more than to be social. You can set up search columns in Twitter to keep abreast of important topics (#selfstorage) or go on LinkedIn to connect with a potential business partner or customer. It’s not the “social without a purpose” world anymore; it’s social with a plan.

Think about your customers specifically—they all have different reasons for renting space at your location. Some simply have too much stuff (guilty!), some have lost their homes, some are storing business goods, and the list goes on. When they go online they have a purpose—they need to solve a problem. When they search it’s with that problem in mind and finding a solution for it. When they get to your site, offer them a solution—maybe even a “solution center” that speaks to them in their language. Take this a step further, and imagine having solution centers on your website for the top 10 things your customers are looking for. By offering practical advice and helpful storage tips, a center like this on your website could engage a potential customer to become an actual customer.

This is a great example of what I mean by the move to a “practical Web.” Playing into the nature of what attracts a customer, and using that to how you understand their needs and, therefore, your location is the one they should choose.

This usually raises the question, “So how do I get them there?” Again, thinking practically, the trick is not to have silly gimmicks or spend a ton on search-engine marketing. It’s simply considering the practical approaches to search-engine optimization. For example, you could create a blog on your website about self storage best practices—it’s simply you sharing your experiences, the same way you would in a face-to-face discussion and having it run on your website. Creating a level of frequency with it (weekly, daily, etc.) will organically increase your ranking in search. Further, you can then “tweet” the blog under the self-storage hashtag, and viola, you’ve started optimizing your site.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than this, but think about how practical all this sounds. It’s not rocket science or voodoo, though many people who sell their services here will try to convince you otherwise. It’s really putting yourself into the shoes of your customers and thinking about how they use the Web to find answers and solutions.

Join me and my colleague, John Muehling, vice president of marketing for VIRGO, at our Web workshop at ISS Expo on March 16 and we’ll share a whole lot more on why the practical Web is where it’s at!  

John Siefert is the CEO of VIRGO, the parent company of the ISS brand. He joined VIRGO in 2010 after a 15-year career with United Business Media, where he was senior vice president of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network. He played a pivotal role in transitioning InformationWeek from a print-centric publisher to an online network of websites, digital products and peer-to-peer analyst business. With nearly 20 years of media and event experience, John drives the strategic direction of VIRGO with the rest of the company’s executive management team.

For a complete ISS Expo agenda and to register, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com. Learn more about John’s Web 2.0 workshop here.

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