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Tony Jones

Tony Jones
Manager, Inside Self-Storage Store
tjones@vpico.com

Dare to Be Different: Put Your Self-Storage Talents on Full Display

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Several years ago, I watched amusingly as the talented kids at my stepdaughter’s elementary school marched out one act after another, putting their skills on display for parents and family in an hour-long talent show. There were loads of singers, dancers and piano players and a surprising number of horn and string players. The adorable factor was on overload.

My 9-year-old performed among the slew of singers and was, of course, wonderful. I admire her courage. I never had the guts to do something like that. Even now, I am a shower singer (at best) and choose to leave it at that, but she stood up there alone onstage and sung that Hannah Montana song like she belonged. I couldn’t have been more proud.

But here’s the thing. Three kids (besides my own for obvious reasons) were truly memorable for the right reasons. Based on American Idol auditions, that’s probably a pretty good return, but what struck me was how these kids unknowingly provided a good lesson in some basic marketing and business principles.

One was a talented sixth-grader who closed the show with a dance routine that was sophisticated in costume, tone and choreography, and demonstrated grace, strength and skill. Apples to apples, she was clearly the most accomplished dancer of the night.

The other two were radically different from the rest of the performers. One was a hula dancer, who was both graceful and lyrical in her hand-flowing storytelling, and the other was a boy with a yo-yo, who dazzled us with aerial maneuvers and string manipulations. Both executed their crafts with admirable skill and stood out from the herd because they were unique to the competition.

All three are analogous to running successful businesses. The dancer was like a top-end self-storage operator loaded with amenities and add-on services. Although she chose to demonstrate her skill in a way that was similar to several others before her, she did so in a way that demanded your attention and commanded top price. If you’re going to operate in a competitive environment crowded with many of the same types of businesses, you have to outperform them to be successful.

Similarly, the hula girl, who technically could be lumped in with the other dancers, presented herself so differently that she essentially created her own category. Taking a strategically different spin on how you present and execute your services not only can impress customers but provide valuable viral-marketing momentum and bring curious customers into your location through the strength of word-of-mouth advertising.

Mr. Yo-Yo displayed these traits and more. He flat out dared to be different, but he was a dedicated craftsman. He couldn’t have been older than 12 and apparently had been yo-yoing for nine years. It can be dangerous and daring to engage customers from a left-field approach, but when you execute your craft with precision and passion, you stand to be successful. No doubt the small crowd of admirers that surrounded him after the event was a handsome reward.

It takes courage and resolve to operate a small business. Success is often predicated on how you outdo the competition with the same services offered, but you will prove most memorable to customers through your other strategic points of differentiation.

Please share some examples of how you stand out in your self-storage market in the comments section below.

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