In today’s tough and uncertain economy, you must do everything possible to maximize your budget and ensure every dollar spent is contributing to the bottom line. This is especially true with your marketing dollars. Whether you are a small operator with a marketing budget of just a few thousand dollars a year or a large one that spends millions every year, the same principals apply. In order to maximize your marketing dollars you must have effective strategies to make use of every marketing dollar spent.
This is no small feat. So how do you go about marketing on a tight budget and making sure every dollar counts? Two strategies are your keys to success: accurate marketing tracking and proven conversion techniques.
By using both you can maximize your budget, especially if it’s limited, or tighten your budget even more without sacrificing new tenants.
Tracking marketing is one of the biggest challenges. Luckily, new technology makes it a lot easier. If you ask most owners or managers how they track their marketing, most will say they ask the customer how they found the facility. While this may provide somewhat accurate tracking, it leaves a lot of room for errors.
First, customers don’t always remember. When searching for storage, their mind is on their own needs and, many times, they are in a hurry. They don’t necessarily remember every step they took to find your facility. So when asked how they found you, they may simply say the first thing that comes to mind or even make up something.
Also, in today’s Internet world, customers will often default their answer to “Google,” when really they found you somewhere else on the Web. They may initially say they found your ad in the Yellow Pages, but when asked for more specific information, they might remember they really heard about the facility through a friend, then looked up the number in the Yellow Pages.
Another problem is managers do not always ask. While it’s ideal to think every call that comes through your facility or every person that walks through the front door is asked in depth how he found your facility, most likely this is not the case. This is to be expected because managers have a lot on their plates, and asking for a marketing source is not always at the top of their priority list.
So how do you go beyond just asking customer to really hone in on where they hear about your self-storage facility? By using a new technology called unique call-tracking phone numbers.
Call-tracking numbers allow you to:
- Track the source of each and every call
- Track the average length of your calls
- See how many and at what time of the day calls are missed
- Determine your cost per phone call and cost per rental
- Determine call-conversion ratio
- Capture and listen to recordings of calls for live mystery shopping, training and quality improvement purposes (even if you use a call center)
- Capture caller information such as name, callback number and ZIP code for advanced marketing
Best of all, the reporting is real time, error-free information that you can rely on to make smart decisions. This technology is inexpensive and enables you to put a unique tracking number on every form of marketing you’re using. These numbers are crucial for Yellow Pages ads, your website, fliers, direct mail pieces or other types of marketing.
With technology like this you can begin to get a handle on key success factors for all marketing campaigns: how many calls they’re bringing you; what each one of those calls is costing; how many callers are turning into rentals; and, most important, how much each rental costs.
By evaluating your marketing this way you’ll find that some are bringing you calls and rentals at a high cost, while others are at a much lower cost. You can then begin to cut marketing avenues that are too costly and really trim, refine and maximize your limited marketing budget.
The second key success factor in maximizing your marketing dollars is using proven conversion techniques. By conversion I mean turning prospective customer calls, walk-ins and e-mails into tenants. The goal is to bring these prospective customers to you; however, that’s only half of the equation. You must be able to convert these prospects into paying tenants.
By focusing on increasing your conversion rates for calls, walk-ins and e-mails you will be able to get more tenants for the marketing dollars you are already spending. Increasing conversion rates is essentially the only way to get more tenants without spending more money.
Think of it this way: If you are spending $3,000 per month on marketing that generates 100 prospective customers, you are essentially spending $30 for each prospect. Suppose you are able to convert 50 percent into tenants. Then you are essentially paying $3,000 to get 50 tenants, or $60 per tenant.
Now, if you are able to increase your conversion rate by just 10 percent to a 60 percent conversion rate, you would get 60 tenants for that same $3,000 and only pay $50 per tenant.
Higher conversion rates = more tenants at a lower cost per rental.
So how do you implement these conversion techniques? Here are a few quick steps:
Know your current conversion rate. Use tracking technologies such as the unique call-tracking numbers mentioned above to determine your current conversion rate on calls from all marketing sources. Train and re-train your managers to accurately account for each person that walks into your facility and keep track of those that convert into tenants. Track these elements on a monthly basis.
Train and equip managers on key conversion elements. Give managers tools to increase their conversion rates such as phone scripts and e-mail templates. Phone scripts can be as detailed or as general as you need them to be to fit your business. They do not necessarily need to be used verbatim, but if available can give managers a quick reference to the key elements necessary for every call.
Consider adding a warm greeting, qualifying questions to ask each prospect to take control of the call, key features of your facility that set you apart from the competition, easy-to-find directions to your property, and a strong close that encourages the prospect to commit to your facility by reserving the unit over the phone with a credit card or making an appointment to visit.
The same principals apply with e-mails. Give your managers a template they can use to quickly and properly respond to e-mail inquiries. Make sure the template includes all the details mentioned above in the phone script. With today’s customers, an e-mail is often your first point of contact. Make sure it is friendly, gives the customer key information about your facility and a reason to rent with you.
Without training and tools, most managers will not include all of these key aspects on every conversation with a prospective customer.
Set follow-up expectations. Establish clear expectations with your managers on how and when to follow up with prospects who do not rent with you on the first call, e-mail or walk-in. Many times a caller or walk-in will talk with multiple facilities because either he is looking for something specific or has never rented storage before and wants to make sure he sees all his options.
In a competitive market, great customer service and prompt follow-up can set your facility apart. In addition, customers who contact you via e-mail will be impressed and will be more likely to rent with you.
Monitor success and re-train when necessary. This is an important part of improving your conversion rates. Make sure you have processes in place to shop your managers for the conversion techniques you expect. A great way to mystery shop via the phone is using the call-tracking phone numbers discussed earlier. By recording every call that comes into your facility you can listen to live customer calls and evaluate them for conversion effectiveness.
Because they are recorded in MP3-format, you can save them to your computer and forward them to your managers to let them evaluate their own calls. Many times a properly trained manager will be able to spot problems right away and be more motivated to correct them if he is able to hear the conversation firsthand.
A great way to mystery shop via e-mail is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Fill out an e-mail lead just like a customer would. Monitor how quickly you get a response and what the response says. It’s easy and free to set up an anonymous e-mail account with Yahoo or Gmail for this type of mystery shopping.
Take every opportunity you can to re-train your managers when you spot a problem and reward them for success. Doing so will guarantee an increase in your conversion rates, making you happier, your managers more productive, and your marketing budget more effective.
Megan Eckert is the executive vice president of USStoragesearch.com, which helps more than 12,000 facilities nationwide increase occupancy through affordable Internet marketing. For more information, call 866.880.0742; visit www.usstoragesearch.com.