Successful self-storage operators have routinely touted their points of differentiation as key drivers to entice customers. These are typically mixed with a value proposition that speaks to prospective customer needs and pain points, such as wine storage, divorce or military deployment. The new buzz is “influencer marketing,” which illustrates your value in content created by someone other than yourself. The aim is to be visible to an audience you wouldn’t normally reach. Think of it as a self-storage referral program on steroids.
Though industry professionals have highlighted the growing importance of content marketing and the need to establish perceived value for quite some time, influencer marketing combines these strategies onto a social media platform and aims squarely at a shift in consumer behavior exhibited most prominently by Millennials—the need for outside opinion. It’s essentially about leveraging the influence of someone online who can help create value for your brand beyond the basic rental by conveying a positive experience to his followers.
Brands have coveted celebrity endorsements since the dawn of advertising, but this is a diluted approach that’s accessible to small brands that can think creatively and connect with an audience looking for reasons beyond price to store with a particular company or facility. Influencers are visible in relatively small circles and trusted by their followers, according to a study of 500 influencers on Instagram by Influence.co, an online platform that connects influencers with marketers.
Unlike a super model or prominent actor or athlete, the average follower count of Instagram influencers is 62,568, according to the Influence.co report. Among the study group, 59 percent were women, and the most popular category for paid content was “lifestyle.” What’s interesting about that is the average follower count among lifestyle influencers was just 27,699 and the average cost per lifestyle post was $172—the least expensive payout of the 10 categories studied.
While self-storage isn’t a lifestyle for most people, it’s often necessary as an extension of certain lifestyles, whether we’re talking wine enthusiasts, boaters and fishermen, art and car collectors, active military and so on. Having someone who relies on your self-storage facility to enhance their lifestyle interests or career publicly convey positive messages about their experience with your business could be a powerful message to their followers and entice future rentals.
The gut reaction for many may be to roll their eyes at the advent of the Instagram model making a living with product-placement images, but the fact that folks are making a handsome living or traveling the world on some brand’s dime suggests there is return on investment (ROI) to some extent. In a recent study of 127 marketers, including consumer-packaged-goods companies, media, retailers and others, 94 percent of those who have used influencer marketing believe it’s been effective, according to Linqia, a content-marketing company that offers influencer marketing among its services. The top three reasons why marketers believe the strategy works is that it creates authentic content about a brand (89 percent), drives engagement around a brand (77 percent) and drives traffic to a website or landing page (56 percent).
Linqia identifies Facebook and Instagram as the two most important platforms (87 percent), followed by blogs (48 percent) and Twitter (44 percent). It published the findings in its “The State of Influencer Marketing 2017” report, which can be downloaded for free but requires registration.
Though 78 percent of respondents in the Linqia report also indicate that determining ROI is their top challenge as a part of influencer marketing, businesses on average generate $6.50 for every dollar spent (better than a 600 percent return), according to a report by the marketing website ClickZ. The potential win-win for marketers is they’re not wasting resources creating the content themselves, while 68 percent of consumers are actively looking for product information from other consumers, ClickZ reported.
Besides the lifestyle tenants who may rent from your self-storage facility, consider other avenues of influencers who may be connected to your business, including those who have participated in community events on your property or activities you’ve sponsored. Among those, who's most visible within your community and active online? There could be several lucrative synergies worth exploring and leveraging.
I’m not suggesting this is an easy path for most self-storage operators, but it’s certainly worth considering based on what we know about the idiosyncrasies of Millennials, whose influence on how you market will only increase as they gain more spending power. The driving force behind marketing today is the ability to tell a compelling story through the lens of someone who has benefited from your business. That’s the power of influence. When tied together with a comprehensive content-marketing strategy, you might be surprised by the power of your reach.