If you own or operate a self-storage facility, you want to rent more units and make more money. That's the core of your business. But how do you accomplish this?
You could invest in marketing to get the phone to ring more often, create more walk-ins and make it easier for people to find you online. You should do those things, but the first step in renting more units is to maximize the leads youre already getting and increase your conversion rate. Theres little point in doing in more marketing if youre not doing your best to make the most of current efforts. Instead, try these five strategies to rent more units and generate more revenue.
1. Learn How to Answer the Phone
If you want to rent more units, learn how to answer the phone. I conduct several mystery-shop phone calls each month and, frankly, most facility managers are not very good on the phone. Sure, they can answer it, but so can all six of my grandkids. Effectively answering the phone means being able to convert callers into renters. It means giving prospective customers a reason to visit your store. With approximately 85 percent of potential customers calling before they visit a site, shouldnt you make sure you know how to answer the phone?
Self-storage is a need-driven purchasing decision, and almost 90 percent of people looking for storage end up renting. Yet many managers believe that when they dont rent a space, the potential tenant was just looking. Really? Who "just looks" for storage? If you didnt rent a unit to a prospect, you can assume one of your competitors did, and that should not be OK with you.
To be effective on the phone:
- Offer your name and ask for the customers, then use his name two or three times in the conversation.
- Quit asking, What size do you need? Thats like operating a self-serve gas station and expecting the customer to solve his own problem.
- Use price stalls, and do not quote a rate until youve covered the features and benefits of renting at your facility.
- Don't give up when someone says, Ill have to think about it." Know how to overcome objections.
- Finally, learn how to close the sale and rent the space.
2. Supercharge Your Referral Program
Your referral program is the only marketing effort for which you only pay when it works! But many storage operators are far too cheap when it comes to their referral program, and then they wonder why it doesnt seem to work very well.
Offering a customer a $25 credit on his account is not a strong referral incentive. Why will you only pay a current customer $25 for a rental when youre paying Yellow Pages and Internet aggregators much more than that for leads, whether the prospect rents a space or not? That doesnt make sense!
To supercharge your referral program, start offering cash or gift cards, up to $50 or $75, and make the program a really big deal when you review the lease with a new customer. Expand your sales force as large as you can. Open your referral program to the local pizza-delivery guy, as well as all local apartment managers and real estate agents. When you consider the value of each rental, the investment in a great referral program is one of the best youll ever make in your self-storage operation.
3. Set Up a Lead-Tracking System
When youre only getting one or two chances a day to rent storage space, you have to learn to treat every lead like gold. Whether those leads come in by phone, the Internet or as walk-ins, you cant keep up with rental leads by using yellow sticky notes. Since every rental is worth $1,000 or more, every loss is a expensive for your business. Consider the cost of not renting space:
- The cost to generate the lead is wasted.
- The value of the rental is lost.
- The opportunity to sell ancillary goods and services is gone.
- The opportunity to gain a referral is lost.
The most successful managers rent to a large number of their leads after a follow-up contact. One of the most important pieces to the lead-tracking puzzle is follow-up. Failing to follow up is tantamount to letting a prospective customer know you dont care about his business and you really dont want his money. You simply cannot afford to lose the sale.
4. Use a Call Center
Its surprising in this day and age that so many self-storage operators still trust their rollover phone business to an answering machine or their managers' cell phones. Most potential customers will not leave a message on an answering machine, and its impossible for a manager to give a 100 percent sales effort while standing in line at the bank or out sweeping units. When you calculate the value of a rental at your facility and the costs of generating each lead, the value of using a call center seems clear.
Figure the cost of using a call center and the return on investment if it rents just one unit per month. Youll find this service offers one of the highest returns of any of your other marketing efforts. Using a call center helps an independent operator more effectively compete with the big guys and increases his level of professionalism and customer service.
5. Put Your Rates Online
Today's self-storage customer expects to be able to do business with you online. If youre still stuck in the dark ages and expect Contact Us for a Free Quote or Reserve a Unit to work, without publishing your rates, you really need to get with the program.
If the industry's largest operators, ones whove spent a gazillion dollars on customer and market research, believe it makes good business sense to publish their rates online, why not take advantage of their findings? Theyre not stupid. Do you really think you can outsmart them by withholding your rates online? You cant.
Adding online reservations with rates allows you to be more competitive with the major players. Statistics show that customers prefer seeing rates online, and every day your rates are missing, customers are passing you by. Unless youre getting 10 to 20 leads a day, you cannot afford to let anyone pass you by!
You can rent more units using these proven techniques, which are used by the most successful self-storage operators. Its no accident these operators have higher occupancy and rates than those who do not. Its time to quit settling for good enough. You deserve better.
Bob Copper is partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. It also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. For more information, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorage101.com.