Doesn’t it seem like every business is trying to figure out the magic formula to attract Millennials (people born between 1981 and 2000)? These consumers comprise 27 percent of the population, according to advertising trade publication “Adweek.” From retail to real estate, it’s hard to find a commercial venture that isn’t swept up in the madness.
The self-storage industry is no exception. As the number of facilities and occupancy rates increase, so does competition. In this climate, earning the business of Millennials can be crucial to growing your business. But because these customers are tech-minded and wary of traditional marketing practices, your normally tried-and-true methods of attracting tenants may not work on them. Here are five things that will help you bring them through your door.
According to “Forbes” business magazine, 59 percent of Millennials would rather rent a house than buy one. This generation is also more likely to settle down later in life than previous ones. That’s good news for the self-storage industry, as those who rent and move frequently often rely on self-storage. You can capitalize on this trend by making Millennial customers aware of your flexible lease terms and other facility features, such as moving-truck rentals or an onsite retail shop that offers moving supplies.
Most important, perhaps, is this: 61 percent of Millennials say they rent because they can’t afford to buy a home. In fact, many even live with their parents because they’re crippled by student loans and a slow job market. It’s your job to show them how affordable self-storage can be by making them aware of lower priced units, discounts, promotions and anything that makes your facility the most budget-friendly option around town.
Millennials are skeptical of ads that seem like ads, so if you want to reach them, you have to practice non-advertising. Confused yet? Don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple. Exhibit authenticity by creating content for your website and social media pages that feels casual and even humorous. Show your personality by putting staff members in company videos rather than professional actors. When giving a Millennial consumer a facility tour, avoid traditional sales pitches in favor of an honest conversation.
Millennials expect good customer service in industries that weren’t previously classified as service-oriented. That’s why there are now apps that let you rate your driver, food-delivery guy and even the person who walks your dog. In the self-storage industry, that translates to authenticity. In other words, the old “be yourself” advice you got in grade school is finally spot on.
3. Online Presence
Nearly 20 percent of younger adults get their entertainment from the Internet instead of television, according to “The New York Times.” This is why it’s so important for your self-storage facility to have an online presence. This means having several active social media channels on which you post at least a few times a week and a website that’s modern and user-friendly.
Millennials tend to trust the advice of their peers over that of advertisers, so they look for storage facilities that are reviewed on Google, Yelp and Facebook. You can get good reviews by encouraging your existing customers to rate your business on Yelp or by running a social media promotion in which you offer a discount in exchange for liking your facility’s Facebook page.
In addition to having a digital presence, it’s necessary to engage with current and potential tenants online. When someone writes a review on Yelp, respond to it. When someone follows you on Twitter, message him to say “thank you.” The Millennial self-storage user looks for a facility with a solid digital presence but also expects the company to interact with consumers via online platforms.
There’s a reason you’re hearing the word “disruptor” used as a compliment so often. Millennials love disruptors—individuals who innovate—in any industry.
In self-storage, being a disruptor means offering features and services that reflect the evolving needs of tenants. Your business can innovate by offering mobile or valet-style storage, or simply by offering something unique in your market. It can be something simple, like fresh cookies in your office, or more complex, like soundproofed units for band rentals.
5. Community Involvement
California-based shoe company TOMS became successful by promising to donate one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. Its charitable instinct paid off and Millennials rewarded it with their business. Apply this same ideology to your storage facility and they’ll respond the same way to you.
According to a survey by “Fortune” magazine, individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to buy products from a company that contributes to charity, so get involved on a community level. Become a drop-off location for a local charity or hold a food drive for a soup kitchen. You could sponsor a youth sports team or buy a booth at a local event.
You can also show your goodwill by going green. Consider starting a recycling initiative at your facility, installing solar panels or pledging to only sell moving supplies made of recycled materials.
Finally, get in touch with your local chapter of any young professionals networking group. This will help you gain commercial tenants who just so happen to be Millennials.
By incorporating affordability, authenticity, a strong online presence, innovation and community involvement into your existing practices, you can see a boost in occupancy. Keep it up and you’ll find that you’ve amassed a slew of Millennial self-storage users who’ll not only reward you with their loyalty but encourage their peers to do the same.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows customers to custom search and compare thousands of self-storage facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.