By Kristin Cooke
Is your self-storage business reaching its true potential? Online marketing has changed the way successful companies build their reputation, attract new customers, make sales and keep customers loyal.
To find out what storage companies need to do to get ahead online, I recently interviewed Scott Jensen, vice president of digital and meta at Salt Lake City-based marketing and technology incubator Partner Fusion. As a former senior director of marketing for Extra Space Storage Inc. (2007 to 2014), Jensen has extensive experience in online marketing for storage businesses. He offered up these eight essential tips. If you’re not following them, you’re letting cash slip through your fingers.
Tip 1: Claim Your Business Listings
“If your business listings aren’t claimed on search engines like Google, Bing and online Yellow Pages, you’re missing out on a lot of customers,” says Jensen. You can claim these listings for free by learning a bit and doing it yourself, or you can pay a company to do it for you. “Listings go in and out all the time, so if you’re doing this yourself, you need to stay on top of it and check all listings regularly. The more closely listings all correspond—with the same business hours, phone number and other info—the better for your company. It’ll help you rank higher. Google doesn’t trust single sources.”
Jensen says that on average, if you have 10 properties, one out of 10 business listings are showing inaccuracies. If you don’t correct these, you’ll look less credible and rank lower in search engine results.
Tip 2: Track Your Results
“Google Analytics is a free tool, but a lot of people don’t realize this,” Jensen says. “A lot of companies that outsource their website will also outsource the analytics. That’s fine, as long as you have your own login and you’re checking it regularly. To make sure no one is scamming you, you’ve got to own your results.”
Tip 3: Use SEO and SEM
According to Jensen, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are still the backbone of online marketing. They’re usually outsourced or assigned to someone at your company who specializes in these tasks. They’re going to help your potential customers find you online. Without them, you’ll only have drive-by customers, and in a competitive market, that’s like trying to run a business on the scraps.
Tip 4: Go Mobile
Most self-storage companies haven’t thought about the big shift in desktop to mobile use, and that gives you a big advantage if you’re paying attention. Make sure your website is designed for mobile first. “The majority of customers are now finding you through mobile. They may still prefer to call you and talk to you in person, but they’re finding your company on their cell phone,” Jensen says.
Tip 5: Track Mobile Conversions and Phone Calls
Jensen says there are a ton of different systems for tracking these things. “You want to know where your customers are coming from. You can use a piece of java script to track calls on a phone number you put on your website, and you can use the same number and track it different ways. Thirty to 40 percent of customers are still using phone numbers to reserve storage units they find online, so I really discourage companies from hiding the phone number on the website or not using it much.” The phone will continue to play a critical role in conversion and acquisition in the next five years, he adds.
Tip 6: Create Great Content
Content is going to help with SEO and will assist your customers in deciding your company answers their storage problem. This means keeping up with search engines and your customers’ need.
“Two years ago, we were still seeing keyword stuffing,” says Jensen, “but that’s no longer helpful. The two most important things today are that your content speaks to your customers and that it’s localized.” For example, in a hot climate like Arizona, RV-storage customers want to know how to protect their vehicle from extreme heat and what products they can use to keep the dashboard from cracking. A customer in a cold climate needs different local information. Jensen says a good piece of content can keep pulling in customers for years to come.
Tip 7: Follow Up
One thing that irks Jensen is when self-storage companies complain about not filling their units when they aren’t following up on people’s calls and messages. “Remember that people aren’t shopping for a storage company the same way as they are shopping for a new pair of shoes that they may not really need. Often a major life event has happened and they suddenly need someplace to store their belongings—they’ve had a move, a divorce, the death of a family member, or they’re going off to college. That means they’re shopping for a storage unit with a problem mentality. Once you can convince them you’ll solve their problem, they’re sold and they’ll move in. Follow up on those ‘contact us’ forms; and the quicker you follow up, the more likely you’ll be to get their business.”
Tip 8: Get on Social Media
Right now, social media isn’t where customers will be finding you, but it’s where they’ll connect and stay loyal, Jensen says. And keeping current customers is much cheaper than getting new ones. “Your customers are on social media, and if you’re not there, you’re missing out on building trust and keeping customers loyal.” Customers might not remember how to contact you, but if they’re connected to you on Facebook, they can easily find you.
“Keep things up-to-date, and keep your customers informed,” Jensen says. “Checking you out on social media is how your customers can see that their stuff is safe. If they’re living out of state and they hear there’s a fire in your city, they’ll check your social media to see if everything’s secure.”
If tackling all these strategies seems arduous, take it one step at a time. Start with claiming your business listings and move down the list from there. Make it a goal to implement one new strategy per month. In eight months, you’ll be on top of things and miles ahead of your competition.
Kristin Cooke is a regular blogging contributor for Value Store It, a Miami, Fla.-based self-stoage operator with facilities in Connecticut, Florida and New York. For more information, visit www.valuestoreit.com.