While self-storage is still a good investment, it takes more diversified and creative marketing strategies to fill those units. If your occupancy levels are suffering, you may need new marketing and advertising tactics. But rather depending on just one avenue, try a ratio like the one below to get the best results.
Print Yellow Pages: 60%
Between July 2008 and July 2009, 25 million consumers used the Yellow Pages to find a self-storage facility, and the national average shows 60 percent of new customers come from print YP (numbers differ by location). The average return on investment (ROI) from print Yellow Pages is 2.5 to 1. Based on our proposed formula, you should allocate 60 percent of your marketing and advertising budget to print YP advertising.
If you’re not seeing 60 percent of new customers coming from Yellow Pages, make sure your positioning and content are competitive before cutting back. It’s also critical that your front-line people are able to close a sale. Print YP has an average conversion rate of 35 percent for the self-storage industry and, historically, has converted higher than any other advertising medium.
Internet Yellow Pages: 15%
Many operators seem to forget about online Yellow Pages websites such as Superpages.com, Yellowpages.com, Dexknows.com and Yellowbook.com; however, many people are using them to find self-storage. Internet YP doesn’t deliver the same number of inquiries as print, but it’s less expensive and provides a higher ROI.
It will take some time and research to determine which sites are more effective for your facility, but the statistics don’t lie. Ask your rep how he derived the number of visitors to the site and the number of clicks, and make sure the traffic research was performed by a third-party independent marketing firm.
Since Internet YP is position-driven rather than content-driven like print, try to get your listing as close to the top of the page as possible relative to your physical location. Remember the “position” advantage for storage facilities: If you’re listed in fifth position, but the first four are outside your 3- to 5-mile service radius, you’re competitively in first position.
Internet YP also provides some impressive advantages to capture consumers who are using other media to find a service or product. First, if you include a local phone number and address on your listing, the search-engine Web crawlers will likely pick it up and drop it into the “Local Search” section of Google or Yahoo (on the center of the results page under the sponsored listings). Second, when you invest in a video that’s accessible by an icon adjacent to your listing, it will also be available on YouTube.
Search-Engine Marketing: 10%
Seventy-five percent of storage customers have Internet access in the home, so it stands to reason that a good percentage of your prospective customers will use a search engine for research. The downside for self-storage operators is the conversion rate for this medium is very low.
There are two reasons for this: Low relevancy results and the percentage of search-engine users are more often browsers, while Internet and print YP users are buyers with an immediate need. The upside is search-engine marketing (SEM) is relatively inexpensive and the number of users is growing rapidly. SEM should definitely be part of your marketing mix.
Direct Mail: 10%
The advantage of direct mail is its ability to strategically target a specific demographic. Because direct mail may only provide a 1 percent return, it’s imperative that you know who your current customers are and direct the campaign to that market. If most of your customers are home or apartment renters rather than owners, then target apartment buildings within 5 miles of your location.
If you have a lot of businesses within your service radius and would like to attract more, your mailing list should aim for that group. Be sure to do a series of mailings; this medium requires getting in front of prospects on a regular basis.
Mobile Web, Social Networking, Community Outreach: 5%
Mobile search and social networking are new media by which you might be able to capture new customers at a low cost per thousand. They’re too new to offer any statistics but growing too fast in use to be overlooked. Community outreach could be partnering with a charity or local organization to do a fundraiser.
Test Your Strategies
The above suggestions for budget allocation are based on average statistics. The only way to ensure you’re spending the right percentage on the best media for your location is to test everything you do. Whether you’re using print, Internet or direct mail, create a special test number for each and every campaign. Track calls and the conversion rate. Your ultimate goal is to combine media in a mix that works best for unique property.
Sue Weinman is the vice president of Yellow Page Services for Michaels Wilder Inc., an advertising agency specializing in Yellow Pages, Internet marketing and talent recruitment for the self-storage industry since 1989. For more information, visit www.michaelswilder.com.
To learn more about self-storage marketing, take advantage of the comprehensive education program at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo. Click here for details.