By Julie Purcell
Hosting special events at your self-storage facility is one of the best ways to get local residents, current tenants and businesses to your door. Planning a successful event can be very rewarding, but there are some key things to consider.
First, special events need to be, well, special. They should be memorable, creative and create a sense of urgency that this is the one event people dont want to miss. Having a run-of-the-mill open house doesnt sound like much fun and probably wont attract many people. However, naming your event something unique and creating some excitement around it increases the likelihood that folks will attend and participate.
Special events will help people remember younot your competitorswhen they need storage.
They also create networking opportunities. Every interaction is important because if you do an excellent job, people will go out of their way to bring you business.
Its like getting a haircutif your barber or stylist does a mediocre job, you probably wont refer him to others. But if he does a fantastic job, youll mention it to other people without any prompting. The same applies to your event; the more effort you put in to it, the better. The more energized you are about it, the more excited others will be, too.
Three Cs of Special Events
There are three Cs to keep in mind when planning special events: commitment, creativity and community. Lets look at each.
Be committed. Determine your budget (plus a little extra) and create a master to-do list with a timeline so you stay on target. The timeline should include sending out invitations, handing out postcards, talking to other local businesses, writing and sending press releases, ordering materials, etc. You should also include an emergency plan such as what to do in inclement weather.
Be creative in your theme. Make your event fun and memorable. This will entice people to come and will attract media attention. Lets say your facility is surrounded by corn fields; ask a local farm to donate some corn and have a corn-shucking contest. Then donate the corn to a local food bank. Come up with a clever name for your event that incorporates your theme.
Another theme could be family movie night complete with popcorn. Host a costume contest or invite a local celebrity for a meet and greet with fans. Think of something that makes sense with your facility branding and the time of year in which your event takes place. You can capitalize on holidays, seasons or other community events.
Come up with some fun activities, such as a bounce house, particularly if you have great drive-by traffic. Kids playing in a jumping castle can be seen from several blocks away. You can also include games such as a dunk tank, cake walk or other game and give away inexpensive prizes. Having kid-friendly attractions will draw more people to your event. You can also attract attendees by offering free food. Again make use of local business donations to fulfill this need.
Partner with your community. Consider working with a local charity. Not only will this help promote a great cause, it will build goodwill toward your facility. An example of this would be supporting a local food bank. Have a raffle and give everyone a free raffle ticket per canned-food item donated. Ask a local retailer to donate small prizes or gift cards for winners.
Look for partnerships with like-minded businesses to reap the most rewards. Everyone is looking for inexpensive marketing opportunities right now. By getting other local businesses involved, youll get them to promote your event, reach more people with your marketing message, and possibly defray some of the events costs through donated goods or services such as food or party supplies.
One of the most important aspects in promoting your event to potential partners is having a sponsorship letter. It should include details about your event and incentives why a business might want to be a part of it. These incentives could include adding their logo or information on your marketing material or website and signage at the event.
In addition to reaching out to your communitys business leaders, remember to talk to your own communityyour customers. Oftentimes, were looking for the next big marketing avenue and forget to make use of the relationships we already have! See if any of your tenants would like to participate or have goods or services theyd be willing to donate.
Get the Word Out
Your marketing materials should be creative and include all the pertinent details. Dont overload fliers or postcards with too much information, but be sure to highlight the date, time, address, facility phone number and your website if you have more info posted online. Make sure its clear the event is free and open to families and the community.
Then get the word out. Grab your new fliers and promote the event to everyone. Drop them off at local businesses, and hang them on bulletin boards at coffee shops and grocery stores. Promote the event to your current and past tenants via e-mail, facility signage or postcards.
Another marketing option is radio stations. While radio advertising can be pricey, it gives validity to your event and brings people in the door. If youre working with a charity, some radio stations will give you a discount rate or even announce the event for free. Also, check with our local newspapers community section. You can often announce an event for free or at a very low price point.
You should also take advantage of social media. While social-media marketing is free, it will take some time and effort. Setting up a Facebook business page is an easy way to promote your event and keep people updated. Twitter alerts are an even quicker way to spread the word about your event. After the happening, you can use these outlets to stay in touch with people as well.
Market to Attendees
Once you get people to your facility, capitalize on the exposure. First, hand out the promotional materials. Brochures are expensive and really dont need to be handed to everyone who comes through your door. Instead, consider offering coupons, which can be inexpensive to create and have a better call to action. Save the brochures for those definitely interested in your services. Also, handing out special coupons offers a good way to track the return on investment of your event.
You should also collect attendee information for future marketing campaigns. One of the best ways to do this is by having a raffle. Add attendee info to your mail or e-mail list, then follow up with a short letter thanking for them attending your event and offering a small discount on a future rental. But be sure to put an expiration date on the discount so you create a sense of urgency.
Evaluate Your Event
After the event, spend some time evaluating it. Did you meet your goals? What could you have done differently? Perhaps you didnt get the response from the community you expected. Rather than being disappointed, remember that even if you didnt attract a huge crowd, you learned a few things during the process and still built brand awareness in your community. Plus, you may not see immediate results. Theres no expiration date on brand awareness. Someone who attended your eventor even heard about itmay not need storage today but could in the future.
The whole point of any marketing campaign is to create top-of-mind awareness to those who need storage and events are a great way to make your facility memorable on a larger scale. Hopefully, youll also have some fun while doing it.
Julie Purcell is the marketing director for Storage Asset Management Inc., a third-party management and consulting company that manages 27 self-storage facilities across the mid-Atlantic region. For more info, call 717.779.0044, visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.