Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots Marketing for Self-Storage: How to Engage, Connect and Succeed

There’s an incredible amount of hype around self-storage marketing right now. People are talking about digital, social media and, of course, the Millennial generation. Operators need to market to a very diverse consumer base. You must consider traditional methods as well as blogging, chat forums and so much more. If you’re not already feeling overwhelmed, you probably will soon.

The good news is, at its core, marketing is very simple. The principles you need to be successful are universal, regardless of which generations you serve. Former Yahoo Marketing Executive Seth Godin famously said, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

You can create 1,000 fliers and give away 500 pens and business cards, but if you don’t engage your audience and make them relate to you, you won’t get out your message. Grassroots marketing is the ground floor to engaging your audience. It focuses on appealing to a small, niche group that has influence and can spread your message to a larger crowd.

The best thing about grassroots marketing—and what makes it immensely valuable to self-storage operators—is it’s often low-budget. Though there’s a common misconception that grassroots efforts involve in-person visits, hand-shaking and knocking on neighbor’s doors, this type of marketing has evolved with the digital age and can be approached in a sophisticated, professional manner that resonates with consumers of all ages. The following tips will help you engage your audience, connect with your community and find marketing success.

Get Involved

It’s important to understand that successful grassroots marketing is about creating a mindset. You need to make people want to talk to you and about you. You won’t necessarily go to a neighborhood event and come back to the office with five rentals, but you might have spoken to five people who’ll go out and talk about you to five others. That’s the goal.

While it’s awesome for storage operators to send their employees out into the community to meet neighbors and exchange business cards, that very brief, three-second exchange doesn’t create a relationship. Grassroots marketing is primarily based on personal recommendations and word-of-mouth. Community involvement means actively participating and becoming a part of something.

Commit yourself to being known in your community. Find a way to “infiltrate” your local business sector, too. Don’t go to chamber events and sit in the back of the room looking at your watch the entire time. Talk to people, volunteer, offer to speak and educate groups, join governing boards of local organizations, help plan and execute community events. And do all of this more than once!

Participate in free community events and even those that have a small entry fee. Of course, you want to have marketing materials on hand, but also be ready to talk about your business. Be passionate about it. Show your knowledge and sell yourself as a capable member of your local society. If people aren’t immediately looking for storage, ask them to follow you on social media for upcoming contests and giveaways, just for fun. Offer to follow them back. If you know of another community member who can help them, introduce the two parties.

There’s always something you can do to stay relevant. Not everything is about the immediate sale. Hopefully, the next time those connections need storage or someone they know does, they’ll think of that friendly and helpful person they met at last month’s carnival.

Network Effectively

Grassroots marketing efforts are more successful when you have a specific audience in mind, so it’s important to aim your message. In self-storage, market segmentation is easy. In addition to working into the general business community, target local real estate groups, moving companies, college campuses, home stagers and businesses that might use storage themselves.

Host an event at your facility and invite these groups to network with you and each other. Serve wine and cheese at an after-hours event to get the conversation flowing. Have a kid-friendly “fro-yo” event on a weekend. Showcase a new technology you’re using, for example, did you recently start using an app with your property-management software? Demonstrate it. People in all industries are interested in technology, and this is an excellent way to relate to people of influence who aren’t in the self-storage industry. It allows you to showcase your expertise, proving any referral to you would receive top-notch service.

Give Back

As part of your grassroots efforts, you can also volunteer, donate and raise money for others in need, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to improving the community. Make small donations for door prizes, auctions or raffles. Work with a local homeless shelter to provide storage to those between permanent homes. Provide units for charities that need to store materials, such as Habitat for Humanity. You can hold a yard sale at your property and donate the entry costs to a local charity.

Most important, share your efforts and try to get others involved by appealing to their emotional side. Use social media to get people on board and share what you’ve been doing. Reach out to local media outlets for free promotion of these initiatives.

Talk About It!

Grassroots marketing and social media go together like fish and water. What better way to get out your message than a free—or pretty cheap—social media platform? The audience is there for the taking. All you have to do is reach out! Let your followers and digital friends know all about your community involvement and networking events.

Social media is also a great way to permeate your community. Don’t go on social media expecting to write a few posts and see rentals start walking through the door. Do it to be a part of the conversation. Remember, being successful at grassroots marketing means you must adjust your mindset. You’re not looking to reach an immediate goal. You’re seeking to invest in your long-term objective, which is to grow your business.

You can also use paid social media advertising to help people find your facility when looking for storage. It’s is relatively inexpensive, with campaigns as little as $5 per day.

Self-storage is an event-driven business. You can’t convince people they need storage. All you can do is be available when they look for it. You don’t know when that’s going to happen, so take the time to invest in your reputation through grassroots marketing.

Cheli Rosa is director of marketing for StorageStuff.Bid, which provides online storage-auction services. She’s a former high school teacher turned storage professional turned auctioneer. She’s worked in all areas of self-storage. Her constant desire for additional knowledge led her to immerse herself in the lien-foreclosure process. For more information, call 877.758.4243; visit www.storagestuff.bid.

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