By Nick Nichols
Unless your self-storage operation is unusual, your facility is likely located in a cluster of other businesses, near residential areas, or both. I call these your trade-zone communities. Worked properly and systematically, a community-marketing program can boost your occupancy levels significantly for little or no extra cost. Try these simple efforts to bring new tenants to your facility.
Theres also a little-known community-marketing secret that can allow you to keep getting paid a monthly income from tenants who move out. Ill reveal how this works at the end of the article.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
The most common form of community marketing is membership in a local chamber of commerce. Chambers typically host periodic networking functions, after-hours mixers and other gatherings that provide the opportunity for members and guests to mingle and exchange business cards. Most of the time, however, these functions are unstructured and unfacilitated, making success a hit-and-miss proposition.
By this I mean most chamber-style events are somewhat of a free for all. Your success depends on who you happen to run into or sit beside. You may or may not be able to interact with people who you can refer business to you. So what can you do to make the most of the situation?
First, when you or your staff are at a chamber event, take the initiative and start approaching people. Remember, they are there for the same reason you areto networkso dont be shy! Start with the universal ice-breaker, What brought you to the event today? Their answer or even their name tag may reveal the type of business in which they work. If not, ask at the first opportunity. Once you know their business, you have a tremendous advantage because you can use a special 10-second elevator-pitch strategy that can be extremely effective.
Lets say the person is a dentist. You can say something like, Hows business? Then let the person answer while you make mental notes of any problems the person reveals that you might be able to solve directly or indirectly.
Ideally, at some point, the person will ask what you do. And heres the magic answer framed to a dentist, I help dentists keep their offices neat and tidy to create a better patient experience by providing safe, secure storage space for supplies, extra furniture and other items that should be relocated out of the way.
This is what I call a targeted response, and it works to create interest in what you do for three reasons. First, because you framed your response to the person's specific business, you create the perception that you specialize in that industry. Second, you state a feature-benefit combination that might just resonate with the person. Third, you differentiate yourself because theres a 99 percent chance youre the only person whos ever framed an elevator pitch that speaks directly to that persons business and its probable needs.
If you can master this strategy, people will know exactly what you do and be in a position to rent from you now or in the future. They can also refer others to you.
Offer Another Type of Value
Another form of community marketing is a value-based incentive program. It works extremely well, especially in competitive markets.
First, make a list of other needs your storage customers might have that your business cannot fill directly. These include non-commercial needs such as where to register for school, where to get a drivers license, where to worship, where to access community programs, etc. People may also have commercial needs such as those for a moving company, an apartment, a good vet for their pets, an inexpensive or pet-friendly motel, truck rental (if you dont provide this), and so forth. You can easily provide lists or instructions on where to find all of these places and services.
Next, approach providers of other common products and services and ask them for coupons and other incentives that you can include in a package of value-based perks. In addition to the suggestions above, you can approach local restaurants, car-repair shops, babysitting services, medical and dental offices, furniture and appliance stores, dry cleaners, shoe-repair shops, locksmiths, attorneys, accountants, gyms and personal trainers, hair and nail salons You get the idea.
Include any local business that wants more customers, clients or patients. It can give you coupons, free-trial certificates, free samples or any item that makes sense to include in your customer-incentive package. When you add up the total value of the package, you may have a premium thats worth several hundred dollars but costs you nothing to provide other than a little legwork. Imagine how your closing rate will skyrocket when you offer a value-based incentive package worth $100, $200, $300 or more in addition to whatever else youre doing!
Oh, and those other businesses youll be promoting? To be a part of your program, they must agree to promote your facility to their customers, clients and patients, ideally via some kind of special offer you make.
Create Affiliate and Distributor Relationships
How much revenue do you collect from tenants who move out and never come back? None? Well, you might want to pay close attention as I reveal a little-known community-marketing secret that can allow your company to continue collecting a monthly income from tenants while they rent from you and long after they move out.
Besides the services mentioned earlier, how many of your tenants use cell phones? How many have or need cable or satellite-TV service? How many need a security system? How about Internet access? Are they concerned about identity theft? If youre in a deregulated state, where are they buying their gas and electricity?
These are just a few examples of services your customers need or are already using that you could provide via affiliate or distributor relationships. If you align yourself with the right providers, youll be in a position to make current and future income on the purchases your customers make now and in the future.
You can find affiliate and distributor opportunities on the Internet and companies that offer more than one of the services above. In certain cases, you can offer customers the opportunity to sell these same services and even products to other people and get paid a commission. You may be able to earn an override on what your customers sell. When a system is properly set up and promoted, its entirely possible that a self-storage facility could generate as much revenue from having a healthy back end as it does renting units.
I call this aerobic marketingworking your back end to add value to your tenants lives and make additional revenue now and when your tenants move on. You also can provide a way for some of your customers to make some extra money now and for months and years to come. This is community marketing that benefits not only you but your customer base.
Nick Nichols helps self-storage operators attract more long-term tenants, boost tenant satisfaction and increase tenant retention. He also offers free webinars that show self-storage operators how to generate additional income from tenants now and long after they move out. Visit www.selfstorageadvantage.com to register for his next free webinar.