If you operate a self-storage facility, marketing is a critical part of your business. If you get it wrong, you’ll miss leads, send customers to competitors and lose profitable opportunities. So, when should you seek the help of a marketing professional, and when can you take a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach? Read on to find out.
Your website is your online storefront. When customers search for storage, your website will help them find information about your business and complete helpful actions such as reserving a unit or contacting a manager.
The customer experience no longer starts when a person walks through the front door; it starts online. Most customers find you by Googling “self-storage near me” and browsing search results. Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important for your website to provide a fantastic user experience to bring in new leads and convert them to paying customers.
Your website isn’t static. It needs to work with your facility-management software, gate system and payment processing to allow customers to browse available units, rent a unit and pay their rent. Because of all these moving parts, it’s important to work with a professional Web-design company that has expertise in designing websites for self-storage.
The verdict: Outsource. This is a no-brainer. Even if you dabble in Web design or have a friend who can give you a cheap deal, it’s best to work with a Web-marketing company. Only these professionals can make your online move-ins happen in real time, avoiding problems with prospective customers renting unavailable units. Talk to other operators in your area and meet vendors at tradeshows to find out more about these providers.
Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining traffic or attention to your business through posting and sharing content on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a personal Facebook account, you’re already familiar with how this marketing works. Brands can have social media pages that allow them to post updates and photos. Cultivating a large following is no easy task, but if you’re comfortable using social media, it can be a fun—and free—marketing tool.
Create social media pages to help promote your business at no cost. You don’t need to invest a lot of time into posting content every day, and you don’t have to be an expert at marketing. There are many free resources to help you easily manage your social media. Also, consider following local businesses you enjoy for inspiration.
If you have multiple sites, you might need help getting all your brand’s social pages organized and bringing them all together. If you’re a large brand or you’re just not savvy with social media, you can absolutely outsource to marketing professionals. But for small businesses, managing social media is usually doable with a little know-how.
The verdict: DIY (most of the time). Unless you’re a big fish, managing social media for your storage business should be quick and easy to do on a weekly basis. There are many free online tools to help you, such as programs that can automate your posts. Also, look for blogs with free information on what, when and how to market your business on social media.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising allows businesses to push their website in front of users when they search for related keywords in a search engine like Google. As the owner of the ad, you’re only charged when a user clicks on it, hence the name. Similarly, paid social advertising allows you to advertise on social media so your posts are promoted or your business information appears in a target audience’s social media feed.
PPC and paid social ads can get a little confusing. There’s the whole figuring out if this is all worth the money as well as managing your ad. Not to mention that you must be knowledgeable about social media and your online audience.
I’m not saying PPC and paid social ads aren’t useful marketing tools—they are. PPC ads through Google AdWords are incredibly powerful, and Facebook Ads are a great way to get your business in front of hard-to-reach target customers. But it’s a little tricky if you’re not Web-savvy. Choosing an advertising platform isn’t black or white, and designing your ad takes a little research. If you work with a Web-marketing company to manage your website, it’ll likely have search engine optimization (SEO) experts who can help you create and run an effective PPC or paid social-ad campaign at very little cost.
The verdict: Outsource. Web marketers such as SEO specialists and social media managers are professionals at running paid ads online. They know how to expertly advertise your business, so you’ll always get the most bang for your buck.
Customer-review management, also referred to as reputation management, is the act of managing your facility’s online reviews on websites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google, Facebook and others. Managing reviews involves updating business information, providing business photos and responding to posts.
One of the first things customers see online about your business is your star rating. If your facility has a trend of negative reviews, you can bet you’ll lose business. Nine out of 10 people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, according to Search Engine Land, a website that offers marketing industry news and trends. This makes customers reviews an online-marketing tool you can’t ignore.
It doesn’t take an expert marketer to ask your customers for reviews, monitor your star rating and respond to comments. All it takes is a little tact and organization.
Now, organizing your reviews? That’s where technology comes in handy. Since there are several websites where people can leave reviews of your business, it takes a little time to organize it all and make routines around monitoring reviews. There are many online tools you can use to make this easier (like Google Alerts and cloud-based calendars), and there are even paid-review tracking tools that aggregate all your reviews, so you can respond to them across all platforms from one place.
The verdict: DIY with the help of technology. There are many tools that make review management easier for self-storage operators and, with a little knowledge, anyone can learn to do it. Look for free resources with tips on managing your online reputation, or browse blog articles with advice on how to get more glowing five-star reviews or respond to negative comments with grace.
Citation management is the act of correcting and maintaining information customers see about your business online. This is done by cleaning up missing, incorrect or duplicate business listings for your self-storage facility.
Your business listing can appear in hundreds of places around the Web, including local listings, online maps, apps, directories, GPS devices, social networks, search engines and more. While this is a good thing (more listings equal more people finding your business), it can be really overwhelming to validate and maintain all the places your business is referenced on the Web.
New navigation apps and online directories (like Yellow Pages) come out all the time, and it’s tough to keep up with it all on your own. If you bought an existing storage facility and rebranded, it can be even trickier. You’ll need to find all the facility’s old business listings and update them with your new business name, address and phone number. If you ignore missing or outdated listings, you could be frustrating customers who can’t find your business through online maps or tried to contact you using an outdated phone number.
Since the Internet is a huge place, it could literally take you days to update all your online business listings. The most efficient way to manage this online-marketing tool is to use a citation-management service.
How does it work? A citation-management software tool scours the Internet for all your business listings, identifying which are correct and which are outdated or missing. You then enter your correct business information once, and the tool updates and maintains all your business listings from that point forward across hundreds of online directories. It saves you a ton of time and makes it easy to update small-but-important details such as your phone number or office hours across all your online-business listings.
The verdict: Outsource. This is an easy choice. Unless you have the software-engineering skills to develop your own citation-management algorithm, just pay the small fee to have this service done for you.
Outdoor advertising is any marketing done outside that publicizes your self-storage services. This includes signage around town or on bus benches, taxis or public transport, as well as billboards, posters or fliers in windows or entryways of local businesses, and signage in front of your facility location.
Outdoor advertising loosely describes anything your target customers could see while running errands or commuting to work that would make them think of your business. Because this is such a simple, local way to market your facility, the possibilities are nearly endless. A quick Google search of “funny self-storage signs” comes up with dozens of hilarious examples of local, outdoor advertising.
Taking on signage space is simple, affordable and relatively easy to do. You can even try temporary signage with marketing inflatables such as feather flags, air dancers or balloons. It only takes a few minutes to order these types of materials online, and it’s simple (and cheap) to set it up yourself.
The verdict? DIY. Outdoor marketing is most effective when you don’t overthink it. Keep your signage simple and consistent. Make it attention-grabbing and place it in a high-traffic area where your target customer will see it often.
Marketing is a vital part of running any self-storage business, but it isn’t always simple. By making smart in-house and outsourced choices, you’ll get the tools to generate more leads, improve your return on investment, drive higher occupancy rates and improve your bottom line.
Jana Haecherl is a marketing-communications specialist for storEDGE, which offers a comprehensive suite of technology solutions designed specifically for the self-storage industry. She enjoys bringing technology, Web marketing, and industry news and tips to self-storage owners and managers. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storedge.com.