'Touch' Marketing for Self-Storage Operators: 3 Ways to Rise Above the Advertising 'Noise'

Marketing your self-storage facility in 2014 and beyond will be a different experience than in the past. In an age of perpetual advertising messages, how do you avoid getting lost in the noise? Here are three ways to “touch” your customers and increase facility occupancy.

Marketing your self-storage facility in 2014 and beyond will be a different experience than in the past. Why? Because our potential customers are suffering from attention deficient disorder!

Every morning I wake up and check my smartphone. First, I go through my e-mail. I have multiple accounts, each full of “buy now” messages. After that, I review my social media sites. Again I’m bombarded with advertisements and video. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram are all trying to sell me something. Next I read online news, and there are advertisements everywhere. If I watch TV at night, I'm exposed to commercials there, too.

In the 12 to18 hours that I'm awake, I'm exposed to thousands of marketing pieces. This isn’t even including the material I see while I’m driving around my local area. Knowing this is what our potential customers also face, how do we reach our targeted audience and avoid getting lost in the "noise"? Let’s look at a few options.

Social Media

Social media today is where Google search was about seven years ago. Internet marketing is becoming more difficult. It used to be all we wanted was to appear on the first page of organic listings. In 2014, where does Web traffic really come from? Did your customers find you in a Google search or a pay-per-click advertisement? Did they find you on Google Places for Business? What search terms did they use? Did they search from a mobile phone or tablet? Did they find you on Yelp? Was the search influenced by location rather than keywords?

These days, customers find information in many ways. The options are limitless. If you already have a steady Web-marketing platform, try working on social media for your self-storage facility. At the very least, claim your facility’s Facebook page. Facebook, and other social media platforms, are free to use. The only thing they require is your time.

You want as many people following your Facebook page as possible. The idea is to “touch” people as often as you can without being irritating. No one wants to see “5-by-10s for $39” in their social media feed every other day.

Instead, post content that’s useful and interesting to your customers. Consider remarkable local stories, do-it-yourself projects, or funny jokes and pictures. Add one sales post for every three non-sales posts. Put some work in getting your existing customers to interact with your page and leave reviews or ratings.

In addition, consider running some social media contests to create interest in your page. Giving away a gift card can go a long way with your customers. Operators interested in upping their social media activity should read this great book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World,” by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Direct Mail

This is one of those marketing items for which everyone lets out a big sigh of boredom. Normally I hear, “I tried direct mail once. I didn’t get anything,” or “Direct mail is boring. No one reads it,” or “Everything is on the Internet now.” If that’s the case, why do you get so much direct mail during the election season? How many direct-mail pieces have you received from Visa or American Express over the last 12 months?

Remember, our goal is to touch our potential customers as often as we can. It’s very hard to ignore the mail. Yes, you can throw it away, but you have to at least scan it before it goes in the trash. So let’s think of ways to get people to review your direct mail.

First, consider the format. Your marketing cannot be boring. You don’t have to send a white envelope with a one-page letter composed of boring font. Try using multi-colored envelopes, handwritten names and addresses, and unique stamps. You can even have a direct-mail company transfer your letter into a hand-writing font. You can also purchase a mailing list for a reasonable price from a number of companies.

Consider sending to the same list multiple times per year. The head of a marketing company recently told me it takes up to five mailings to get a customer to respond. Direct mail is a marathon, not a sprint. If your facility has a tight marketing budget, try completing as many of these items in-house as possible.

E-Newsletters

Electronic newsletters, or e-newsletters, are another item you can use to "touch" your customers on a regular basis. But remember: Your customers don't want to read about self-storage. As with your social media, find some local stories or other items of interest. Of course, you also want to make your sales pitch. Maybe you have a special on packing supplies or you want to remind people about your referral program. Let customers know they can make payments online or follow you on social media. There are companies that can create these newsletters for you, or if you have time and gumption, you can do it yourself.

In a recent article, Darren Hardy, publisher and founding director of "Success" magazine, wrote, “By the age of 66, most of us will have seen about 2 million TV commercials. It’s like watching eight hours of advertising, seven days a week, for six consecutive years.” If your marketing is not interesting and worth reading, it will be ignored. The great thing about self-storage is if a potential customer is speaking with us, they need our product.

Our audience is fighting a barrage of marketing messages. Self-storage operators are battling increasing competition. Welcome to the new era of marketing. It’s a full contact sport. By touching your audience via social media, direct mail and newsletters, you have a better chance of winning.

Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management & Consulting, a full-service management company specializing in feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the storage industry. He’s also president of 3 Mile Domination, a full-service self-storage marketing and strategy company. For more information, e-mail [email protected] Visit www.3miledomination.com to download the free e-book, “3 Mile Domination.”

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