A Self-Storage Lesson From 'The Babe': Security and Marketing Make a Home Run

A self-storage facility's security system not only protects customers adn goods, it provides a marketing edge operators can use to assure tenants, generate new business and boost the bottom line.

After a disastrous baseball season in which it seemed he was all washed up, Babe Ruth turned his career around with a well-executed marketing campaign. In these tough times, self-storage operators can do the same, using security as a hard-hitting promotional tool. 

The year was 1922, and George Herman “Babe” Ruth was larger than life. He broke his own home-run record nearly every season, and during a few, he hit more home runs than some entire teams! But young and reckless, the Babe rarely abided team or league rules in those days. At first, it didn’t seem to matter. The Yankees kept winning, he kept breaking records and everyone was happy.

Happy, that is, until a stern warning came from Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, a no-nonsense man who was also the Commissioner of Baseball. He told Babe that playing in exhibition games or “barnstorming” during the off season would not be tolerated by the league. In violation of his contract, the Babe ignored him, and was consequently suspended for the first 39 games of the 1922 season.

When Babe finally returned to the plate, things remained rocky. He was suspended two more times, threw dirt in the face of an umpire, and even attempted to fight a spectator. The season ended poorly, and it seemed the entire country had turned on its former superstar. Babe knew it was time for a change.

His new strategy? An aggressive marketing and public-relations campaign to clean up his image and come back better than ever―which he did.
Self-Storage at a Similar Crossroads

There are lot of similarities between self-storage and Babe’s story. As an industry, we’re at a crossroads like the one he faced after his disastrous season. In previous years, self-storage kept breaking records. Occupancy rates rarely dipped below 90 percent, business was booming and everyone seemed on top of the world. Today, some of us have gone from fat and happy to shaken and uncertain of the future.

Granted, the self-storage industry has not behaved as carelessly as the Babe. Our overall business remains healthy and growth continues. At the same time, occupancy rates are down, and the competition for a single customer is greater than it has ever been. It’s time for storage operators to do as Babe did and develop a hard-hitting marketing campaign. 

Security as a Marketing Tool

The question is what to emphasize in your marketing message? What truly differentiates you from the competition? Your site security can be a particular advantage as it addresses tenants’ underlying fears about storing. Your top marketing tools include:

Automatic gates with electronic access control. The first thing your prospective customer, existing tenant or potential thief will encounter is your access-control system. Remember, most thieves will pose as tenants to gain entry to the site. This tells them immediately that your site will not be an easy mark. It also tells honest tenants about the level of security at your site.

Self-storage management software. This tool is very powerful for your sales team before, during and after the rental. Management software interfaces with your access-control system and provides your staff with tools such as a facility site map, tenant management, billing management, reporting and a daily task manager. Imagine the impression you’ll make when you educate customers with customized reports tailored to their activity and needs.

Additional controlled access. The ability to secure elevators, building access and virtually any door in your facility will allow you to take your security to the next level. Customers can be assured that no one gains entry to the property who isn’t supposed to have it.

Peripherals. Additions to your system may consist of electronic gate operators, keypads, keyless entry, access cards, RF readers, video surveillance, interactive site graphics and much more.
You’ll win consumer confidence when your manager can say to prospects, “As you can see, we use a state-of-the-art access-control system for your peace of mind. Our system will restrict access to the property for those not authorized, while providing you with convenience during business and after hours.”

There are so many ways to use a professionally installed security system as a marketing advantage. The system, combined with a qualified manager, creates a team that will always hit home runs, one that uses all the tools and abilities at its disposal to help your business succeed today, tomorrow and beyond. That’s what you call a comeback in tough times. 

Randy Johnston, with more than a decade of self-storage experience, is the regional manager for DKS Doorking, which has provided access-control solutions for the self-storage, commercial, residential and industrial industries for more than 60 years. For more information, call 310.645.0023; visit www.doorking.com.

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