It is now several weeks since the economic-stimulus package has been signed into law by President Obama. I am not expecting it to provide any great stimulus for our industry directly—unless your facility is being taken by eminent domain for a local highway project. I laugh at all the Internet scams people are already running like, “Click on this link to expedite your stimulus check” or “Fill in information to determine the size of your stimulus check.” Thousands of people will fall victim to these scams just because of the media attention.
Have you considered creating your own stimulus program to attract new customers? Unlike the scammers, we have a real product—storage space and moving supplies. We need to create a menu of incentives. It might be “Spin the Discount Wheel of Stimulus” as a closing technique. How about the old carnival dart game with a specific stimulus prize or discount in each balloon? Maybe it’s a personalized letter to current customers letting them know that although street rates are going up, their rates will stay the same for the next six months.
Would an across-the-board increase in everyone’s rent at this stage of the economic cycle result in move-outs? Right now, more than any time in recent history, it might make some people ask themselves why they’re paying $125 a month to keep a pile of stuff they might never use. Increasing rents of current tenants could result in move-outs and create more lost revenue than the increase you might have achieved.
I have always encouraged owners and managers to raise their rates. I still believe that if you are one of the fortunate individuals seeing strong rental activity and occupancies on select unit sizes above 85 to 90 percent, raising rents could still be a good strategy. However, for the rest of us struggling to stay positive in a negative environment, I urge you to look for creative ways in retaining current customers.
Once you have your own stimulus package in place, get out there and promote it. Go back to prior customers; visit the apartment managers and professional offices. Have an aggressive referral program in place that allows the referring tenant and the new customer to receive a benefit―not just $15 or $20 off next month’s rent, but maybe $50 or $75.
Ask yourself: What is a new customer worth? The extra referral incentive may help keep existing customers or persuade an apartment manager to start handing out your brochure to everyone that walks in his door.
Don’t let the federal government be the only source of a stimulus for Americans.
UPS Store Will Call You—Big Deal!
Watching United Parcel Service’s (UPS) recent TV and Internet advertising campaign is almost laughable to me. The company's big marketing claim is that when you get a letter or small package in your mail cubby at one of its stores, it will text or e-mail you an alert. I have news for UPS: Self-storage managers and owners have not only been doing that for years, but also accept big packages or even entire product shipments for their customers.
Behind the new UPS campaign is the belief that this is a new customer service small businesses and individuals just can’t do without. Guess the company's officials have never set foot in a busy self-storage facility that caters to business customers. UPS and FedEx in addition to Roadway Express and a variety of other common carriers are regular delivery couriers throughout the course of the day.
Managers are constantly on the phone, e-mailing or texting customers to inform them their shipments have arrived. So, UPS, I urge you to keep looking for some really new customer service the self-storage industry has not already been offering for years.
Safe Travels, Sir
No matter your religious background, you have to admire a man who is willing to put his successful business life on hold for three years while he takes on a mission for his church. I am referring to the commitment recently announced by Ken Woolley, chairman and CEO of Extra Space Storage Inc., who left his position on April 1. The company's board of directors voted to elevate the current president, Spencer F. Kirk, to succeed Woolley as chairman and CEO.
Woolley founded the Salt Lake City-based company in 1977. He is considered a visionary in the self-storage industry for his leadership and management skills in building Extra Space from a small, private company to the second largest owner/operator in the United States and one of the largest self-storage enterprises in the world. Extra Space currently operates 654 self-storage properties in 34 states and Washington, D.C., with approximately 450,000 units and nearly 50 million square feet of space.
I admire the personal and professional commitment Ken is making and the example of putting other’s needs before his own that he is showing us all.
Self-Storage Talk Continues to Grow
The commitment from Inside Self-Storage in creating Self-Storage Talk, which is well above 2,000 online members, is paying big dividends to managers and owners from every corner of the United States and around the world. The positive atmosphere is maintained by a host of moderators who are also making a personal commitment to policing the site for any rule infractions.
There is no other resource where you can review past and current posts and provide your own perspective on the issues others are dealing with day-to-day. And the price is right—FREE. A stimulus brought to you by ISS.
If you have not taken advantage of this outstanding resource, log into www.selfstoragetalk.com and become a new member of this dynamic online self-storage community. I’ll be looking for you. I’m MisterJim444.
On a Personal Note
Many of you who know me personally know I am a proud grandparent. Back in February, our daughter, Alyssa, and her husband, Jim, were blessed with a second son. Nathan Sydney Vercellotti weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. His grandpa got to see him when he was only minutes old. This is such joyful time in my life and I just had to share it publicly. Welcome to our world, little Nathan!
Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. He has served for a number of years on the Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board, is a moderator on the www.selfstoragetalk.com interactive online community and is faculty member of the Self-Storage Training Institute. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com.