You are the security expert. Your fence, gate and cameras are in place. But your job has just begun. You don’t sell technology; you sell security, and that means an active visible manager and a low-tech, high-security barrier at your unit door.
When you formulate your security plan, put yourself in your renter’s shoes. Look at your facility from outside in. Are sight lines through the property open to expose illegal activity to passers-by and the police? Are your gate-access codes assigned or do they at least require letters and numbers to make them difficult to guess? Do you require an access and exit log-in to keep a record of how long each person is on the site?
Jim DelSordo of Automated Security Corp. consults and installs electronic security systems, gates, access control, cameras and door alarms. He points out that the higher the level of security you can demonstrate to prospective tenants, the easier it will be to rent units and attract better-quality customers.
John Fogg of Sentinel Systems Corp. markets a comprehensive access-control and property-management system. He acknowledges that you can make a considerable investment in technology; but when you make that investment, you must broadcast and demonstrate it to your prospects.
When Fogg was a sales rep for a facility, he often “forgot” to disable the door alarm when showing a unit, allowing him to give the potential renter a demonstration when he opened the door. Let them experience your security. A commercial customer or private customer with quality goods to store will pay a premium for security features, and these same features may deter a thief.
But don’t be too dazzled by all the high-tech security bells and whistles. DelSordo sells high-tech, but he points out that it is also critical to have a lock program. High-tech may get a prospect in the gate, but you have to sell him right down to the door, your last line of defense. Don’t neglect the low-tech final step—high-quality, high-security door locks.
Think of security as a chain. Your system is only as strong as its weakest link. In your security program, protect your facility at every entry point and, in your sales presentation, highlight each link, from curb to door.
Jim Chiswell of Chiswell & Associates LLC, has consulted on hundreds of self-storage startups in the last 20 years. When it comes to security, he reminds us that numbers and technology can dazzle people—both customers and operators. You can have access control and a dozen cameras, but it’s the total security program that protects your site, and it is the manager whose diligence in observing the site and making lock checks who deters the criminal.
Equally important, it is your trained manager who demonstrates and sells your security features. Let the information your manager provides separate you from the competition. You are the security expert.
Stop Them at the Door
Many thieves get into facilities by renting a small unit. Your site could rely on a camera to record activity at your site, but it does not prevent a break-in. Alarms can sound, but they still leave a window for a thief, and they can be disabled.
A mass-market, hardware-store lock will not stop a bolt cutter, and neither will a mass-market disk lock if a thief takes a bolt cutter to a slide bolt, which more of them are doing.
When you invest in technology, match that investment with a cylinder lock that inserts right in the door. For a few dollars a door, using more than a conventional lock, you can demonstrate to your renter that your facility provides stronger security than the competition. Use a sample lock and latch system on your counter to demonstrate how your door security surpasses the competition.
This interactive sales approach may require your manager to be less of a landscaper and more of a sales representative. The choice is yours. In a competitive market, with more women renting, and crime and safety more of an issue, can you expect to succeed with a passive approach to security?
Bill Green of Double J Court Self Storage in Wickenburg, Ariz., considers security to be a key component to separating him from his competition. He markets his security on the phone, in the Yellow Pages and on his website, and he continues marketing after he makes the sale as well.
According to Double J’s website, the company spent $10,000 on a new lock-and-latch system by L.A.I. The system, featuring a locking cylinder that is inserted into the door so the lock and latch are nearly flush-mounted, “will provide much higher security. It also means that you do not need to buy a lock.”
As Green says, “We want an informed customer.” He wants his customers to feel secure, and to remind their neighbors that security, more than convenience or even price, is the reason to choose a self-storage facility.
Another security-focused operator, Norm Kotoch of Highland Heights, Ohio, broadcasts his message in the facility name: Security Self Storage. Kotoch is an attorney aware of the danger of promising security if he can't deliver it. He lists the security features of his five facilities: access-controlled gates, cameras, door alarms, and the same type of high-security cylinder lock system Green builds his security and message around. As Kotoch’s website says, “We constantly strive to offer state-of-the-art features like our individual door alarms, 24-hour DVR surveillance and recessed cylinder locks.”
Like Green, Kotoch considers his site managers “sales managers” whose job is to sell features. They broadcast security to attract the right customers and deter the dangerous ones.
To ensure the highest level of security and to meet the concerns of local fire and police, Kotoch installed high-security, master-keyed systems in three of his facilities. As an attorney, he is aware of liability concerns, but as a business operator, he knows how to deal with those concerns. Access to the master key is limited to management. Every renter is made aware of the master-key system, and signs an acknowledgement waiver along with the rental application. Knowing that the facility provides fast, safe access to fire, environmental and law enforcement personnel attracts and reassures commercial and private customers.
Kotoch and Green have rented to thousands of customers in the last 10 years, and Kotoch reports only one prospect declined to rent after hearing about the system. Kotoch was happy to see him leave.
Presented properly, security sells and repels. It sells the customers you want, the commercial accounts and private renters who value their goods and property; it repels the ones you don’t want, the crooks who want to set up shop in a low-cost, low-security facility where the renter with the cheap lock is the “security expert.” In a competitive rental market, you get the edge when you market your security features, not your price.
Rich Morahan is a marketing consultant for Lock America International. He frequently writes and conducts seminars on self-storage marketing and security. To reach him, call 617.240.0372; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.laigroup.com.