By Jeff Kinder
A business only gets one chance to make a great first impression on customers. The trouble for self-storage operators is we lose touch with the first impression our facilities make because we see our properties every day. We have to make an effort to see our sites “for the first time” all over again.
Curb appeal is one of those intangible aspects of a self-storage operation that not only helps to attract customers but plays an important role in extending their length of stay. As such, it produces one of our best returns on investment. But we have to realize that curb appeal goes much deeper than street view. We need to consider every aspect of our properties, from the roof to unit doors to office floors and more.
The trick is to see your store with a new perspective every time you drive by or into the property. Look for signs of fatigue such as faded paint and signs, cracks in the asphalt, burned-out lights, worn paths in the grass, trash in the fence, damaged bollards or fence posts, and dirty or scratched windows. What changes have occurred at your facility since it was bright, shiny and new? All of them impact the first impression your site makes on customers. To keep your facility looking fresh, you must also see it with fresh eyes.
When tenants or potential customers make it past your curb, what do they see? Just as you don’t want to see wilted produce and crushed cereal boxes when shopping in your grocery store, our customers don’t want to see litter, piles of sand and dead leaves in our drive aisles when they visit the property. Faded and cracked asphalt, rusty doors and hasps, rodent-control stations, flickering florescent lights, and stained hallway floors are as bad as (or worse) than seeing soggy lettuce in the produce stand. General housekeeping isn’t maintenance—it’s merchandising.
So, how much time, effort and money do we need to put into this curb “merchandising”? What’s reasonable?
Well, if your average revenue per customer is somewhere around $1,000, and spending just $4 to $5 per customer per year on paint, sealer, new flags, spring cleaning, etc., allows you to make a positive impression and secure just one additional tenant each month, then it’s an easy 100 percent return on investment. Add in the extra months of rent you’ll get from everyone who feels comfortable and safe while at your store, and it’s a no-brainer.
When you think about your facility curb appeal, think beyond the street view. Look at your property as your current and future customers do, and then take the necessary steps to ensure you’re presenting the best impression possible, every time.
Jeff Kinder is president of Advantage Advisors LLC, a self-storage syndication and management company he founded in 1997. Besides operating its own portfolio, Advantage provides direct investment, syndication, management and consulting services to the self-storage industry. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.advantagestorage.com.