When asked about marketing, most people think of TV commercials or ads placed in Yellow Pages, newspapers and magazines. The truth of the matter is marketing is a much more holistic process with ads representing just a piece of the pie. You must create an excellent selling advantage, communication strategy and be able to close the deal before the process is complete. Most important, you need a manager with sales savvy.
Most operators would do much better by cutting their marketing budgets and increasing the salary of their management position to attract a professional salesperson. For example, if you have an underperforming Yellow Pages ad costing $850 per month, you’ll get more bang for your buck by offering a qualified manager $10,000 more per year than you will by continuing to run that ad. You’ll attract a better manager with this salary, and I guarantee you’ll get a better return on that investment.
How is that possible? Consider the following:
A poor manager can negatively affect tenants’ experiences, leading to reduced referrals, lower retention and ultimately higher costs to acquire a new customer. If your average customer is worth $700, this will cost you a fortune in income and property valuation over your career.
A poor manager will have a low inquiry-to-rental conversion ratio. If you’re tracking marketing properly, you know your cost-per-inquiry ratio. If you pay $50 to make the phone ring but your manager is rude, impatient or just not a good salesperson, you can kiss those dollars goodbye.
A poor manager will not proactively implement great marketing systems, but will wait for the phone to ring or a customer to walk through the door. This costs you time and forces you to use more expensive advertising mediums to increase occupancy.
More Marketing, Please
The truth is a good manager needs to have more marketing experience than operations expertise. With exceptional advances in management software and operational systems in this industry, self-storage management in itself isn’t difficult to learn. Give your manager the right training, legal forms and technology with the latest in self-storage management software, and he’s well on his way to handle daily operations. But does he know anything about marketing?
Hiring a manager with marketing experience is a must in today’s competitive marketplace. In fact, I don’t think there’s a better focus for managers than sales and marketing. We’ve consistently seen managers with little-to-no self-storage experience wildly outperform an industry veteran because they have marketing expertise in the bank.
I speculate that some managers who have been in this industry for a long time have old, passive habits that are hard to break. If they still operate under the assumption that self-storage tenants will find their services no matter what, they’ll be left in the dust. In some competitive markets, savvy sales strategies will make all the difference.
Snagging a Good Manager
So, how do you hire the best manager with these characteristics? In 2002, I had the opportunity to talk with bestselling author John C. Maxwell. Through the course of our conversation, we discussed finding and hiring great people. We shared stories of finding high-quality people though traditional methods like classified ads, etc.
John made a simple but profound statement about finding the best people for a team. “Do you want to know where the best people are?” he began. Of course, everybody perked up and awaited his answer. “Great people aren’t answering ‘help wanted’ ads,” he continued. “They’re not coming in to hand out resumes. They’re already working somewhere, doing a fantastic job and making things happen for themselves and their employers.”
Have you thought about recruiting? Maybe not, but I encourage you to adopt an “always hiring” attitude. Keep on the lookout for the perfect person throughout your daily activities. Maybe the next realtor to visit your home or the Blockbuster salesperson impresses you so much with his or her sales aptitude that you should consider asking them to work for your facility.
You need someone with the ability to market aggressively, build loyal relationships with your customers and strive to increase your conversion ratio drastically. You never know where you’ll find the perfect candidate, but I assure you there are plenty of excellent people out there looking for a new career if the right opportunity presents itself.
I realize this doesn’t sound like conventional marketing advice, but I assure you the right manager is one of the most important ingredients to your overall marketing success. Hire Mr. or Ms. Right as your new manager and your operation’s pie will be complete. Savor the success!
Derek M. Naylor is president of Storage Marketing Solutions, a full-service, results-oriented marketing and advertising agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a free subscription to his e-newsletter, call 800.941.4805; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.storagemarketingsolutions.com.