Through this economic downturn, self-storage operators have been impacted in many ways. One of the positive outcomes has been the urgency on behalf of operators to improve their marketing efforts. In some ways, the self-storage industry is emerging as a creative marketing machine.
You must think about your marketing and advertising dollars. Where is the best place to spend your time, money and energy? What will provide the strongest return? A direct-mail campaign can be the answer, though it’s challenging to create a successful one.
Some self-storage businesses have experimented with massive, one-time mailings to the areas surrounding their facilities. Most of the time, these campaigns are not well-planned. Still, there’s much excitement about sending a multi-thousand-piece mailing, thinking it will create a great return. One self-storage operator recently commented, “Wow, I can mail out a 10,000-piece direct mailing, and even if I only get a 1 percent return, this is a great investment.”
While you might think you’ll get 100 rentals from a one-time direct-mail blitz, in reality, you may only get a few rentals and become sour on future campaigns. The biggest disappointment is the negative perception created through a promotion that was not well-implemented.
To be effective, a direct-mail campaign should be planned, targeted to a specific audience and repeated. It’s difficult to create demand for self-storage, but you can develop an impactful awareness of why your facility is the best choice for storage when someone needs it.
Find Your Target Audience
A good direct-mail campaign will not only create awareness, it will land your piece in the hands of someone who really needs it. It must also work simultaneously with other forms of advertising. These various programs will develop synergies with one another. It might be an effective Yellow Pages campaign, search-engine optimization program, customer-referral program, local relationship building, or other forms of advertising—all working together with a targeted direct-mail campaign repeated consistently over time.
For example, your direct-mail campaign might be targeted to renter-occupied housing within 3 miles of your facility. This is a great audience to reach out to as they are often in transition and needs storage. Or perhaps consider a mail piece targeted to attorneys or doctors who need records storage, and show them how you’re a great solution for them.
A direct mailing must be planned in terms of radius and distance from your facility, and how many competitors are more convenient to the target market you’re trying to reach. It’s often better to keep a tighter radius, as convenience is an important factor for the self-storage user.
If you’re a member of the local chamber of commerce, you may be able to obtain mailing labels of all the chamber members for a fee, enabling you to create a direct-mail campaign for this group. This is a great market to reach if you offer climate-controlled storage, as chamber members are often local business owners who would use it. If you aren’t a chamber member, join, and attend the many networking opportunities offered.
The graphic design of the direct-mail piece is a critical component for the success of the campaign. Keep in mind you have about three seconds to capture the attention of the reader before the mailer is tossed in the trash or recycle bin. If it’s cluttered and full of words, it won’t get the customer’s attention.
The front of the piece must be designed with creativity and color, and include a few simple reasons why you’re a great solution for someone’s storage needs. The back should contain more information about features and benefits, a small map with landmarks, and contact information including your website.
It has been proven that the most effective billboard advertisements are those with the fewest words. They’re designed with a simple message, one that is often thought-provoking and makes an impact when viewed repeatedly. A direct-mail campaign is similar.
An effective direct-mail campaign must be planned and targeted to a specific audience. It must be repeated, and implemented with other forms of advertising that will create synergies within the overall marketing program. Create a way to measure and track your direct-mail campaigns so you can fairly evaluate their effectiveness, allowing for changes and improvements. Finally, the design of the direct-mail piece is critical to its overall performance.
Enjoy the strategy and success of your next direct-mail campaign. If planned and presented creatively, these mailings really do work!
Brad North is the founder of Advantage Consulting & Management, which specializes in facility management, feasibility, onsite sales, marketing and operational training to the self-storage industry. Mr. North has produced video and workbook programs designed to help managers improve their sales and marketing efforts. He is a frequent contributor to various self-storage publications, and a speaker and consultant within the industry. For more information, call 678.491.7984; visit www.advantageconsultingmanagement.com.