I love change. I live for it. And I've always been at the front of the queue when it comes to embracing the opportunities created by the organism we call the World Wide Web.
I'm on the technology bandwagon in this issue. Three years ago, as a director of the Self Storage Association of the United Kingdom and Europe, I designed and implemented the association's current website, www.ssa-uk.com.
Although three years is a long time when it comes to technology, the current site has stood the test of time remarkably well. It is listed in the top 10 of most search engines when the search is confined to self-storage in the United Kingdom and Europe. This boils down to making the most of a limited budget; having good content listings; understanding search engines; using simple site architecture; and making the most of the marketing opportunity due to market research and a personal education campaign with regard to the World Wide Web.
Three years ago, I told anyone who would listen that the Internet and European self-storage were made for each other. Why? Because the web's best feature is its ease of use and searchability, and the biggest hurdle for self-storage in Europe is the consumer's lack of awareness of the product.
The Big Yellow Self-Storage Co. in the United Kingdom and Shurgard in Europe are, perhaps, the best examples of large operators capitalizing on the Internet. Every time I visit www.primelocation.com—in my endless quest to find my family's dream home—I see Big Yellow's flexible self-storage box educating the consumer and increasing the company's brand awareness. (But that's me delighting in double-edged marketing twists.)
After six months of hard work by myself and my ever-dedicated marketing professional, Julie Davies, we've finished a brand-new, ever-updating, self-storage website and information portal, www.askactive.com. This is the sixth site I've designed, and it has taken as much time and money as the other five put together. The reason it has taken so long and cost so much is because we have moved forward and adopted a self-design, with a self-maintained architectural framework and the latest web-design technology.
Like all such intergalactic adventures, preparation is the key. There's nearly 100 pages of self-storage information on the site, which have required hundreds of hours to put together. We improved on the first five designs, which were based upon simplistic models of facility address listings and online brochures, to a new market-driven information portal. In listening to our registered users from our previous portal, www.selfstorage.uk.net, we realized everyone wanted European self-storage information—the more of it the better!
The Europeans are starved for self-storage knowledge, so that is what we must deliver. Let's face it—there's no other reason a prospective fit-out customer would want to visit a supplier's website every week other than to learn something new. The timing and technology of this website is working in perfect harmony to fulfill an information-hungry audience that needs as much help as it can get.
Andrew Donaldson is the founder and chief executive of Active Supply & Design (CMD) Ltd. of Cheshire, England. He is also the founder of the Self Storage Sentinel newsletter, Rent-A-Space Limited (now a multi-site operator) and selfstorage.uk.net. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.askactive.com.