By Amy Campbell
When it comes to marketing, operators of boat- and RV-storage facilities face many of the same challenges as traditional self-storage operatorsnamely budget restraints and maximizing new strategies. However, there is one significant difference: the tenant. While self-storage operators can market to any person or business in their target area, the boat/RV-storage operator must target a very specific type of customer. Thats why careful marketing is such a critical component of every boat/RV-storage operations success.
One advantage boat/RV-storage operators have is their geographic market is larger than that of a typical self-storage facility, which has often been defined as a 5-mile radius around the property. Many boat/RV-storage tenants will drive 20 miles or more from their homes to store their vehicles. They choose a facility based on location, regardless of its distance from their homes. Facilities along highways or near bodies of water and recreation areas are a natural selection for boat/RV-storage tenants who dont wish to haul their recreational vehicles over long distances.
Lake Havasu RV & Boat Storage of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., is a good example. Located near the popular lake and just outside the resort town, the facility has retained a lengthy waiting list of customers over the years. About 85 percent of its tenants live up 2,800 miles away.
Another advantage boat/RV-storage operators enjoy is a longer average tenant stay. While traditional self-storage customers stay just under a year, the average rental for a boat/RV-storage unit is two years. This is important when it comes to amortizing marketing costs to attract new tenants.
While security and convenience play key roles in traditional storage, the boat/RV-storage customer is looking for more. Operators who offer flexible hours fare better than those with restricted access. Most tenants want 24/7 access to their vehicles, so while security should be stringent, it should also be accessible. Individual gate codes, unit alarms, fire-sprinkler systems, and an abundant amount of video surveillance put renters at ease.
These tenants are also attracted to amenities such as wash bays, a retail store stocked with boat/RV-specific items, electrical outlets, a dump station or a cleaning service. Add-on services such as these will attract new customers and keep current ones coming back.
Best Marketing Avenues
Like traditional self-storage, boat/RV storage can use multiple marketing strategies to attract tenants. One of the best tools is a facility website. Boat and RV owners are looking for a safe and attractive place to store their vehicles. Your website should convey that image. Broken links, outdated information and poor Web design will lead users to think your facility is as rundown as your website.
Instead, spend the money and take the time to develop an attractive site with a few colorful graphics of your facility and essential information such as unit sizes and amenities. Leverage your online presence through search-engine optimization (SEO), which involves the content of the site, its code and use of keywords. This is one area where you may want to seek an expert to ensure the best results.
Boat- and RV-storage operators can also greatly benefit from missionary marketing, says Tom Litton, president of Litton Property Management Inc., a third-party management company and consulting firm. These operators must actively recruit tenants. Outbound marketing efforts, though often more expensive to implement, tend to yield a much higher return on investment, Litton says, particularly because boat/RV-storage customers tend to rent for longer periods.
Operators should reach out to boat and RV dealerships, marinas, apartment communities, homeowners associations, chambers of commerce and similar outlets. Its also a good idea to solicit referrals from other storage facilities that do not offer this type of storage, Litton says.
One of the best marketing sources to reach new customers is, in fact, your current tenants. Boat and RV renters tend to tell other boat and RV renters about their storage choices, Litton says. Create a referral system and promote it to existing tenants. For example, for every referral a tenant provides, offer him $50 off one months rent or $25 cash. You can also reward the referred customer with a discount or cash. If you have a competitor who doesnt offer boat/RV storage, ask if hell refer those customers to your facility for cash or another incentive.
Customer service is a key to keeping tenants happyand creating word of mouth. When tenants are on the property, take the time to acknowledge them. During the summer months, offer them cold bottled water. If you have it in the budget, add your logo and website on the bottle. In the winter, offer hot coffee, cocoa or tea to customers in paper cups, which can also be branded with your marketing message.
Consider partnering with a local boat/RV mechanic who can provide onsite services, or implement an onsite wash service. I have one facility where we wash every boat and RV every month in the summer and every other month in the winter, Litton says. The reality is we simply spray off the dust and squeegee the windows. However, our tenants see this as the best customer service theyve ever had. We get a tremendous amount of referrals from this one practice alone.
An important component to all facility marketing is tracking your results. Ask new tenants how they heard about your facility. Then regularly review where your tenants come from and capitalize on those marketing programs. Marketing your boat and RV storage doesnt always translate to a big budget. Nearly any marketing program can be modified to fit your budget and tenant demographics.