ISS Blog

Who Ever Thought Gas Could Give You Great Marketing?

I'm standing at a gas pump last weekend, filling up my tank, when I look over and see, right next to the bank of pumps, a large box display with a series of clear plastic pockets across the front. "Free Month of Storage" blazed in large letters from the tops of shiny, four-color brochures in each sleeve. "Just mention 'GAS' when you call," the leaflet said. Well, dang, if that ain't a smart little marketing approach.

This promotional tactic belongs to Uncle Bob's Self Storage, and I found it very well executed. Aside from the fact that I've never seen storage advertised this way before, it's smart to pair your product with one everyone needs—like gas—even if the two things aren't in any way related. Let me tell you a bit more about the marketing piece itself:

Sturdy, well-designed and attractive. The front side advertises the free-month offer but also explains the company's wide array of amenities: a range of unit sizes to suit customers' needs, a free truck rental with move-in, and a variety of boxes and packing supplies. The back of the brochure features a colorful, easy-to-read map showing the location of nine Uncle Bob's facilities in the area. It also features a coupon for the free month of rental that includes a special promo code (ST-GAS) and a dedicated website for the campaign: www.unclebobs.gas. The coupon is also good for 15 percent off all boxes and supplies. The phone number is prominently displayed on both sides.

I work with several industry marketing experts in relation to ISS magazine, expos and our Self-Storage Training Institute, and I'm pretty sure they would all agree that Uncle Bob's did several things right with this marketing strategy. One of the most important is the company created a way to definitively track the source of the marketing: the customer will either say "gas" when he calls the phone number, or he'll visit the specialized URL, or he'll walk into a facility and offer up a coupon that contains a promo code. In any case, Uncle Bob's knows the origin of this customer (and gave the prospect three great options for following through).

I don't know what the storage company paid to carry out this campaign, but I'll bet that if you approached your local "Quickie Mart" gas station, the manager might be willing to loan out a little near-the-pump space at a reasonable cost. Or maybe even a slice of counter space by the register. Brochures can be economical enough to print, and your only other cost is the time it takes you to establish the inititial relationship and replenish the display from time to time.

It's not a bad idea to offer the gas-station manager a free storage unit in exchange for the advertising space. He may have some inventory he'd love to get out of his restroom, hallway or office. Then the promotion becomes a win-win situation, and you get your facility in front of the eyes of hundreds of people each day—that's people who may not have even considered you or known you exist, except that they needed some go-go juice.

There are tons of creative ideas to be had in the marketing arena, and as we all work to stay successful in 2009, we're going to have to think with ingenuity. Hopefully, this sparked some ideas for your business. If you've got one to share, please post it to the blog. Have a fantastic weekend!

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