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Low-Cost Marketing Ideas

In todays high-tech world, we get bombarded by slick advertising. Thousands of dollars are spent on TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines to win our business. Companies spend billions to get the word out about their products or services, and the self-storage industry is no different. We, too, spend money on advertising to get people to store with us, to show prospects we are different from the facility down the street.

Self-storage is one of the biggest spenders on Yellow Pages to address local communities. Having an ad in the Yellow Pages is a givenwho in self-storage could survive without one? The largest portion of your advertising dollars will be spent on the ad; after all, most of your calls are going to be generated from that book! The question is, do we need to spend thousands more on other advertising? Yes and no.

If you are opening a brand new facility, a top priority should be setting aside enough advertising dollars to hit the ground running when you open your doors. Ideas in this article will work well for established facilities as well as new sitesproviding, of course, your facility is well staffed and you are willing to set aside money for those one-time costs.

Community Support

One of the best low-cost advertising tactics is to get involved in your local community. Here are some possibilities:

You can support a local soccer or softball team, offering a free unit to store equipment in exchange for its endorsement. You can even make a sign to hang on the fence around the field or place a free ad in the teams roster.

When the Girl Scouts host their annual cookie drive, consider donating a vacant unit for a week or so to serve as a drop-off/ pick-up point for the merchandise. The parents and girls will come to the facility almost daily, bringing in new people who dont currently store with you. They will remember you when they eventually need storage.

Contact your local newspaper anytime you engage in a community event or charity. Ask for an article to be placed in the local community- service or business section of the paper. They will usually send out a photographer and write a nice little piece about your facility and the service you are offering.

Contact your local police department and offer your facility as a training center for its K- 9 dogs. Training could be held after gate hours or during slower times of the month. If someone wants to rent a unit at your facility for illegal activities, they will think twice when they see you provide a venue for K-9 training. Again, call the newspaper and get a photo and article published. Then you can have a copy matted and framed to hang on your office wall. This not only makes great artwork, it shows tenants the valuable services you provide the public.

Check with your local school district, department of social services, or police or fire departments and offer your facility as an official finger-printing site for a day. They will make up fliers and post them in their lobbies. Some will even run TV or printmedia adsand you can always get a TV ad on your local cable station under community service events.

Donate your facility for a fundraiser such as bake sale or car wash for the local high school cheerleading squad or band. The educational community is always looking for places to hold this type of event. You can help the school and get people into your facility who wouldnt normally visit you.

Holiday Spirit

During the winter holiday season, you can offer your facility as a drop-off center for a canned-food or Toys for Tots drive. Work with a local church, synagogue or community center to gather and store the goods. If they have a newsletter, ask them to print an ad for your facility in exchange for your service. Again, you can contact your local cable TV or radio station, which will be happy to mention your facility on its community-service calendar.

Holidays provide an excellent opportunity for specialty marketing to your community. On Easter, you can close the facility and offer it to the community for an Easter-egg hunt. On the Fourth of July, offer a side of your parking lot for a fireworks stand (only if this is legally allowed in your area, of course).

Some marketing will involve an initial investment. For example, a marquee sign will probably cost you more than other signs, but will allow you to convey different messages on a rotating basis. You can use it to announce a sentiment during the holidays, a managers special on overstocked units or various community events. If you already have a sign, build or purchase a portable sandwich-board sign that can be changed regularly and placed at the entrance of the facility.

Small holiday items can be used as giveaways to new tenants. For example, there are at least five times during the year when a small American flag can be given to new tenants: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veterans Day and Presidents Day. You can offer new tenants free pumpkins at Halloween and Thanksgiving or, at Christmas time, a box of colorful lights or an ornament. What you dont give away can be donated to a local charity.

Remember, your managers have to be given the tools and allowed the time to do any outside marketing. They need to be trained in marketing so they know what is expected of them, and they need to be held accountable for those marketing efforts. Make sure any special promotions or services you offer to the community are reflected in your advertising. Marketing is not a one-time shot; it must be consistent and tracked to be successful! With that said, happy marketing and a very successful new year!

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide managerplacement service. Mini- Management also offers full-service and operations only facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.

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