What is branding and what does it mean to self-storage operator? Before answering, Id like to share an observation made by one of my companys marketing specialists. She said some storage operators approach their market brand in much the same way Old West ranchers used branding to identify their cattle. In other words, it denotes ownership and nothing more.
However, in the competitive self-storage world, brand shouldnt merely be the reproduction of your name or logo on a sign or packaging. It should be the manifestation of a well-conceived marketing plan. It defines who you are to your customers, and it represents substance, not fluff. An established brand differentiates your property from the competition. Good branding is planned and developed over time, and it tells your story.
Finding an Identity
When developing your brand, make sure it identifies all the details about your property that matter. If you want to communicate your facility is secure, make it that way; then incorporate strong visual images into your logo or use colors that denote strength.
If you want customers to understand your facility is professionally managed, keep your property and office area maintained and merchandised. Potential and current customers are always assessing the smallest details to determine who you really are. That is your brand.
I have spoken with some operators who wont consider putting products in their retail area unless theyre privately branded, meaning they carry the individual facility or company name, not a national distributor. On the other hand, I have spoken to operators who wont carry anything but commonly branded products.
Whats the right way to go? Either way is fine if the emphasis remains on quality. However, a poorly designed private-label program wont advance your brand. It can even detract from it if the packaging graphics are poorly printed or the products are low quality. Youd be better off using a nicely designed and well-merchandised stock program. (Incidentally, contrary to popular belief, a good private-label program usually costs more than a stock one.) If you choose to go with a name brand, make sure its well-known to the average consumer, not just the self-storage operator. Name-brand companies have invested a great deal of money in advertising a products quality, and your retail sales and image can benefit.
Developing Your Brand
To help you develop your brand, put on your consumer hat. What do you like when you visit a store or buy a product? I believe youll discover your likes or dislikes arent that different from your customers.
Whatever you do, make your branding significant to the values embraced by your business. Cattle no longer roam the range.
Bob Strenk, president of Supply Side, has more than 20 years of marketing and sales experience. Supply Side, distributor of shipping, packaging and moving and storage supplies, has developed merchandising programs for the U.S. Postal Service, The UPS Store, Kinkos, Mail Boxes Etc., Uncle Bobs Self Storage, Extra Space Storage and many others. For more information, visit www.suplyside.com.