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The ISS Best of Business Awards: What Do They Really Say About a Self-Storage Company?

Inside Self-Storage has just launched its fifth annual “Best of Business” reader-choice poll in which industry professionals vote for their favorite suppliers in dozens of product and service categories. Each year, the final list includes repeat winners and newcomers to the market, but what does the award really say about each recipient? Some say it’s about quality, others that it’s a popularity contest. Here are some insights about the campaign and what it means for the industry.

Teri Lanza

June 11, 2015

4 Min Read
The ISS Best of Business Awards: What Do They Really Say About a Self-Storage Company?

Every fall, the “Phoenix New Times” (PNT) newspaper publishes its “Best of Phoenix” awards in which it identifies local residents’ favorite places to eat, drink, shop, exercise and generally hang out. Thousands of PNT readers vote in this beast of a campaign, which covers more than 100 categories. The community looks forward to the list each September, and the recognized businesses proudly display their win on their websites, in their advertising and on plaques inside their establishments.

In 2011, we at Inside Self-Storage aimed to create a similar awards program for the self-storage industry, and our annual “Best of Business” (BoB) reader-choice poll was born. Our list may not feature cool categories like “Best Graffiti Artist,” “Best Go-Karts” or “Best Bar for Day Drinking,” but it does reveal our readers’ top picks in more than 35 categories that represent products and services they buy and use every day in the operation of their storage businesses.

Last week we launched our 2015 BoB campaign, and voting is already underway. The polls are open through June 30, and we encourage all of our readers to cast their ballots at www.insideselfstorage.com/vote.

But even though the poll is now in its fifth year, there’s still some confusion about how the voting works, who can participate and, most significantly, what a winning outcome actually means for the company that receives it and the industry as a whole. So in the spirit of transparency, let’s cover some basics of the campaign and take a look at what the data really represents.

The core intent of the campaign is for customers of self-storage product and service providers to vote for their favorites. In theory, those companies that provide the best offerings will receive the most votes and, therefore, take the day. But we all know there are many ways to skin a cat.

First, anyone with a valid, verified e-mail address can vote in each BoB category one time. So, yes, a person who works for an industry supplier can vote for his own company, but he can only do so once.

The fact is there’s no practical way to restrict vendors from voting, particularly if they do so from private e-mail accounts; so we’ve ensured they can’t skew the poll with repeat ballots. That said, if a company has 300 employees, and all those employees vote, and they convince their friends and family members to vote on their behalf, you can see where this activity might have an impact.

We also have to accept that certain unscrupulous individuals will cast votes from more than one e-mail address. I’ve known some to actually create additional accounts through free providers such as Google and Yahoo just to cast additional votes. It’s naughty and unethical, but sadly, it happens.

Second, some companies are simply better at campaigning than others, actively communicating with their customers and ISS readers to ask for the vote. You may already have received e-mails or seen social media posts from industry vendors soliciting your support. We encourage them to do this and even provide a digital ad they can use in their e-mails, newsletters and other collateral. Those companies that push down the gas on campaign marketing will likely perform better than those who make no effort, despite the quality of their product or service.

Finally, we can’t control voter behavior. I’d like to believe people will only cast votes for companies with which they have actual first-hand experience, but let’s face it: Some folks will choose popular brands simply because they’re recognizable. I’m reminded here of the 1992 movie “The Distinguished Gentleman” in which a Florida con man (played by actor Eddie Murphy) uses the name of a recently deceased Congressman—which is similar to his own—to jump on the ballot and get elected. His campaign slogan? “Vote Jeff Johnson, the name you know.”

Other folks just like to push buttons. Maybe they have nothing better to do. “Let’s see … I’m sick of playing on Facebook today, so what the heck? I’ll just pick some random companies and see where this goes.” They say boredom is the mother of creativity, but I say it’s more often the mother of really terrible children.

After reading some of these disclosures, you may wonder why we would invest time and energy in such a venture if the outcome is affected by so many irrepressible factors. After all, a winning company may have taken the lead by sheer size (more employees and customers equal more votes) or targeted marketing efforts. And yet if you look at past winners, you’ll see that most have outstanding reputations within the industry. That’s no coincidence.

At the end of the day, a winning company has strength. It may be strength in numbers, marketing strength, strength of value or customer-service strength. It may be a combination thereof.  A “best of” poll isn't a thing of perfection; it’s a place for consumers to voice their advocacy of specific businesses. Its results can reveal many things about an industry and the companies that support it. Take them for what they’re worth to you, with the understanding that your honest votes make the campaign more reliable, for you and fellow storage professionals.

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