Self-storage operators expend a great deal of effort and capital seeking new ways to attract customers. From social media and Google ads to referrals, you stretch your marketing budget as far as it can go. But what are you really offering your audience as enticement to store with you? Your ads may boast you’re the “best self-storage facility in town,” and your referrals may save a friend or family member one month’s rent. But often your customers are still thinking, “What's in it for me?”
This is where your unique selling points (USP) come in. I’m not merely talking about your management staff or the dimensions of your units. Your USPs are what your facility offers above and beyond the standard fare and benefits. What do your prospects really want? Following are five things you can offer to optimize your tenant experience.
Contract Terms in Layman’s Terms
While your self-storage operation must have a formal rental contract containing clauses, subsections, indemnities and other legal jargon to ensure the business is protected from liability, your customers want something they can understand without needing to consult a lawyer. Identify the most important elements of your contract and expand upon them in a colloquial way that’s easy to reference and digest, such as a bulleted list. You might things that educate the renter about your rights as facility operator, for example:
- Your right to access to the renter’s unit to make necessary repairs following a reasonable request and notification period
- Your right to place a lien against all property in the unit if the customer fails meet the agreed upon terms of the signed contract
- The amount of time you’ll wait to act if the renter defaults on his rental obligations
By providing this information in layman’s terms, you avoid the potential for disgruntled renters to feel they’ve been ill-treated. It also communicates that you have nothing to hide.
Offering discounted or free use of a moving truck upon move-in is one of the easiest ways to save renters money at little expense to you. Where they see more dollars staying in their bank account and a great amenity, you’ll see a surge in new business.
If you’re willing to spend money to make money, invest in your own trucks so you can brand them and essentially create a mobile billboard for your business. If you don’t want the added cost and responsibility of owning and operating trucks, partner with a local company to become a dealer for its vehicles. For self-storage customers, it all comes down to what’s most cost-effective and convenient.
Also, consider the times and dates you offer truck rentals. Most customers don’t want to take time off from work to move, so make your trucks available for drop-off and pick-up during extended evening hours and weekends. While “free” always reigns, if you do your research and ensure your truck-rental service is a significantly less than that of your competitors, renters will consider this offer a steal.
Do you mail in a check to pay your credit card bill or pay it online? These days, most people pay their bills online or via a mobile app. Why wouldn’t your renters want the same convenience?
A recent study found that 56 percent of all bills are paid online; and that number is only growing, with Millennials and Gen-Xers using this convenience most. By offering online billpay, you’re not just giving renters another payment option, you’re illustrating that your facility stays up-to-date with trends. You also show that your business doesn’t rely on antiquated methods. Being unwilling to grow and improve won’t appeal to today’s consumer.
Renters are trusting your facility with their personal belongings, which can range from collectibles and antiques to business documents and excess inventory. What matters is they’re items your renters feel strongly enough about to pay for their safekeeping. That’s why a simple unit lock just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Renters want security features that reassure them their possessions are safe. Your facility should include features such as regularly monitored, 24/7 video surveillance, secondary unit locks that only staff can access, unique passcode-protected gates and doors, and a fenced perimeter. Not only will these preventive measures show your dedication to security, they’ll keep your property safe.
While there are still some people who prefer the personal touch of interacting with a live customer-service agent, those days are largely coming to an end. The age of self-service is in full swing. In fact, a recent consumer survey found that 91 percent of participants prefer to use an online knowledge database, like a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page, to find answers to their questions about a business.
This is especially useful when potential self-storage renters are in research mode to find the facility with the best terms, prices and amenities. They may not be ready to engage with an employee just yet. While great customer service and a knowledgeable staff will never go out of style, a FAQ section on the facility website can mean the difference between a tenant choosing you or the other guy.
Deliver the USPs
Self-storage is a booming industry and the market is only going to become more competitive. While advertising and marketing are great ways to promote your brand and drive traffic to your site, it’s what prospects find when they get there that matters most.
Today's renters are looking for transparency and extra amenities that surpass the market standard. By understanding the key benefits they seek and delivering them, you’ll be one step closer to winning the USP game and landing another signed rental agreement.
Stephen Schwartz is the co-founder of Secure Self Storage, a firm that specializes in the development and acquisition of industrial properties. It operates two self-storage facilities in Ontario, Canada. For more information, visit www.secureselfstorage.ca.