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5 Ways to Stand Out as an Independent Self-Storage Operator

It’s difficult for independent self-storage operators to beat national and regional players in their market by trying to play the same game. Instead, guest blogger Nick Lackner offers up a handful of creative strategies he deployed at City Center Self Storage in Pittsburgh to get his business noticed in the marketplace and exploit its points of differentiation.

Guest

March 5, 2015

3 Min Read
5 Ways to Stand Out as an Independent Self-Storage Operator

By Nick Lackner

Do you operate a single self-storage facility in an area populated by national and regional players? Are you envious of their size and scale, which enables them to hire Internet-marketing experts and spend resources on branding? If so, don’t try to beat them at their own game because you won’t win. Instead, I encourage you to find strategic ways to get noticed and exploit your points of differentiation. Following are some creative approaches that we’ve deployed successfully. Although you may not be able to duplicate these exactly, this list should help spark some ideas that will work for you.

The “Free” Billboard

Our facility is just one block off a street that has a traffic count of 20,000 cars per day. There is a billboard for rent on the street, but it costs more than $2,000 per month. We got creative and figured out a way to get the same visibility for a fraction of the cost. We found an old, non-serviceable box truck and bartered some storage space in exchange for a parking spot in a lot that faces the street. We then created a promotional banner that covers the truck. It’s an instant billboard that costs next to nothing.

12-Month Price Guarantee

Some of our best customers came to us after our competitors gave them one price increase too many. Their aggressive increase strategies created an opening that we decided to exploit. We went completely the other direction and advertised a 12-month price guarantee, which appeals to any tenant who plans to stay a long time. No one else in our market takes this pricing approach, so we stand out.

Encourage Comparison Shopping

You probably study your competition and know how their prices and features compare to yours. Why not take that information and turn it into useful marketing material? The next time you have a prospect in your office and he says, “I need to shop around,” share your research in a nicely formatted document that showcases why you’re the best choice. We liked this idea so much we turned it into our own version of an aggregator site.

Leverage Powerful Networks

We looked at advertising through mailer inserts, but it carried a hefty price tag with no guarantee of success. It wasn’t a cost-effective branding strategy that would work for us. Instead, we offered promotions through LivingSocial and Amazon Local. While we ended up virtually giving away some units, they comprised inventory we weren’t filling anyway. In exchange, we got our name in front of all the subscribers to these services.

Partner With Charities

Providing storage to charitable organizations is always a great idea and a rewarding thing to do. It can also be great for your business. You should be able to predict when you’ll have excess availability of units. If you partner with charities that need to store items during these same periods, you’ll be able to provide an in-kind donation that won’t cost you anything. In return, you’ll get visibility with the charity and some public recognition.

The key to standing out as an independent self-storage operator is to think differently. Take advantage of the fact that you have only one location, let your ideas flow, and you’ll be surprised where they take you.

Nick Lackner is founder and general manager of City Center Self Storage in Pittsburgh. A Pittsburgh native, Lackner graduated from John Carroll University and joined CBRE, one of the nation’s largest real estate service companies. In 2006, he received an advanced degree from Columbia University in real estate studies and development. To reach him, e-mail [email protected]. For more information, visit www.citycenterselfstorage.com.

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