The self-storage industry has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, with lots of new entrants to the market. As a result, existing facility operators need an edge. To create one, they must understand their competition.
Keeping an eye on the competitors in your market, including what they’re doing and how well they’re performing across several areas, can provide valuable insight to help you make informed decisions and drive sustainable business growth. Performing a regular analysis will give you a greater understanding of your market including prices, customer preferences and emerging industry trends.
It also allows you to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. By benchmarking against the competition, you’re better equipped to identify areas in which you can excel. Similarly, knowing others’ strengths can help you recognize your own shortcomings and specific areas for improvement.
In addition, a competition analysis can play a crucial role in strategic planning. Studying the marketing initiatives and customer-acquisition tactics of other operators often provides inspiration for your own programs and allows you to refine your approach. Ultimately, this helps pinpoint unique selling propositions and customer segments, and allocate resources effectively to outperform rivals.
Another key benefit is enhancing your self-storage customer experience. This is a byproduct of continuously evaluating best practices and improving deficiencies. When your quality of service improves, so too will tenant satisfaction and loyalty.
Items to Analyze
Now that we’ve discussed some of the primary benefits of performing a competition analysis, let’s dig into some of the items to scrutinize.
Product and service mix. Know your competitors’ product and service offerings, including unit sizes and types, amenities, pricing, and any unique features. Then use this information to give your facility an advantage. For example, if local inventory for 5-by-10 units seems low, boost your marketing on this size. You might even convert a handful of 10-by-10s into 5-by-10s, which would help you increase revenue and accelerate your leasing strategy.
Pricing. Examine competitors’ strategies, including rates for different unit sizes and any discounts or incentives. This helps you evaluate your own competitiveness and adjust accordingly. Specials can be a powerful tool. If a prospect believes a comparable competitor is offering a better deal, you may lose the business. Keeping an eye on competitors’ promotions allows you to align yourself appropriately within an ever-changing market.
Technology. This is constantly evolving, but being current or staying ahead of the pack can provide an edge. Keep an eye out for new tools being offered by industry suppliers and watch what your competitors are using. In particular, providing self-storage tenants with what they perceive to be a more secure facility may be enough to give your property an advantage. When analyzing the market, pay attention to items like gate access, security cameras and electronic door locks.
Marketing. Evaluate what your rivals are doing in this area. Monitor their online presence, advertising campaigns, social media activity and other customer-engagement strategies. This also helps you identify their target audience, messaging and areas in which you can differentiate your brand.
Customer experience. Analyze the full breadth and quality of service provided to tenants by other self-storage facilities. Evaluate property upkeep and any amenities as well as hours of operation. You can use this data to better tailor your offerings to your target audience or zero in on areas for expansion.
Market position. Study your competitors’ local presence and expansion strategies. Identify their locations, facility sizes and any plans for future development. This helps you assess their market reach and potential threats as well as opportunities for growth.
Getting the Info You Need
Knowing what information to track in regard to your self-storage competitors is only half the battle. Now you need to get it. Here are some tips to help you gather useful intelligence.
First, identify all competitors. It isn’t always easy. Conduct online research, use industry directories, acquire local market knowledge and have conversations with other industry professionals in your area. Spend some time driving around your market. Pay attention to what catches your eye as you drive by a competitor. What are they doing better than you and vice versa? Look for any opportunities that’ll give you an advantage.
Next, gather publicly available information about your competitors via their websites, social media profiles, listings in online directories, press releases and news articles. These sources often reveal details about pricing, promotions, facility features, and any recent property updates or expansions. In addition, scrutinize their online reviews. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses as perceived by tenants to identify areas where you can outshine them with service quality and customer satisfaction.
Mystery shopping is another way to gain firsthand knowledge about competing sites. Examine facility cleanliness, customer service, security measures, facility layout and available amenities. Create a checklist to help guide your evaluation.
Don’t forget to track competitors’ online-advertising campaigns. Use tools like Google Ad Library or social media ad-tracking platforms to monitor these. Analyze their ad copy, targeting strategies and ad placements. A simpler method is to do a quick Google search of “storage near me” or “storage in [city name],” which’ll give you an idea of which facilities are advertising in your market and the approach they’re using.
Finally, take advantage of industry resources such as conferences, tradeshows and online communities. Participating in these not only allows you to network, it can provide an opportunity to gather information about competitors. Engaging with colleagues and even customers can provide intel on other operators’ reputation and customer experience.
How often you conduct a competition analysis can vary based on many factors. As a starting point, do one at least annually to create a solid foundation on which to build. This timeframe allows for a thorough examination of competitors’ marketing, pricing, customer experience, etc. It also enables you to identify emerging trends, new market entrants or other factors that may disrupt your business.
That said, if you’re in a rapidly evolving or highly competitive market, your operation may benefit from more frequent assessments. A quarterly or biannual schedule can provide a more accurate picture, allowing you to quickly identify emerging competitors and adapt to shifting customer preferences.
It’s also important to do an analysis whenever there’s a major shift in your own business, your local market or the self-storage industry at large. For example, knowing when a new competitor will launch or close down can help you make timely, strategic adjustments. Other examples include changes in customer behavior, the launch of a new product or services, or an expansion into a new market. These milestones can trigger the need for more immediate and targeted reviews to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.
What to Do With the Information
So, once you gather this market intelligence, how do you use it to your advantage? Here’s a three-step process to apply what you learn:
1. Apply benchmarks. Compare findings against your own self-storage business to identify where you excel and can improve. A smart, organized method for this is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, which can help you assess your competitive position and areas of differentiation.
2. Develop strategies. Based on your SWOT analysis, create an action plan. You might adjust unit rates, make facility improvements, enhance marketing efforts or target underserved customer segments.
3. Monitor and adapt. The competitive landscape is dynamic, so monitoring is crucial. The self-storage management software you use may have the ability to track and report on much of this information. Additionally, facility managers should have scheduled, recurring tasks to ensure your competition analysis is as up-to-date as possible and allows you to adapt strategies as needed to maintain a competitive edge.
Sarah McDougall is a business development consultant for QuikStor Security & Software, which provides management software, access keypads, wireless alarms, video surveillance, website design and digital marketing to the self-storage industry. Using her background in marketing and graphic design, she collaborates with clients to develop and execute digital-marketing strategies that help their businesses grow. For more information, call 800.321.1987, email [email protected].