You can’t effectively market a self-storage business by flipping a switch. Your marketing must be fluid. It’s is an interactive relationship between you and your customers. So, you can’t afford to take a “set it and forget it” or one-size-fits-all approach.
Every self-storage facility is unique and has its own customer base. Sure, there are marketing best practices you can and should implement, but building long-term, sustainable growth requires that you find the right channels for your operation and strategies that bring reliable results. What works for another industry may not work for storage. What works in one city may not work for all locations. When choosing between renting a billboard, buying digital ads or sponsoring the local baseball team, it’s important to know what to spend and where.
This is why tracking your data is so important. Without it, you’re simply guessing. Measuring results will tell you what marketing is and isn’t working. It’ll also let you focus on growth instead of wondering where it’ll come from. The good news is it’s easier than ever to accomplish.
Tracking = Insight
If you properly collect and analyze your elf-storage marketing data, it should yield two big results: better budget optimization and greater customer understanding. Whether you’re an independent operator with one facility or a booming multi-location franchise, you want to make the most of your resources. At the end of each quarter, you should be able to report where you spent your marketing dollars and how many leads and customers came from each channel. Then you want to continue to prioritize the channels and strategies that are working and relax on the ones that aren’t.
Beyond dollars and cents, this data can provide valuable insight to how your market behaves. Industry standards tell us that 75 percent of self-storage customers rent within five miles of their home, which means each facility has its own challenges and opportunities. Knowing how your customers find you and what they most frequently store can help you assemble a more complete picture of who your typical customer is and what matters most to him.
Think of it as uncovering the who, what, when, where and how. Every marketing channel has its own data points and methods to track. Let’s break these down by digital and manual.
Predictably, your digital-marketing data revolves around your self-storage website. You can set up tools that measure performance and track visitor data points, which’ll help you understand who your customers are and how they behave online. Here are some key areas to watch:
Visits and page views. The baseline digital data is your website traffic. How many people are coming to your site? Once they arrive, are they leaving right away or looking around? Every self-storage operator should know the average visits and page-view ranges for his website and actively work to improve engagement.
Referral source. A lead source is one of the most obvious data points. It tells you how a person arrived at your website. It could be Google, Facebook, Yelp or any number of digital locations. If a source is working (providing quality leads), could you double down on your efforts and make it even better? If you’re missing a referral source you’d like to see, look for ways to level up your efforts.
Device. Knowing which devices people are using to conduct online searches is a great way to learn more about your customers. If they’re looking at your website from their phone, what are they seeing? Is your website responsive? It should be easy for users to get the information they need and effortless for them to rent from you.
Location and time. Check to see where your website visitors are coming from and if you’re getting traffic from your immediate vicinity. It’s also useful to know what time of day people are using your site. If it’s after normal business hours, make sure you offer the ability to rent a unit online.
Behavior. Depending on how you’re tracking your marketing data, you may be able to see which specific Web pages visitors interact with most. Knowing which information is and isn’t getting attention is a great way to gauge demand.
Even as customers increasingly use online resources to find self-storage, you should still implement and track offline marketing strategies, which may involve some manual data collection. The big data points on which to focus are source and method. In other words, how did the customer find you, and what method did he use to contact you (phone, email, walk-in, etc.)? Ask each person how he heard about you and document it.
It isn’t enough to count heads. For manual data to be helpful, you must know the source of each lead. Knowing how many calls or walk-ins you had in a given month is helpful, but it’s incomplete information. It tells you very little about the effectiveness of your marketing strategies, or which one was responsible for a customer reaching out to you.
Just bear in mind that tracking data manually takes effort. You may have to ask the customer pointed questions. Be as specific as you can! Did a friend make a recommendation? Did he see a billboard? Did he look you up on Google and decide to visit the property? Asking for the true marketing source is essential to understanding your leads and customer characteristics.
Corralling the Data
Gathering and storing data is the crux of your marketing efforts. Since your leads will come from a variety of sources, you’ll need a diverse set of tools and techniques to capture the information you need. Though there are plenty available, these are the essentials:
Website analytics. A lot of data comes through your website, so a good analytics tool is key. Your website provider may offer built-in tools and dashboards for you to view. If not, you can always integrate Google Analytics, which typically lets you view all the digital data you require.
Call tracking. This is a great way to automatically determine a customer’s source. Call-tracking software allows you to create unique phone numbers you can use in different ways and locations. For example, you can have numbers for your street signage, Google My Business account, Facebook page and so on. This way, when someone calls, you’ll know exactly where he found you.
Simple conversation. No matter how sophisticated or automated your marketing systems may be, asking people how they heard about you will never be irrelevant. Even if they “found you” on Google, maybe they saw your street sign a dozen times first. Perhaps a friend recommended you, and then he visited your Facebook page. “How did you hear about us?” is the single most important data point you can collect. Never miss a chance to understand a new tenant’s journey to choosing your facility.
Crunch the Numbers
If you’ve gone through all this work to capture valuable marketing data, you need to review and analyze it. If you don’t do this monthly, make sure you do so at least every quarter. Remember, the goal of collecting all of this information is to understand your market. How are people finding you and what are they responding to?
Let the data inform your marketing strategies and budget. Focus on what’s working, and then try to improve the effectiveness of those channels still more. If you’re in an urban area where digital ads are advantageous, run them. If you’re in a community that’s locally focused and it pays to sponsor a sports team, do that! The bottom line is you won’t know what works unless you track and measure your efforts.
Each self-storage market has unique customers who respond to a specific blend of strategies, so find your sweet spot. When you do, you’ll know which levers to pull and when, as well as which channels to abandon. Your data can be your best friend. Let it guide you. Market where it matters most!
Tyler Anthony is marketing manager of StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior to joining the company in 2020, he helped market and grow dozens of other businesses. He believes marketing should be honest, helpful and, above all, human. For more information, call 865.240.0295; email [email protected].