There are many traditional marketing methods that can help a self-storage business gain visibility and build its brand. However, paid advertising can be costly, and your return on investment depends on the number and quality of leads you’re able to generate and convert. The figures don’t always add up.
Thankfully, there are inexpensive, strategic ways to accomplish the same marketing objectives for less money. Let’s look at 10 organic and guerrilla tactics that work well in the self-storage industry.
What Do These Terms Mean?
Organic marketing is a way to drive traffic to your self-storage facility over time without using paid methods. For example, your company might put content online via a blog, case studies or guest articles. You might use unpaid posts on social media. The idea is to capitalize on search engine optimization, social platforms and other promotional channels.
Similarly, guerrilla marketing involves the use of innovative, unconventional, low-cost techniques to gain local exposure for your business and the products and services you offer.
Using these methods to your advantage requires time and internal resources rather than external spending. It’s all about planning your work and working on your plan. To leverage these strategies well, you must show up and be consistent.
1. Marketing Calendar
An annual marketing calendar is invaluable and the lifeblood of your self-storage promotional plan. Once you’ve created it, you can see tasks days, weeks and even months in advance. It’ll help you stay on schedule and on target. Here are some items you might consider adding to the calendar for January, for example:
- Add new customer names/emails and other contacts to the monthly newsletter list.
- Send out newsletter. Possible theme: Free unit for fire victims, plus stop by and say hello for a free 2023 winter handout.
- Distribute winter handouts (ice scrapers) off site, December through February.
- Deliver a flier promoting the “free unit for fire victims” to the fire department, town hall and other applicable locations. Promote on Facebook.
- Update your local-business email/contact lists for companies such as movers, campgrounds, realtors, apartments, etc.
- Make an office YouTube video.
- Call and visit realtors to get their emails for the facility newsletter.
- Review the company website for any corrections/approvals.
- Buy Valentine’s Day office decorations. Put them up the last week of January.
- Prepare and promote a Valentine’s Day contest, such as guessing the correct number of candies in a jar to win a $30 prize. Start the contest on Jan. 20.
- Put out lawn signs, the open flag and the sandwich board daily, weather permitting. Remember to change signs and the sandwich board weekly.
- Check lawn signs for wear and tear, and order new ones as needed.
2. Google Business Profile (GBP)
GBP is quickly becoming the No. 1 platform on which to communicate with a business community. Self-storage operators who post and engage there regularly will automatically increase their indexing with Google algorithms by 25%. It’s critical to stay active on this platform! Here are some tips for maximizing it:
- Make regular posts, for example, three to five times per week.
- Consistently ask customers to post reviews on GBP—and respond to them.
- Complete a basic question-and-answer section.
- Post current pictures and videos.
3. Nextdoor and Facebook
Nextdoor and Facebook aren't as strong as GBP but can still be useful for reaching consumers—if you consistently create and post fresh content. Some engagement tips include:
- Choose topics that are local, relevant and time-sensitive.
- Develop a schedule for posting.
- Target your messages to neighborhoods, residents and community-service areas.
- Be friendly and neighborly.
- Use engaging subject lines.
- Keep messages precise, short and sweet.
- Whenever possible, attach images or videos to your posts.
- Always acknowledge and engage in the conversation.
4. Business Alliances
Business alliances in your three- to five-mile self-storage service radius can be extremely valuable. Work to create connections with local businesses such as movers, realtors, home inspectors and even the pizzeria. Enter the contact information for all of your alliances into your database for your monthly newsletter. It all comes down to how you can to help other generate activity and revenue.
As part of this effort, create “welcome to the community” envelopes and a bulletin board to engage potential customers and spread good will. These should be filled with offers and promotions from local businesses in which customers may be interested. When a customer is new to the area, hand them an envelope and direct them to your board, which is actually useful for anyone in the area, not just new residents.
The strength of this marketing approach lies in the reciprocation. However, don’t ever pressure your allies into sending you self-storage customers. Instead, the idea is to partner and cross-market.
5. Monthly E-Newsletter
Create a monthly e-newsletter to send to current and past customers as well as your business alliances. Use it to present your self-storage facility in a professional manner and demonstrate that you’re showing up for your community.
Consistency is key to creating brand awareness, so send your newsletter at least monthly. You want to remain top-of-mind when past tenants need storage again or your network makes a self-storage referral. Also, send it out regularly at roughly the same time, for example, the second Tuesday of every month, or every other Wednesday.
6. Quarterly Events
Hosting quarterly events at your self-storage property or even offsite is a great way to build brand awareness and trust with customers. They can help with sales and marketing while adding value to the community and raising your profile within it. Each event should be planned at least 90 days in advance. Here are some ideas:
- Host a chamber-of-commerce mixer or facility open house.
- Provide lunch for a realtor meeting or training.
- Sponsor a Little League team.
- Hold a car-wash fundraiser.
7. Drive-by Traffic
Half of your self-storage customers regularly drive by your facility, so it’s important to keep your property looking fresh. You want keep heads turning in your direction rather than you’re your become a stagnant part of the landscape. Again, it’s about staying in people’s thoughts, so that when they eventually need storage, they remember you. Here are some tips:
- Change your look every seven days.
- Change out feather flags.
- Regularly update your sandwich/reader board.
- Place cones at the end of the drive when it rains.
8. Holiday Marketing
Holidays can conjure community excitement, and marketing with applicable themes can show off your company spirit as a hometown business. Here are some simple ideas to consider:
- Put flags out for all major holidays.
- Host a gift-wrapping station in December.
- Put hearts out in February for Valentine’s Day. Possible reader board message: “Stop in for a kiss *Hershey’s Kiss :)”
Believe it or not, cleaning is part of your self-storage marketing! A spotless site with a fresh aroma can be the deciding factor for a rental prospect. Consistently presenting a clean, inviting environment also helps turn tenants into referral machines, as they’ll quickly recommend your facility with confidence. Walk in every day looking at your site through the lens of a customer, and ask yourself:
- Does the landscaping look fresh with zero weeds?
- Has all loose trash and debris been removed?
- Do the restrooms, hallways and office look pristine and smell great?
10. Industry Resources
Use external resources, including self-storage publications and informational websites, to come up with more marketing ideas. You’ll almost always be able to extract one or two great tips. Write them down in a notebook or computer file, and before long, you’ll have dozens of new ideas to implement every year. Stay consistent, and you’ll be amazed at your results!
Make and Implement a Plan
To get the most out of organic and guerrilla marketing for your self-storage business, plan out your tasks in time blocks, and make it a top priority to complete each one. Spend at least 10 hours per week putting your strategies into action. Stay consistent, and don’t let tedious tasks steal away from your marketing time.
If you commit to consistent action and follow your self-storage marketing calendar, you’ll be astonished with the occupancy and revenue highs you generate. It’s all about getting 1% better every day!
Garrett Byrd is the vice president for Storage Authority LLC, which offers a self-storage franchise model guiding owners through finding land, development and operation. He has more than 20 years of experience in real estate and self-storage management. To reach him, call 941.928.1354 or email [email protected].