You can hire a professional firm to take care of your self-storage operation’s digital marketing, but what exactly are you getting? Do you know? If you opt to do this work yourself, are you able to cover all the bases? The fact is, sometimes you can save money by handling critical tasks on your own; but some should be managed by a professional.
When weighing the possibilities, factor in the opportunity cost. For example, the money you pay a third party to handle your digital marketing could also be invested into a different aspect of your business such as adding more storage units, upgrading technology or hiring more staff. On the other hand, if you opt to do it all yourself, you’re investing time you could focus on other things. Plus, you may not get the same results as a professional firm.
Some self-storage marketing tasks simply have to be outsourced. For example, building a website that allows online rentals isn’t really possible without a team of experienced web developers. If that isn’t you, you need to hire someone. Also, a professional will know how to do the job better than you can. With a third party, you should see better performance overall.
That said, if you’ve got a limited budget, you want to prioritize the tasks that bring the biggest return on investment. At the end of the day, your digital marketing should help you rent more self-storage units. You can outsource a hundred marketing tasks—everything from weekly blogging to producing fliers and leaflets—but not all of them will accomplish this ultimate goal.
Below are the five most important areas of digital marketing on which to focus. If you’ve got these covered, you’ll be in good shape. Let’s look at the importance of each, the general costs, and whether you should spend the money to work with a pro or tackle it yourself.
Completing Your Google Business Profile (GBP)
This is the single most important digital-marketing step you can take as a self-storage operator. Google controls the vast majority of U.S. search volume, and without a GBP, you aren’t even an option for searchers in your area.
- Importance: Necessary
- Cost: Free or as much as $1,000
- Should I outsource? It can help but isn’t necessary. Google has made it simple to make updates. Just fill out all the options as thoroughly and accurately as possible. There are some things a professional could help with here, but the difference between an expert and a thorough amateur will be minimal.
Creating and Maintaining a Website
Your self-storage website is your online storefront. Without one, you can’t take advantage of any search volume your GBP generates, and you’ll miss out. Anyone searching for storage units in their area wants to find a website with lots of information and, ideally, a way to rent a unit right then and there. If they can do so, you’ve got a great setup, especially as Millennials and Gen-Z comprise more of the market. If they can’t, many will keep looking until they find what they want.
- Importance: Necessary
- Cost: $1,000 to $20,000 to start, then $100 to $500 per month. This varies greatly depending on the number of self-storage locations you operate. You can build a website for free, and if that’s your only option, do it. However, a professional site will have stronger search engine optimization (SEO) and better conversion rates. It’ll also offer more features than you can create on your own.
- Should I outsource? Yes!
Optimizing Your SEO
This’ll help potential self-storage renters find your GBP and website. All three work together to create a strong online presence. If you don’t optimize your SEO, even a good website won’t matter because no one will find it.
There are two phases to SEO optimization: setup and maintenance. The first is invaluable, the latter not so much. If your SEO is set up correctly in the first place, you really shouldn’t have to mess with it all that often.
That said, it can be frustrating because Google and other search engines take a long time to find and properly rank new websites. Self-storage operators get understandably antsy when their business isn’t immediately appearing at the top of search results, and then they often spend money on updates that won’t move the needle.
Cost: $300 to $600 per month or higher, depending on the number of facilities
Should I outsource? Yes, but only once. After that, you can just do an annual review. If you haven’t properly set up your SEO, it’s well worth the money to get professional help. Usually, if you pay for a website, this should be a part of the cost.
Running Paid Ad Campaigns
Paid advertising campaigns like pay per click (PPC) are a great way to generate demand for a new self-storage business, especially if your SEO isn’t yet showing results. On the other hand, if your facility already shows up in local results, you shouldn’t pay to appear on the front page a second time. The “local pack” gets more clicks than paid placements and don’t cost you. That said, if you really want to drive up demand (or lease up a new facility), some professional advice can make your ad campaigns much more effective.
- Importance: Moderate
- Cost: Varies depending on the structure. Some companies charge a flat fee for managing your PPC campaigns while others want a percentage of the total ad spend.
- Should I outsource? Only if you need to really need to create demand. When properly targeted, an online ad campaign can be well worth the money you spend. It puts your business at the top of a search results page, even if other nearby self-storage facilities are higher ranked. This isn’t as good as being the first result naturally, but it isn’t far behind.
Managing Your Social Media
In some markets, this may be a valid way to reach potential self-storage customers, but it usually doesn’t perform as well as the prior four areas of digital marketing discussed above. There’s a lot of noise out there on this subject. Social media is indeed a very important facet of digital marketing, just not for self-storage. You’ll hear that Gen Z is using TikTok to find restaurants, and they are; but there’s no evidence yet that they’re searching for storage facilities there.
Cost: $200 to $2,000 per month
Should I outsource? No. If you like social media, it won’t hurt to use it; just don’t expect it to be a big moneymaker.
If you ultimately decide to outsource any of the above work to a digital-marketing team, trust that they know their stuff. However, no one knows your business and customers better than you. If you aren’t sure a proposed strategy will work in your neighborhood, tell them why. Take advantage of their expertise, but don’t be afraid to participate.
That said, you may just want to hire a good partner and let them do their thing. This frees up your time to work on other important aspects of your self-storage business. Everything has an opportunity cost. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worthwhile.
David Austin is a content specialist at 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 joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.