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5 Grassroots Marketing Strategies for Budget-Challenged Self-Storage Operators

Don’t let a small budget be an excuse for not marketing. Here are five grassroots strategies designed to help self-storage operators reach their target audience without breaking the bank.

Does your self-storage business have a small marketing budget? Not sure how to leverage your marketing dollars to get the best return? Though grassroots marketing has evolved with the Internet, the philosophy behind it is still the same: Target a specific audience to spur a movement that cost-effectively gains tenants. Here are five simple strategies that will allow you to target your audience in an economical way.

1. Word of Mouth: Business to Business

Introducing your storage facility to complementary businesses for the purpose of customer referrals can be a win-win scenario. These referral networks work especially well when both parties are invested. Identify businesses your tenants may use and that have clients who may need self-storage. Stop by and make a quick introduction. To form a solid relationship, visit these contacts regularly but for short durations.

Designate a place in your office where you can display their marketing materials in exchange for them displaying information about your facility at their place of business. Personally thank them for any referrals.

One example of relationship-building is to identify realtors in your community. They can’t accept gifts themselves, but they can accept gift cards or merchandise packages to pass on to their clients, many of whom have storage needs. Gift cards could be equivalent to a month’s rent, so this is a very low-cost way to entice prospects. It’s a win for both parties! Other businesses to consider are pizza shops, home stagers, moving companies and mortgage-loan officers.

2. Word of Mouth: Your Customers and Referral Bonuses

Your tenants are your best advertisement. If customers have a great experience, they’re not only likely to tell their family and friends, they also have access to millions of prospects across the Internet.

Make the tenant experience a positive one by creating a personal relationship. If a customer mentions something personal at the time of rental or when paying a bill, such as an interest or hobby, use your management software to make a note in his file. It’s a nice gesture if you or your assistant mention something about it the next time he calls or visits. The same software should also allow for birthday and holiday greetings to be automatically sent to tenants. Going this extra step provides a positive experience people will want to share.

Train your managers to ask for referrals and reviews. Adding a simple request to the end of customer interactions, such as: “We would be very grateful if you could leave us a review on your favorite online platform and keep us in mind if you know anyone else who needs storage.” This can boost their likeliness of telling others about your business.

That said, reward those referrals! Offer a bonus to both customers if the new tenant mentions the current one during move-in. The bonus can be small, but receiving a special token or discount will make them feel good about renting from you. Use your software to promote your referral program at bottom of your receipts. Use low-cost coupons or promotional goods around your facility to keep the referral program fresh in tenants’ minds.

3. Community Events

To further reach your market, participate in free community events. These allow you to reach a wide audience within your geographic target. Have information about your facility ready to distribute, along with a coupon specific to the event. This allows you to track your return without much effort or expense. Consider raffling some free storage. This allows you to collect information from prospects by giving away something at a very low cost to you.

4. Sponsor Door Prizes or Charity Raffles

Donating to local charities is a great way to shed positive light on your facility. If monetary sponsorships are outside your budget, donate a gift as a door prize. You can create a nice package by pairing a gift card for free storage with low-cost merchandise, such as a lock or moving supplies.

5. Social Media

Use social media to engage your audience. In addition to posting about the community and storage-related tips, comment on and share other local pages. This is an inexpensive but effective way to be visible and active in the market.

You can also reach your customer base by doing paid ads on Facebook. For less than $5 per day, you can reach a specific targeted audience. Ads can be aimed at those likely to use storage, such as recent mortgage borrowers, recent homebuyers, those in new relationships (or ending relationships), and people moving into your area. The ads can link right to your website to allow customers to reserve or rent units with the click of a mouse.

Also engage social media influencers in your community. If there’s a blogger, Instagram celebrity or highly followed tweeter in your area, invite him to your facility for a tour. Offer him free storage in exchange for a mention on his social media platform. This allows you to reach a very broad audience for very little money. The reach of social media influencers is organic to people who trust or are interested in their opinions.

Don’t let a small budget be an excuse for not marketing. These local, targeted, ground-level strategies can prove to be effective in gaining tenants at a very low cost.

Melissa Stiles is marketing manager for Storage Asset Management Inc. (SAM), responsible for the direction of marketing and sales functions for the company’s 40-plus managed self-storage facilities as well as its corporate marketing. Her previous experience includes traditional and digital marketing, specifically social media and search engine optimization in the nonprofit and manufacturing sectors. For more information, call 717.779.0044; www.storageassetmanagement.com.

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