Every self-storage operator knows (or should know) it’s necessary to have an effective marketing plan to be successful. Though you may have a wealth of ideas about potential campaigns and promotions, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is marketing without a clear budget, which can result in making snap decisions and spending more than you need to or should. Here are six tips to help you craft a productive, affordable strategy.
Know What You Want to Accomplish
To begin, consider what you want to achieve with your marketing plan. Every self-storage business is different, so no one can tell you exactly what your goals should be. Make a list to clarify your objectives. This will help you plan strategically.
Know What You’re Willing to Spend
There’s no shortage of information on how to build a budget, but everyone seems to have a different theory on how it should be done. Should you start with a flat amount? Is it best to make a list of all desired items and then whittle it to a comfortable number? Is there an advantage to working with a variable amount, such as a percentage of revenue?
My best results have come from blending approaches: using a flat number and a wish list to build a campaign within reason. In this case, you’ll wind up with a solid list of backup ideas to try if something in your original plan fails. Similarly, if one of your initial strategies is wildly successful, you can always invest in one of those secondary campaigns.
Consider Campaign Details
The biggest mistake I’ve seen self-storage operators make with their marketing budgets is broad-brush guessing. You can’t reliably estimate without research. Each marketing activity must be planned from the ground up so you’re well-aware of potential costs. Far too often, people budget for a campaign based only on what they think it’ll cost, but you need to consider every detail.
For example, let’s say you want to create a campaign that targets college students who need storage space during the summer. A local university will allow you to set up a table at the student union for one day during lunch hours. Don’t just estimate what you’ll spend on this activity. To determine the actual cost, list everything involved. This might include:
- 6-foot table: $50
- Table skirt: $100
- Fliers: $100
- Branded koozies: $100
- Additional staff time: $50
This puts your costs at $400, but round up to $450 to give yourself a little cushion for unexpected expenses.
By going through this exercise with each budget line item, you’ll eliminate surprises down the road. Developing an initial, itemized plan will give you the freedom to move and shift items as you evaluate your plan throughout the year. This may be the most important factor in being able to adhere to a budget.
Try Something New
I believe firmly in going to the wells that work, but be mindful that wells eventually dry up. It’s always wise to allocate some funds to try new strategies. This’ll help you keep ahead of the curve—and the competition—once your tried-and-true methods stop working.
There’s always an element of risk when experimenting with new marketing channels or strategies. It’s OK to fail, just learn from what did and didn’t work. All risk should be calculated.
Measure Your Results
To determine whether a campaign should continue or expand, you need to know how it’s performing. Measure results against your originally stated goals, which may have included a specific return on investment (ROI), number of leads, number of new tenants, etc. By comparing results to objectives, you’ll know what you should change, add or delete going forward. If you don’t know where to start, that’s OK. Sometimes you need to create benchmarks for future success.
To form the truest picture, it’s crucial to evaluate marketing performance from the aggregate as well as the campaign level. For example, you could hit your goal at the aggregate level, but if a few campaigns underperform while others exceed expectations, the successful ones will mask the failures if you only look at the whole.
Finally, don’t rely only on the numbers. Marketing is equal parts art and science. Don’t be too quick to abandon a campaign based on metrics alone. If something underperformed, dive in to determine if it was the wrong tactic or just needs an adjustment.
In sports, every game plan works in theory until you see the defense. Your marketing budget is no different. Sometimes you have to adjust. Challenge yourself to stick to the bottom-line number but be flexible within the various components. If you discover that Facebook ads are performing much better than normal, cut something else and invest more to leverage the hot campaign.
The most important thing is to spend every dollar in the best way possible. This means you might have to do things differently than you planned. Stick to the number you originally set, but allow some wiggle room in the details for changing dynamics.
Planning and sticking to a marketing budget can feel daunting. By following these six recommendations, you’ll develop a strategy that clearly defines what needs to be executed to drive the best possible ROI.
Alex Ball is the director of demand generation for storEDGE, which provides software, website services and other technology to the self-storage industry. Alex has spent most of his career setting and executing annual marketing plans and measuring their impact on sales and revenue. For more information, call 913.954.4110; e-mail email@example.com; visit www.storedge.com.