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Art of Marketing

July 2, 2007

5 Min Read
Art of Marketing

If youve ever read the classic Acres of Diamonds by Russell Conwell, you know most people have love, money and anything they desire well within their reach. If you havent had the pleasure, I recommend the book as a must read for just about anybody.

The story is about Ali Hafed, a farmer with many acres of land. Like most people, he desperately wants to be rich. One day, a priest tells Ali that if he could just find one diamond the size of his thumb, he could buy the entire country and live the rest of his life as an extremely wealthy man. So he sells the family farm and goes searching for diamonds all over the world, eventually going completely broke and ending his life by suicide in the ocean.

Shortly after Alis sad departure, the gentleman who buys his farm is giving his horse a drink from the river that runs through the property. While standing on the bank, he notices a sparkle in the water: a beautiful stone that glistens in the sun. He picks it up, thinking nothing of it until the priest stops by and points out it is, indeed, a diamond!

As the story continues, we learn the entire farm sits on acres and acres of diamonds and becomes one of the worlds largest diamond mines. Poor Alis dream was right under his nose the entire time and, instead of leveraging what he already had, he left it behind for a miserable life and death.

The moral of the story is pretty easy to see, and Im sure you know it by now.

Morally Speaking

I believe we all have our own figurative acre of diamonds. And, this is where it gets good for you: You have your own asset, just like Ali, but just need to know how to harvest the goods!

As a self-storage operator, you happen to have the trust and respect of people who are in a very valuable stage of their life. As you probably know, there are specific life events that surround the need for storage. Ill tell you what they are in a moment because its crucial for you to know, but before I do, I want to make a point.

I talk to owners and operators like Ali every day. Some own a single facility while others operate large enterprises. Regardless of their size or profitability, they all want more. Like Ali, theyre looking for a solution outside of their existing assets. While theres nothing in particular wrong with this thinking, I advise them to look within their existing profit opportunities before they invest in another property, a bigger Yellow Pages ad, or whatever theyre thinking of doing.

Now, pay attention, because Im about to tell you something incredibly valuable, but you might pass it up because of its simplicity: Conventional thinking in the self-storage industry tells us that tenants have a lifetime value that is made up of a certain amount of monthly rent and a merchandise transaction or two. I hear numbers all over the board. To figure your average customer value, simply take your average monthly rent, multiply it by your average length of stay, and add in your average merchandise sale per customer.

Lets say your average customer value is $700. Would you like to increase that number without raising rent, without adding another customer or selling another box? To do so means youll have to recognize the acres of diamonds already within your self-storage business.

Life Events

People who need self-storage are often going through an important life event, for example:

  • A move: The tenant is selling his home or has just moved into town.

    • Military service:

    Soldiers defending our freedom need a safe place to store belongings while theyre overseas.

  • Campus or apartment living: Due to limited dorm or apartment space, these good folks often need extra room.

  • Divorce or inheritance: People going through one of these events need to sort through extra belongings.

There are many other life events, but well stick to these for the purposes of this article. Now, Ive mentioned that its possible to increase the lifetime value of each customer, and the trust and respect from your customers is extremely valuable. This is where it all comes together. By forming joint ventures with respectable local businesses that can fill a need people require during those major life events, you can increase customer values by 25 percent, 50 percent or even 200 percent and more!

Joint Ventures

Just like you, local businesses are trying to grow their sales revenue. And like you, they advertise a certain dollar amount and, over time, divide that number by the number of new customers to obtain a customer-acquisition cost. Some will pay a few bucks for new customers, but others will pay several hundred or even more than $1,000 to acquire new clients.

But what if you leveraged your trust and customer relationships to give them a qualified customer? Do you think businesses would pay you a commission? You bet they would! If youre paying $100 for a new customer through your advertising efforts, youd willingly pay $80 for a new one if somebody brought one to you, right?

If local businesses are paying $250 for new customers, theyd love you to bring them some at $200. And youd have increased your lifetime value by 28.5 percent (based on the example average lifetime value of $700). Do that a few times, and youve just struck diamonds!

Form alliances with local businesses like movers, realtors, estate planners, carpet cleaners, home-renovations companies and so on. Think of businesses that help people in major life events and begin to create a master list of potential companies with which to ally. For example, people who have just put their home up for sale need a realtor, moving company and quite a bit of moving supplies. A person who is getting divorced probably needs a realtor, moving company and a good attorney.

Meet with the decision-maker of these local businesses to work out a fair and agreeable commission and tracking system. Do this multiple times, until you have a nice slate of joint-venture partners. Create attractive marketing materials for customers to outline the benefits of using your joint-venture partners.

Before long, youll be getting commission checks in the mail, and your customer value will go through the roof. That, my friend, is just one acre of diamonds within your facility! 

Derek M. Naylor is the president of Storage Marketing Solutions, an advertising and marketing agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a complimentary marketing-strategy session and newsletter, call 800.941.4805; visit www.storagemarketingsolutions.com

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