When it comes to creating a successful self-storage website, there is good news and bad.
Let’s start with the good news: Websites and Internet marketing are a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing. They allow you to capture as many tenants as possible for the lowest possible cost per acquisition (CPA). Internet marketing is also extremely trackable. You can track visits, leads and click-throughs, and gauge your return on investment easier than you can with other marketing and advertising avenues. You can find out what’s working and where you should be spending your dollars.
Now for the bad news. Here’s a common scenario: You’re thinking about building your facility’s website and beginning the research when you’re hit with an onslaught of acronyms you’ve never even heard of: CTR, SEO, SEM, PPC and so on. You think, “Whatever happened to just having someone you know whip up a website for you?” Times have changed. Whether you’re updating a current website or building one from scratch, there’s a big learning curve regarding building, maintaining and marketing a successful website.
There are four main ingredients to achieving “love at first site” with potential customers: making a great first impression, having solid content, getting your website noticed, and keeping it fresh.
Hey There, Good Lookin’
First impressions count. Having a poor website can be compared to going on a date in your PJs. These days, it’s not enough to show up—you have to look good. If your website looks poorly maintained and out-of-date, potential customers might wonder if your facility is too. Your competition is only a click away. Are you prepared? Think about these questions:
What does your website say about your business? This comes down to branding. Use your logo and slogan to maintain the look and feel of your facility on your website. Think of it as an extension of your other marketing materials such as your brochure, banners, promotional items, etc.
If your feel is new and modern, go with a crisp, streamlined look for your website. Use clean lines, simple statements and contemporary colors. If yours is more of a friendly neighborhood facility, go with that design emphasis. Use pictures of your staff and customers. Talk about your community involvement and, most important, great customer service.
Is navigation easy? You can have a fresh, new and innovative website that’s out of this world, but if the customer cannot easily and quickly navigate it, he will move on.
What’s in it for them? Does your website offer the perks your customers seek? Are your prospects looking for online reservations? How about online account management? Do you have a coupon offer with a call to action? Does your website have information about your facility’s unique selling propositions? Does it highlight all the great amenities your facility offers, especially in comparison to competitors? To be successful, the website must be a resource for current and potential tenants.
More Than Just a Pretty Face
You can have a great-looking site, but that doesn’t mean anything if potential customers can’t find it when they’re searching online. A great website has the cosmetic component and a solid foundation. This foundation should be built with search-engine optimization (SEO). Bottom line, you need to rank in searches. Are you high on the list when potential customers are searching for self-storage in your area or not even on the first page? To achieve higher ranking results, do the following:
Know SEO. Research what keywords are being searched in your industry and what your competition is doing. Create valuable content from your research results. This is the key to achieving SEO and higher rankings when people search. You need some pictures on your website for aesthetic purposes, but keywords are the nuts and bolts of SEO.
Consider paid searches. When done well, paid searches can be hugely successful. They’re expensive and time-consuming, but when done correctly with split testing ads and keyword phrases, they can generate a lot of traffic to your website.
Make friends. Consider doing link-building campaigns and getting other websites to link to yours. Using “link bait” such as neat industry widgets, article syndication, press releases, blogs and directories can help with this.
I Now Pronounce You Website and Facility
Once your website has the perfect marriage of attractiveness and solid information, spread the word. Announce your new website and everything it has to offer.
This is a great time to make use of social-media marketing. Set up that Facebook page and Twitter account. Send out press releases to the local media. Write a blog about your new website. These items boost your website’s SEO. Put up banners such as “Find us on Facebook,” outside and inside your facility. This will help you attract new tenants who may need self-storage now or down the road, and will let current customers know you have a new website for their convenience.
Don’t Let Yourself Go
A good website requires maintenance. Changing pictures, adding a new coupon, running campaigns and keeping things fresh is extremely important, along with keeping an eye on your SEO. How is your website popping up? Does it need a little extra work to show up ahead of your competitors? Things can change quickly. Also, make sure you’re keeping up with your social-media marketing. Don’t fall into the trap of setting it up and then never updating it.
Attaining a fresh website and a results-driven Internet-marketing platform isn’t easy. If you don’t have time to become an expert, hire a reputable marketing company or work with a third-party management company who can take care of it for you. Working with Internet-marketing specialists can help you achieve the results you desire, converting leads and increasing customer satisfaction. Who doesn’t love that?
Julie Purcell is the marketing and advertising manager for Investment Real Estate Management (IREM), a third-party management and consulting company that offers expertise in operations, marketing, Web presence and more to the self-storage industry. IREM manages more than 45 properties in six states. For more information, call 717.779.0804; visit www.irellc.com.