As more self-storage customers turn to online and contactless rentals, facility marketing has transformed. The philosophy is still the same—target a specific audience to spur business—but the strategies have changed. Operators have had to get creative to obtain and retain tenants, but storage will always be a local business. For that reason, a method that still works well is community marketing.
As we know, our customers usually come from within a 10-mile radius or closer, so it’s critical to build a local brand-awareness strategy. While you may not be a national brand, your reputation and recognition within the community is significant. Making personal connections with customers, neighbors and businesses can help you build goodwill as well as gain and keep tenants.
Partner With Local Businesses
Introducing your self-storage facility to complementary businesses can be a win-win. The goal is to create a system of mutual referrals. Here are the steps:
- Identify other companies your tenants might patron and determine if those businesses have customers who might need storage now or in the future.
- Call or stop by and introduce yourself.
- Discuss how you can both benefit from a partnership.
- Let them know you have a place at your facility where you can display their materials such as business cards, brochures or fliers. Ask if they can do the same for you.
- Contact these partners regularly to keep the relationship fresh and restock materials.
- Consider offering a token of your appreciation for any referrals such as a gift card or even a discount on a storage rental.
Realtors are a perfect example, as they regularly work with people who are moving and may require self-storage. While they can’t accept gifts personally, they can pass gift cards or merchandise to their clients. A gift card could be equivalent to one month’s rent, making it a low-cost way to target customers who need storage. It’s a win for both parties!
Other businesses that might be interested in a partnership include pizza shops, home stagers, moving companies, apartment complexes, funeral homes and mortgage-loan officers. The key is to think about where your customer might stop before reaching out to you for storage. Forming relationships with other businesses will create top-of-mind awareness for referral traffic.
Host a Community Event
To further engage with your self-storage customer base, participate in and even sponsor community events. Partaking virtually or in person allows you to reach a wider audience.
One of the simplest things you can do is host a donation drive. Those tied to charities always do well and it gives people a reason to visit your facility. It also allows the public to see how wonderful your property is, and they’ll keep your brand in mind when they or someone they know needs self-storage. Finally, tying an event to a charitable organization or cause also allows for cross-marketing, which helps spread the word.
Here are some events you might host:
- Food or clothing drive
- Blood drive
- Yard sale
- Car wash
- Open house
- Pet adoption
- Chamber of commerce mixer
- Car show
- Charity auction
When you participate in or host an event, be prepared with materials about your company to distribute to attendees. Perhaps give out a coupon that’s valid for just that occasion, or consider hosting a raffle, which encourages people to give you their contact information and allows you to follow up with them in the future.
Support a Local Organization
Donating to local charities is another great way to shed positive light on your self-storage operation. If monetary donations aren’t possible, consider offering an item for a door prize or raffle, such as a free month of storage rent or some company merchandise.
Also, consider sponsorships. For example, look for a local sports team that needs help. Partnering with them for brand recognition on player jerseys, programs, and field or stadium signage is a great way to get your name into the community.
Get the Word Out
With community marketing, you must have a plan to get the word out. Send information via social media posts, send emails to your contact lists, and post fliers at your facility and in the neighborhood. If partnering with a charity or other organization, ask them to reach out to their own circle of supporters. The more people involved in promotion, the better the outcome.
Social media is one the easiest ways to engage your audience. Regularly post community- and storage-related tips on your platform pages. Comment and share on other local pages. This is a low-cost way to be active in the area.
If you have a marketing budget, opt for paid ads on Facebook, where you can reach a specific audience for less than $5 per day. Your ads can be targeted to those likely to use self-storage such as new homeowners and people moving into your region. They can link right to your website, where you can allow customers to reserve or rent units with the click of a button.
Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates
Your self-storage tenants are among the best advertisements for your business. If they have a great experience, they’ll tell their family and friends. They may also share your information with their followers on social media.
To ensure their rental experience is positive, build a relationship. For example, if a tenant mentions something personal during the rental process or when paying his monthly bill, make a note of it in his record. It’s a nice gesture, which you speak to a customer on see him on the property, to be able to ask about something that matters to him. Your facility’s management software should also allow you to track birthdays and rental anniversaries and acknowledge them via an automatic email. Going this extra step gives people a positive experience they’ll want to share.
Always ask your tenants for referrals and reviews. At the end of every interaction, say something like, “We’d be 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 boosts the likelihood of them telling others about your facility.
Finally, remember to reward referrals! Offer a bonus or a discount for the tenant and the prospect. The compensation can be small, but it’ll make an impact, and they’ll both feel good about renting with you. You can promote your program by printing details at the bottom of your receipts, or announcing it in your newsletters and social platforms. Perhaps create a promotional giveaway item to keep it fresh in tenants’ minds.
Community marketing can help differentiate your self-storage facility from others in your area. Look for neighborhood businesses that would make good partners, then provide an incentive to get them on board. Host or participate in local events, and support charities and other organizations. Finally, make connections with your tenants so you’re at the top of their referral list!
Melissa Stiles is director of marketing for Storage Asset Management, a property-management and consulting company that specializes in self-storage. The company manages more than 300 properties along the East Coast. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.