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Don’t Let Your Self-Storage Business Feel the Pinch in 2024! 4 Areas of Marketing to Optimize

“The good times” of self-storage that blossomed during the pandemic are over. At the end of 2023, rental rates and consumer demand were down, and competition remains high. Want to succeed in the new year? It’s time to revisit (and master) your marketing fundamentals. In fact, here are four specific areas to optimize.

David Austin

January 17, 2024

6 Min Read

After two years of record-high rental rates and soaring consumer demand, self-storage operations are feeling the pinch at the outset of 2024. The market is tightening. Cost per square foot has fallen year over year, and many operators have struggled recently to fill units.

Meanwhile, self-storage business income was down nearly 5% in 2023, according to Argus Self Storage Advisors, a national network of real estate brokers who specialize in the industry. Overall occupancy also dropped 2% to 3%, which means seasonality is back.

If you’re running a facility on tight margins, these numbers might make you sweat; but there are steps you can take to ensure your operation thrives through the downturn. It’s all about nailing the fundamentals, including your approach to marketing.

In an environment in which you and your competitors are scrambling for renters, you can’t afford to fall short on the basics. If you give a self-storage prospect any reason to not choose your facility, they’ll be snatched up instantly by the real estate investment trust down the street. So, let’s revisit four essential areas of marketing to optimize this year.

Curb Appeal

Facility appearance should be prioritized as an essential part of your self-storage marketing because it says a lot about your business and shapes public perception. This is true for most service-based businesses.

For example, imagine you’re new to a town and looking for somewhere to eat. You don’t know much about the area, but you’re starving and drive past a restaurant enroute to your hotel. How do you decide whether to eat at that establishment? You might check online reviews or perhaps ask a coworker for their opinion. But before doing any of that, you’ll likely be swayed by how the place looks. Is it clean? Does it look well-maintained?

Consumers who are considering a self-storage facility go through the same mental process. An initial drive-by creates the first impression for about 40% of our customers, according to the Self Storage Association (SSA). In fact, driving by a site is the most common way renters find their chosen facility, according to the SSA’s “2023 Self-Storage Demand Study.”

The best thing you can do for your facility marketing this year is to simply spruce up your lot. This could mean updating the management office, repairing or replacing the fence, repaving the lot, painting the buildings, refreshing signage, or simply pulling weeds and trash out of the landscape. If you’re short on budget, focus on your street frontage. This allows you to take good property photos, which are vital for your other marketing efforts. If you advertise using photos of a dingy, unkempt facility, you’re throwing away money.

If curb appeal accounts for 40% of initial customer impressions, then what about the other 60%? Well, once your self-storage facility is looking its best and you have a bunch of great photos, it’s time to tidy your online presence.

Google Business Profile

More people find self-storage facilities through online channels than any other means. Though other search engines matter, Google should be your most important consideration since more than 90% of web searches occur on that platform. In fact, one of the most important elements of your online presence is your Google Business Profile (GBP).

Self-storage is a local business, and tenants generally come from the immediate area. When someone searches for a unit, Google always prioritizes local results. Thus, a well-maintained GBP makes you a candidate to appear in front of users. The Local Pack, which displays local GBPs, gets more clicks than any other set of results. If your profile isn’t considered a good option by Google, it’ll be difficult to generate any online demand.

To help optimize the performance of your GBP, make sure it contains:

  • Accurate business name, address, phone number and website

  • Primary and secondary categories

  • Accurate office hours

  • A good description of business offerings and why customers should choose you

  • Lots of good photos

  • Available products with prices and photos

  • A link to your website

  • As many reviews as possible

Think of your GBP as your storefront. It should make your business look good and demonstrate that someone cares about it. It should give the impression that the business owner and facility manager are doing a great job.

GBP is a huge marketing asset, and best of all, it’s completely free. This makes it doubly valuable during a market downturn. Once your listing is in order, it’ll bring clicks to your facility website, which is our next area of focus.

Facility Website

If a potential tenant goes online to find a self-storage unit, they want to be able to rent then and there. Though web design is an incredibly complex topic, the bottom line is your website needs to follow the same rules as your curb appeal and GBP. Does it look good? Is the information conveyed accurate? Does it get the job done?

Imagine shopping on Amazon and coming across a product that says, “This item cannot be purchased online. Give us a call at…” Would you do it? I certainly wouldn’t. Other website features can benefit your self-storage operation, but a functional site that allows customers to rent is absolutely necessary.

In 2024, the bare minimum for marketing includes a comprehensive and functional website. While your customer base is getting younger, technology continues to advance. A facility without a well-performing website looks like a unit without a door.

Online Reviews

Once you’ve got the above three basics down, focus your energy on reviews. These drive renters to your GBP and website and work collectively as one of the stronger local ranking factors Google considers. Google wants to give searchers a good solution to their problem, and positive reviews function effectively as votes that your self-storage facility meets that criterion.

Keep in mind that having more reviews won’t necessarily make you outrank the competition. Google also values the frequency and quality of the feedback. Details can matter. For example, reviews with photos and complete experiences are much more useful to people conducting searches than a five-star review without any information. And, because detailed, positive reviews are more useful to searchers, Google likes them better. In addition, recent reviews are better than old ones, at least to some extent.

Every self-storage operator should implement a program to ensure they regularly receive online reviews. You don’t need dozens every month, but a steady stream is necessary to maintain a good position online.

Prepare for the Year Ahead

This could be a difficult year for many self-storage operators. Anyone who bases their marketing on 2022 metrics will struggle, at least for a while. When planning your 2024 strategy, go back to the basics. Make sure your facility looks good online and off. Take steps to ensure you’re able to rent to people when the need for self-storage arises, and do what you can to convince Google that your business is a good one.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, feel free to explore more complicated tactics! Just bear in mind that a $100,000 of marketing won’t fill your units if people see your business and don’t believe it’s operated with care.

David Austin is a content specialist at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.

About the Author(s)

David Austin

Content Specialist, StoragePug

David Austin is a content specialist at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.

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