For many self-storage customers, a unit rental requires one or two exchanges with a facility manager. They might take a facility tour, then sign the rental agreement. Maybe they rent a truck or purchase moving and packing supplies. While technology has made it easier to avoid human interaction, it also removes opportunities to engage with prospects and tenants. In a time like the coronavirus pandemic, when social distancing is a must, having a strategic content strategy to drive engagement certainly comes in handy.
Put simply, a content strategy is how you manage the marketing collateral you create. Whether it’s written material like blog posts and website pages, visual material like infographics and video, or downloadable items such as e-books and case studies, your content should help build your brand and demonstrate your self-storage expertise. These deliverables are also effective, if not essential, in establishing strong, trustworthy relationships with customers. Providing them with useful, relevant content will keep them engaged with your company and coming back for more.
As easy as it is to get your business online, it’s no longer enough to merely be there. People want to work with companies that show care for customers. When they become “regulars,” they want to be acknowledged. They want to feel they can trust the entities with which they do business, that their money is going toward a “good” brand. Though the idea is to produce content (and a decent amount of it), it’s important to figure out what you need, then build a plan, optimize and execute it.
Follow Guiding Principles
One of the most important principles to follow when creating content for your self-storage business is to understand your audience. Otherwise, there’s no point. Your customer base may be comprised of college students, young couples who are merging households or starting a family, or older folks who are retiring and downsizing. Whatever your renters’ stage of life, your goal should be to make their self-storage experience as seamless as possible.
Good content will let them know you’re there to help them through life’s transitions. For example, you could post a blog on the best ways to pack fragile items and minimize damage during a move. You might create a video on the best way to store electronics to prevent water damage. But you can’t do any of that without first understanding your audience’s needs.
You also want to solve problems. Keep in mind that prospects are coming to you because they have a very specific need. Many have never used self-storage before, so filling them in on what the process looks will provide tremendous value. They need to know how to choose a unit, what’s in the lease, how to get into and out of the facility, etc. Understanding how to use site features will save them time and stress. Good content can accomplish all of this.
Finally, use consistent messaging. Your content doesn’t have to be the same across all platforms (website, newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.), but what you say and how you say it should be constant. Something you post on Instagram may not perform well on LinkedIn, but you don’t ever want to contradict yourself. If you announce a special, flash sale or other offering on one platform, make it known on others, too.
Each platform draws a different audience. Demographic data such as age, location or occupation will affect your engagement on each, so keep this in mind when creating content.
Formulate a Plan
Now it’s time to build your content-marketing plan. Here are the steps:
Define your goals. Doing this before you create content will help you focus on a purpose. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to build brand awareness, generate leads, convert prospects, nurture current customers, boost your website rankings?
Conduct persona research. A big part of knowing your audience is being able to define the types of renters you have. How old are they? Where do they live? What are their job titles? Why would they need your products and services? This general knowledge will help you build customer personas—specific targets for your brand messaging.
Conduct a content audit. Before creating new material, take inventory of the content you already have, in case you can repurpose it. Content that remains relevant over long periods of time is known as “evergreen.” Keep in mind, you may need to redesign or realign it with new efforts, but this will save you some time.
For example, there’s a good chance that a blog you wrote in 2017 still has some pretty useful information, but since it’s a couple of years old, it’s been buried in your blog feed. You can move this content to a new blog post, updating it with new information and plugging in some value propositions. Update the call to action and include it in an e-newsletter, or drop it into a nurture campaign to keep prospects engaged and informed. If you have an old infographic or video, it can be repurposed on different landing pages and social media for new members of your audience who may need them.
Choose a content-management system (CMS). There are many CMS tools from which to choose. They’re designed to help boost productivity by organizing tasks, content and workflow. Many provide reports that allow you to see how your efforts are progressing. Whether you’re a HubSpot lover, team Salesforce or somewhere in between, there’s a CMS for every marketer.
Now, here are several types of content you can create on behalf of your self-storage operation:
Blog posts. With market saturation affecting self-storage in many areas, it’s important that your content stands out. Posting relevant and useful information helps tremendously with search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Though a blog feed is always a work in progress, the more often you post, the more frequently and higher up your business will show in Google’s search suggestions.
Case studies. These are useful because you can provide proof that you’re effective at what you do to help customers. If you have site features or offer services that are game-changers, case studies are great way to show how they’ve made your tenants’ lives easier.
Infographics. Provide ones that highlight key figures or show how your self-storage business holds up against the competition. These could even include side-by-side comparisons of how your facility’s features compare to those of others.
E-mail. Keeping your audience in the loop about any service updates, policy changes or specials is essential to your content strategy. Be careful, though, as too many e-mails will lead people to unsubscribe from your list or jettison your communications to a spam folder. E-mail marketing can consist of birthday discounts, re-engagement specials and other tactics. When done correctly, these can lead to higher click-through rates and more online conversions.
Nurture campaign. This is a highly effective e-mail strategy to keep audience members informed and engaged when they’re not yet hot leads. Use it to reach people who’ve expressed interest in your facility but haven’t yet rented or bought anything.
By sending these people e-mails on a regular (but not too frequent) basis, you can let them know how your business can help. The goal with each send is to build trust and create awareness that your facility and services are a good fit for them, ultimately moving them closer to purchasing. The call to action could be to schedule a call or take a facility tour.
Video. Today, video content is one of the most effective ways to quickly engage your audience. A one- to three-minute video can let your audience know what’s new, bring press releases and customer testimonials to life, and promote events you plan to host.
Social media. Social media is a robust, always-evolving content strategy that often stands alone in the weight of its efforts. Though your SEO won’t be affected by social posts, you can still build a solid online presence and promote your website and blog content, which will ultimately lead to customers visiting your landing pages.
Optimize Your Plan
A content strategy won’t create big results overnight. Remember to monitor your efforts and keep up with the latest marketing trends. Occasionally, you may need to re-evaluate your plan to see what is and isn’t working. Dig in and build a strong approach that helps build your brand presence and converts prospects into revenue-generating tenants.
Steve Lucas is a principal and chief operating officer for The Storage Group, a provider of website development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, reputation management, software development and more. In his 35-year career, Steve has held many business-development and leadership roles. His systematic approach to business creates internal and client-based efficiencies that result in long-term business success with lasting relationships. For more information, call 407.392.2328; visit www.storageinternetmarketing.com.