The days of the Yellow Pages may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean every marketing campaign you launch for your self-storage facility has to prioritize digital strategies. Grassroots marketing can create local buzz around your business and solidify your role in the community. This leads to name recognition and more customers.
What exactly is grassroots marketing? It’s a community-level approach to target a small, specific group of potential renters. It works to spread your message naturally and has the side benefit of being a great way to better understand your market. For self-storage operators, the most attractive benefit is cost. This affordable approach eschews Facebook campaigns, billboards and magazine ads in favor of direct action, saving you serious money.
Since you’re targeting a specific audience, you want to give that group exactly what it wants. For example, let’s say you want to attract college students. Instead of generic ads designed to attract a large audience, create pointed messages about student discounts, free-pizza Fridays at your facility or deals on summer storage. The goal is to create advertising and content that’s relevant to the demographic you want to reach.
Finding Your Market
First, you need to determine who you’re trying to target. The answer isn’t the same for every storage location. Identify the best customer base to reach by looking at your community. Do you have a large military population? A college nearby? Lots of retirees? Many small-business owners? You should know who the longtime residents in the community are and which major groups comprise it.
Next, think about big events and festivals that take place in your area. Might they rely on self-storage? Go to your local bureau of tourism and chamber of commerce to learn about events where you might reach your audience. This can mean everything from networking for young professionals to street fairs for the whole town.
Finally, like Facebook pages and Instagram accounts associated with your audience. For example, if you’re in an “outdoorsy” town and are hoping to reach hikers, rock-climbers and backpackers who may want to store their gear with you, keep an eye on local clubs and small businesses that serve and host events for these groups.
Building Partnerships, Hosting Events
After you’ve thoroughly researched your target demographic, it’s time to connect with your community! Building partnerships with local businesses and charities is the perfect first step to establishing your facility as part of the neighborhood.
One of the best ways to build relationships is to host an event at your property or participate in another local happening. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Host a toy drive during the winter holidays, or a clothing or food drive to benefit the homeless or local veterans.
- If you’re hoping to attract members of a certain job field, consider a networking event.
- Set up a booth at a community event, such as a farmer’s market or school-spirit day.
- Host a wine-tasting to attract wine-storage users, or a carwash to lure in vehicle-storage customers.
- If your budget allows, sponsor a community event. For example, All Storage in Fort Worth, Texas, sponsors the Galactic Swag Expo for collectors of comic books, costumes and figurines. By doing so, it reaches these potential customers and gains brand awareness.
Whatever you choose, it’s essential to plan. You want your event to be successful but safe. Consider the following:
- Know the capacity of your venue and don’t exceed it.
- Make sure your space is accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Be clear about whether children and pets are allowed.
- Ensure there’s plenty of parking, seating and shade.
- Do a facility walk-through to address any maintenance issues.
- Make sure your restrooms are clean, working and well-stocked.
- If your event will be outside, check the weather and have a plan for what you’ll do if it rains, snows, etc.
- If you’re serving food, clearly mark items and point out ingredients for guests with allergies or preferences.
- Make sure any alarms are working.
- Have a first-aid kit handy.
- Have a plan in place for emergency evacuation.
Promoting Your Event
Whether you host an event at your facility or participate in a larger community showcase, keep your advertising efforts local. Place tear-off fliers at nearby libraries, coffeeshops and community boards. Contact local newspapers and magazines that regularly publish event calendars and ask to be included. Create a Facebook event as well; post about it and boost that post with the correct location and age range in mind.
Whatever you do, keep your message consistent and stick to your planned budget. Always make sure your advertisements are where your desired market will look. In other words, if you’re hoping to attract young families, don’t post all your fliers at a bar.
Finally, when promoting your events, make it clear the public is welcome. You don’t want people to think that only tenants can participate.
Sharing Your Story
Because grassroots marketing is personalized and community-based, it’s an effective way to connect with potential customers. You’re already doing that by marketing with locals in mind, but you can take it one step further by considering the story you’re trying to tell. Customers connect to narratives, so let your marketing tell one. For example, collect pet supplies for a local animal shelter and showcase photos of adoptable pets in your office.
Focus on emotions—themes of charity, community and holiday spirit are a good place to start—and create associated content. For example, write a blog post about an event at which you’ll have a booth or share photos on social media from a barbecue you hosted. Try to include quotes from people involved. If you partnered with a local business or group, encourage it to share your posts.
Grassroots marketing can be an ongoing effort. Don’t be dismayed if your first foray into community-based advertising doesn’t triple your occupancy. Because it’s a low-budget strategy aimed at a small group, you can try it again and again until you’ve tapped into your most reliable customer base.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows customers to custom search and compare thousands of self-storage facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.