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Identifying and Reaching Unique Self-Storage Customers

Understanding a facility’s customer demographics can help self-storage operators tailor their marketing. Here’s a look at a handful of populations operators should consider for their next marketing campaign.

April 16, 2014

5 Min Read
Identifying and Reaching Unique Self-Storage Customers

By Tim Schlee

Whether your self-storage facility just opened its doors or has been going strong for years, it’s always a good idea to take a deeper look at the demographics you want to target. Some are obvious—homeowners with too much junk, students who don’t want to drag all their belongings home for the summer, and businesses that need a little extra office space. Others, however, are not so obvious.

Every facility owner and manager should have an intimate knowledge of the area in which his facility is located and the potential customers available to reach. There are many populations all around us that could be tapped as a marketing resource.

Transient Populations

These are people who frequently move, whether back and forth between fixed locations or continuously from one destination to the next. Anybody who is on the move can use self-storage. Students, as mentioned above, are a prime example of a transient population who don’t want to take all their belongings with them. Military personnel is another. Whether they’re on base or heading overseas, a storage unit can save service members a lot of hassle and allow them to keep their belongings safe.  

There are also smaller transient populations to consider, such as the elderly in nursing homes. Something must be done with all the stuff left behind in their former house or apartment, and many times the easiest way to deal with it is to put it in storage. If your facility is near a nursing home, speak to the management and set up a referral system. Care centers want to make moving into their facility as easy as possible for their tenants, and if that includes recommending a storage facility for a tenant’s belongings, they may love to do so.

Brainstorm ideas about the transient populations near you. If you’re in a state capital, look into politicians who travel home when they aren’t in session. A storage facility in Singapore even stores equipment for a circus when it’s not on the move. Wherever there’s a person on the go, there’s a person who might need storage.

Seasonal Recreation

Any companies that store large recreational equipment, especially items that are only used during a specific part of the year, are an easy target for self-storage. Many boaters, for example, do not have room for their boats at home or would rather devote the space to something else. If you’re near a lake or ocean, consider offering storage for large vehicles. If you already do, ramp up your focus on boats.

Similarly, target campers if you’re near a national park or some other large campground. RVs take up a huge amount of space, so many people would rather store them with you than at home in their driveway or backyard. Many homeowners’ associations don’t even allow RVs or other large vehicles to be parked on the street or in the driveway.

Speak to nearby apartment complexes and let them know you can accommodate RVs. Most multi-family residences don’t offer this kind of storage but would hate to turn away interested renters simply because they cannot accommodate a large vehicle. If they can recommend their tenant to you, everyone ends up happy. You can even speak with local RV retailers and strike a deal in which they store their excess vehicles with you.

Other seasonal recreational equipment might include skis or surfboards. Obviously, these are not as large as vehicles, but many people, especially those who live in apartments, do not have the space for them.

Collectors

People collect all kinds of things. Sometimes, a collection grows too large for a home, so they turn to self-storage for safekeeping. Do some research into the collector communities in your area.

Is there an art museum in your neighborhood? Perhaps you could market climate-controlled storage to art collectors who don’t currently have the space to display their art. Even better are wine or car collectors. These kinds of collections require a special kind of care, one that you as a storage facility can often provide, such as climate control to keep wine at the right temperature and humidity, or covered parking so a tenant’s car is safe from the elements.

Local Demographics

Manhattan Mini Storage had great success making topical and often very political advertisements in downtown New York. You don’t have to be so bold, of course, but knowing your demographics can help streamline your advertisements. Is the area around you liberal or conservative? If there’s a large population of gun enthusiasts, look into gun storage. (Note: It’s not legal in some states.) Is there a large green population? Look into ways in which you can make your storage facility eco-friendly, whether it’s something large like going solar or small such as offering recycling next to your trash bin.

Again, it’s a good idea to maintain a strong relationship with nearby apartment complexes or mobile-home parks. These kinds of living spaces are usually smaller and often don’t have room for all of the tenants’ belongings. But it also helps to know how many of your current tenants come from each community so you can adjust your marketing accordingly. If you tell an apartment manager five of his tenants already store with you, he’ll be much more inclined to recommend you in the future.

Another demographic to consider is local organizations such as churches. Similar to small businesses, these places might not have enough space and usually don’t have the means to expand easily. Storage become a convenient solution. Since larger organizations usually have enough space or the money to expand, target smaller ones such as local groups, churches, nonprofits, etc.

Do Your Research

Most important, do your research. Find out who lives, works or congregates near your facility. There are nearly infinite marketing possibilities beyond the ones mentioned in this post, and the only way to know which ones are available to you is to take a look around. It can help to get ZIP code demographics or lists of businesses in the area. Every storage location is unique, and your job as a marketer is to find out which populations your facility can accommodate best. It might take a little effort, but, it’s worth it.

Tim Schlee is a Kansas City native who studied English and linguistics at Truman State University. He is a content writer for StoreageAhead, which offers Web-marketing technology for the self-storage industry, including lead-generating search engines and facility management software. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storageahead.com.

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