Insight to Help Self-Storage Operators Plan and Manage Their Marketing Spend

Self-storage operators know they need marketing, but determining how much to spend and where can be complicated. A budget can help. Find out how to create one, plus the line items that should be included.

Melissa Stiles

May 14, 2022

5 Min Read
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Marketing is crucial to self-storage facility success. But how do you determine how much money to allocate and where it should be spent?

Let a budget be your guide. Without one, it’s difficult to determine which campaigns and programs are bringing in new customers. It can also be impossible to set and achieve goals. Consider the following to develop a comprehensive marketing budget that’ll keep you on track and distribute your funds in the best way.

Know Your Starting Place

The first step to creating your self-storage marketing budget is to understand the return on investment (ROI) and effectiveness of your current strategies. You should be tracking how tenants found your facility during every rental. This provides insight to which avenues are working and which aren’t.

To gauge the efficacy of a marketing program, analyze what you spent vs. the revenue it generated. Determine how many new rentals you received, what each customer paid and how long they stayed, and then compare that to what you spent to acquire those tenants. Doing so should tell you how much revenue you can expect from each invested dollar moving forward. Use this guide for future marketing.

Another factor to consider is facility occupancy. If projections are high, aggressive marketing might not be necessary at this time. If a property is in lease-up, on the other hand, the marketing budget will be higher than if the site is already established. Your strategy should be set in accordance with anticipated performance.

Drill Into Individual Line Items

Your budget should reflect all types of self-storage marketing you expect to employ in the upcoming year. It’s best to break it down into two main categories: offline marketing and digital marketing. Here’s a quick overview of what should be included in each.

Offline marketing. Although online marketing is a huge focus for most self-storage operators, building brand awareness is still important. Besides, it can create name recognition in web searches down the line. This category should include line items for promotional goods, community sponsorships, print materials, events and networking fees. Let’s look at a few of these in more detail.

Sponsoring local organizations can allow your self-storage business to connect with community members directly. You don’t need to allocate a huge amount for this, as even a nominal budget will allow you to hang a company banner at a local event or provide branded packing boxes for use by a nonprofit.

It’s important to designate funds for hosting or participating in local events. Site managers should be out meeting other community members. Set a budget that allows them to plan or attend various gatherings. This might include booth-rental fees, signage and decorations, print materials, and fun giveaways.

Membership in networking groups is one of the fastest ways for self-storage operators to meet key community members. Consider the local chamber of commerce or some special-interest groups. Include the membership fees in your budget.

Digital marketing. For most self-storage operators, this is the biggest part of the marketing budget. Having an online presence is more important than ever. This category should include line items such as website maintenance, search engine optimization (SEO), paid media, social media, online aggregators and reputation management. In addition to the cost to hire vendors, consider the value of any staff time involved.

Your self-storage website needs to be customer-friendly and allow for ease of rental. Therefore, you must allocate dollars to ensure upgrades can be made to reflect changing technology. You also need to account for website hosting, and possibly design and repair.

SEO is key. How your facility shows up in online search is one of the most important factors to attracting new customers. To that end, you may need money for citations, website page optimization and other strategies. If your facility is in a competitive market, you may also want to purchase paid media such as Google Ads. The costs for these kinds of things can be found using tools such as Google Keyword planner or the Search Lost IS (Budget) report, which tells you the percentage of time your ads didn't appear because you had insufficient budget to pay for them.

In addition, estimate the expenses for social med and reputation management, including the cost for any necessary staff and how much time they’ll need to devote to these platforms. While use of these websites is often free, there may be times when you wish to launch paid campaigns.

The last line item in the digital section of your marketing budget is online aggregators. To determine costs, look at past expenses in this area. Just make sure the budget is set correctly for your projected occupancy and available units.

Be Flexible

Once you’ve set your self-storage marketing budget, expect it to change throughout the year. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity. Factors that could affect the numbers include an increase or decrease in unit demand, facility occupancy, new technology, vendor price increases, or a surge or reduction in paid channels. Adjusting the plan will sometimes be necessary.

To succeed, your self-storage business needs a marketing budget, one based on the facility’s goals and what’s happening in your unique market. When crunching the numbers, look at the avenues that are bringing in new business and where you might expand. Just be flexible and willing to adapt, especially as new technology or disruptors emerge.

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 470 properties along the East Coast. For more information, email [email protected].

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