Internet marketing is quickly becoming a major part of all self-storage operations. And rightly so: Hundreds of thousands of potential renters use the Internet each month to find storage. The storage industry is not the only industry where the Internet plays a huge role. Almost any industry today must consider the Internet as an essential source of new business. In just a few years, we’ll probably be considering it our main source of new business.
Did you know that Internet marketing is available for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing? In addition, the Internet allows you to display a plethora of information to potential renters, such as pictures, maps, unit sizes, prices and specials. In fact, you can even give customers the ability to rent instantly if you make this feature available on your website.
Internet marketing is flexible, meaning you can quickly and easily change your ads throughout the year. And arguably the best aspect of Internet marketing is that traffic, consumer patterns and behaviors, and the actions people take can all be tracked and monitored, making it easy for you to evaluate its effectiveness.
Because this topic is still likely new to some of you in the industry, I wanted to share common terminology of Internet marketing:
URL—the website address you type into your browser to go to a webpage.
Search Engine—I’ll just say Google. Google is the most widely used search engine. Some other popular search engines include Yahoo, AOL and MSN.
SEO—Search-engine-optimization. This process helps your website move higher and higher in the search-engine rankings when people type in specific words or phrases. The websites you see on the first page when you search for something are well optimized and are receiving most of the traffic.
PPC—Pay per click. This is a form of Internet advertising (and a major source of Google’s revenue) that allows you to only pay when people click on your ad and are taken to your website.
CTR—Click thru rate. This is the percentage of people who click on your ad out of all those who see it. The higher this percentage, the better.
CPC—Cost per click. This is how much you pay each time somebody clicks on your ad. In the self-storage industry it’s usually between $1.50 and $3.
Impressions—the number of times your ad was seen by a searcher on a search engine.
Conversion Rate—the number of actual renters out of all your inquiries. You want this number to be high as well.
CPA—Cost per acquisition. This is how much it costs you to acquire a new customer.
ROI—return on investment. The ratio of money gained or lost on an investment. In terms of marketing it is how much profit you’re making for each marketing dollar you spend.
Your goal for Internet marketing should involve capturing as many tenants as possible through the Internet at the lowest possible cost (the CPA). Because the Internet allows you to display so much information to potential renters, oftentimes these potential renters come to you already knowing where you’re located, your office hours, unit sizes and specials, and therefore, are ready to rent a unit.
People using the Internet will contact you in one of four ways:
- Call. Many people use the Internet as a research tool and then proceed to pick up the phone to call.
- Walk in. Also, many people, after researching you on the Internet, will choose to visit your facility.
- E-mail. Many types of Internet marketing allow customers to contact you via e-mail, either through a form or standard e-mail.
- Rent online. If you give them this option through your website, many customers will take advantage of it.
Many owner/operators still think the Internet is a mysterious monster that will not be effective in local markets. In fact the Internet is a very effective advertising medium that will generate a nice flow of new tenants if you use it correctly. In a recent study, the Kelsey Group found that more than 43 percent of consumers search the Internet to find a local product or service.
Grabbing Web Hits
Let’s talk about your website. Many of you probably already have one. That is typically the first step most owners take when starting to advertise online. One of the most important things to remember about your website is that you must attract people to it in order to gain monetary value.
Eighty percent of Internet users start at a search engine. If your website is not found on the search engines (specifically on the first or second page) you will be missing out on 80 percent of these potential renters. You can have the coolest, flashiest and most expensive website on the Internet but if you don’t have people visiting and taking action to rent from you, it won’t result in any new tenants.
There are three basic methods to ensure your website appears on the search engines:
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC). If you use Google, MSN or Yahoo to do a search, these ads are along the right side of the results page and sometimes found on top. They’re usually labeled “Sponsored Links.” These campaigns are fairly quick to set up and results can be instant. Expect to pay $1.50 to $5 per click (every time some-body clicks on your ad to go to your website). This can get very expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing; however, if done right it can prove to be a very cost-effective way to gain new tenants. If you’re going to attempt a PPC campaign by yourself, I highly recommend you read The Ultimate Guide to GoogleAdWords by Perry Marshall.
Organic/natural search-engine optimization (SEO). These are the non-PPC results you see when you do a search. The main difference between this and PPC is that you do not pay per click. Getting your website ranked organically usually takes more time and expertise, but once you establish this ranking, the traffic is usually heavier and less expensive.
I recommend discussing an organic SEO campaign with your Web programmer to see if he can help you. Be cautious when proceeding with an organic campaign in this industry. First-page rankings are very competitive and might not be achieved without time and a heavy investment. Also, beware of any SEO companies that promise or guarantee first-page rankings. When talking about SEO, no one can guarantee rankings of any sort. If they make this guarantee, they are generally trying to trick you to get your business.
Online directories. If you’re not currently advertising online, a directory is the fastest way to get started without any SEO or PPC knowledge. There are a few good online directories out there for the storage industry. Shop carefully and ask a lot of questions. The most important thing to ask is how the company qualifies the potential customers it sends your way. You want to be sure the directory is able to send you quality prospects.
With the affordability of Internet marketing and the number of people using the Internet to find storage, I recommend you test all three of the above methods and see what drives traffic to your website.
Now that you know all about the basics of Internet marketing and the three most effective ways to bring users to your website, I encourage you to seriously evaluate how you advertise online. It’s very inexpensive and easy to track. Thousands of people use the Internet to search for storage each month. Can customers find your facility or are they renting with your more Internet-savvy competition?
Megan Eckert is the executive vice president of USStoragesearch.com, which helps more than 12,000 facilities nationwide increase occupancy through affordable Internet marketing. For complimentary Internet marketing tips, call 866.880.0742; visit www.usstoragesearch.com.