Is Direct-Mail Marketing Still Delivering Customers to Your Self-Storage Facility?

For all the talk about the effectiveness of digital advertising platforms, old-school snail mail could still be among the most impactful promotional channels for your self-storage business.

Tony Jones, ISS Store Manager, Contributing Editor

June 1, 2018

4 Min Read
Is Direct-Mail Marketing Still Delivering Customers to Your Self-Storage Facility?

While it’s always tempting to direct self-storage operators’ attention toward new technological advancements and developing trends that could potentially impact their business, it’s equally important to issue reminders when tried-and-true formulas continue to be effective. In marketing circles, new-school tactics can quickly become old-school ideas when the next shiny trend goes viral. But that doesn’t mean older strategies cease being useful; they’re just not as sexy to discuss.

Self-storage operators have debated for years about the ongoing usefulness of Yellow-Pages ads. Many have abandoned the platform altogether in favor of other channels like targeted Facebook ads, while others still get returns on their investment—often in rural markets. For all the talk about the effectiveness of social-media influencers, SMS, e-mail campaigns, Google Business listings and so on, it turns out direct-mail marketing may still outpace them all.

Gunderson Direct Inc., a marketing firm that specializes in direct campaigns, recently sponsored a slide deck published by that’s chock full of interesting tidbits on why direct mail continues to be a successful marketing strategy for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) campaigns. While you certainly have to consider the source, there’s plenty to suggest that old-school snail mail could still be among the most impactful ad channels for your self-storage business.

“Mail is tangible, targeted, scalable and trustworthy,” Gunderson officials wrote in the foreword to the deck. “Direct mail is delivering better-qualified leads and, in turn, more sales! One thing’s for sure—everybody checks their mailbox!”

That last bit is an important distinction. While we can set up filters to identify and jettison certain e-mails as spam or block texts or callers from disturbing us on our cellphones, even so-called junk mail delivered by your neighborhood postal worker typically needs to be touched before it can be pitched. That brief encounter, however fleeting, is an opportunity for customer acquisition that a blocked text message or junk-filtered e-mail never achieves.

According to a 2017 study by the Data and Marketing Association (DMA), direct mail has far better response rates for house and prospect lists than digital channels, including e-mail, paid search, social media and online display advertising. Among the reported digital channels, e-mail marketing tied paid search for the best response rate at .6 percent. By comparison, the response rate for direct mail was 5 percent.

While printing and distribution costs could certainly be a diminishing factor in the investment returns for direct mail pieces, it’s also interesting to note the DMA study revealed that oversized envelopes have the highest response rates for B2B and B2C advertisers, while producing the highest ROI among mail types. The bigger the mail piece, the more likely it’s going to stick out and force someone to touch it. In contrast, while e-mail file size may differ, when was the last time you were compelled to open an e-mail because it had more KBs than others sitting in your inbox?

While 25 percent of households don’t read direct-mail ads, 52 percent do, according to a U.S. Postal Service study. Counting those who at least scan advertising pieces, 73 percent of U.S. households pay at least a glancing attention to the so-called junk that clutters their physical mailbox. Again, consider the source, but e-mail marketers would kill for a touch rate anywhere near those figures.

What may be most interesting is the level of trust consumers seem to place in direct-mail advertisers. Not surprisingly, Millennials—the most marketing-aware and corporate-leery of all generations—ranks the lowest when it comes to trusting direct-mail ads at 70 percent, according to MarketingSherpa. Seventy percent. No matter how you write it, that’s impressive. By comparison, 80 percent of Baby Boomers and 77 percent of Generation Xers trust direct mail when making purchase decisions.

This isn’t to encourage you to abandon new modes of advertising. Mobile marketing is still among the most pressing areas on which self-storage operators should become educated. A multi-channel advertising approach has long had merit for building brand presence, establishing message consistency and reaching diverse groups. As always, the effectiveness of your artwork and messaging play an enormous factor in getting a prospect to pause long enough to either contact you about your storage services or file the direct-mail piece for future reference.

In some ways, though, it may be comforting to know that contributing to the proliferation of junk mail may be well worth the investment after all.

About the Author(s)

Tony Jones

ISS Store Manager, Contributing Editor, Inside Self-Storage

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