E-mail marketing is everywhere. It’s used in every industry to drive sales and build brand awareness. Eighty-five percent of U.S. Internet users have an e-mail address, according to data-marketing company Statista, making e-mail an ideal platform for communicating with your existing and future self-storage customers.
Lead generation and conversion are critical in any successful storage operation, and e-mail marketing is a great tool for this purpose. It allows you to gently remind people that you exist. Sending well-designed, mistake-free messages will create brand awareness and present your facility as professional, active and well-run.
If yours is a small operation with limited marketing resources, consider investing in e-mail marketing. E-mails are 40 times more effective than social media in helping a business acquire new customers, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co. They’re also a great way to target customers who aren’t active on social media. Campaigns can even be accomplished for free or at a low cost through platforms such as AWeber, Constant Contact and MailChimp.
But what makes a good e-mail? How can you encourage tenants and prospects to open and read your messages? People respond to creative, well-planned campaigns. Let’s talk about how to create an e-mail list, what your messages should include, when to reach out to customers and more.
Building Your Lists
Are you collecting e-mail addresses from all existing tenants? If not, start now. You can request them when new customers sign their rental agreements. If you’re missing addresses for current customers, reach out via phone or mail to update their file. Compile the e-mails into a spreadsheet for easy organization, and update the list frequently, adding new addresses as necessary.
Create a separate e-mail list for potential customers. While it may seem more challenging to gather these contacts, it really isn’t. There are many ways to get this valuable information. You can collect e-mails over the phone or through a “contact us” link on your website. When someone stops by the office or reaches out to you via social media, ask for an e-mail address where you can send the information they seek. Again, keep the list updated. Move people from this one to “current tenants” when applicable.
Don’t send the same e-mail to everyone whose address you’ve collected. Keep your list of prospects separate from renters to ensure you aren’t bombarding anyone with irrelevant messaging. Failing to separate your lists can lead to opt-outs (people who unsubscribe), damaging the power of your marketing reach. You don’t want your messages to be taken as spam.
Note: Always respect a person’s request to be removed from your mailing list. Your recipients can unsubscribe any time and nobody is obligated to open your messages. Remove the address and don’t re-add it without the customer’s consent. Not only is it rude, in many cases, it’s illegal.
Creating Effective Content
So, you’ve got your lists. Now the fun begins—writing and designing! Open your preferred e-mail platform and use a template. You can design your own messages, but templates are great for beginners. Add your logo and edit the content to match your facility branding.
First, having a clear message is key, and don’t ever send an e-mail without a purpose. Timing is everything when it comes to e-mail marketing. Use it sparingly. Wait until you have something exciting, important or valuable to share. Are you running a new special? Hosting an event? Do you have a property feature, product or service to unveil? These are the perfect times to send a captivating message.
Second, don’t fall prey to common beginner’s mistakes. For example, don’t send a message every day, which is too frequent, or even every holiday. Not everyone celebrates the same things. By sending holiday messages, you may unintentionally offend some recipients.
Next, consider your audience. We spoke earlier about separating your current and prospective customer lists. Within those might be smaller segments. Let’s say your key market is college students. The kinds of messages in which they’d be interested will be different from those you would send to a community of retirees. You want to send offers and information to which they can relate, such as student discounts, or deals for referrals, or tips on how to choose and pick the right unit for storing dorm-room contents during summer.
Once you’ve decided on the key intent of your message, make the gist clear in the e-mail subject line. You can get a bit cheeky, but don’t get so creative that recipients don’t understand what’s in it for them. People are more likely to open e-mails that look like they provide services or information, whether it’s a change in hours, a referral discount or something else entirely.
Finally, think beyond text. Multi-media content increases page views by almost 94 percent, according to communications company PRNews Group. Whether you have photos, videos or gifs, create an e-mail that engages readers and helps them understand your brand. Customers feel good about supporting small businesses and love seeing pictures of employees and community involvement.
Earlier, I mentioned AWeber, Constant Contact and MailChimp, which are great, low-cost, easy-to-use e-mail platforms. Their analytics capability is huge reason why I recommended them. Most e-mail marketers can track who opened your messages, how often and from where. This data can be invaluable as you develop your “voice” and learn what works best for you and your audience. Over time, these platforms will help define your audience segments and allow you to tailor e-mails to certain groups.
Don’t be deterred by what you believe to be poor open rates. Every industry and market will be different. Across the real estate industry, the average e-mail open rate sits at about 20 percent. That’s a decent goal. It may not seem like much, but getting 20 percent of an audience to open your e-mails means your content is working!
Do you feel ready to send a great e-mail announcing your longer operating hours, new security features or online rental tool? Go forth! Create a message, captivate customers and gain new business. Add your logo and brand colors to make it your own. When used effectively, e-mail marketing might just be the secret to filling your empty self-storage units.
Laura Gattis is a marketing specialist for The Storage Group, a provider of self-storage technology products and services including website design, search marketing and an industry progressive web app. She earned a master’s degree in media innovation from the University of Nevada. Her expertise lies in social media management, digital marketing and strategic communications. For more information, visit www.storageinternetmarketing.com.