Marketing Fundamentals

January 2, 2007

7 Min Read
Marketing Fundamentals

Prior to the 2006 World Series, a Detroit Lions player interviewed about the upcoming match up with the Oakland As said winning in baseball was about executing the fundamentals better than your opponent. Despite all the hype about home-run records and steroid abuse, the game is still just about hitting the ball and getting across home plate.

The same is true for marketing your self-storage facility. Although youre not swinging at baseballs zooming toward you at 90 mph, your success in the business is about your ability to execute the fundamentals.

Sometimes its hard to keep your eye on the ball when flashy, new technology pokes its head in your door. But, after 30-plus years, marketing in this industry boils down to one thing: Effectively communicating your ability to solve a prospects need.

Thats why its vitally important to get inside your prospective customers heads when creating your marketing strategy and message. You may have heard the saying, If you want to know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys, youve got to see the world through John Smiths eyes.

After reviewing thousands of surveys, I think Ive a pretty good idea what the world looks like through John I Need Storage Smiths eyes. To help you do the same, Ive written a letter that represents a majority of your prospects:

Dear Storage Provider,

My name is John Smith. Im your prospective customer and worth a lot of money to you if you market to me properly. Although Ive driven by your facility a few times, I regret to inform you, I dont think much about how your business could make my life easier and more clutter freedespite the huge sign and an easy-to-remember phone number.

The funny thing is I cant park my car in the garage because its full of boxes and belongings too valuable to throw away. My basement and closets are the same way, jammed with junk.

I wish I could do something about all the mess, but Im a busy guy. I have a family and work full time. Thinking about storing my belongings elsewhere is not at the top of my priority list, but I sure could use more space.

I know Im not the only one. Im a property manager at a local apartment complex and spend most of my day dealing with tenant complaints about the lack of storage. I wish I had an easy way to deal with this.

Sometimes I get so stressed I just want to get away for the weekend with my family on our new boat. You should see this boat; its a beauty. Thats why I park it in the garage, right next to that stack of stuff I mentioned earlier.

Since theres no space for my car in there anymore, Im getting a little worried it will be vandalized or damaged by the weather. Even worse, I just received a notice from my auto-insurance company that my premium is going up since my car is parked outside.

I wish your signs or ads motivated me enough to spend a Saturday moving my stuff into your facility. Aside from being busy, Im not even sure my belongings would be safe there. Besides, I cant decide why Id pick your site over the other 24 self-storage facilities in town.

Your Yellow Pages ad looks just like the competitors. So even if Im motivated to use storage, I have no clue how to choose the right facility. My friends, who live 20 miles away, tell me they hear your ads on the radio. Why are you advertising to them instead of me?

Why are you hiding? Why dont you try to captivate my attention and motivate me to invest time moving in? Why should I choose you over your competition? Why is it when I search for storage on the Internet, youre nowhere to be found?

I want a clean, organized and clutter-free home and office I can be proud of. I want my car to be safe and retain value. I want my belongings safe and convenient to me. I want some place to store my wine collection and other valuable items.

Plus, I want my tenants to keep their apartments clean and quit whining about the lack of storage space.

Ive got money to fix these problems. Is there any chance you could help me? I wish I had the answers.

John Smith

P.S. Why hasnt my neighbor who stores his stuff with you told me about your facility? Don't you have a proactive referral program?

New Years Resolutions

With the knowledge youve just gained about your prospects, you can now create an ultra-persuasive marketing message and deliver it to the right audience. Its the beginning of the year; theres no better time to improve your marketing plans. Here are nine resolutions you need to makeand keepto meet that goal:

When creating marketing materials, dont focus on you. Focus on your customers needs, wants and how to meet them. Because emotion is the fuel of action, play on emotions such as the fear of loss, embarrassment about clutter, the relief of saving money and so on. These are great motivators for storage.

Precisely define your target market. Focus your advertising dollars only on people who can say yes to your offer and who have a good reason for doing so. The 1 percent rule works best for most facilities: If 1 percent of those who saw your marketing message responded, youd be 100 percent occupied. So, for a facility with 300 units, youd target the closest 30,000 households and businesses.

Use location to your advantage. Rather than focusing on your logo and phone number, catch the eyes of passersby with an intriguing and persuasive message. If city regulations allow a 7-by-4 banner, create a dozen and change them monthly.

Differentiate. Unless youre the only facility in town, you absolutely must separate yourself from the competition. Communicate the differences in all marketing materials. This is especially important in advertising mediums such as the Yellow Pages where youre placed right next to competitors. This strategy will increase rentals and cut back price shoppers so you can rent space at higher prices and increase economic occupancy.

Create a proactive referral program. Your customers are your biggest asset and should be raving fans of your service and facility. Make it easy for them to give you referrals through incentives. Customers wont remember your phone number or exact address. If you use referral cards, they can easily hand one to a friend in need of extra space.

If you dont have a clean, professional website, get one. People are becoming accustomed to searching for everything online. If you do have a website, make sure its optimized on all major search engines so prospects search for storage in your city find you quickly. Your fancy website is no good if nobody can find it.

Form alliances. Numerous local businesses in your area have credibility and relationships with your prospects: coffee shops, dry cleaners, salons, restaurants, RV and boat dealers, apartment complexes, etc. Forming mutually beneficial alliances is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to increase occupancy.

Be consistent. Your prospects life is changing daily. You never know when something will set them off to look for storage. Your consistent message and presence to the right crowd will make them choose you when the time is right.

You can always find more technical ways to market your self-storage business. Feel free to test any strategies that make senseas long as you dont overlook the fundamentals, the roots of any successful marketing program. Learn to see the world through your customers eyes, and 2007 could be your best year yet. 

Derek M. Naylor is the president of Storage Marketing Solutions, an advertising and marketing agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a complimentary marketing-strategy session and newsletter, call 800.941.4805; visit

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