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Marketing Self-Storage in Uncertain Times: A Strategy for Surviving When It Counts

We’re living in uncertain times. But if you’re feeling uneasy about your self-storage facility’s performance this year, marketing could be the answer. Many owners pull back on advertising when times get tough, but that’s a mistake. Instead, make promotional activities second nature, so you do them automatically to drive new business when it counts.

Tron Jordheim

May 3, 2023

4 Min Read
Marketing Self-Storage in Uncertain Times

Establishing good marketing for your self-storage business, particularly in times of economic uncertainty, is a bit like developing a positive habit such as brushing your teeth. Consistency is the key. You want the behavior to be natural and seamless any time you sense upheaval in the market.

We can compare it to Pavlov’s dog. The feeling of unease you may feel about your operation is the bell. It triggers you to focus on facility marketing. The reward is the new business you gain, which helps propel you through the difficult time. And with talk of an upcoming recession and a possible drop in self-storage demand and rental rates, a bit of anxiety is to be expected. Let’s look at a few ways to respond to create better performance and peace of mind.

Focus on the Positive

When you sense possible disruption in the global economy, your local self-storage market or even just within your own business, it makes sense to concentrate on marketing. Let’s say you look at your monthly performance report and compare it to the same month last year. You get a sinking feeling because you aren’t reaching the same numbers. So, what should you do? Choose a marketing activity that’ll yield a positive result! For example, hop onto your social media platforms and post about a local charity, high school sports team or art show to offer your support.

It doesn't matter if we’re in a recession. Interest and capitalization rates are irrelevant. You have self-storage competitors trying to outmaneuver you every day. You have debt-service payments you need to make. In the end, what matters is how your facility performs. If you’re meeting your sales goals, you can continue on with your normal operational routines. But if you’re seeing some red flags, give your business a boost with extra marketing.

Establish Your Brand

Good marketing will help build your self-storage brand and reputation as a market leader, in good times and in bad. I’m not talking about posting move-in specials and making desperate pleas for rentals. I’m talking about staying in front of your tenants and prospects so they know what you’re doing and how to connect with you.

You can do this without having a huge budget or buying expensive advertising. Sending emails and texts to customers costs next to nothing. Great curb appeal, though it takes time and money, is something you should be striving for every day. Being kind and helpful to customers is free. All of this adds up to good marketing that’ll gain notice from tenants and prospects. Here are a few other approaches:

Network. Get involved in community groups and business networks. Every city has a chamber of commerce and various civic clubs. Also, look for referral networks like American Club Association or Business Network International. These allow you to create leads for others in your market area, who’ll do the same for you. Personal recommendations have a low cost of acquisition and often provide the best lifetime-customer value.

Be active on social. Having a solid social media presence is economical. It just requires learning how to manage your profiles and being consistent. It’s a very effective way to stay top of mind.

Manage your business listings. Spend some time on your Google Business Profile, adding details about your facility and the services you offer. Do you provide free use of your moving truck for new renters? Do you sell moving and packing supplies, or offer wine storage? These details matter to your customers, so share them. If you don’t have the time or expertise to manage your online presence, you can hire someone.

When self-storage owners are in doubt about business conditions, they often scale back on advertising. This is a mistake. Many think this is a hands-off “set it and forget it” kind of business. It isn’t always.

If your self-storage operation is going well and you ignore it, you won’t have a marketing foundation on which to build when times get tough. If you fret and cut costs, you won’t be able to bring in the new business that’ll solve your problem. So, don’t worry about whether you can endure difficult times. Rather, focus on your marketing so it becomes an unconscious, consistent behavior, and you’ll always be prepared, no matter what the market brings.

Tron Jordheim is managing partner of the consulting firm Self Storage Strategies and the producer of the annual Self Storage Hawai’i unConference. He was formerly the senior vice president of sales and marketing for one of North America's largest privately held self-storage companies and director of the industry's largest outsourced call center. He has worked on self-storage projects and consulting assignments, and spoken at industry conferences in six countries.

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