These months we’ve spent facing the coronavirus pandemic have been daunting and extraordinary. The crisis has changed consumer behavior, sentiments and communication preferences, and businesses must change with them. It’s important to consider how customers are shopping for products and services, and their view of advertising and marketing in today’s shifting marketplace.
Market-research company GlobalWebIndex has been following the impact of COVID-19 on the global consumer landscape. It found that almost 50 percent of consumers don’t plan to return to shopping in person at local businesses “for a long time,” and there’s universal support for brands to continue advertising.
What does this mean for self-storage operators who need to market their business? With new ways to reach customers emerging all the time plus ever-changing tactics and technologies, the task can feel more overwhelming than ever. Now may be the right time to consider outsourcing your marketing to an agency or managed-services provider. Let’s examine the services offered, pros and cons, costs, and other key considerations.
You need marketing for your storage facilities, but you also need a strategy to generate leads, find your best customers, and connect with people in a meaningful way that creates brand ambassadors. Good strategy takes time and experience, but many operators don’t have the data-driven marketing expertise in-house. This is where outsourcing comes into play. These are the services marketing agencies and managed-service providers typically offer:
- Market research
- Search engine marketing (search, remarketing, display ads and social ads)
- Search engine optimization (visibility in organic, unpaid search and mobile results)
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Website design and optimization
- Reputation and list management
- Analytics and more
Pros and Cons
Outsourcing your marketing burden offers many benefits. It also presents challenges for some businesses. First, the good stuff. Outsourcing allows you to:
Have a team at your fingertips and move quickly. Outsourcing eliminates the pain of hiring, onboarding and training new employees; plus, it gives you access to an entire team of experienced professionals, so you can start tackling strategy immediately. It provides greater bandwidth to scale marketing efforts quickly and respond to revenue demands.
Gain insight and innovation. Business operators often tend to stick to the same marketing strategies or tactics, especially if they own multiple businesses in different industries. Outsourcing brings a fresh perspective, with new ideas and innovative tools to boost marketing efforts. Agencies and managed-service providers have these data-centric tools at the ready for immediate access and implementation.
Expand expertise and brand awareness. There are a lot marketing channels for reaching customers today, and it’s important to stay on top of trends and new technology. Outsourcing allows your team to focus on day-to-day operation while tapping into the expertise, resources and technology of external marketing partners.
Reduce overhead and reallocate resources. Often, the expense of hiring new employees to handle marketing, coupled with the need to implement new marketing technology, outweighs the cost of outsourcing. Outsourcing enables you to reallocate your internal resources where they’re most effective, giving you additional manpower and skills without adding overhead.
Measure return on investment (ROI). Whatever marketing strategies you implement, they need to be worthwhile. You may already have an in-house team or effective marketing manager, but sometimes the ROI doesn’t justify the hours needed to be successful and stay ahead of competition. Agencies define success with ROI and are often held to a higher standard for proving these efforts.
Disadvantages. While there are clear benefits to outsourcing your marketing tasks, there are some downsides, too. For example, an agency doesn’t know your culture or your business like you do. If you enlist the services of an outside firm, choose one that will take time to learn about your company and culture for creating digital campaigns that reflect your values. Your messaging must capture your authentic brand voice to be successful.
Outsourcing can be costly. Engage in the process with your external marketing partner and review analytics and reporting with the provider on a regular basis. This will ensure you don’t overspend. Don’t just outsource for the sake of outsourcing; if you have the in-house expertise and resources to handle your marketing effectively, then focus on what you can do to limit outsourcing needs.
The costs for outsourced marketing services vary and are based on your specific market and competition. Your ad budget should be based on your situation—whether your self-storage facility is in lease-up or is already established—and an analysis of what your competition is spending. You don’t want to overspend, but you also don’t want to underspend. If you don’t know what your competition is spending, you may be wasting your marketing dollars by not being seen when and where you need to generate results. It isn’t about the number of leads generated, it’s about the number of qualified leads generated.
There may also be discounts for bundling services. Purchasing standalone or a la cart services could be more expensive, so take this into consideration when discussing fees with your marketing partner. Just keep in mind that outsourcing can help fill important gaps in your operation and avoid the addition of in-house staff, which would add to your payroll and healthcare expenses. In short, how much can you save by outsourcing vs. hiring?
Choosing a Provider
Marketing is broad and holistic, crossing in and out of many channels, all of which need attention to be successful. This makes it more challenging for self-storage operators to stay on top of their efforts without engaging outside marketing partners. Hiring a team of experts to manage the technical aspects is an investment in your business that allows you to focus on other areas, rather than spend weeks or months trying to find the right person to hire and train. However, for outsourcing to be successful, you must know your specific needs and budget, as well as the strategy and tactics you’re currently using and how they can be improved. This will help you choose the partner that’s best suited to your needs, one that will complement your in-house operation.
Choosing the right provider is important to the success of your marketing efforts. There are many vendors in the self-storage industry with expertise and thousands of digital agencies with which you could work. There’s no one-size-fits all, especially if you have several self-storage facilities in different markets and at various stages of occupancy. Evaluating the services offered and how the provider fits with your portfolio is an important step in choosing a true collaborative partner. Look for one that offers integrated solutions across multiple touch points and the technology tools necessary to offer a seamless experience for your customers.
Shari Sutton is president of Sutton Watkins Advertising & Marketing Inc. and its MMS Division, which focuses on self-storage and multi-family housing. She’s been a respected agency principal since 1998, with expertise in digital advertising, marketing and senior management. Shari serves as marketing director for Nevada-based StorageOne, overseeing the direct and grassroots marketing efforts of 12-plus facilities, and has additional self-storage clients in California, Michigan and Ohio. To reach her, call 702.270.2147; e-mail email@example.com; visit www.suttonwatkins.com.