OK, it’s time to get serious about identifying your self-storage operation’s target markets. We can no longer “let the good times roll,” my friends. The self-storage industry is changing dramatically this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and you must know how to identify and reach your facilities’ most promising audiences.
Are you making assumptions about your markets based on personal knowledge? This can be dangerous. For example, let’s say you own one self-storage location and want to open a second. You might think you know your new customer base and what it wants based on your experience with the first site, when what you really need is research. Cold, hard facts. Data!
To be successful in your marketing, you need to get specific. The better you understand who your customers are, the better your business will be. You never want to overestimate how good your market (or your data) really is. That can lead to missteps. Rather than make assumptions about who you should be targeting, you need a realistic picture of your audience. Only then can you narrow and customize your marketing efforts.
To make correct decisions, you need correct data. To get this data, you need to cast your nets far and wide, and then take time to see what information moves your business forward.
My company uses a free online platform to conduct user surveys on a regular basis. It’s a great way to learn more about our audience. You can do the same for your self-storage facilities. When writing your survey questions, consider what you want to learn about your customers. Every query should be short and easy to answer. You might have to give something as an enticement to complete the survey. Maybe enter them into a drawing for a gift card or offer a 15 percent discount on items in your retail store.
You can also use Google Analytics to gather information on your customers, or social media. Facebook, for example, can give you an immense amount of marketing data. Who’s visiting your page? Where are they? How old are they? What’s their gender? What’s their level of income? The list goes on and on. Use the analytics tools to mine the most detailed information, and then tailor your marketing messages to appeal to the specific members of your audience. Typically, people hate ads on social media, though, so make yours fun and compelling. The point is to be creative when collecting and using market data.
Know Why Customers Choose You
We talk about this consistently in the self-storage industry. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why did the customer choose to store here?
- Why am I uniquely placed to solve the problem?
- How can I use this information?
When I was a new facility manager, I always asked customers to complete a survey to answer the question, “Why did you pick us?” Over the span of a year, I collected thousands of forms that I input into a file. Every now and again, the owner would look at it for a bit and just put it back. The data was wasted.
Later in my career, I implemented a new system. I actually used the data to tailor my advertising efforts! Crazy, I know. When I created materials, they revolved around the reasons people chose to store at my facility. When customers left a review, I encouraged them to state the reason they stored with us.
If you’re unable to connect your marketing data with action, you have the wrong data or the wrong action. You’ll need to do more work before you start targeting potential customers.
Be Ready to Change
As the economy or competition changes, you must also be able to adapt. Be prepared to redefine or expand your target market when necessary. What works for your business now from a marketing perspective may not work later. Be flexible and ready to pivot.
For example, figuring out how to market to people within three miles of your self-storage facility is a good start; but what happens when a 1,000-unit store is built within that area? How will your marketing change? What are your plans? If you don’t have them, you better start now.
Sharpen Your Focus
One of the most important things you can do with your marketing data is use it to intelligently and efficiently narrow your gaze. In other words, prioritize. Which efforts should you put at the top of your list?
Think of it like this: Ford and General Motors likely know that marketing their pickup trucks to drivers in Idaho or Texas is more productive than targeting drivers in California or New York. While it’s relatively simple to develop general advertising for “everyone,” devoting time to analyze your data will lead to more targeted marketing, which can only help you maximize your efforts and return on investment.
The self-storage marketing game has changed and continues to evolve. You need to be able to grow with it. While it may not be easy, there are tools and people to help you on this journey. Figure out where you need help and find industry professionals who have the strengths you require. When you do this, you’ll be able to understand your target audiences, tailor your marketing messages and move forward like never before.
Rick Beal is co-founder of The Atomic Storage Group, a third-party management and consulting firm for the self-storage industry. To contact him, e-mail [email protected]atomicstoragegroup.com or visit www.atomicstoragegroup.com. To stay up-to-date with his publications and speaking engagements, go to www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.