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Self-storage marketing continues to evolve, and tracking what’s working—and what isn’t—can be difficult. A facility manager offers advice on how to identify your target market and track your own marketing efforts.

September 10, 2016

5 Min Read
Tracking Your Self-Storage Marketing Efforts

By Donna Edwards

Marketing has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The avenues that were once successful for self-storage operators have changed. Yellow Pages aren’t used by most people these days because everyone can use a smartphone to search for a phone number. Newspaper circulation has declined, radio stations are less popular due to online streaming, social media is constantly evolving, and direct mail has decreased as consumers “go green.” The tried and true marketing methods of yesterday simply aren’t as effective as they once were.

Today’s marketing approach should include a broad reach, which is more effective than relying on a single channel. Older consumers may still use the Yellow Pages or read the newspaper, but many are reluctant to conduct online transactions. In contrast, the younger generation may never look at print media and only receive information online. This makes it a complex process to track your marketing programs. To build a superior marketing program, you first need to identify your target market, and then develop a quality tracking system.

Identify Your Target

Who’s your typical customer? What’s their age, gender and proximity to your facility? Are they good tenants, or do you have a lot of problems with delinquency? Would you want more just like them or a whole bunch of new and different prospects? Answering these questions will help you determine where to spend marketing dollars. Each media-marketing representative will (should) have demographic information as to who his publication/media reaches. Once you know who your customer is and who you’re trying to reach, you can target your media selections.

Which publications or media outlets are involved in the community? Do they have a local presence? Do they have businesses of the same quality that advertise with them? If you’re interested in their success rate, contact some of the companies that advertise with them and ask how successful their advertising has been. How are they measuring success?

Another avenue to market your business is through the local chamber of commerce. Some chambers focus on tourism while others concentrate on business networking and promotion. Investigate your local organization to see if its efforts will generate leads. A small financial investment may give you the opportunity to network with other businesses that can send customers to your facility.

Track Your Efforts

Once you’ve decided on your marketing budget and where you want to spend those dollars, the next step is to set up a way to track the success of your program. Use different codes per outlet—Yellow Pages, newspaper, magazine, radio, direct mail and television. For example, the code can be an abbreviation of your site name with a number, such as ABC1, ABC2, etc. If there’s a special offer attached to a marketing campaign, customers must mention the code to get the discount, offer or other item, such as a free lock.

Set up a tracking sheet so you can see which programs bring in the most new tenants. Ask every new customer how he found your business. Some online-reservation programs have a feature to track marketing, so check to see if yours has this tool and update the options to fit your site. In some cases, customers may not remember where they heard about your facility. However, if they have a code to redeem an offer, you can track it.

It’s important to place conservative goals on your program. For example, if you get a 10 percent return on a coupon, that’s excellent! Most direct-mail or coupon offers get a less than 2 percent return. If you reach 500 potential customers, a 2 percent return is only 10 people; but a 10 percent return is 50. If you expand that count for the number of residents in an area who could see your marketing and respond to it, you can get excited about the possibilities. Remember, not everyone is going to need storage now, respond within a timely manner, or even see any of your marketing in the first place. Some people don’t pay any attention to advertising.

Social media is another great tool that allows you to easily track your marketing programs. These platforms provide up-to-date information on how many people saw your posts. If you advertise with a social media website, it can also provide accurate counts. Facebook can break your followers down by age, gender, location and time of day they visited your page. You can even choose to receive a weekly report so you can see how your page is doing.

Change Up the Message

Advertisements can be targeted to a specific audience or have a different focus at various times of the year. Examples include advertising your vehicle storage in a boating magazine, or how to use storage while staging a home for sale in a home-decorating magazine. Consider emphasizing your climate-controlled storage during the summer months, or how to store camping gear, canoes or other sporting equipment during the long winter. Stagger your marketing efforts to test which medium works best. Some publications will have better success at different times of the year.

Also establish a referral program for existing customers. The reward could be credit toward their rental, a gift card or cash. Happy, existing tenants can be a wonderful marketing tool to increase occupancy and improve public perception.

Measuring Success

So how will you measure success … New rentals? Customers mentioning the ad? Attendees at an onsite event? Redemption of a coupon or discount? Do you want to create top-of-mind awareness or direct action as a result of your efforts? Determining what you consider a favorable outcome will help you evaluate if the method is successful.

In many cases, marketing doesn’t result in immediate response. Even if a customer doesn’t need storage right away, he may remember your facility if your name pops up from time to time in different advertising locations. Unlike a coupon for a particular product, top-of-mind advertising is much harder to track. As you decide on your marketing efforts, remember that tracking starts with setting goals, choosing the best medium to reach those goals, and then refining them throughout the year.

Donna Edwards is a manager at Plantation Self Storage in Bluffton, S.C., which is operated by Southeast Management Co. She joined the company in 2013 and has more than 10 years of experience in property management. Her marketing experience includes setting budgets, designing yearly marketing plans, and creating and writing all types of advertising. For more information, call 843.815.8000; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.southeastmanagementcompany.com.

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