Put on your Chuck Taylors and leave your SEO alone for a moment. Right now, we’re going to kick it old-school and talk about the importance of offline marketing in self-storage.
Historically, the challenge with offline strategies has been the time and effort they require. It takes commitment to develop and implement these methods. Coupling long-term planning with little immediate payoff means doing a lot of follow-up—it isn’t just giving away promotional beer koozies and screwdriver-pens. That said, offline marketing still has an important role to play in the success of a self-storage operation. Done right, it can expand awareness of your brand and build customer loyalty. Here are some ways to make it work!
The key to successful offline marketing is planning for the long term. Storage is a business of need, but people don’t always need it right away. So, sometimes you’re just “planting seeds.”
For example, if part of your offline plan involves visiting all the apartment managers in your area once per month to help generate referrals, make sure those face-to-face meetings make an impression and provide real value. Every time you go, bring a $5 Starbucks gift card for the manager or some branded pens he can distribute in his office. Every. Single. Time. Eventually, these little investments will reward your efforts and grow into valuable referrals.
Over time, you’ll start to see that some labors pay off more than others. Once you find an offline method that produces greater results, invest even more effort into it. This is why it’s so important to track your efforts. Just keep in mind that even if you don’t see immediate payoff, it doesn’t mean you aren’t increasing brand recognition. Seeds take time to sprout.
Seize Live Opportunities
Grassroots is a popular offline marketing strategy, and there are many networking events and activities in which you can participate to promote your self-storage business. For example, you can enroll in your local chamber of commerce and attend its business mixers and events. Exhibit in local expos. Host a charity or community event at your facility. The options are nearly limitless!
Sometimes your best opportunity will be unexpected. Once, when a canal overflowed near a storage facility I was managing, flooding basements and damaging homes, we immediately distributed coupons offering three months of free storage to those affected. We did this for a few reasons. First, because we were members of the community and wanted to support our neighbors. Second, it gave people an answer to a question they didn’t yet know they had. Third, many of those who used the coupon stayed with us longer than three months. Even better, when we passed out the coupons, people told their friends, which further increased the reach of our brand!
In whatever events you participate, have printed business cards to hand out. They’re so affordable now, you can even customize them to each occasion. Always include some kind of unique, trackable promotion on the back. This is a strong way to stand out to new contacts. They’ll get to know you and, hopefully, do business with you in the future.
Remember Existing Tenants
Yes, offline marketing is about building brand awareness, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook your existing tenant base! There are contests and promotions you can offer current renters to further strengthen your brand and customer loyalty.
Here’s something I like to do: Create branded decals with your facility information on them (roughly business-card size). Make sure the design really pops because these will serve several purposes. Of course, you can hand them out to customers at your facility and outside events. You can also do things like apply them to bottles of water. Then, on a hot day, walk around and hand them out to people who are moving in or out; or put a bottle in each newly rented unit as a thank-you. The right giveaway at the right moment has tremendous impact.
Another great way to build brand loyalty is to host customer contests. Consider announcing one quarterly. You can give away a free month’s rent, gift cards or other promotional items. The trick is to get people excited and talking about you. Perhaps reward the tenant who sends you the most referrals!
With the explosion of digital marketing options diverting many marketers’ attention, other initiatives often get pushed aside. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between offline and online strategies. Using both is more powerful! Create a long-term plan, plant your seeds and track results. Invest more effort on methods that work well. Then sit back and watch your effort grow into meaningful new revenue for your self-storage business!
Rick Beal is vice president of development and management for Easy Storage Solutions, where he spearheads the consulting and third-party management division. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, more profitable ideas. His motto is, “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or stay up-to-date with all his publications and speaking engagements at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.