In the world of self-storage, we’re fortunate to offer a physical, tangible product as opposed to virtual or digital products like many companies of our time. And, our properties lend themselves to great photographs! I’m talking about pictures of the buildings themselves as well as the management office, sample units, moving truck, RV-parking spots, specialty units for wine storage and more.
That said, as someone who regularly audits self-storage websites, I’m always surprised that images are so incredibly underutilized. For example, I was recently touring the website of one local facility, and there were only three images in its online photo gallery. Two of them were stock photos and not even of the facility itself!
This article is about to change everything. Get ready to take your self-storage digital marketing to the next level with the savvy use of website images.
Types of Images
Before we dive into specific implementation strategies, let’s cover four main image styles that can—and should—be found throughout your self-storage website:
- Facility photos: If you must prioritize, these are the most important, as they illustrate the beauty of your property, inside and out. Typically taken by a professional photographer, they capture your buildings, office, units and any other features you’d like to highlight.
- Team photos: These are a little more personal, highlighting your staff. Remember, part of the value of a storage facility is the team behind it. Don’t be afraid to feature these photos on your website, especially your blog. Just make sure everyone signs a marketing release authorizing use of their likeness online.
- Custom graphics: Created by a graphic artist, these can be fun images that help define your brand persona. For example, at Smart Self Storage, I leverage hometown-style graphics portraying neighborhood scenes.
- Stock photos: Unfortunately, many storage websites rely exclusively on stock photos—generic pictures that can be purchased online. I listed this one last for a reason. While stock photos can help fill in important gaps, especially while you’re in the process of creating your own images, they should never be viewed as your primary strategy. They’re impersonal and generic, after all.
Invest in Your Photo Gallery
Now that we’ve covered the four basic image types, let’s look at how they can be used on your website. Your photo gallery is the most fundamental.
These days, consumers are very busy. The want and deserve to know exactly what they’re going to experience at your facility before visiting. That’s why it’s so important to feature a gallery on your website that includes many images of your property. Here are some tips for developing one:
- When possible, strive to include 30 photos, in a choreographed order, for each property.
- Hire a professional photographer to take photos from all the right angles.
- Make sure images are of the highest possible quality (resolution).
- Assign each image an “alt tag,” which is the HTML code that goes behind the scenes and clearly describes the image in the text. Such tags are helpful for search engines and consumers with slower Internet connections.
Feature a ‘Homepage Hero’
When your customers arrive on your homepage, what’s the first thing they see? It should be a huge image of your facility, the absolute best photo from your gallery! When creating and choosing your “homepage hero,” be mindful of the following:
- Do a thorough, deep clean of the property before any photography. Consider staging the facility with fresh flowers and plants.
- I prefer taking photos on a bright, sunny day.
- The image must be of the absolute highest quality and resolution. It’s going to be really big!
- Consider using photo-editing software to remove any distractions within the image, such as temporary signage about specials.
In marketing, it’s all about that first impression. As prospective customers reach your website, it’s your homepage hero that will drive it. Draw consumers in with an inviting scene.
Leverage Infographics to Tell a Story
In terms of image strategies, this one is a little more advanced and costly. That said, the best things in commercial real estate and marketing always require a little extra effort.
Have you ever experienced an infographic? I’m talking about those long, fun graphics that are full of stats and value. At my company, we’ve created two: “Self Storage Rental Guide” and “Top 10 Fun Things to Do in Roseville, Calif.,” which our newest location. Infographics like these accomplish many goals:
- They create a real persona—a brand—behind your company.
- They’re entertaining and engaging. Consumers have many choices when it comes to renting self-storage. Charm them with your unique brand!
- They help consumers find your facility.
In the world of marketing, images have so much value. They show up in search engines and social media networks. They even get shared via e-mail! The infographic can truly “go viral.” In fact, I consider infographics a pillar of my content-driven marketing strategy.
Want to create an infographic? It’s a four-step process:
- Sketch out exactly what you want on paper. If done correctly, this process should take several hours. Especially focus on marketing copy and storytelling.
- Find a marketing agency with expertise in graphic design. Communicate exactly what you want from your project.
- View your agency’s preliminary work early, and invest in several rounds of feedback so you can build the perfect infographic for your business.
- Once it’s complete, upload it the infographic in a prominent location on your website. I prefer the homepage, toward the bottom.
Incorporate Images Throughout Your Content
A website isn’t just an image gallery, a hero image and an infographic. It’s a web of valuable content including pricing information, addresses and directions, topically relevant blog posts, frequently asked questions, how-to guides, and more. Images always draw the eye and add value. As such, I look for any opportunities to leverage them throughout my entire website. Here are a few tips to spark your creativity:
Go through every single page of your website and identify where images exist and are needed. Come up with a strategy to add them to pages that look like a barren sea of text. Don’t forget those alt tags! (Knowing it’s impossible to have a custom photo or graphic for all pages, this is where stock photos can come in handy.)
Identify pillar pieces of content on your website (typically, these are pages that are linked directly from your homage) and over-invest in them. For example, I recently revamped our “self-storage tips” article. Not only did we completely rewrite it, we commissioned five custom graphics, knowing it’s one of the most prominent pieces on our website.
Do you have a blog? If not, create one. Blogs are great places to showcase images that might not make as much sense elsewhere. For example, do you have a fun team photo from your last 5K race? Why not share the story and photo on your blog? This creates a personal connection with your readers and prospective customers.
Your website is no longer a dot.com destination. Now, it’s a distributed platform, available via a variety of venues including social media profiles. As an extension of your website, your social media sites should consistently feature breathtaking images!
Start With Baby Steps
While all this may seem intimidating at first, especially if you haven’t incorporated many images on your website, don’t get overwhelmed. The beauty of digital marketing is it’s all about incremental progress.
Invest some time in your marketing plan. Break down the complex sea of opportunity into simple, easy steps. Focus on one new strategy at a time, and realize that your website is a living, evolving entity that’ll experience new updates on a regular (weekly or monthly) basis. Looking a few years out, take comfort in the fact that your website will be filled with incredible photos and graphics, those that truly reward you and your perspective customers.
Ian Lopuch is a business and marketing executive and a general manager with deep roots in technology. He’s also an investor with a lifelong obsession for cash-flow. As a partner at Carlo Development LLC, the company behind Smart Self Storage, Lopuch’s responsibilities span marketing and growth, commercial real estate development, technology, and executive leadership. He previously held leadership positions at some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing startups. To reach him, call 650.241.9124; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.smartselfstorage.com.