A referral program is an easy marketing strategy that rewards customers for spreading the word about your self-storage business. The following delves into the many benefits, plus how to create an arrangement with existing tenants and other local companies.

Mohala Johnson, Director of Web Technology

June 23, 2023

6 Min Read

We’ve all experienced the power of a great sale, such as “buy one get one free” or half price on seasonal items. In self-storage, we can always provide our customers with discounts and other types of promotions, but a referral program is a different approach that can save you money and drum up new business. Let’s examine the benefits and how easy it is to create one.

What It Is and Why You Need It

A referral program is a system in which you give someone a reward in exchange for recommending your self-storage business to a potential new customer. Your aim is to create a symbiotic partnership with existing self-storage tenants, other businesses and even charitable organizations within your community.

The reward you offer and the terms of its redemption can be anything you choose. It might be a discount on monthly rent, free or discounted retail items you sell in your office, other physical products, even cash or gift cards—whatever fits your budget and goals. For example, you might give free moving boxes or a few dollars off rent to anyone who refers a new customer to your facility. The reward just needs to entice customers to sing your praises and ensure they come back again should they need storage in the future.

When you make a good first impression, provide excellent service and garner the trust of a self-storage customer, they’ll often be willing to advocate for your business. If you treat them well, they’ll tell their family and friends, who may in turn become renters. One way to ensure that happy tenants tell others about you is to provide them with an incentive. This not only keeps you in their good graces, it increases the chances of them talking to people about how amazing your facility is.

As a self-storage operator, you want to generate positive interactions and word-of-mouth marketing whenever possible, not only because it saves you money on advertising, but because you need any conversations about your facility to be good ones. If a customer has a negative experience, they’ll still tell everyone they know, which can spiral into a bad reputation. So, why not please your customers, then incentivize them to tell people how wonderful you are? A referral program is the best way to encourage this behavior.

Working With Tenants

Most referral programs work on an individual level, so you’ll want to approach your potential partners—in this case, your self-storage tenants—directly. You might offer them a discount on their rent in exchange for sending new customers your way. Maybe it’s a $15 credit for every one of their referrals who signs a lease. Everyone is a fan of saving money! If you provide a way for them to do it, they’ll be more likely to participate.

No matter what you provide, it’s vital that you clearly state the terms and conditions. Otherwise, you may end up giving away free product because a tenant was able to get enough referrals to cover their entire bill. While this might not seem like a bad thing, you must consider your return on investment. Set restrictions on your program so you can continue to make a profit.

Collaborating With Other Businesses

A community partnership is a little different but still beneficial. Investigate local companies to see which might make good candidates. You might find some through your local chamber of commerce, which has a long history of connecting business owners who have like-minded goals. For example, consider reaching out to realtors, apartment managers and moving companies whose customers would benefit from your self-storage services.

Once you’ve found a business with which to partner, have fun with it. A successful referral program will enhance your service offerings and theirs. Consider what would appeal most to your target audience and intended customers. For example, a moving company might enjoy a discount on moving supplies or $25 for every referral. This is how you create a successful campaign.

Spreading the Word

Once you’ve established the terms of your self-storage referral program, you need to tell everyone about it. That means tailoring your messages for various audiences. As with any marketing venture, you need to be mindful of the proper platform and presentation.

Create fliers, brochures or even business cards to hand out to existing tenants and business partners. Hang a banner in your office. Send an email or piece of direct mail. Often, however, the best approach is to speak to people in person. Forge a relationship. This is a great way to ensure your program is properly represented, plus it gives you an opportunity to address any questions or concerns. You may even be asked to offer a different incentive that works better for the other person or company and is within your means.

Track Your Efforts

Finally, track the efforts of your self-storage referral program. For example, you might create a promo code so you know the exact source of each recommendation. If a current tenant refers someone, you can simply ask for their name.  Both approaches are direct and simple.

Whatever tracking system you create, make sure you can add special tags or notes to assist in your reporting. It might be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. There’s no need for complicated processes or cumbersome procedures. Just track what you give away and to whom.

No matter what you decide to offer by way of referral incentives, remember two things: First, tracking is critical. Without data, you have no way of knowing whether your program is helping or hurting your business. Second, remain proactive and tailor your offers based on performance. If providing free moving boxes or $15 off rent isn’t yielding enough of a return, consider another incentive. It’s all about balance and flexibility. Sometimes, you have to throw out deals to see which ones attract the right customers. Keep an open mind, and have a few alternatives in mind in case you aren’t getting any traction.

A self-storage referral system is a win-win for all parties involved. Stay informed and connected to your customers and business partners. They’ll tell you if your program isn’t working. This gives you the opportunity to pivot and provide them with what they need so they become your biggest fans.

Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development Ltd., a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 self-storage facilities in the Southeast. With more than 10 years of management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and she’s excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her @MohalaJohnson on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson.

About the Author(s)

Mohala Johnson

Director of Web Technology, Tellus Development LTD

Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development LTD, a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 facilities in the Southeast United States. With more than 10 years management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she is excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson. For more information, visit www.tellusltd.com.

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