You know your self-storage business needs a good website to succeed, so you want it to have all the functionality and features it should. To cover all bases, consider outsourcing the creation and ongoing maintenance of your digital storefront to professionals.
There are many reasons to hire a third party. Perhaps you’re no longer happy with the drag-and-drop template you originally created—at midnight, in your pajamas—or you’re sick of fighting your way through WordPress. Perhaps you’re hitting a wall in your growth. If your customer conversions are low, you’re struggling to manage your time, or you simply want the website experience to be handled by someone with expertise, outsourcing is the answer.
The question is what type of website do you need and how much will it cost? Every self-storage operator has different needs, but hopefully this article will serve as a guide to help you plan.
Nontechnical vs. Technical
Your website serves as the base for your Web presence and improves your approachability and trust with customers. The first question to answer is whether you want it to be nontechnical or technical. A nontechnical website will include just the basics: a landing page, an “about me” page and a contact page. This is the bare minimum for most storage businesses. It’s simple but doesn’t have to be boring. You have almost unlimited style choices and can have it designed to fit your brand and style.
A technical website will include more. One option is to incorporate online payments. If you work with any creditors who don’t accept these, you know how annoying it is, so don’t put your customers through this hassle. Integrate a payment-management system into your website to ensure customer convenience and loyalty.
Other options possible with a technical website are online reservations and rentals. With reservations, you have the benefit of securing renters before units are even open. Online rentals are the future, allowing customers to complete the rental process the way they’re already used to accomplishing many of other day-to-day transactions. It also allows for future integration with lease e-signing. Online rentals take the customer off the market!
A nontechnical site will cost much less to create and maintain; however, you won’t stand out from the competition. In fact, you’ll all stand together back in 2009. The technical site will cost more to bring to life, but every dollar you spend on providing a user-friendly experience for customers will go a long way, as many shoppers value convenience over pretty much everything else.
When it comes to creating a new website, there are four things for which you’ll pay: onboarding (website creation), recurring costs, ongoing maintenance and updates. Of course, the more complex and technical your website is, the more it’ll cost. You can pay as much or as little as you want, depending on your desired features and capabilities.
When it comes to choosing a designer/developer, you have three main options from which to choose. The following have tradeoffs when it comes to quality, time spent on the project and expertise.
- Local freelance designer: This’ll be your cheapest option, depending on the provider’s professional history. It likely won’t have any experience in the self-storage industry, but if you can communicate exactly what you want, it should be able to make it happen.
- Industry-experienced designer: This’ll be more expensive but comes with the advantage of design that’s highly curated and tested within the storage sector. It’ll likely involve different people within an agency working on the design, Web development and customer-support aspects of your site.
- High-end designer: If you want your dream actualized, this is where to go—and it’ll cost you. A high-end designer can customize your website exactly the way you want it, bells and whistles included.
Among recurring costs, the most common is website hosting, which might already be included with whatever platform your designer decides to use. You’ll also need to pay for your domain name. This yearly cost is generally inexpensive, at about $12 per year.
Finally, you have ongoing maintenance and updates. If you have a simple site, it likely won’t need too much support. A complex site will need more, as is expected. At a minimum, you’ll want to ensure your design stays modern, the site is search engine optimized (those standards change over time and often!) and your information is up-to-date. Depending on what you need and how often, you can either contract out the work periodically as necessary, purchase an ongoing maintenance package, or hire someone on retainer who can provide a set number of billable hours each month.
Just a Facelift, Please
You may be thinking, “This is an awful lot of work. Is it really necessary?” Yes. You must have website, and the better it is, the more your business will succeed.
If you have an existing website and developing a new one seems like too much, consider giving it a revamp. Maybe it just needs some simple updates. Any developer will charge for changes, so do an analysis on how much a facelift would cost compared to new development. Think about what you want and what will be the best fit for your needs.
You and your customers should like using your website. Think about why people use it in the first place. Do they need your contact information? Are they trying to figure out where you are? Do they want to see photos and unit descriptions? Are they looking for rental rates? Do they just want to rent a unit and pay you now? Knowing why customers visit your website will tell you what you need to provide.
Your website isn’t a commodity; it’s your virtual storefront. You should put just as much care and effort into it as you do your physical facilities. It should align with your overall business objectives and be a good representation of who you are and what you have to offer customers.
Tommy Nguyen is co-founder and chief operating officer of StoragePug, a provider of self-storage software, website development and marketing. Powered by modern marketing, StoragePug has built an e-commerce platform that connects customers to self-storage through online rentals, billpay and lease eSign. For more information, call 833.786.7784; visit https://storagepug.com.