By Jon Fesmire
The way we advertise businesses has changed a lot in the last two decades. For a long time, the most important marketing tool available to a self-storage operator was the Yellow Pages. These days, the Yellow Pages is mostly a thing of the past. People want to find businesses, including self-storage facilities, online.
This article covers one aspect of online publicity: Facebook. While you should have pages on Yelp and other search engines, Facebook will allow you to share information with and attract new customers.
Below is an overview for setting up your Facebook marketing machine as well as a routine for maintaining your marketing presence. I won’t go into technical detail here, but I’ll provide an outline you can follow (and modify) to get people interested in your self-storage business. Note that this method of Facebook advertising does involve other services, but your main outreach will be through the platform itself.
Setting It Up
First, create a Facebook business profile, separate from your personal profile. You’ll do a good deal of posting from this profile, and you want to keep your work and private life in their own domains.
From this new account, create a page for your self-storage business. Pages are how companies, celebrities and others share information with the public. Upload a banner and profile picture to make the page more attractive. Facebook has a variety of page-customization options, and your goal is to get people to “like” the page. Once this is done, go back into your personal profile and let your friends know about your new business page. Ask them to like it.
If you don’t yet have one, set up a website with a blog for your business. Your Facebook outreach is going to use the blog. Write (or hire someone to write) about two posts per week related in some way to self-storage or your specific business. For instance, if you support the community, expand your office hours or install a new lighting system, write about it in a blog post. Include graphics such as charts, pictures and videos, as extra media tends to make posts more engaging.
Set up Google Analytics for your blog so you can see the metrics for each post, such as how many people have read it, how long each person stayed on the page and more. This information is invaluable, as it can show you which sorts of posts are most popular.
Also create an e-mail newsletter, which will allow you to collect the e-mail addresses of people who are interested in your company and want more information from you. There are many good mailing-list services, including Constant Contact and MailChimp. Include a sign-up form on at least three pages of your website: your homepage, the main blog page and your squeeze page.
Oh, yes, the squeeze page! This handy page is specifically designed to get people to sign up for your mailing list. Come up with something you can offer people for signing up—a freebie they can get only by joining your mailing list. You might create an infographic or article about the best way to stack items in a self-storage unit. Whatever you decide, it should be attractive enough that customers will be willing to give you their e-mail address on the spot.
Ideally, every page of your website should include a subscription lightbox for your newsletter. This is like a pop-up, but it’s actually part of the page in question rather than a separate browser window. People have grown used to these, and for some reason, they don’t seem as intrusive as a standard pop-up window. Set the delay for between 20 and 30 seconds. Some mailing-list services only allow you to use a much shorter delay; just use the longest one you can. The lightbox text should give a reason or two to sign up for the newsletter and, of course, allow the person to subscribe immediately.
Back on Facebook, join groups about self-storage as well as your local area and businesses. A group owner or member will have to add you after you send the join request, so getting this done early will ensure you can share with the most groups.
Using Your New Machine
With the above complete, you’re ready to start using Facebook to market your self-storage facility. Begin by writing an engaging blog post, and make sure you’re using some kind of analytics to track performance. You can use Bit.Ly to shorten your blog-post URLs for sharing. You’ll be able to see analytics for your pages this way, though Google Analytics is more robust.
Your blog posts shouldn’t be direct advertisements for your business, even if they’re news articles about your facility. You want them to be something people will find interesting. Always include at least one image.
After you’ve published each blog, write a one- or two-sentence blurb about it. Then go to each of your Facebook group pages and share the blurb as well as the blog-post URL.
Next, switch to using your Facebook business profile as your company’s page. This sounds odd, but it means your next set of posts will draw people to your company’s fan page rather than your personal business page. With this done, search for appropriate pages, rather than groups, on which to share your new posts. You could search for “self-storage,” “charity,” the name of your town, or anything else related to the content of the post.
On each of the pages that sounds appropriate, share your blurb and URL. Note that your post won’t go into the page’s timeline, as it will with groups. Instead, it goes into a sidebar that anyone can see, but often only the page owner will look at. This can still bring in many visits to your site and blog entry; and if the page owner likes it, he may share it on the timeline.
With that done, write a newsletter to your subscribers telling them a new blog post is up, along with the URL, and thank them for being list members. You may also want to share additional information with subscribers. You can also put a short advertisement at the end of newsletter mailings, as those go to people who’ve voluntarily signed on to hear from you, which makes them more receptive.
Do this about twice a week, and you’ll drive more readers to your blog and get your self-storage business in the consciousness of people in your area. It’ll set you a cut above other local storage companies. Your readers will think of you as friendly and helpful, and will be much more inclined to go with your business over another.
Facebook marketing does involve many hours of work per week, so if you don’t have time for this, consider hiring a writer and social media marketer. You can always outsource or hire in-house, depending on your budget and preferences.
Directing to the Squeeze Page
Sometimes, you’ll want to direct Facebook users directly to your company’s squeeze page, which will tell them all about your newsletter and the freebie they’ll get for subscribing. You can follow the same basic method as above, minus writing a new blog post and sending out a newsletter message. Simply post a blurb about your freebie and the squeeze-page URL to appropriate groups and pages.
The Reader Experience
Now that we’ve covered how to set up and use your Facebook marketing machine to drive readers to your site, blog and newsletter, let’s look at the experience of a Facebook user seeing one of your posts. I’ll use my own name in this example.
Jon is a member of a group in his town that shares news, events and more. One day, he sees a post from you that announces, “ABC Self-Storage is holding a fundraiser and food drive for XYZ Charity. Read about the awesome volunteers and see heartwarming pictures in our latest blog post!” Jon thinks that’s pretty interesting, so he clicks over to your site and reads the article. After he reads for 20 seconds, your lightbox pops up, but he’s not interested in signing up right away. However, once he finishes the article and reads that you’re offering, say, a free e-book on local history, he signs up at the bottom of the page. Now, even if Jon misses your Facebook posts, he’ll receive your mailing-list announcements.
After a few months, Jon needs to rent storage to make room for a long-term house guest. Naturally, your business is the first one to come to mind, and he rents a unit from you.
What to Expect
The goal of your Facebook marketing machine is to build up your newsletter, gain fans and bring in new customers. It does take time and should be just one aspect of your overall marketing approach. It’s also important to be on Yelp! and other business search engines.
As long as you use Facebook wisely and provide enjoyable, enriching content to readers, you’ll get more likes and positive comments than negative ones. If someone misunderstands the purpose of a post, write back and explain it in a professional manner. Through this method, you can build a following and a lot of goodwill in your community.
Jon Fesmire is a copywriter at Storagefront.com, an online marketplace for self-storage consumers. He writes articles for the company’s blog, “The Renter’s Bent.” Launched in 2009, StorageFront is operated by StoreLocal, a co-op of private self-storage operators in Canada and the United States. The group leverages the combined strength of its membership for services such as financing, marketing and technology. For more information, visit www.storelocal.com.