Digital marketing can be one of the best ways to drive measurable results for your self-storage operation, but it’s constantly changing. What worked five years or even five months ago may not do the job today. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and, moreover, any strategy based on misconception or conjecture will quickly waste your money.
Following are a few common digital-marketing mistakes being made by self-storage operators today. Read what they are and stop doing them now. I’ll also share what you can and should do to improve customer value, increase revenue and grow your brand in 2022 and beyond.
You’re Focusing on the Wrong Things When Occupancy Is High
You should never stop marketing your self-storage facility, but when it’s full, take the opportunity to refine your objectives and focus on new areas of growth. This is the perfect time to move beyond basic goals and improve the value of your operation as a whole. For example, times of high occupancy can give you the cushion you need to build online authority and focus on revenue management.
A key element to building online authority is search engine optimization (SEO). The good news is this is an evergreen effort—the value is lasting. The work you do to improve your SEO today will benefit you in three, six or eight months when your self-storage occupancy isn’t as high and your pipeline has diminished. It’s important to future-proof your facility now before it’s too late. If demand suddenly declines and you aren’t strong in the marketplace, competitors will take your spot; so, focus on building SEO.
Also, take time to address the bigger issue: If you’re 95% occupied or higher, you’re likely leaving money on the table. Your ability to maximize revenue is only as good as your inbound rental strategy. A strong one works hand-in-hand with a marketing plan to fill empty units with more valuable tenants. Even if you can make a small increase across your facility of $1,000 a month, that’s $12,000 annually, and the benefits to your valuation are exponential.
You Aren’t Properly Managing Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
CPA refers to the amount you spend to acquire each new self-storage customer. To know what yours is and control how much you spend, you need to look at return on investment (ROI) for each marketing strategy and campaign. It’s essential to understand the metrics that matter and the methods that drive your operational goals.
Ultimately, you want to find the best customer for each unit—the right customer at the right time at the right price. It might not always be as simple as securing the most renters, or even the most renters at the highest price point if they don’t have a significant length of stay. When you consider this variable, even renters with a higher CPA can bring more value over time than a low-value, easy acquisition with high churn. For example, 25 tenants with a rental rate of $100 who stay eight months may bring in less revenue than 15 tenants who rent at $130 but stay for 11 months, even if the CPA is slightly higher.
You should measure CPA the same way you gauge the source of your rentals, revenue streams and ROI—by channel. Are your rentals coming from Facebook? Google search? Once you can identify which traffic sources drive the most rentals at the lowest cost, you can optimize your CPA to increase overall revenue. Manage your CPAs, understand how you segment your customers and their demographics, and use marketing for targeted acquisition to create new rentals. This will have a significant positive impact on revenue growth.
You Think You Need to Always Be No. 1 on Google
Being No. 1 on Google through ads or organic results is super expensive and difficult. More important, it doesn’t always net the results you want. A study conducted by Ahrefs.com, which offers a website-traffic tool, shows that being No. 1 on Google search doesn’t necessarily guarantee more clicks.
Further, you need to consider the quality of the clicks you are getting—that’s what counts. The trick is knowing when to be at the top of Google and how to be there at the right time. Knowing your market, facility, demographics and seasonality is what creates customer value and drives revenue, so you only spend money when it’s necessary. This way, you’ll lower expenses and capture better customers. Any self-storage operator who thinks they have to play the “be on top all the time” game lacks this agility.
You’re Trying to Compete Against the Big Guys
If you think larger self-storage operators “do it better” and you shouldn’t even try, you’re wrong. Every operation has strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to recognize yours and leverage them to your benefit.
Obviously, a smaller operator shouldn’t try to win through scale. Play by your own rules and don’t try to imitate what larger players are doing. Find ways to differentiate yourself on a new playing field to beat your competition. Here are some pointers:
- Rely on local knowledge. Focus on seasonality, micro trends and local events that impact your market. This is your secret sauce. Larger operators often can’t focus their marketing dollars at this level.
- Leverage local connections. A lot of good business is about relationship-building. Connect with local partners to cross-promote and create authority in your community.
- Understand your customers. Make personal connections with them, which will help you understand their concerns, issues, storage needs and potential length of stay (i.e., value).
- Focus on agility. Capitalize on your ability to move fast. Be responsive, reply to reviews, test new strategies quickly and adjust your self-storage marketing campaigns midstream to improve results.
You’re Paying Too Much for Pay-Per-Click
Pay-per-click advertising involves paying Google so your business shows up at top of search results for key terms. It’s one of the easiest tactics to which to attribute value as you work to drive traffic to your website. If you set things correctly, you can understand the ultimate value of every dollar you spend. This strategy can deliver results overnight.
However, there are thousands of keywords you can pay to show up for—or not—and that brings a lot of nuance and complication. If you aren’t careful, you can quickly spend a lot. The key is to ensure traffic is relevant and prospects are ready to rent.
Your Website Is the Final Step in Your Strategy
Your self-storage website should be step one of your digital strategy. The next critical step is to optimize that website on a consistent, ongoing basis.
Often, a web developer will implement a few basic SEO practices and call it good. But once things are set up, no one optimizes the site to ensure it continues to rank and drive new leads. Very few self-storage operators do outreach to consistently build authority on Google. You should actively work to get external links that point back to your website from high-ranking sites to validate you and help you gain authority.
There are also several technical elements you can adjust to increase online conversions, such as website speed. It’s important to test your site speed on mobile and desktop. If your site takes more than two seconds to load (Google wants two seconds or less), it’ll hurt your ranking and cause you to lose customers. Consider how long you’re willing to wait for a page to load before you navigate back to search results.
Next, think about content. If you haven’t updated your self-storage website in the past three months, you’ve missed opportunities to improve performance. Google and other major search engines want to see consistent, active content to show you regularly create a better user experience. The reliability and quality of your content impacts how you rank.
Finally, consider the customer journey. The best way to grow your self-storage business is to understand the steps potential renters take from move-in to move-out. How simple, fast and easy does your website make it for users to sign a lease or pay their bill? Without an active strategy to optimize that experience, you’re missing opportunities to capture new customers and drive them toward higher lifetime values. It’s critical to understand the customer journey, build your website to transact, and continually work to optimize that experience.
You Don’t Value Social Media as a Customer-Acquisition Tool
Social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others can be your best customer-acquisition channels. Your prospects are on these platforms, which have big players in users’ online research. By leveraging them, you can see lower CPA while maintaining high lifetime customer value.
The challenge is social media requires a different type of advertising. You need ads that are visual and kinetic. If you aren’t seeing results on these platforms, it’s likely your ads that are the problem. The composition of your graphics is 75 percent of their effectiveness.
People will always seek self-storage, and essentially anyone can be your target audience. Digital marketing can help you capture demand in the most inexpensive way possible. Every facility operator knows they need a marketing strategy, but few know how to leverage digital marketing and integrate it with their operational strategies to capture more high-value customers and drive greater revenue over time. Digital channels are particularly primed to help you understand and find those “best” customers, but it’s an ongoing, labor-intensive commitment.
Cameron Urry is vice president of product for customer-acquisition services at OpenTech Alliance Inc., a provider of self-storage kiosks, call-center services and other technology. He has 19 years of experience in digital marketing and product development, including 11 in the self-storage industry. With actionable insights and marketing precision, his team helps facility operators of all sizes solve their customer-acquisition challenges, optimize customer value and increase customer loyalty. For more information, call 602.749.9370.