Marketing is a four-letter word to most self-storage operators. It feels like a “necessary evil” on annual budgets. But in today’s consumer-driven playing field, the game has completely changed. Today’s marketers spend more time in spreadsheets than they do analyzing the right color for their logo.
So, what’s changed? With the continued focus on predictability and spend optimization, marketing must shift from being the testing ground for new fads to being a programmatic machine that delivers business leads.
The Internet has fundamentally changed consumer expectations, both in how they buy and absorb information. Those looking for self-storage interact with multiple online sources before making a buying decision. That’s a complex combination of websites, keyword and branded searches, digital advertisements, and social media outlets. How can you market successfully when your prospects are leaping around in so many channels?
The key to a digital marketing strategy that increases lead generation and conversion velocity is matching the channels you’re using to the correct stage of the buyer’s journey. Each digital channel is optimized to solve a specific pain point and need. To move away from just the “art” of marketing, you can easily deploy the “science.” It starts with understanding the marketing funnel, which can be organized into three major sections: the top, middle and bottom.
Top of Funnel
Searchers at this stage of the funnel are still trying to figure out what options exist in the self-storage world. They’ll be looking for general pricing to see what size they can afford and starting to get a feel for the industry landscape. During this phase of the journey, it’s important your business is showing up in local searches. Enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) and digital advertising campaigns to target prospects who are searching for a local business.
Step 1: Clean up your local search foundation. This will include:
- Accurate Google My Business (GMB) information: GMB has evolved rapidly and become critically important to making sure people can find your company on Google, including Google Maps.
- Consistency of business name, address and phone number across tier-one citations (Yelp, GMB, Bing, Facebook): Your business is listed across the Internet without you even knowing. This information isn’t only important for your prospective customers, it’s a signal to search engines that you’re a trusted business.
- Location, location, location: Just as in real estate, your website needs to clearly identify your location, from the city all the way to neighborhood. Trends such as “near me” searches have made physical location a qualifier for SEO, especially in the storage website world. For example, when someone performs a city or a “near me” search, the business’ proximity becomes one of the foundational elements for search engines.
Step 2: Give the people what they want. Your website should be a hub of information for potential customers. Displaying accurate inventory and pricing will help build brand trust as well as qualify searchers in or out, ensuring the leads your team gets are highly likely to convert into leases. Your detailed explanation of offerings also helps search engines learn who you are and can help you get found in more searches.
Many websites fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone, which leads to confusion and a poor user experience. Keep your layout clean, with each page focused on a singular topic and a primary call to action (CTA) prominently displayed. Not sure what your CTA should be? Stick to driving your audience to your unit sizes, pricing and availability, as that’s the primary reason they’re on your website.
Middle of Funnel
Searchers at this stage understand what they want and are now looking for the best solution for their needs: price, availability, features and proximity. They want a frictionless path to find this information. Most modern buyers want to do that without any human interaction. That means your website needs to easily contain all the information they seek.
Step 1: Treat them like goldfish. User experience is the science behind website design that builds digital journeys based on how people consume information on the Web. For instance, humans now have a shorter attention span than the common goldfish. You have eight seconds to grab your user’s attention before he leaves and goes to a competitor to get what he needs.
How do you grab prospects’ attention? Create a website that has a single CTA. Research has shown that when prospects are given too many choices, they convert at slower rates; so, remove the friction and lead them where they want to go. That CTA should be a button that leads to the most sought-after information on your website, which is typically unit sizes, prices and availability. From there, you can easily convert middle-of-funnel searchers into bottom-of-funnel buyers through online forms or a prominently displayed phone number.
Step 2: Continue the conversation. If website visitors do bounce (leave your website), you can use digital advertising to keep your brand and message front and center during the rest of their buyer journey. Remarketing is a digital advertising strategy that targets prior website visitors with relevant display ads, leading them back to you. For instance, if a visitor went to your available-units page but didn’t begin the leasing process, your remarketing strategy can target him via a cookie. This will show him specific display ads with a CTA leading back to your online leasing page.
Bottom of Funnel
Users who are ready to purchase are considered bottom-of-funnel searchers. This audience is one you can’t afford to lose because it’s likely a perfect fit and may know your brand. The ability to target and convert bottom-of-funnel searchers results in higher occupancy and lower marketing costs, ultimately increasing your net operating income. This is the power of marketing—having a true impact on the bottom line of your business.
Step 1: Provide accurate information. With today’s marketing technology, it’s easy to integrate your website with your backend management system. That means your website can pull information directly from your software and display accurate unit sizes, prices and availability. Today’s searchers expect accuracy. Displaying out-of-date or inaccurate availability creates a distrust with your brand that’s difficult to overcome. With competition increasing every week in the self-storage industry, you can’t afford to create brand mistrust.
Step 2: Engage in online conversations about your brand. Today’s consumers are doing a great deal of research and listening to friends and strangers alike. The conversation is happening with or without you. Taking back some control of your online reputation requires you to monitor and engage wherever the discussion is taking place. From review sites like Yelp to directly on your business listing on GMB, your business must respond professionally and take negative discourse offline.
Step 3: Let them lease online. Online leasing is an important tool for today’s self-storage audience. In as little as three clicks, your website can turn a visitor into revenue for your property. Make sure your website is optimized for online leasing and accurately displays the available units and prices for your properties. Using language like “rent now” gives an easy path to rent the unit that fits their needs without the hassle of calling a property. Why delay a sale when your prospects are ready to rent? Giving your audience the ability to rent online helps them check this task off their list and takes them off the market for your competitors.
Consumer expectations aren’t going to slow down. People expect personalized experiences that meet their immediate needs. Using the marketing funnel to put the right message on the right channel and create engaging experiences will help you lease your units faster while building a brand on which people can rely.
Katie Gibson is director of integrated marketing for G5, which provides Digital Experience Management software and marketing services to the self-storage industry. She’s spent more than eight years using marketing to generate revenue. At G5, she builds integrated marketing campaigns that help others become better marketers. For more information, call 800.656.8183; visit www.getg5.com.