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Find your niche

More Than Just Units: Creating a Specialty Self-Storage Business Model

Whether you’re a self-storage operator with hard-to-fill units or just looking to boost your revenue, now’s the perfect time to consider specialty storage options for your market. Here ideas on what to offer and how to get started.

In my hometown in South Dakota, there’s a large group of retired farmers who are part of an informal Corvette club. All members have a Corvette, from 1960s classics to new models. They meet at the town diner on Saturday mornings to sip coffee and talk crops and cars before driving the open highways and winding lakeside roads in a caravan of shiny, colorful ‘Vettes.

Now that I find myself in the self-storage industry, I wonder where these clubbers are storing all those fancy cars. Has any savvy real estate investor had the idea to offer premium, climate-controlled storage for classic cars, motorcycles and watercrafts in the area?

Whether you’re a self-storage operator with hard-to-fill units or just looking to boost your revenue, now’s the perfect time to consider specialty storage options for your market. You can transform your property’s unique features—a newly built warehouse or unused basement—to create focused offerings designed to bring in new renters at a premium price. Whether your customers want a place to store Corvettes and have club meetings, a high-security unit to secure collectibles or merchandise, or customized space to store wine collections and host tastings, there are profitable options for nearly every market.

What’s Hot for 2018 and Beyond

Some storage owners are renovating their properties to add specialty storage, whether for wine, vehicles, business uses, documents, art studios or even band practices. These alternatives offer great opportunities for marketing and higher rates, and their popularity has surged in urban and rural markets.

As more companies go paperless, document storage and shredding might become a less popular niche. But with the ever-increasing cost of space and America’s rapidly growing cities, RV, boat and vehicle storage isn’t going anywhere. Visitors to recreation areas like national and state parks have more than doubled in the last five years as people look to “unplug” from their screen-filled, hectic lives.

Tomorrow’s generation of renters are mobile-first, and they’ll surely expect online conveniences such as high-tech security tools, instant access via apps and storage-to-home delivery services. When thinking about the long-term benefits of specialty storage, consider today’s shifting consumer focus toward online, mobile technology. With easy-to-use self-service tools, you’ll be able to easily cater to today’s renters.

Why Does It Work?

Let’s get macro-economic for a moment to understand why the specialty-storage business model works. Today’s consumers are used to the traditional self-storage model, especially Baby Boomers, who grew up with self-storage and are experienced renters. Boomers are 80-million strong and hold more than 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income in their pockets. This storage-savvy group is the ideal market for your specialty offerings. They’ve invested a lot of time and money in their stuff, and they’re willing to pay more for added security, convenience and amenities.

In fact, renters of all ages want the best security for their high-end stuff, and they want to access it 24/7, 365 days a year. Convenient features such as extended access hours and free Wi-Fi are huge selling points. Extended hours are especially important for tenants looking to store RVs or boats. They want to enter your facility early on a Friday morning, take out their vehicle for a long weekend of fishing or camping, and bring it back late Sunday night.

Renters love unexpected amenities that make your storage property a one-stop-shop for their needs. For example, if that same renter who stores his boat with you can also get it detailed at your facility and prepped for winter storage at the end of the season, that’s another level of convenience that makes his decision to store with you an easy one.

It’s clear why renters are choosing specialty storage, but what’s the benefit for facility operators? When you cater to these market niches, you’re able to charge a premium for the space and increase revenue in a big way. You can boost profit by meeting the needs of people who are actively looking for a certain type of solution. In addition, users of specialty storage typically rent longer.

There’s also the benefit of hyper-focused and hyper-local marketing. With specialty storage, brands are cutting through the noise of their competition online and standing out in search results. For many, it’s as simple as working with local wineries, or offering information on the nearest national parks, lakes and rivers on their facility website.

How to Get Started

If you’re ready to jump in, you’ll need to conduct thorough market research to find out what will sell in your area. When it comes to offering specialty storage, location is everything. For example, an underground wine-storage club might not be profitable in rural South Dakota, but it would surely be popular in Portand, Ore. If you’re near a large recreational area, you’re in prime real estate for RV and boat storage.

Once you’ve developed a business plan, it’s time to get busy with Web marketing. It’s easy to target customers for specialty storage using keywords such as “boat storage near Lake Madison” or “wine collector’s club in Seattle.” Work with a marketing team to fine-tune your target strategy, improve your search engine optimization and reach the renters who are looking for certain types of storage in your area.

With all the options renters have today, it takes a unique business model to stand out among competitors. Niche storage is a great way for facility operators to get noticed online and develop new relationships in their communities. If you’re looking to build a new facility or renovate an existing property, it’s the perfect time to research, analyze and explore the opportunities for specialty storage in your market. By adding premium storage space, you can boost revenue and bring in more rentals for years to come.

Jana Haecherl is a marketing-content writer for storEDGE, which offers a comprehensive suite of technology solutions designed specifically for the self-storage industry. As a graduate of South Dakota State University with a master’s degree in mass communication, she enjoys bringing technology, Web marketing, and industry news and tips to self-storage owners and managers. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storedge.com

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