Take a moment to estimate how many self-storage facilities are in your market. If you can count the number on one hand, consider yourself lucky. If you need both hands and feet plus the hands and feet of everyone around you, your situation mirrors that of most facility operators.
When coping with an oversaturated market, you must work hard to stand out. A smart strategy is to upgrade your facility with add-on products and services. Not only can they provide customers with things they need and no other storage facilities in the area offer, they give your business new revenue streams. You can introduce one add-on with low overhead or go all out with several targeting a specific demographic. Whichever approach you take, ancillaries will transform your opertion from just another storage business to one that offers something unique, desirable and profitable.
When considering which add-ons are best for your location, it helps to know your options—and your audience. Not every product and service will work in every market. Let’s start by looking at a few popular profit centers for the self-storage industry. This isn’t an exhaustive list. Operators have explored everything from basic merchandise sales to propane-tank rentals to craft boutiques and eBay sales centers. What could you add?
- Retail sales: Even just a few retail offerings—boxes, tape, bubble wrap—can drive revenue. A retail center allows you to target the public in addition to your tenants.
- Truck rentals: You already know how often people use self-storage during a move. Why not make your facility a one-stop shop by renting trucks? Again, this will appeal to the greater community as well as your tenant base.
- Vehicle storage: This is good for cars, RVs, boats, motorcycles and anything else with wheels. You can offer a something as simple as an outdoor lot or canopies to something as sophisticated as a garage-style unit with power. Depending on your market, you might specialize in one vehicle type and offer complementary products and services. For example, if you cater to RVs, consider a wash bay, dump station, valet service and items people need when they go on the road such as such as antifreeze, tools and camping gear.
- Wine storage: This will require wine lockers in a range of sizes to accommodate collections from personal aficionados to restaurant owners. You’ll also need strict temperature and humidity controls to keep the storage at 55 degrees, with flexibility for varietals that need higher or lower temperatures. Humidity must be kept at 60 percent to 80 percent. You’ll also need a back-up generator if you don’t already have one.
- Records storage: This is great for business owners or individuals who need a place to store important documents and files. With this type of storage, you’ll offer units that prioritize security and confidentiality. You might also offer document shredding for free or a small fee.
- Office space: Renting out units for office use will require power, Internet, phone lines, adequate lighting and other features that make for a comfortable atmosphere. You might consider adding a business center with a conference room, printing and mailing, delivery acceptance, and warehouse space.
So, how do you sell your new products and services to prospects and existing tenants? Start by identifying customers with a specific need. For example, a renter might mention the RV he just purchased. A student may tell you about the new apartment he’s moving into after graduation. Listen to what people say. Assess their needs, then explain how your product of service will benefit them.
Be friendly and work it into conversation naturally. When giving a facility tour or guiding someone through the lease process, ask open-ended, noninvasive questions. This will organically allow you to make suggestions. Always explain why a service is great, why it costs what it costs, and why it’s better for a customer to get that service from you than anyone else.
This method could take some practice. Try role-playing and make sure everyone who works at the facility knows the ins and outs of your add-on offerings.
If you’ve done your homework and researched your market, you know there’s a group of people near your self-storage facility who would benefit from the exact add-on you offer. Maybe they’re actively seeking that amenity, or maybe they don’t even know they need it yet. Either way, you can find those customers by getting involved in your community.
Let’s say you offer wine storage. Start by hosting events for wine lovers. You can partner with a wine club or retailer to offer tastings and meet-ups. If you’re offering vehicle storage, host a gathering for full-time RVers or a car show. Offer up your facility as an event space for clubs and provide snacks.
You can also attend community events to bring customers to you. Are you renting office space or offering document storage? Go to networking events for professionals and entrepreneurs. Check out chamber of commerce events and be ready with your business card. Reach out to apartment complexes, schools and RV dealerships about opportunities and let them know that you’re available to host events or have a table at an event they’re hosting.
Building community partnerships may seem like a lot of marketing work on its own, and on a grassroots level it is; but you need to do way more than that to get the word out. Consider the following:
- Your website should include a page devoted to each add-on you offer, including keyword-rich content, colorful photos and a call-to-action prompting the customer to rent online or call for more information.
- You want to be shouting from the digital rooftops of your social media pages. Post information about your products and services on Facebook. Create Facebook events for any your facility hosts.
- Create blog posts in-house or by using freelance writers. This content should be brief (about 500 words), keyword-rich, informative, engaging and filled with links that prompt customers to rent a storage unit online.
- Send press releases to local media.
- E-mail an announcement to existing tenants.
- Update your facility signage to spotlight add-on services.
- Put up fliers.
- Take out ads in local newspapers.
- Purchase billboard space.
- Consider a referral program for those who use your add-on products and services. For example, if an RV-storage user refers another RV owner, you might offer both a one-time discount on a month’s rent.
- Always mention your add-ons to new and existing customers!
Earlier, I mentioned the chance to push beyond your customer base by targeting the public with your add-on product or service. This approach can open many sales opportunities. Of course, it’s natural to focus on customers who actually need storage units, but even those who don’t need storage—right now—might need other things you offer. An RV owner might still need a dump station or supplies. Small-business owners still need a place to ship packages. Wine lovers still need decanters and bottle openers. People who are moving still need trucks.
Make it known that your add-on products and services aren’t just for renters, and you’ll cast a wider net. As an added bonus, those who just come to you for these things will think of you first when they need self-storage!
By now, you should have a better knowledge of the add-ons you can offer and an inkling of which might be best for your operation. Do your due diligence by researching the needs of your market and how you can address them. Start small by offering one add-on at a time. Be comprehensive with your marketing, online and off, and track your progress. The result should be a viable extra revenue stream that can complement your self-storage business and give customers another reason to choose you over the competition.
Krista Diamond is the content team leader for Tenant Inc. Headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., Tenant Inc. develops real estate property technologies, creating a seamless user experience. Its open platform is designed to create customizable prop tech solutions. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.tenantinc.com.