So youve decided to expand your self-storage business and profit by getting into records management? Good decision, especially since some operators may be experiencing a little less business activity, resulting from the housing slowdown and markets oversaturated with self-storage facilities.
Now that youve expanded into the records business, maybe this is a good time to focus on growing it. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of records management is it generates recurring revenue that is largely immune to economic downturns and can bring a significant level of stability and diversity to an operation. In fact, as long as your records-management contract is structured correctly and each account is provided with great service, its unlikely your customers will ever decide to move to another vendor.
So how do you plant the seeds that will grow your records business? There are several ways, all of which require healthy customer relationships. You need to:
- Maximize the profitability of existing customers.
- Acquire new customers.
- Quantify your value.
- Ask your customers/prospects what they value.
- Educate your customers/prospects on the benefits of using your services.
- Talk about your use of technology.
Achieving the lifetime revenue potential of each customer relationship should be the fundamental goal of the records-management side of your business. Working toward the combination of the six steps outlined above is your best bet.
Maximize Existing Customers
Talk to your self-storage tenant base about your records-management services. You may be surprised at their responses, especially if you already maintain a healthy relationship with them and they are happy with your existing offering. The goal is to move them from basic storage-space fees to lifetime service costs associated with commercial records management.
Stress the importance and advantages of records management as a specialized service that allows tenants to locate and retrieve records faster. Because society now demands higher standards for the accuracy and availability of content, effective management of records provides greater peace of mind during these highly litigious times. It also allows customers to seize new business opportunities and prevent disasters before they happen.
Acquire New Customers
There are several effective methods of recruiting new accounts for records management, similar to those used to attract self-storage tenants. Mass mailers, cold calling, referrals and attending meetings are four general areas. Participating in local business meetings can be extremely effective (and the least expensive), when it comes to records management, so put it first on your to-do list.
Join organizations such as your local chamber of commerce, Lions Club, etc., and attend their gatherings. These venues are frequented by small-business owners (doctors, lawyers and bankers, to name a few) who would more than likely be interested in storing records and having a company manage them. To market to this special group of prospects, you must go where they network to develop relationships.
Quantify Your Value
Exemplify value to prospects and dont generalize. Words like prompt retrieval, delivery and premier customer service mean nothing these days, having been over used and abused. Be specific, powerful and comparative. Illustrate. Project a visualized advantage.
When asked about the distinct advantages of your company in addition to storing and managing records, dont limit your response to less time, work, expense and hassle for you. Its better to offer more personalized information such as, Rather than you or an important member of your organization having to spend valuable time driving over and rummaging through boxes or containers to find a particular file, we guarantee the location, retrieval and delivery of that data within five hours upon request.
You might even consider generating a service checklist of what you provide and accompanying it with speed and accuracy rates. In a world where time is money, this indicates to clients that you not only supply these services, but perform them quickly and correctly.
Create a third column to be used for competitors information and have your prospects ask competing businesses to indicate their speed and accuracy rates. If your competitions response is simply that they can do no more than offer a lower rate, the picture will become clear to the consumer that you get what you pay for. Value is just not talk; its a quantifiable advantage.
Ask Customers What They Value
Once you have sold quantifiable value, increase it. Dont try to guess what your individual customers want; ask what they value! One may wish that you offered a collection and delivery courier service, while you have been trying to sell him on something else. Encourage them to give you more answers, so you have a list of hot buttons that are important. Although you might not be able to provide them today, tomorrow you might. You can refer to that list and then make a call to announce a new feature or service they had originally desired.
The benefits of using your services are often greater than you represent. In other words, if you under sell records management, your customers perceive your services as less than they really are. Their savings in time and hassle, via things such as on-time retrieval and delivery services as well as accurate invoices, all provide value. Educate consumers so they can equitably compare you to the competition.
Make customers aware of your technology. Many times, all they see is the front-desk clerk when they drop off or pick up containers or files. They may not realize you offer services such as Web access, allowing them to immediately determine, from the comfort and convenience of their office, what files they have in storage and where a particular one is located. If your customers dont understand your use of technology, they surely wont know or appreciate the value-added features it provides.
Whats In Store?
People whove lost homes to foreclosures or choose to downsize will still always need a place to live. Therell likely be a new demand for self-storage in the near future. When people leave their homes for less expensive and smaller quarters, they need to revisit self-storage for housing their extra furnishings.
While we cant to turn around a soft market, business owners can take other steps to get customers in the door.
Records management is a business that will continue to thrive despite and during economic downturns, offering unlimited opportunities to sell. Every business creates records and has a need to retain and protect them. From the banking and financial industry, to the medical and professional services fields, to your local McDonalds franchisee, every business has records to store and must manage in todays litigious society.
Youve made the right decision to expand into this business. Now may be the perfect time to start growing it. Nurture it and your customers, and youll reap some healthy rewards.
Christine Spisto is the marketing communications/public relations director for ONeil Software. For more than 25 years, the company has provided software and hardware solutions for more than 850 record centers in more than 65 countries, ranging from startups to multi-nationals. ONeils solutions manage/track multiple types of data including traditional storage boxes, file folders, documents and tapes, from deposit to destruction, work order to invoice. The company is also known as an industry pioneers for barcode tracking, portable printers, laser scanners, wireless handhelds and web technology. For more information, visit www.oneilsoft.com.