December 1, 2003

4 Min Read
U.K. Storage Development: Leave No Stone Unturned

What does it take to fill a facility? To those who ask me the question, I answer: Unearth every stone, chase down every opportunity, close every deal, and generate as many as possible leads and projects as you can—together with creating awareness of your brand and offering within your locality. This plan applies whether you are based in Europe, the United Kingdom or the United States.

Although some people think a good drive-by location and Yellow Pages advertising can bring in the business, it’s the extra work that makes a huge difference to your fill rate. This intensive marketing method works. Since its opening in January, our new Storage World facility in Manchester has rented at an average of 5,000 square feet per month over eight months. That’s £48,000 in income for the calendar month of August, which is normally a stagnant month. I estimate Storage World is probably one of the fastest filling facilities in Western Europe. And our first Yellow Pages ad didn’t come out until the beginning of September.

Storage World’s experience allows me to quantify the positive impact of an intensive marketing method. Since opening nine months ago, Storage World has had 430 customers move in, or nearly 50 customers per month. During the first eight months, with no Yellow Pages advertising, approximately 360 customers moved in, of which 150—just under 40 percent—were drive-bys. Even without Yellow Pages, our marketing brought in nearly 60 percent of our business, more than doubling our fill rate.

What is interesting are the figures from our first month of Yellow Pages exposure. We had a total of 29 new move-ins from the Yellow Pages in the first month. These have been mainly domestic house movers, with an average unit size of fewer than 75 square feet. Let’s just recap those numbers:

  • Drive-bys generated 170 customers in nine months (an average of 19 per month).

  • Yellow Pages brought in 29 customers in its first month.

  • Our intensive marketing method generated 231 customers in nine months, at an average of 25 move-ins per month.

You can see the figures are split into approximate thirds: one-third drive-by, one-third Yellow Pages and one-third intensive marketing. By adding an intense marketing plan, you can increase your fill rate by 50 percent. That’s a big difference, but it will only happen if you stop waiting for customers to drive-in or phone your Yellow Pages number.

Another major factor we haven’t weighed into our previous calculations is the average size customer each of the three marketing methods attracts. Yellow Pages are only worth a 75-square-foot-average customer, whereas the intensive method could be worth double that. Put that one in your calculator, if I’ve not already convinced you to pay attention!

Do you want to know more about my statistics? Let’s break down those 25 customers per month that are equivalent to one-third of our fill rate. Despite not having a referral system in place, referrals are worth six or seven customers per month, some quarter of the intensive numbers. How about the World Wide Web? Add your website address on the side of your building—it’s worth three customers per month. Despite our site still performing badly with search engines, our three customers per month are probably split between Internet advertising and people seeing our web address on our building.

What about cold calling? I’m talking about sending a guy out there into your three-mile radius to knock on doors and prospect for business. Does it sound too scary? It’s worth three customers per month once you’ve built your prospect database. What’s interesting is, in the United Kingdom, those customers are medium-term business users averaging a 200-square-foot unit at self-storage rates.

Filling a facility is about entrepreneurial and guerrilla marketing tactics with 110 percent energy and dedication behind them. Try every idea you can think of and keep thinking about every opportunity you can create.

Andrew Donaldson is the founder and chief executive of Active Supply & Design (CMD) Ltd. of Cheshire, England. He is also the founder of the Self Storage Sentinel newsletter, Rent-A-Space Limited (now a multi-site operator) and For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like