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Getting and Keeping Customers

February 1, 2001

6 Min Read
Getting and Keeping Customers

Getting and Keeping Customers

How to stay head and shoulders above the competition

By Tammy Ross

Getting Customers

Oneof the most commonly asked questions in this industry is, "How do weattract customers to our stores?" The more important question is,"What makes them stay?" The answer may be much simpler than you think,although this does not mean it will be an easy task.

The first step you will need to take is to evaluate your facility and thesurrounding market. Begin by viewing your property as a retail establishmentwhere you provide a service. Get away from referring to it as a mini-warehouse,lockers or sheds. This shift in thinking should carry over into all aspects ofyour business plan with special attention being paid to marketing concepts andhiring. Professionally training your managers will make an enormous differencein the success of your facility.

Answers to the following questions will provide some valuable insight andassist you in creating a plan to increase your customer base and maintain yourcurrent tenants--even if a new superfacility moves in around the corner.

1. How many phone calls inquiring about storage do you receive each month? If you do not know the answer to this question, you should immediately start a phone log to record each call, the customer's name, the unit size requested, and if a unit was rented.

2. Of those calls, how many result in rentals? And where are those calls coming from?

3. Are your managers trained properly in the way you expect the phone to be answered? If you answered "yes" to this question, how do you know? The most effective way is to utilize a mystery call service to evaluate managers' performance. When you receive this information, you should immediately review it with each employee. Be sure to set monthly goals for improvement.

4. Are you competitive in your market? For example, what are your office hours? Do you offer security gates, alarms, cameras, on-site managers, moving supplies and climate-controlled units? And are you selling those features and benefits on each and every phone call?

5. What makes your facility stand out from the rest? If you do not have an answer to this question, begin thinking of something you can do to accomplish this.

6. Is the property effectively and professionally managed? If you are not currently using a management company, are you really devoting the kind of time needed to keep the facility operating on the cutting edge?

Once you've established honest answers to these questions, you can begin toformulate your plan. Determining how to proceed and executing items in thecorrect order will eliminate major mistakes and wasted time. For example, if youare receiving an adequate number of phone calls--let's say 100 calls permonth--and you are converting just 15 of those calls into rentals, you mightwant to implement an aggressive phone sales training program. On the other hand,if you are converting 15 calls but only getting 20 phone inquiries, you shouldconsider some type of outside marketing.

Remember to be wise when selecting the type of advertising to use. Know whereyour tenants are coming from and concentrate on that area. Television and radioads cover a very large area and can be quite costly when all you may be lookingto do is draw from a three-mile radius around your store. Creativity andsimplicity in constructing your marketing strategy will help you achieve topresults. Don't be afraid to admit when you have made a mistake, and don't hangon to something that isn't working.

To help you get started, consider these marketing ideas and then come up withsome of your own. Be sure to talk with your property managers and get theirinput. They normally have great ideas.

  • Direct-mail fliers

  • Flags, banners

  • Referral programs

  • Sandwich-board signs

  • New signage

  • Commercial-tenant-only specials

Bringing in commercial tenants should be the goal of every facility. So whatmakes them choose you over your competition? Try accepting deliveries. Providefree billing, employee discounts, fax and copy services. Offer an incrediblebusiness-only move-in special. Once you have these tenants, keep them happy byoffering pay-in-advance programs, such as pay 12 months, get the 13th monthfree. Consider the strengths your facility offers that no one else does. Do notbe afraid to blow your own horn.

Enticing customers with move-in specials such as free locks, discounted rentor incentive gifts upon rental, along with properly trained managers, will servetheir purpose of increasing your monthly rentals. But what can you do to ensurethe customer stays?

Keeping Your Customers

Nowthat you have captured your fair share of the customer base, how do you keepthem from moving out? The answer to that is not that simple. You are alwaysgoing to have move-outs. You should expect approximately 10 percent of yourcurrent occupancy to vacate each month. Now you can see how important marketingand professional management is to increasing your occupancy and your income.

To maintain happy customers and ensure that dealing with their storage unitdoes not become a burden, you must create an enjoyable atmosphere at yourfacility. Start by trying one or more of the following ideas:

  • Order a pizza and have it delivered while the customer is moving in.

  • Keep cold bottles of water the manager can hand out to tenants while making the rounds on his golf cart.

  • Each time rent is paid on time, the customer gets entered into a drawing for a free month's rent.

  • Implement a customer-referral program where they receive small rent credits for referring their friends.

  • Send a postcard saying "Thanks for renting with us."

A clean, safe and properly managed facility can also help you maintain yourcurrent customers. The majority of customers visiting your facility are women.Make it a pleasant experience for them by providing intercoms throughout theproperty in case of emergency. Install speakers and pipe music into hallways.Use motion-sensor lighting in climate-control buildings--this will eliminate theneed for them to stop and find the light switch as well as cut down on yourutility bills.

Autobilling via credit and debit cards is proving to extend the life of arental by offering a hassle-free way to pay rent. If tenants don't have to gothrough the process of writing and sending a check every month, chances arethey'll stay longer. Knowing your market and being prepared to compete in itwill be key in the success of your facility.

Tammy and Stephan Ross own and operate Cutting Edge Self-StorageManagement & Consulting. Together they have more than 25 years ofself-storage experience in third-party management, consulting and feasibilitystudies. They have managed more than 2 million square feet of storage and arecurrently managing facilities in Utah, Nevada, Washington, Tennessee andFlorida. They can be reached at 801.273.1267 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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