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Every Last Drop: Making the Most of Your Self-Storage Marketing Budget

Every self-storage business needs a marketing budget. Why? So you know where to allocate funds for the best possible result. But with so many channels available now, it can be tough to tackle this financial plan. Here’s guidance to set you on the right path, including insight to goal-setting, costs and more.

David Austin

October 11, 2023

9 Min Read
Making the Most of Your Self-Storage Marketing Budget

When you spend money on Google ads, billboards, fliers and TV spots for your self-storage business, you expect a return for that investment, generally in the form of new customers and unit rentals. What happens in the course of the process is often murky, though. Did the prospect see you on TV? Was it your billboard? Did they simply drive by? Would those rentals have come your way anyway?

Budgeting for your marketing efforts can also be difficult. You don’t always have all the information you need, and getting it wrong could have serious consequences. If you underspend, you might not get enough renters to cover operating costs. If you overspend or promote yourself on the wrong channels, you’re throwing money down the drain.

Effective self-storage marketing is about reaching the people who will actually rent with you rather than wasting money to connect with those who won’t. Your budget should aim to cut out unproductive spending to ensure a positive return for your operation.

Set Goals

Before you start allocating funds to various self-storage marketing efforts, take a moment to clarify your goals. Without them, you can’t know if your tactics are succeeding.

If you’re running only a single site or a handful of properties, your primary objective is generally to increase demand. If a facility is sitting below your ideal occupancy level, marketing should help fill the gap. If it’s closer to full, the right promotion should help you increase rental rates by generating more interest.

When setting goals, be specific. For example, you might say, “I want to increase my occupancy to 90%” or “I want to obtain five new renters every month.” Each facility will have different aims. Once you know what they are, you can start pairing them with marketing initiatives that’ll help you meet them.

Following are some specific online and offline channels you can pursue on behalf of your self-storage operation. I’ve provided guidance on how to prioritize them as part of your budget as well as insight to potential costs.

Online Marketing Channels

Let’s start with your self-storage website. Having one is practically mandatory, as most customers find their facility online and all the younger generations expect to do business there. If you don’t have a solid online presence, you can expect to lose out on more than 40% of potential renters.

Websites come in a wide range of capabilities and costs, so you can build one that works for your budget. Even a simple site that provides basic facility information, some good pictures and contact details is better than nothing. A more robust site can rent units, accept payments and more. These functions might make it worthwhile to invest more.

Website-startup costs can run as low as $1,000 to as much as $20,000. Monthly subscription fees can run $100 to $500. If you wish to showcase more than one facility on a single site, it’ll cost more, but far less than building a separate website for each property.

Next up, your Google Business Profile (GBP) is the most powerful online marketing tool you have—provided you have a website. Again, people want to do business online, so having a strong GBP without a supporting website isn’t an efficient approach. However, if you do have a website, your GBP will send more people there than any other form of marketing. In fact, local search, which shows GBP results, outperforms organic search and ad campaigns if your business shows up on the front page.

You can set up your GBP yourself for free, but it can be useful to hire expert assistance to help optimize it. This can cost up to $1,000.

Google ad campaigns are a fantastic contingency plan in case your GBP doesn’t rank well. Your ad will appear at the top of a search-results page, and you’ll pay every time someone clicks on it. This strategy can help improve your self-storage demand at a generally reasonable rate, but you’re only paying for clicks, not rentals. Your website must still succeed at converting these visitors into actual customers.

Expect to pay 50 cents to $8 per click. In general, you’ll spend two to three times the cost of your monthly rent to secure a tenant.

Some self-storage operators invest a good chunk of time and energy into social media marketing. Some even hire dedicated staff for this purpose. This generally isn’t a good way to spend your marketing dollars, however, because less than 1% of renters come from social platforms. Social media is good for building your reputation in the community, but don’t expect a ton of direct rentals. If handled in-house, this strategy costs nothing, unless you pursue paid ads on specific platforms.

Offline Marketing

After the internet, the most common way a renter finds your self-storage facility is by driving by it. If you’re on a road with significant traffic, you can do good business just by being visible to passersby.

Make sure people not only can see your facility but know what it is you provide. If your signage is subpar, this should probably be the first place for significant investment. Advertise your best prices and top amenities, but keep it brief. If you’re the most convenient storage facility for those in the area, they’re likely to choose you. A good sign can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, however, lighting and other storefront upgrades will cost more.

Even at $20 to $50 per rental, a referral program is a very efficient way to spend your marketing money because you only pay when you’ve actually secured a new tenant. It’s no surprise, but consumers trust what their friends say about your business more than you as the operator. So, reward people for telling others about you! Include your existing tenants, local businesses and anyone else who knows about your operation.

Just remember that your program will need a bit of its own marketing to get started. You’ll need signage, business cards, fliers and social media posts to tell people about it.

Some self-storage operators have been experimenting with billboards. They can be particularly useful if your facility doesn’t have natural visibility. If you’re hidden behind trees or away from the main road, a billboard can help more people find you. Just don’t place it too far from your facility. For $800 to $1,500 per month (more for a digital board), you can promote your best deal and top amenities.

Finally, local sponsorships are a great way to promote your self-storage business and connect with the community. For example, you could sign on to sponsor a local youth sports team. Just don’t make this a high priority if you’re in lease-up mode. Sponsorships are long-term marketing efforts and won’t likely generate immediate rentals. Costs can be $500 and up per season.

Prioritizing Your Efforts

Now for the tough part: determining how much money to commit to each channel within your self-storage marketing budget. Costs can vary widely from area to area. For example, Google charges more for higher competition keywords, so “storage units Austin, TX” is going to cost you far more per click than “storage units Dandridge, TN.” The same is true for billboards, local sponsorships and other efforts where you’re bidding against competition.

Here’s a suggested priority list for your marketing efforts, with the most important channels up top. Though costs can fluctuate, this will help you determine where to spend first and most.

  • GBP: If this isn’t complete, fix it right away. It’s free and effective.

  • Signage: Make sure people driving by your facility can see you, and that you look like a good option.

  • Referrals: A good program is incredibly efficient, as you spend nothing until you rent a unit.

  • Website: This is expensive, but vital. You’re missing out on 40% of rentals without an online presence.

  • Google ads: If you have a website and GBP but need to drive demand, these are a cost-effective way to get a boost.

  • Billboards: They’re a niche, so only invest in this if you don’t think people driving past your facility will see you otherwise.

  • Local sponsorships: Consider these as long-term investments, rather than immediate ones. They can still be useful in building your brand.

  • Social media: This can also help build your brand, but won’t bring in new renters immediately.

Measuring Success

Large self-storage operations that use a CRM (customer-relationship management) tool may be able to track exactly who found them through which marketing channels; but for smaller businesses, measuring the effectiveness of your efforts can be tricky. Your website should track the source of your online rentals, whether they come from Google local searches, an ad campaign or social media. However, when someone walks into your facility, you must take extra steps to find out how they discovered you.

The easiest way to do this is to ask your new customer how they learned about your self-storage business. You can add this question to your rental agreement, but it’s best to simply have a conversation during the move-in process. Make a note of the answer so you can use the information later.

Once you know how each new tenant found you, you can calculate return on investment. Compare how much you spent on each marketing channel to the number of rentals it generated. This’ll help you see which strategies are most effective. Lower cost-per-acquisition is great, of course; but you also must consider the total number of acquisitions.

For example, referrals might cost more per renter than Google ads, but if most of your customers come from that source, you don’t want to pull the plug on those efforts. On the other hand, you may find that you’re spending a lot of money on social media and not winning any business there. You can reroute these funds into Google ads or whatever else is working.
Several of the above suggestions, like signage, involve one-time costs. These likely won’t fit in your monthly marketing budget but may outperform other channels over the course of a year. Track how much you spend and how much you’re receiving. With good data, you can keep your financial plan lean and efficient.

David Austin is a content specialist at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.

About the Author(s)

David Austin

Content Specialist, StoragePug

David Austin is a content specialist at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.

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