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Marketing Self-Storage on the Internet

December 1, 1999

5 Min Read
Marketing Self-Storage on the Internet

Marketing Self-Storage on the Internet

By Jeff Miller

Mouse.jpg (14938 bytes)By now you have probably received solicitations from a variety of companiespromising to bring you new business by advertising your facilities on the Internet. Thepurpose of this article is to: 1) clear up some common misconceptions about Internetadvertising, and 2) give you the facts you need to decide if Internet advertising fitsinto your marketing strategy.

Misconception #1

It doesn't matter who puts me on the Internet, as long as I'm there. (Also known as"If you build it, they will come.")

This couldn't be farther from the truth. The Internet currently contains severalhundred million pages of information. Having a page on the Internet means absolutelynothing unless people are actively brought to that page. Without proper marketing, anInternet page is like an advertisement in a Yellow Pages book that has never beendelivered to the target market.

Your money will be best spent placing an advertisement with an online service that willmake the necessary expenditures to consistently attract large numbers of users to itsInternet site. Chances are, most of the services that have contacted you won't even spenda dime to bring people to your page. Always ask the vendor, "How do you market yoursite?"

Misconception #2

I don't have Internet access, so I can't possibly advertise online.

You don't have to read the newspaper in order to run an advertisement in it. Likewise,you do not need Internet access or even a computer to advertise your facility onthe Internet. Online services will do all of the programming for you and even send youprint versions of your online advertisements so that you can see what they look like. Someservices can even make your advertisement interactive by allowing prospective renters tosend inquiries directly to your fax machine from your Web page.

Misconception #3

Internet advertising is just a bunch of hype. No one is really renting self-storageafter finding a facility on the Internet.

Wrong. This advertising medium definitely works. Storage companies advertisingon the Internet are reporting a large number of monthly rentals. Even more interesting,tenants from the Internet have been shown to rent more space for longer periods of time.Self Storage Net, an online service specializing in self-storage, records thousands ofsearches each day through its interactive self-storage directory at www.selfstorage.net.

Why would people use the Internet to find storage? Imagine what you would do to findsuitable housing, self-storage and other relocation information if you were moving toanother city or state. The Internet has made this proposition much easier, and it hasfundamentally changed the way people relocate.

There are more than 100 million people on the Internet today, and these people areincreasingly turning to their computers for the information they need. Products such asWebTV are putting Internet access in the homes of millions of people who couldn't havenormally afforded a computer, so this medium will continue to grow in importance for eventhe simplest businesses.

Misconception #4

Internet advertising is expensive and complicated.

Mark these words: When done with a legitimate service, Internet advertising can be verycost effective. In fact, compared to your Yellow Pages advertisements, Internetadvertising can be a true bargain. It has been estimated that advertising dollars spent onthe Internet will surpass those spent on the Yellow Pages in just a few short years.Internet advertising is not a luxury, it is a necessary investment. With a successfulInternet marketing strategy, you may find that it is possible to reduce the size of yourYellow Pages ads and actually reduce your overall advertising costs.

As for Internet advertising having a complicated start-up--try about five minutes. Mostof your work has already been done for you. By submitting a copy of your print ad and afew pieces of basic information, your facility can be online and in front of potentialrenters within as little as 48 hours.

The Facts

Conceptually, Internet advertising is no different than any other form of advertisingyou may utilize. You first have to get a highly targeted group of people to see your adand then present enough information in a way that will compel them to act on it. Thehigh-quality services will publish color photographs, maps, unlimited text descriptions,facility amenities and, most importantly, direct e-mail or fax links from your ad to youroffice. More importantly, they will also spend a lot of money to market their site and getpeople to see your information.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that all services offering to put your facilitiesonline are the same. They are quite different from each other. Spend a few minutes andeducate yourself about the differences between the services soliciting your business. Itwon't be that difficult to figure out who is legitimate and who is trying to profit fromall the hype. Look for a company that understands more than the technical aspects of Webpublishing. The service you choose should be able to demonstrate marketing skills. YourInternet presence should not be about technology, it should be about marketing,advertising and sales.

The truth is that there are only a few online services that have proven their abilityto produce rentals. Those services truly work well and will introduce renters to you muchfaster than you expect. You will literally see leads coming out of your fax machine assoon as your ad is published. Ask around the industry; the successful services will beeasy to spot.

Easy to Test

One final piece of advice: Give Internet advertising a try. It is inexpensiveenough to test a few different services to see which one brings you the most renters. Whoknows? You may find that Internet advertising is so successful that those expensive YellowPages ads are a thing of the past.

Jeff Miller is the national product manager of Self Storage Net, a division of RentNet. For more information, call (415) 229-1000.

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