“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”
The first impression people get when they pass by your self-storage facility can either entice them to come back or encourage them to go elsewhere. While this holds true for most businesses, self-storage is unique. Our prospective customers aren’t just looking for an oil change or cup of coffee; they’re looking for a nice, clean, secure place worthy of holding their belongings.
A property with overgrown weeds, peeling paint, and faded signs or banners sends the wrong message. We facility managers pass the driveways and front yards of our sites every day, so we may not notice some of these things anymore, but others do. As an exercise, I sometimes imagine my bosses just pulled up for a surprise visit. What would they think of my property in its current condition?
Here are some tips to help keep your self-storage facility’s curb appeal looking fresh and inviting.
Keep signage clean, clear and up-to-date. Refresh your main sign with paint, Armor All, Windex, etc. to keep it looking new. If you have a message board or electronic scrolling banner, change the message often; but keep it short so it’s not a complete distraction to passing drivers. A cluttered sign with too much information may actually be a bad thing. Stick to your facility name, street address (the number, at least) and phone number.
If your local ordinances allow for sale banners, lawn flags or other temporary signage, plan to change them a few times a year. Reds fade to pink and warm tones fade to blue. Damaged, old, ripped or faded signs don’t look the part for your business. Keep spares on hand of whatever flags you’re flying, including those for the country, state, city and company. Storm winds and summer sun can really do some damage, so switch out items as they become faded or ripped. Any issues with your signage should be addressed as soon as your budget and time allow.
Exposed buildings need to be free of branches, vines and other foliage. Trees and shrubs should be tidy and pruned. Landscaping that uses pine straw or mulch should be kept fresh. Inexpensive up-lighting is easier to install than you’d think nowadays, especially with “plug and play” solar-powered LED fixtures. This not only looks really cool at night, it helps add to the security of your facility.
Your front yard, entryway (turn-in lane) and driveway should be free of debris and weeds. If you’re next to a busy main road, this can be an everyday task. Water bottles, soda cans, coffee cups, food wrappers and other waste can build up quickly, so look around every morning as you pull into the property and then grab your trash bucket.
Parking lots are often overlooked, but they’re one of your first “welcome mats.” Make sure your lot is clean, and free of trash and cigarette butts. Marker lines should be clear and bright, and any handicap spots should be clearly marked. Painted curbs should be touched up as needed for safety. Powerwash sidewalks, canopies and entrance areas a few times per year.
If your facility has a move-in truck or offers truck rentals, leave one of the vehicles out front during business hours as an additional “billboard,” then secure it behind the gate at the end of the day. This is recommended only if your facility’s parking situation allows it because you don’t want to inconvenience any current or future tenants by taking up needed space.
Rental Office Exterior
The area outside the rental office is also as important. It should be treated the same as your front yard and exposed buildings, particularly where shrubs, plants, vines and trash are concerned. The difference is you can have some fun with the details here.
Flowers are always a welcome sight. Your landscaper should have ideas as to what plants and flowers will do well in your area without too much hassle. Perennials with a long bloom time or that bloom at different times of year can help reduce costs. Hanging plants are a nice touch as well if they don’t impede entry (think about tall customers).
If you have benches, chairs or porch swings on your patio, keep them clean and in safe working order. Clean sidewalks and windows and working light fixtures continue the positive first impression right up to your front door. You’ll need sweep the lights every so often with a broom to remove the cobwebs and bugs that congregate there.
Your front door and office are your last lines of defense. Clean, fresh paint, sparkling windows and oiled hinges (squeaky doors are the worst!) are in order. If you’re a member of the local chamber of commerce, national and state self-storage association, or other local organizations, display the current stickers on the door, just to brighten things up a bit. Decals that are more than a year or two old should be removed.
Rental Office Interior
Inside the office, less is more. Reduce clutter on countertops and desks so you look organized. Replace faded artwork and keep framed awards and letters straight and level.
Try to keep food odors down, too. Remove that pizza box or leftover Chinese takeout right away and get it to the dumpster so the smells don’t linger. A vacuum pump, Air-Pot or Thermos-type of vessel for brewed coffee will help keep the office from smelling like burnt coffee all day.
Clean the office space regularly. Wipe counters with cleansing wipes, and mop floors often, even if it’s with one of those little spray-type mops just for touch-ups (they smell good, too). Vacuum carpets, and don’t overlook furniture. For leather or vinyl, use automotive cleaners like Armor All. For fabric, use a carpet cleaner (spray or foam), and then vacuum.
Behind the Curtain
Curb appeal doesn’t necessarily stop at the entry and office areas. If there are any other places on your property that can be seen from the road or are visible while showing prospective tenants around, these should be on your list for cleaning and maintenance. After all, you don’t want any customers to look “behind the curtain” and see a mess.
It doesn’t hurt to have a friend or relative stop by and look around with fresh eyes and maybe a camera. Since you see the place every day, some things may not be as obvious to you as to a stranger, so have them tell you what they think you missed.
Curb appeal doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need to keep your property maintained, clean and organized. This effort should generate an interest in your business and project your company’s image and policies—safe, secure, clean, good value, well-maintained, etc.—without being too busy or visually overwhelming. If your property needs a spruce-up, it won’t get fixed overnight; but if you set a routine and tackle a little at a time between other tasks, you should be able to get your curb appeal under control and looking like the day you opened, if not better!
Kevin J. Edwards joined Southeast Management Co. in 2016. He and his wife, Donna, are property managers for Plantation Storage and Plantation Wine Cellars in Bluffton, S.C. To reach him, call 843.815.8000; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.southeastmanagementcompany.com.