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Self-Storage Yellow Pages: Message Trumps Size

In Yellow Pages, the idiom "location, location, location" has been replaced by "content, content, content."

The Yellow Pages industry performs studies to help determine the value of its advertising. These studies have never been as important to advertisers as they are now, with the Internet nipping at the heels of Yellow Pages print revenue and an unstable economy threatening everyone—businesses and consumers alike.

Lately I have been hearing advertisers in the self-storage industry complain that Yellow Pages is not delivering the business it has in the past; however, some industries are still catering to consumers who use the print directories. Here are some interesting statistics about the self-storage category in the Yellow Pages between 2003 and 2007 (’08 data is not in yet):

These statistics, from very credible third-party market research firms, don’t lie. Yellow Pages directories are still being used by huge numbers of consumers. So where is the disconnect? Part of it may stem from all the hype coming from high-profile people to small-town newspaper articles. Too many business owners believe a lot of this information without testing the value of their own advertising.

Savvy marketers are testing all their advertising avenues to ensure they are investing their ad dollars in programs that deliver results. The most reliable test is to buy a unique tracking phone number, which tracks every call resulting from a specific ad, to generate a report showing call time, date and duration. The calls can even be recorded so you can play them back to assess the quality of the lead and how it was handled.

If your ad is running in a directory with high-market share and large enough to give your prospective customer information about the property and amenities, the ad may still not deliver the return on investment you hope for or expect. Before pulling the ad, study it to see whether it can be improved to deliver better results. Improvement may have nothing to do with position. In fact, it is likely that you don’t need to buy a bigger ad to improve your competitive position. It may have everything to do with content.

Better Content

According to a 2008 Yellow Pages study, “The most powerful driver of calls is neither size nor position, but ad content.” However, in the study it was determined that the larger ads do increase call counts, but not just because of the ad size or its position. What they concluded is:

  • Larger ads generally contain more content
  • The additional content gives consumers more reasons to choose the business
  • The key to a successful ad is to have advertisers focus on the right message and content to win over a detail-oriented, value-shopping consumer
  • Content with white space ensures the ad is more legible

When evaluating your Yellow Pages ad, ask yourself these questions:

Does the ad prominently display location?

Storage is “location-centric,” i.e., your customers come from a three- to five-mile radius. The first thing they want to know is if you are conveniently located. Make sure your ad has a map that is large enough for them to read. Include landmarks if possible, such as “next door to Anytown Home Depot.”

Remember, Yellow Pages directories incorporate a coverage area much broader than your three- to five-mile service radius, so make the location (city, township, neighborhood name) a standout feature of your ad.

Include directions in your headlines or prominent copy points. Prominent means it is one of the first three features the Yellow Pages shopper sees. For example: “conveniently located in downtown Salem,” “across from city hall”; or use a well-known landmark, such as the Home Depot in the example above.

Does the headline grab the reader’s attention?

The headline of a Yellow Pages ad is the most important aspect of its content. The sole purpose is to draw your customer’s attention. Think of it like a newspaper, remembering that headlines sell papers. Too many small self-storage owners use the property name as the headline. This only works well for large, well-branded operators. I have seen a number of ads repeat the category as the headline, for example “storage” or “plumbing.” No need to say that; it’s why the consumer chose that heading in the first place.

View the space you have to work with as precious real estate and use it to the greatest advantage. The headline should feature what you know the customer needs. If they are looking for a bargain and that’s one of your main competitive advantages, then your headline should read “lowest prices in town” or “free rent.” Make sure you put an asterisk after a statement like free rent and qualify it by saying “call for details.” That way you accomplish two goals: you get them to call, and you can change the special at any time because you have not made a one-year commitment in print. Is security their biggest concern, or is it the convenience of drive-up units? Use the headline to let them know—before they look at a competitor’s ad.

Does the ad have interesting graphics that tell a story or draw attention?

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. We don’t always recommend that advertisers use a photo of the facility in their advertising. An exception would be when your copy points out a competitive advantage such as “brand new,” “modern” or “state-of-the-art,” and you are using the photo to illustrate the point. In that case, use process color in the ad; it will definitely enhance the attractiveness of the property.

Other examples of photos might be a before and after garage photo. The before photo shows a cluttered garage with no space to park a car; the after photo has all of the clutter removed, allowing for parking. The story is obvious—a storage unit solves the problem. There are other creative photo opportunities that draw attention to ads. For example, one of our clients located in the hot Arizona desert uses a photo of a polar bear with a headline featuring cooled units. Again, the picture is attention-grabbing and tells a story.

Does the ad highlight competitive advantages as well as specify products and services?

Your display ad should feature the following components:

  • The headline
  • Up to two more featured competitive advantages (these would refer to copy points in a starburst or box, for example)
  • Graphic (if space allows)
  • Map
  • A list of additional competitive advantages
  • A phone number in a large font so it’s easy to read
  • Graphics of accepted credit cards

Relative to competitive advantages, here is how to go about making that decision: Make a list of your top eight to 10 competitive advantages. Rank them in order of importance to your customers. The most important one is your headline; two and three are your featured copy points. After that, list the rest in order, beginning with the one you rank as number four.

The larger the ad, the more space you will have to list products and services. These could include:

  • Truck rental
  • Boat/RV and vehicle storage
  • Boxes/packing and moving supplies
  • Wine storage
  • Conference room rental
  • Packages and deliveries
  • Mailbox rentals

Resist the temptation to crowd everything into one ad. Clean space makes it easy to read, and viewers will spend more time reading all the features and benefits. Remember, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. Give your prospects good reason to stay fixed on your ad. That’s one of the factors that will drive phone calls.

Does the ad make it clear why the customer should call you rather than a competitor?

Your prospective customer goes to the Yellow Pages for only one reason: They have a need to fill and a decision to make. Part of the decision-making process involves getting answers to their questions. As previously stated, the first question is, “Where are you located?” Once they determine that your location is within their geographic radius, the next questions may focus on security, pricing, access hours, online services, temperature control and ancillary services.

If the competitors don’t have one or some of these services, then you will likely have the advantage of getting the call. However, in most cases, you will be competing on some, if not all of the products and services. The key, then, is to say it better and clearer than your competitor in clean, easy-to-read space.

What About Ad Size?

Yellow Page publishers have taught their direct representatives to sell the biggest ad they can possibly get the advertiser to buy. The justification of this sales approach is “position.” The bigger the ad you buy, the closer to the front of the heading your ad will appear, and they are always reminding you that you have to stay ahead of competitors. However, in the storage heading, your competitors are not comprised of every advertiser on those pages. Your competitors are within your same three- to five-mile service radius. Those are the ones to consider competition.

Here is something the publisher sales reps will probably not tell you: Studies of this heading show that consumers will read an average of 5.2 ads prior to making a phone call. That is the express reason that content trumps position. The real reason to buy a larger size ad is for the space it allows you to attract and engage the customer so that you get the phone call, not the other 4.2 competitors.

Given these facts, you could conceivably be the 10th, 15th or even 20th advertiser and still get a call volume that results in an excellent return on investment. Buy the largest size you can afford and always remember, “content is king.”

Sue Weinman is vice president, Yellow Page Services, of Michaels Wilder Inc., an advertising agency specializing in Yellow Pages, Internet marketing and talent recruitment for the self-storage industry since 1989. For more information, visit www.michaelswilder.com.

MiniCo Offers Free Webinar on Self-Storage Tenant Insurance

On Feb. 11, MiniCo Publishing will host a free, live webinar on self-storage tenant insurance titled, "Adding Revenue by Offering Tenant Insurance." The Web event, sponsored by MiniCo Insurance, will be presented by two of its professionals: Pete Johnston, sales supervisor for tenant insurance, and Keith McConnell, customer care manager. Topics to be covered include available coverage, management-software compatibility, administrative requirements and how to offer insurance to customers. Online registration is required and can be completed at www.ministoragemessenger.com.

MiniCo Publishing is a division of Phoenix-based MiniCo Inc., which provides specialty insurance programs, publications, and other products and services for the self-storage industry.

U-Haul Offers Free Storage to Washington Flood Victims

Due to increased flooding in West Washington, the U-Haul Co. of Northern Washington is joining the U-Haul Co. of Southern Washington in offering 30 days free storage to local residents who need to move their belongings away from flood-affected areas. There are now eight additional storage locations participating in the storage offer. 
 
"This flooding already caused tremendous damage and inflicted extreme hardship on the communities we serve," said Chuck Eide, president of U-Haul Co. of Northern Washington. "I hope that our increased efforts will reach more people and provide assistance to families that truly need a helping hand in areas affected by flooding. We will continue to help our friends and neighbors during their time of need."

In addition, people needing boxes can take advantage of the U-Haul Take a Box, Leave a Box Program. The program enables customers to return their reusable boxes to U-Haul sites where others can use at no cost. U-Haul encourages anyone with reusable boxes to drop them off at the nearest U-Haul location. 
 
For more information, visit www.uhaul.com.

Main Road Self Storage Adds Second Facility in Summerville, S.C.

Bob and Ryan Buck’s Main Road Self Storage opened a second facility in Summerville, S.C. The three-story, 50,000-square-foot facility has 300 climate-controlled units, motion-sensor lighting with multiple cameras, electronic keypad access and an oversized elevator.

Fire safety and suppression is provided by sprinklers throughout the facility and sensor controls are linked to the elevator to prevent stopping at a floor where smoke is detected.

The exterior has a stucco façade with copper roofing on the front canopies and brick veneer columns. The 1,000-square-foot retail space features custom cabinetry, granite counter tops and a restroom.

The Bucks also own a Main Road Self Storage facility on John’s Island near Charleston, S.C.For more information, visit www.summervillestorage.com.

ISS Blog

Hello, iStoreGreen

Last September I wrote an article about self-storage and the green movement. Although there are few applications of sustainability in the storage industry, there are a more companies making the effort to be more green-friendly.

An article on one of the companies I profiled came across my desk this morning. Hall Street Storage in Brooklyn, N.Y., has taken its green initiative to a whole new level. The name of the facility, considered the first self-storage to be "green," has been changed to iStoreGreen. Now plans are underway for expansion in nearby Manhattan and into other cities across the nation.

Being a green facility aside, the entire project is an interesting story. The former cold-storage building was converted into an 80,000-square-foot self-storage facility last summer by owner Jeffery Sitt. The construction crew was able to preserve or recycle much of the facility's original marterials, including wood and the brick facade. In addition, the facility uses renewable energy and has a solar water heater. The attached retail store also offers green products.

When I interviewed Sitt last summer, he was sincere about his desire to build a "green" facility. Yes, he was looking for a way to stand out from other facilities in the area, but he also wanted to help the environment.

Since the story ran, Sitt has also opened a “reuse” room for tenants who want to offer items for donation instead of just throwing stuff in the dumpster.

The name change was a natural progression, Sitt says in the article. “There’s been green dry cleaning and even green wines available today—self-storage needs to be greened, too, especially since it’s an industry that can use a lot of energy and materials, and is one which people use every day, not a few times a week. It needs to be accessible.”

The project is Sitt's first self-storage facility. I hope he builds many more.

 

Meet Self-Storage Owners Myra and Mike Regan

Getting to know ...

Myra and Mike Regan, Owners of Cajun Storage in Lake Charles, La.

Family: Married, with four children
 
How long have you been in the industry? “We are under construction right now.”
 
What did you do before self-storage? Mike worked in construction, operating a crane business. Myra was involved in an industrial-supply business.
 
Hobbies: They enjoy traveling, particularly exploring in their RV: “Anywhere we can.” Mike likes hunting and fishing. Myra prefers gardening.
 
Favorite sports teams: Louisiana State University and The Saints
 
Favorite meal: Mike’s answer, “Dinner!” The meal would likely feature wild game, rice and gravy. Myra’s tastes lean toward pasta.
 
Best Movie:Something’s Gotta Give, Million Dollar Baby
 
Music: Jazz, Cajun
 
If they could have a second home, where would it be located? “We’d just stake the money and go back to Colorado.”
 
If stranded on a desert island, what three items would they most like to have? “Toothbrush, food and water. And a cellphone so we could call somebody to come get us!”
 
Thinking back to your childhood, what did you want to be when you grew up?  “A farmer," says Mike. "Thank God I got out of that.”
 
On a scale from one to 10, how happy are you in self-storage? “So far, I’d say an 8,” says Myra. “But if the loan was paid off, it would be 22!” adds Mike.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE MAGAZINE PAGE.

Michael Mele Earns National Achievement Award

Marcus & Millichap has announced Michael Mele, vice president of investments, as a recipient of the firm's National Achievement Award, bestowed on those who exceed national sales goals. Only 6 percent of the firm's 1,300 investment specialists have earned the honor. Mele has made the list six consecutive times.

Mele joined Marcus & Millichap in 1999 to broker the sale of self-storage facilities. He gained entrance into the firm’s prestigious Seven-Figure Club in 2004 and later was inducted as a Senior Investment Associate in 2005. He currently serves as a senior director in the National Self Storage Group and was most recently promoted to vice president of investments in early 2008.

Mele has received sales recognition awards annually since joining the firm and has closed more than $450 million in self-storage properties. In 2008 alone, his team closed 36 properties valued at more than $95 million. Mele's closings were almost one-third of the firm's National Self Storage Group.

Marcus & Millichap was founded in 1971 in Encino, Calif., and currently operates 60 offices nationwide. For more information, visit www.marcusmillichap.com or www.melestoragegroup.com.

 

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Peanut Butter

Health officials may have found the cause of the most recent nationwide outbreak of salmonella.
 
A brand of peanut butter tested positive for salmonella in Minnesota and is possibly connected to a nationwide outbreak. The peanut butter, distributed in a five-pound tub, has been voluntarily recalled by its distributor, King Nut Cos. of Solon, Ohio.

The Minnesota Department of Health said epidemiological evidence pointed to that brand being implicated in a nationwide outbreak of salmonella typhimurium which has sickened 399 people in 42 states.

The brand is primarily used in schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities and restaurants, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The tub of peanut butter that tested positive for salmonella was an open container obtained from a senior care facility where several residents had fallen ill with the outbreak strain of salmonella typhimurium, says Doug Schultz of the state's Department of Health.

Source:  USA Today, Peanut Butter Distributor Recalls Product Amid Salmonella Scare

'How to Make Money in Self-Storage' Kit

Phoenix-based MiniCo Publishing offers a two-volume resource kit for current and prospective self-storage professionals, including the book How to Make Money in Self-Storage and the newly published How to Make More Money in Self-Storage, written by RK Kliebenstein and Jennifer LeClaire. The books provide information for storage owners, investors, developers, managers, bankers and those interested in earning a profit in the self-storage industry. Topics include increasing revenues, decreasing expenses, creating equity and retaining more profits.

Author Kliebenstein is president of consulting firm Coast-to-Coast Storage. LeClaire is president and creative director of Self Storage Promotions. MiniCo is an insurance provider and publisher of the Mini-Storage Messenger. For more information, visit www.ministoragemessenger.com.

TKG-StorageMart Buying Canada's InStorage REIT

Columbia, Mo.-based TKG-StorageMart Partners is close to sealing a more than $400 million deal to take full ownership of  InStorage Real Estate Investment Trust, based in Alberta, Canada.

The deal consists of an all-cash offer of $4 per share of the company’s stock, which represents a premium over the $3.76-per-share price the stock was trading for on the day the news of the near-acquisition was released, Jan 7. The deal will cost TKG-StorageMart about $416 million.

In October, TKG-StorageMart made a hostile bid of $3.75 per share through its Alberta, Canada-based subsidiary TKG-StorageMart Canada Inc., but the company amended its offer after negotiating with the board and senior management at InStorage, said Cris Burnam, president. TKG-StorageMart currently holds a 15 percent share of InStorage.

The agreement, which is expected to close in February, aims to provide shareholders with a better price for their shares, and helps in establishing a better relationship with the people at the company that will soon become part of the TKG-StorageMart family, Burnam said.

InStorage is the largest owner and operator of self-storage facilities in Canada with more than 50 properties in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

In a Dec. 9 news release, Lou Maroun, chairman of InStorage’s board of trustees, said the board supports the offer by TKG-StorageMart because it offers a significant increase to the recent trading price of the company’s shares.

TKG-StorageMart ranked 13th in the Inside Self-Storage 2008 Top-Operators List, with 60 facilities and nearly 5 million square feet of storage space in the United States and Canada. Before starting StorageMart in 1999, Burnam ran Storage Trust Realty, which went public in 1994 with a total market capitalization of $113 million and 4 million square feet of self-storage space. In 1999, Public Storage bought Storage Trust’s portfolio of 11.9 million square feet for about $600 million. StorageMart partnered with The Kroenke Group in 2006.