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Storage Center at Southwood Collects Cell Phones for Soldiers

Storage Center at Southwood of Tallahassee, Fla., is supporting overseas service members through collaboration with Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization that helps keep troops connected with their families. The group collects used cell phones and sends them to ReCellular, which pays enough for each phone to provide one hour of talk time to a soldier. This year, Cell Phones for Soldiers hopes to collect more than 50,000 phones. 
 
The Storage Center is urging local residents to support the drive by donating their used cell phones at the facility. Drop-off hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., with $21 of their own money. Since then, the registered 501c3 non-profit organization has raised almost $1 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas.
 
Through increased fundraising efforts, the Bergquist family hopes to raise more than $9 million in the next five years to fund new programs that will provide video phones and prepaid service so soldiers abroad to see their families on a regular basis.
 
Approximately half of the phones ReCellular processes are reconditioned and resold to wholesale companies in more than 40 countries. Phones and components that cannot be refurbished are dismantled and recycled to reclaim materials.

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Understanding SEO: Tips for Ranking High in Self-Storage Web Searches

Most self-storage owners understand the importance of the Internet to their marketing efforts, and most have websites for their facilities. But very few take full advantage of the power of the Web. Those who don’t are losing customers to their larger competitors who do.

Self-storage owners understand the No. 1 criterion of successful of real estate: location, location, location. It’s the same for Internet search-engine optimization (SEO). Having a great website is not nearly enough. If it cannot be easily found by customers, it’s worse than having a new storage facility in a rural location on a country road.
 
Google Ranking

There are approximately 50,000 self-storage facilities in the United States, but a Google search for “self-storage” produces 261 million results. Although few people use the Yellow Pages, even fewer search through millions of results to find a particular website. If your facility’s website is not listed on the first page of the Google search or, more important, on the top half, the chances of a customer finding it and reserving a unit at your facility are slim to none.

In real estate, the better locations are generally more expensive. The same holds true with the Internet—most of the time. Google is the most used search engine, accounting for more than 50 percent of all Web searches. The other 50 percent is comprised of Yahoo (25 percent), MSN or Bing (10 percent), and everything else (15 percent), including Yellowpages.com. Because Google is the 800-pound gorilla, if you want your website found by customers, it’s imperative that it be listed on the first page of Google search results and under easily searched key terms.
 
Search-Result Types

There are three different types of results Google will display on most searches: sponsored links, organic results and the Google 10 Pack.
Sponsored links are bid on in an auction-style process for each key term. They are usually found at the top and along the side of the results page. These links are typically paid for by the sponsor each time someone clicks on them.

Depending on the search term, this can be expensive but also profitable. The keywords must be input and managed, and bids must be continually adjusted. Larger companies will have more than 100,000 keywords for which bids are monitored every day. Typically, this is an expensive option for smaller operators.

Organic results make up the majority of Google search results. These are controlled by Google-produced algorithms, which are changed consistently in an effort to produce the most relevant results.

The location of your website in the organic results is loosely based on the number of visitors to your site, site relevance to keywords searched, the number of pages linked, and many other factors. By optimizing a facility’s Web page, you can push it higher in the results. Website optimization can be expensive, but it’s definitely worth it.

The Google 10 Pack refers to the results listed next to the local map. These are becoming more relevant, especially with the increasing number of consumers searching with mobile devices. The results are controlled by a completely different Google algorithm.

The Google 10 pack and the organic results are the most commonly clicked on results, making them the most important. If your facility’s website doesn’t appear in these search results, your potential customers probably won’t be able to find you.  
 
Track Results

It’s important to continually monitor how often your website receives visitors, where these visitors come from, and if they’re converted into customers. There are analytical websites, such as Compete.com, that can calculate the number of unique visitors your website receives.

The larger self-storage companies receive between 200 and 300 unique visitors per month per facility. This large number is directly attributed to the amount of money spent optimizing their websites, as well as their advanced pay-per-click strategies.

If your website is not appearing in search results or has few unique monthly visitors, re-evaluate your Web strategy or align yourself with a larger management company that can quickly incorporate your site into its Internet presence. Because the larger companies understand the importance and power of the Internet, they’re spending the money necessary to have each of their sites listed at the top of all self-storage-related searches.

Often, funds are being pulled from Yellow Pages advertising and redeployed into Internet strategy. The customers acquired from the Web are much less expensive than Yellow Pages customers; they tend to stay longer and come from farther distances.

If your facility is not receiving a substantial amount of customers from the Internet, your Web strategy should be re-evaluated and modified. Potential customers are looking for your self-storage facility. If they can’t find it, they’ll go to your competitor.
 
Noah Springer handles the management of all strategic partnerships for Extra Space Storage. In 2007, he helped create the Extra Space Storage Joint Venture Program, in which the company joined forces with local developers to build self-storage facilities nationwide. To reach him, call 801.365.4628; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.extraspace.com

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Everest Self Storage of Phoenix Supports Fire-Victim Outreach Program

Everest Self Storage of Bell Road in Phoenix is assisting local fire victims by donating the free use of three self-storage units to the Phoenix Fire Department Outreach Program. Directors of the program have granted community leaders access to the units to store donated goods, collected through local drives, and distribute them to those who have suffered from home fires.
 
The self-storage facility has made contributions to the outreach program for the past nine years. The facility is managed by Maria Bates.
 
Everest Storage owns and manages self-storage facilities throughout Canada and the United States. The Canadian brand name, Advantage Self Storage, has four locations in and around Toronto, Ontario. Everest Storage is the self-storage real estate affiliate of Everest Properties and has more than 30 years experience in the self-storage industry.

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Detectives Nail Suspect in Trussum Pond Self Storage Burglaries

Detectives who have been investigating a series of storage-unit burglaries at Trussum Pond Self Storage in Laurel, Del., believe they have found their man. Police said the investigation has led to the identification of Marc R. Wells, 46, of Hitch Pond Road in Laurel, as the culprit. Armed with a search warrant, detectives recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property from Wells’ address on Nov. 11. Items includes electronics, power tools and a 1995 Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

Wells was not home at the time of the search, and investigators have been unable to locate him. Warrants are on file charging him with several counts of burglary and receiving stolen property.
 
Sussex Countian, DSP seeking leads on Laurel man wanted for burglary

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U.K. Big Storage Founder Speaks to Grad Students

Andrew Donaldson, founder and partner of Big Storage in the United Kingdom, recently spoke to postgraduate business students at the University of Chester.

During his presentation, Donaldson, an entrepreneur, spoke about the importance of self-belief, determination and a positive attitude. He talked about his experiences of developing new businesses and how to develop and sustain a new brand. “My personal business philosophy is to work hard, treat staff well and lead by example,” he said.

Big Storage operates stores in Chester, Warrington, Handforth Dean, Macclesfield, Morecambe and Lancaster. The company has become one of the 10 largest self-storage and business center operators in the United Kingdom, providing 3,000 storage and business space units.
 
Source:  Chester Chronicle,  Enterprising Advice at Chester Business School From Big Storage Boss

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Self-Storage Talk: International

SpareFoot Partners With Watson & Taylor Self Storage

SpareFoot.com, an online marketplace for self-storage, has partnered with Watson & Taylor Self Storage, which owns or manages 34 facilities in Texas, and 49 properties throughout its portfolio, including self-storage facilities in  George, Hawaii North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

SpareFoot is also currently integrating with self-storage management-software applications SiteLink (SMD Software) and STORE (Centershift Inc.).  

SpareFoot offers more than 100,000 self-storage listings nationwide. Customers can look for self-storage facilities based on location, unit size, cost and amenities. Self-storage facilities can also enhance their online presence and increase revenue by using the company’s pay-for-performance model.

Watson & Taylor Self Storage manages 48 self-storage properties in seven states, representing close to 3.5 million feet of net rentable square feet of storage space.  

Source:  Earth Times,  Watson & Taylor Self Storage Joins SpareFoot.com

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Westy Self Storage Supports Four for Four Charity Donation Drive

Westy Self Storage will support four local not-for-profit organizations as part of the Four for Four Charity Donation Drive.

The drive, running from Nov. 20 through Dec. 18, aims to collect food, clothing, pet supplies and gift cards for military families. The organizations include: Connecticut Food Bank, Dress for Success of Mid-Fairfield County, Connecticut Humane Society and Operation Gift Cards.

In addition to serving as a drop-off location for the organizations, Westy will also provide storage and free use of the facility’s moving truck for delivery. Donations are accepted every day during business hours. 

With corporate headquarters in Stamford, Conn., Westy Self Storage spans the tri-state area with six facilities in Connecticut, three in New Jersey and seven in New York.
 
Source:  Connecticut Plus,  Westy Self Storage Coordinates Four for Four Donation Drive 

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U-Store-It Self-Storage to Support Toys For Tots Nationwide

This holiday season, U-Store-It Trust self-storage facilities in cities nationwide will serve as drop-off locations for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. People are encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys at a U-Store-It location through the end of December. In exchange, the company is offering one month of free self-storage rent to participants.
 
U-Store-It will collect the toys, store them, and deliver them to a Toys for Tots representative for distribution to local children.
 
Over the past 62 years, the Toys for Tots has distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children
 
A list of participating U-Store-It locations can be found at www.ustoreit.com/toys-for-tots.

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South Africa Self-Storage: Changing With the Global Economy

While listed property in the United States and United Kingdom has been among the worst hit by the global credit and liquidity crisis, the South African property market has managed to reasonably weather the financial storm. The main reasons are the local commercial-property market was not supported by securitized loans to any significant extent; and the S.A. banking system, due to exchange controls, had reduced exposure to the U.S. subprime market.

Nevertheless, the crisis has had significant consequences for the S.A. economy. There has been a natural aversion for riskier emerging markets such as South Africa, resulting in lower capital inflow and reduced trade. There has also been a re-rating of credit risk (four of South Africa’s top five banking groups have foreign ownership), creating more challenges for businesses looking to secure loans. In recent months, the local economy has slipped into a recession, with consequences for self-storage. 

A Fragmented Market

The S.A. self-storage sector remains highly fragmented, and recent market turmoil could have the effect of hastening the first round of consolidation or hindering its progress. Depressed market conditions mean there is less capital to support an attempt to take the industry through an initial consolidation. However, the distressed trading environment will also present the opportunity for an established operator with the correct business model and platforms to acquire facilities that are struggling due to their own inefficiencies.

These factors are important when trying to understand the dynamics of the S.A. industry. There are approximately 200 self-storage facilities in South Africa. The largest operator owns five stores, and there are less than 10 operators owning between three and five stores. There are currently only four operators who own stores in more than one city. As a result, there is little information in the public domain about the sector in general and, more specifically, the trading history in the sector over the past 12 months.

Other factors indicating a fragmented and young market are the types of facilities that are operational and being built. Overall, the market is still dominated by first- and second-generation facilities, typically ground-floor units representing rows of garages with little in the way of service. The average unit size in South Africa is close to 18 square meters (approximately 180 square feet), which is significantly larger than international markets.

Of late, more third-generation stores are being developed. While on the increase, multi-story facilities still only comprise a minority share of the market. Conversions represent less than 5 percent of the market, and the quality of the initial conversions was low. In recent years, quality conversions of older buildings in prime locations have taken advantage of steel-hallway systems. 

Store Impact

The S.A. economy generally lags first-world economies by a period of six to eight months. Because of this, self-storage performance continued to be robust through the summer months, September 2008 to March 2009. In April, consumer demand dropped in the overall retail market, coinciding with the seasonally slower time of year.

In this regard, the S.A. market likely has been no different than any other international market in that there was a decrease in the number of inquiries, customers became more price sensitive, and there was an overall adjustment in the domestic and commercial user base, with users being driven by negative rather than positive events. A natural consequence of these market conditions was customers struggling to keep up with monthly payments, and the increase of bad debt.

Another outcome has been a natural slowdown in the rate of new development. During the boom years of 2005 to 2008, the industry was growing by approximately 40 percent year-on-year. That rate of growth has fallen significantly. 

Growth Drivers

Despite tough economic trading conditions, the growth in gated-security estates and high-cost, smaller dwellings with little or no storage space, and the rapid urbanization of previously disadvantaged communities is still driving the industry forward. South Africa also has a unique situation in which it has an unusually high number of expat, middle-class citizens working in foreign destinations. These expats typically still have one foot firmly planted in South Africa, with their personal belongings safely stored for their return. 

Customer Base

Customers who use self-storage today generally do so because they have a need for the product, rather than it being a lifestyle choice. Consequently, there is still a large untapped market, as there is little public awareness of the true benefits of self-storage.

The user profile is changing somewhat. The domestic user base was once dominated by those in short-term need due to a home renovation or moving to a bigger house, an overseas work assignment or the like. Now renters include the domestic user who has been forced to move into a smaller home or lost a job.

The commercial sector, primarily driven by the small- to medium-size operator, has seen a similar trend. Businesses that were previously looking for additional space are now looking to store goods while they relocate to smaller premises.

In both the domestic and commercial market, the customer is more price conscious and will look for the best deal. He will also ensure he does not rent surplus space, taking the time to pack, stack and store items to maximum effect. To counter such trends, the more sophisticated operators have reacted accordingly, offering specialized pricing and discount structures, transportation, and other value-added services and products. 

Looking Forward

The S.A. self-storage industry is continuing to grow; however, the impact of the current market cycle could mean a number of first- and second-generation facilities will fall by the wayside completely or be acquired by stronger operators. A number of facilities that close shop will be stores with unprofessional setups, or where self-storage hasn’t been the sole or main business activity of the entrepreneur. 

Gavin Lucas is the founder and CEO of SASSI Self Storage Group in Cape Town, South Africa. The company has a portfolio of seven S.A. self-storage facilities under the brand name Stor-Age Self Storage. Mr. Lucas is a qualified chartered accountant and previously worked for KPMG. For more information, visit www.saselfstorageinvestments.com.

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ISS Blog

Self-Storage Marketing Gems

We've just entered production on the Inside Self-Storage January issue, the focus of which is self-storage marketing and promotions. If we haven't drilled the importance of this critical business area into your heads by now, we're going to keep harping on it!

But the reason I mention it now is because I've just received an e-mail from one of the winners of the ISS "Best in Self-Storage Marketing Contest," which took place earlier in the year. We received dozens of entries from facility managers and owners all over the country, many of which were incredibly impressive: YouTube videos, print ads, detailed referral programs, creative collateral-delivery methods, TV commercials, radio spots and more. If this is the first you're hearing of the program, check out the following articles, which will bring you up to speed:

Our second-place winner, Andrew Emory, operations analyst for Self Storage Management Co. of California, made us laugh with his "Naked Storage" YouTube video, which delivered marketing punch while appealing to viewers' sense of humor. Today he contacted me to share a link to Ministorage.net's newest commercial, which makes a spoof on Apple iPhone technology. It's called "We've Got Space for That." You can view it on the MiniStorage YouTube channel.

Got a fun marketing piece you're willing to share? Post a comment to the blog with a link to the item, or shoot it to me in an e-mail at [email protected] and I'll post it for you. Also, be sure to watch for the release of our January issue, which contains a feature story about our marketing-contest winners as well as numerous articles about cutting-edge marketing topics.

Want to learn more about self-storage marketing? Join us for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 1-3, and access an entire track of seminars devoted to the topic. You can also register for Tom Litton's Marketing and Sales Boot Camp. See show details at www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.