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ISS Blog

Tenant Accountability and the Holidays

Each year, we donate most of the money we give to charities between Thanksgiving week and the Christmas holiday, a time when Americans are feeling more generous. Self-storage managers are also more prone to be generous when it comes to tenants during this time period. I really hate to come across as a Scrooge but, now more than ever, may actually be the time to be hard-nosed with our customers.

We all like to believe in the best in everyone, but how many times have you felt burned when you were so understanding to a person in dire straits? Is it the same person who repeatedly hits your lien sale list? Sometimes the best favor we can do for that person is to stand firm on the amount due or go to auction and relieve the tenant of the responsibility, especially since these repeat offenders never actually take the responsibility. It seems to be always someone or something else's fault they can't pay.

Just like those of you reading this, I can feel like a real Scrooge in enforcing policies and laws regarding payment, but sometimes it just has to be done. At Self Storage Talk there are several threads about delinquent tenants, sketchy customers, liens and auctions. Holding an auction around the holidays is something we all try to avoid, but there are times when you just have to do it. Rest assured you’re not alone and it may be best to either auction or get the tenant to pay up.

Take this example: Customer Joe hasn't paid on time for months. He's your typical chronic late-payer. Joe is always full of reasons why he can't pay. Yet you continue to get Joe's rent. Maybe the boss is on you about collections, or you're self-motivating and trying to get your collections done before the boss mentions it. Try as you might, the year ends and you've still got some high outstanding rents due.

Then in late January in walks Mrs. Joe, whose husband is still delinquent and headed toward auction. She grouses about not knowing why her husband didn't pay, then tells you a story about the wonderful (read: expensive) trip Joe took her on over the holidays. As you Ooh and Ahh and smile at Mrs. Joe (remember you’re a professional manager) you wish you had stuck to your guns earlier and pushed Joe for on-time payment with the tools at your disposal.

Don't take on someone else's guilt. Each of our tenants signs a legal and binding document. It’s simply your job to enforce it. You didn't write it, you’re not the enemy. At times, simply reminding customers of this fact is enough to get timely payments out of them.

A non-paying customer is the guilty party and you need not feel any remorse at performing your job to the letter of your state's laws. Once in awhile someone may actually thank you for making them address the storage issue and saving them money. It's rare, but it does happen, so in a strange way an auction can actually be another item in your valuable customer service bag of tricks.

Besides, if Joe won't pay, the auction buyers are eager and willing to give you their money, especially this time of year. In effect you’re doing your part in the grand scheme of things to keep the economy moving and maybe even helping Sam the Auction Buyer keep his family fed at the same time. What a wonderful manager you are! 

Self-Storage Marketing in a Fierce Economy: Taking Campaigns to a Whole New Level

Just do it! Got milk? Have it your way. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. Good to the last drop. Let your fingers doing the walking. 

I’ll bet you can name the products behind the famous branding above. They’re etched in our minds, often connected to memories. Companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and Burger King know how to create a message that will stick. But you don’t have to be a billion-dollar business to come up with unique and impressionable ad campaigns.

Last summer, Inside Self-Storage invited its print and online readers to share their most clever and impressive marketing ideas and pieces. The “Best in Self-Storage Marketing” Contest was open to facility owners, operators and managers nationwide. Dozens of submissions poured in, ranging from catchy print ads and mailers to funny radio and TV clips.

First-place winner Terri Gavins, senior manager of Storage Center of Southwood in Tallahassee, Fla., won $1,000 for her multi-faceted campaign. A YouTube video by Andrew Emory, operations analyst for Self Storage Management Co. of California, nabbed $300 and the second-place prize. His “Naked Storage” video used Lego pieces as props to grab attention and illicit chuckles. An eight-piece print-ad campaign by Stephanie and Joe Tharpe, managers of Lock Box Self Storage in St. Juliet, Tenn., also aimed to make an impression through humor. The Tharpes were awarded $200 for their third-place entry.

While the submissions varied in content and delivery, all had the same goal: to get the facility noticed and attract new tenants.
Make an Impression

There are several hallmarks of an exceptional marketing campaign. Of course, it must be simple and catchy, easy to recall, and original. Also, it must be repeated. Stephanie had this in mind when she created her facility’s newspaper campaign, which featured humorous images of her husband, Joe.

The ads contained several consistent components: a picture of Joe, the company’s name, address and website, and a tagline: “Come See the Difference.” From there, Stephanie varied the message and image to address a unique aspect of storage. For example, one focused on facility access hours. It depicts Joe as a disgruntled customer of a facility with limited business hours. The caption: “Unbelievable! I can’t get in my unit after 9 p.m.?” The ad answers, “Here you can!” Other ads concentrated on site security, business storage, boat/RV storage and more. Unique messages and Joe’s clever antics gave each ad a fresh look.

Elsa Carter, manager of Midvale Valencia Self Storage in Tucson, Ariz., opted for the theme “Movie and a Pizza” to attract new tenants and boost referrals. Every new tenant received a coupon for a free Blockbuster movie rental and a pizza from Papa Murphy’s. To market the program, she decorated the facility’s office with movie posters, DVD covers, movie candy and popcorn.

Carter also used the posters to communicate messages about the facility’s program. For example, an image of the Hulk was embellished with a bubble that reads, “Outgrown your smaller unit? Transfer to a larger unit and pick a movie or a pizza!” Carter really enjoyed putting this promotion together. “The entire theme implied fun, fun, fun,” she says.

Tenants renting at Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif., never leave empty-handed. General Manager Gina Six Kudo is a huge believer in the power of branded promotional items. “Sure, it’s an intrinsic thing, but if your company name is buried in the potential customer’s subconscious because they've seen your name somewhere, you've already won the first round in the battle,” Kudo says. “All that is left is to close the sale with the best customer service possible.”

In addition to staples such as keychains and pens, Kudo has also given wine-bottle snugs for donations and raffles; paddle fans at a Fourth of July parade; and small gift bags of branded goodies to new and potential tenants. “While you cannot force people to rent when you want to increase occupancy, you can make sure that when a need does arise they are drawn to your company,” she says. “If a person thinks ‘storage,’ I want the next thought to be ‘Cochrane.’ It’s that simple.” 

Make ‘em Laugh

Often, the most memorable marketing campaigns are those that make us laugh. Remember the old lady in the Wendy’s commercials asking, “Where’s the beef?” Several of the submissions for the ISS contest focused on humor to sell their brand.

Hawaii Self Storage’s “Practice Safe Storage” campaign, a radio spot aimed at college students, parodied public announcements focused on sex education. The spot was aired across three student-targeted radio stations. “Practice Safe Storage” t-shirts and fliers were distributed across the campuses. “The campaign went against the norm of the traditional pitch of selling and did receive interest and attention among students looking for storage on the island,” says company president Daniel Ho.

Greg Putnam used subtle humor in a TV ad to promote his two American Self-Storage facilities in California. In the 30-second commercial, a wife informs her husband that her mother needs a place to stay. But his response, “I’ll go look up some hotels in town,” doesn’t go over well. The next scene shows the couple arguing in an overcrowded bedroom.  The ad then cuts to views of a self-storage facility while the narrator says, “At American Self-Storage, we can’t store your mother-in-law, but we can do the next best thing. Use our moving truck for free and make room for that unexpected guest.”

A Solid Delivery

Of course, a funny or creative campaign means nothing without the proper delivery. Today’s self-storage owners and managers are moving beyond Yellow Pages ads and simple fliers to embrace the many marketing outlets now available. Many self-storage facilities have created YouTube videos. Others have short informational videos on their websites. Social-media networks—particularly Facebook and Twitter—are becoming a part of a facility’s marketing strategy.

Even the delivery of print marketing campaigns is becoming more cutting-edge. Dan Rich, owner Taylor Ranch Self Storage in Albuquerque, N.M., tapped into the roller-derby craze by hiring a local team to deliver four-color door hangers. Not only is the delivery sure to get notice, but the campaign proved to be cost-effective. “The young women are enthusiastic and aggressive about moving from house to house,” says Rich, who pays the players $14 per hour. “A good roller girl can blast through a neighborhood at lightening speed and deliver about 150 pieces an hour.”


To ensure her marketing campaign reached a wide audience, Gavins built a comprehensive program with overlapping components to announce the opening of facility. Her campaign included e-mail marketing, YouTube video, a newsletter, a referral program, and social-networking websites.

Gavins also organized a community event to celebrate the grand opening. “The community is very family-oriented and I wanted to put an event together to say hello,” she says. Gavins tapped another local business to co-sponsor a “Health and Safety Day,” which reduced the facility’s costs. The event included music, a bounce house, safety tips from the police and fire departments, a blood drive and vision screening. The event was so successful that Gavins plans to make it annual.

Target Marketing

A good campaign also targets a specific market. Anthony Morrow, marketing manager for Storage Solutions in Cerritos, Calif., took this approach when creating ads catered to the area’s Korean population. Some members of the company’s management team are Korean, and one agreed to be the contact for inquiry calls. Because the concept of self-storage isn’t well known in the Korean community, the ad is educational, explaining reasons someone might use storage.

Tami Stockton, manager of Cove Point Storage in Lusby, Md., also created a campaign with a specific audience in mind: children. Stockton wrote and illustrated a coloring book featuring a sad car that can no longer be parked in the garage because it’s full of Christmas decorations and boxes. The coloring book introduces the many benefits of storing at Cove Point Storage. Her reasoning was twofold: Parents are apt to keep anything their kids color, and the book can be distributed in places where families gather—restaurants, daycares, schools and medical offices. “We often underestimate the influence children have on their parents and other adults,” Stockton says.

In today’s competitive self-storage environment, marketing is a critical component to every facility’s success. But you don’t need a big budget to get noticed. The best marketing campaigns are planned, innovative and memorable. Keeping it fresh and targeting your market will guarantee your next campaign is triumphant.

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Self-Storage Marketing Success: Using Facility-Specific Data to Find Your Target Market

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Woman Crashes Car Into Two Self-Storage Facilities, Steals Cash

A woman in Leon County, Fla., was arrested Saturday after smashing her car into the offices of two self-storage businesses and taking cash.
At about 7 a.m., 42-year-old Tracy Williams unsuccessfully attempted to steal a cashier’s drawer from a convenience store in Tallahassee, Fla. Not long after, she drove into Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage facility, taking about $215 in cash.
When a deputy pulled her over, Williams attempted to run away but was stopped. She admitted to breaking into two storage facilities. She was arrested on charges of burglary, grand theft, resisting an officer, attempted robbery and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, LCSO: Woman arrested after ramming her car into two storage businesses

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A-1 Self Storage Supports Serving Hands International

California self-storage provider A-1 Self Storage is collecting donations for Operation Warmheart, a campaign by Serving Hands International to gather new blankets and other essential items for Mexico families in need. Donations can be made at one of A-1’s 17 San Diego area facilities.
Serving Hands is a non-profit dedicated to eradicating poverty throughout the world, including the border regions of Mexico. Since its inception in 1982, the group has raised funds to purchase shoes, backpacks, food, and blankets for almost 5,000 children.
A-1 Self Storage has 17 self-storage facilities in the greater San Diego area and more than 40 locations across California. A-1 is the self-storage division of The Caster Cos., a third-generation, family-owned company headquartered in South California since 1959.

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Grossman Joins NAI Capital as Senior VP

Stephen Grossman has joined NAI Capital, a commercial real estate brokerage firm headquartered in Encino, Calif., as senior vice president. Grossman has more than 13 years of experience in the sale, acquisition and development of self-storage properties throughout California and Hawaii. He most recently worked as senior vice president at Lee & Associates-Newport Beach, where he specialized in the disposition of self-storage investments. He can be reached at [email protected].
With 14 offices throughout South California, NAI Capital is an affiliate of worldwide real estate service network NAI Global. The company has been in business since 1979, specializing in multi-site acquisitions and dispositions, sublease, tenant representation, lease administration and audit, investment services, due diligence and related consulting and advisory services.

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ISS Blog

Social Media Mania: Are You on Board?

Last week, ISS columnist and expo speaker, Derek Naylor, caused a lot of chatter on Self-Storage Talk with this though-provoking thread: Social Media is B.S. and a Complete Waste! 
Derek, who is actually pro social media marketing (SMM), used quotes around the phrase to attract attention and garner some feedback for his upcoming seminar at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, March 1-3, in Las Vegas. Derek asked forum members if SMM is a waste of time or if anyone is benefiting from it.

Plenty of SST members joined in, debating the merits of social media for both personal and professional use. Some say SMM has failed to prove its worth in the business arena. “So far, yes, it's a waste of time & money,” writes Gina 6k. But MusicCity Gal says Facebook allows her to connect with her tenants on a more personal level. “I see photos from my tenants, status updates and most important, BIRTHDAYS!!” Plus, she believes her business Facebook account leads to referrals.

Others chimed in with comments and even asked questions about setting up their own social media marketing. And while some are still skeptical about this new form of marketing, all agree social media is the “it” thing at this time.

Join the discussion on Self-Storage Talk or post a comment below. If you’re looking for more information about how your business can use social media, read these articles from the ISS archives.
Avoid the Top Five Mistakes of Social-Media Marketing 

Six Must-Haves for Successful Social-Media Marketing 

Using Social Media in Self-Storage: Does It Measure Up to the Hype? 

Self-Storage Marketing Highlighted at ISS Expo in Las Vegas, March 1-3

The Inside Self-Storage World Expo at the Paris Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, March 1-3, will feature a full spectrum of marketing and sales education with a dedicated seminar track and a special add-on intensive workshop, Marketing and Sales Boot Camp with industry veteran Tom Litton.

Seminars will focus on traditional methods as well as cutting-edge marketing strategies. Learn about building a self-storage website and e-mail database, strategies for social-media marketing, building rapport with the community, and ways to tailor your messages to various customer segments.

The self-storage industry’s largest conference and tradeshow includes 36 seminars, four workshops, two days of product and service exhibits, and five networking events, including a self-storage Q&A, roundtable discussions, a Buyers & Sellers Meeting for real estate-minded professionals, and a new Technology Marketplace where attendees can demo the latest security, software and Internet-based products. To register, visit

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Agoura Hills (CA) Considering New Zoning for Self-Storage

A California city is considering a new zoning ordinance for self-storage facilities.

The Agoura Hills planning commission Thursday approved a zoning ordinance amendment allowing self-storage facilities in the Business Park Manufacturing Zone north of Highway 101.

If approved by the city council, self-storage facilities could be developed in the Freeway Corridor Overlay area, which is north of Canwood St., east of Clareton Drive and west of Derry Ave.

In 2005, a business owner looking to build in the freeway corridor approached the city about amending the ordinance. The commission held two public hearings in 2006, but the owner withdrew his application before action was taken. Currently, there is no development project associated with the current proposal.

The zoning amendment would allow indoor and outdoor storage of boats, vehicles and trailers, provided the outdoor storage is screened from public view. The council plans to schedule a public hearing before taking final action.
Source:  iStockAnalyst,  Agoura to Consider Zoning Ordinance for Self-Storage Sites

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Big Yellow Self Storage Secures Funding Deal With Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets

Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets has led a recent funding deal, securing a £325 million syndicated transaction for Big Yellow Group PLC, a U.K. self-storage brand. The financial package will enable the company to continue its expansion program across the United Kingdom.

The bank worked closely with the Big Yellow Group senior management team to secure the funding, of which £75 million was sourced from the bank itself. Due to its funding commitment and thorough understanding of the business, the bank also supported the company’s clearing arrangements.

“Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets quickly grasped the drivers of the Big Yellow’s Self Storage business and the underlying operating model we have in place,” says John Trotman, chief financial officer for Big Yellow Group. “We’re delighted Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets has taken such a significant role in the syndicate deal, and we have been tremendously impressed by their commitment and engagement throughout every level of our business.”

Despite challenging market conditions, Big Yellow Group has grown organically over the last 10 years, with the first store opening in May 1999. There are now 59 stores and 10 under management. 

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Hawaiian Self-Storage Facilities Aid Lokahi Caring Project

Hawaii Self Storage and American Self Storage in Hawaii served as collection sites Saturday for the Lokahi Caring Project, a partnership between news station KHON2 and non-profit organization Keiki O Ka Aina Family Learning Centers. Lokahi helps Hawaiians by providing donations of goods, cash equivalents, enriching experiences and advocacy.

Six shopping centers on three islands held Lokahi drives. Lokahi means unity—pulling together to strengthen the community. Unwrapped gifts, checks or cash donations can be made at all First Hawaiian Bank branches.
Source:  KHON2,  Lokahi 2009 Kicks Off On Saturday

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