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U-Store-It Launches TV and Radio Advertising

National self-storage operator U-Store-It this spring launched its first-ever television-advertising campaign as well as a radio campaign to promote its new “lowest price guarantee” and the potential for customers to receive a month of free rent. In April, the company rolled out 30- and 60-second TV commercials in 23 major U.S. markets. In May, it launched 60-second radio spots in 19 major markets.
 
The company’s lowest price guarantee applies to immediately available storage units of comparable size within three miles of the selected U-Store-It facility. If a customer finds a lower rent, U-Store-It will beat the competition by 10 percent of the price variance. In addition, customers can receive their first month of rent for free at select locations. Viewers can call a toll-free number or visit the website to take advantage of the promotions or find a nearby facility.
 
The commercials were produced by A. Eicoff & Company, the nation’s largest direct-response agency. They can be viewed at http://youtube.com/ustoreitstorage.
 
The commercials also highlight the role of the company's local managers. "Our managers are self-storage experts, and we want customers to know a helpful manager at each company-owned location is a vital element of our storage solution," said Kristi Gubbels, director of marketing.
 
The company is pleased with the early results of its advertising, according to CEO Dean Jernigan, who said U-Store-It’s Web traffic realized strong growth in April.

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ISS Blog

Facility Refurbishing: Making the Most of First Impressions

As I was driving home from work yesterday I noticed a sign in someone’s yard advertising the home for rent. But it was a pathetic-looking sign.

Rather than purchase a “For Rent” sign from a home-improvement store, the homeowner chose to create his own. He cut a 2-by-4 in half, then nailed a short piece of white-painted plywood to the front. The homeowner then spray pained For Rent sloppily on the plywood with a phone number underneath. My first thought was, if the sign is this bad, I can only imagine what it looks like inside the house.

Like or not, first impressions matter. When people drive by your facility they make assumptions. If you have weeds, a broken or faded sign, dull paint or even cracks in the asphalt parking lot, it will be noted, even if that person is not in the market for self-storage at that time. With more facilities and fewer customers, it’s critical your curb appeal is top-notch.

“Your tenants and prospects look at your facility with a critical eye, and if they don’t like what they see, it will surely affect your bottom line,” writes Matt Doyle, national sales manager for BETCO Inc., in an ISS article on self-storage refurbishing.

And he’s right, because there is always another facility around the corner. You could have the best rates, superior security and an amazing staff, but if the customer perceives your facility isn’t the best from the outside, he’ll simply keep driving and the another facility will earn his money.

I could be totally wrong about the rental house with the homemade sign. Perhaps it has hardwood floors, the kitchen is beautiful, and it's priced right. But the sign says otherwise. What does your curb say about your facility?

For a plethora of fantastic articles on making the most of your curb appeal, check out the facility refurbishing section of the ISS archives. Also, look for the July issue, which focuses on curb appeal, green remodeling, day-to-day maintenance for managers and more.

ISS Scholarship Winner Graduates, Pursues Red Carpet Dream

Chad Plunkett, one of five recipients of the 2006 Inside Self-Storage Scholarship Program, in December graduated from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla., receiving his bachelor’s degree in just 21 months. Now he’s busy pursuing his dream of becoming a filmmaker. 
 
Twenty-two-year-old Plunkett is the son of Charles Plunkett, owner and president of Capco Steel Inc. and Artistic Builders Inc. Capco designs, supplies and erects self-storage and other metal buildings. Artistic is a general contracting company.
 
Plunkett’s film-based accomplishments include production of a movie demonstrating the step-by-step construction of a five-story self-storage building that was shown at past tradeshows of the Self Storage Association and Texas Self Storage Association. He won an award for “Best Action Film” in a Florida film festival during his time at Full Sail, and worked on the Joey Page music video, “Girl Who Understands Me,” which was picked up by Disney and due to release this month. Plunkett’s most recently worked as an intern on the independent film “Pastor Shepard,” due for release in 2010. Starring Danny Trejo, the movie was shot in Wimberly, Texas. 
 
Plunkett currently operates cameras for a national company that produces live events and conventions. He hopes to work with the company in Texas for a year and then transfer to Los Angeles. He is listed on the International Movie Data Base which, in the film industry, is known as “making the list.”

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Kleinschmidt Wins Comal County Volunteer Award

Angie Kleinschmidt, vice president of operations for Bulverde, Texas-based Joshua Management, has received the 2009 Comal County Guardian Angel Volunteer of the Year Award. The award, given annually to a volunteer working with a non-profit agency, was presented to Kleinschmidt at the annual Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month kick-off luncheon on April 3. 

On her days off, Kleinschmidt volunteers at the Children's Advocacy Center of Comal County, soliciting sponsorships and volunteers for children’s advocacy awareness and fundraising events. On Feb. 12, she gathered her family and other volunteers to fill 4,000 Valentine’s Day balloons that were sold to raise donations. She also organized a group to participate in a 5k Valentine’s Day race. Besides her commitment to the center, Kleinschmidt also volunteers time to the Canyon, Texas, chapter of the FFA (Future Farmers of America).
 
Kleinschmidt has been with Joshua Management for 10 years. The company provides self-storage services including third-party facility management, new-store startups, owner/employee training, marketing, independent auditing and management consulting.

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Supplier Spotlight: Quikstor Security & Software

QuikStor Security & Software was founded in 1987 by Dennis Levitt to provide management software to the self-storage industry. Combining his programming background with years of experience as a self-storage builder, owner and manager, Levitt quickly grew QuikStor to one of the industry’s largest software suppliers. The company soon began supplying gate-access controls and, a few years later, its patented wireless door alarms.

Levitt and the QuikStor management team understand what it’s like to sit in the facility owner’s or manager’s seat. This is clearly visible in the intuitive layout of the company’s software features such as Express and the Daily Report, which provide a daily facility snapshot including details and a historical trend comparison.

From the beginning, it was clear that QuikStor was an innovative force, and to this day, the company continues to pioneer new technology.
 
Cutting-Edge Products

In 2004, QuikStor moved its corporate headquarters to a 20,000-square-foot building in Van Nuys, a Los Angeles suburb. This provided the necessary space to house new engineering and programming projects, including the Guardian series, SmartClient and the next generation of wireless door alarms.

QuikStor has installed more than 250,000 of its alarms in self-storage facilities to date. The success of this technology paved the way for yet another groundbreaking release: the Guardian Series access-control system. This innovative system carries a seven-year warranty that includes lightning damage. It provides sites with the most modern access system available, along with a full suite of modular options such as affordable wireless communication, proximity and card readers, pay-at-the-gate, pinhole cameras and more.

In 2009, 14 years after introducing the industry’s first Windows-based management software, QuikStor released SmartClient, a revolutionary enterprise software. SmartClient provides a hybrid solution between Windows- and Web-based management software.

Unlike other enterprise software, SmartClient enables users and managers to work from the site, a call center or home office with local data that is kept in constant synchronization when online. When no Internet connection is available, users can continue working; data will be synchronized when the connection is restored.

In addition, consolidated reporting and updating is more convenient than ever before. QuikStor also offers a fast and comprehensive e-commerce solution that enables online payments and rentals.

The accompanying chart details some of the solutions QuikStor has pioneered in the self-storage industry. Through innovation and a rich industry history, the company has earned its reputation as a one-stop shop for high-end software and security, helping facilities generate revenue and protect tenants.

For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.quikstor.com.

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ISS Blog

To Discount or Not to Discount

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager for Cochrane Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She is one of four recipients of the Inside Self-Storage 2009 Humanitarian Service Award.

In the Self-Storage Talk forum, there are several threads discussing discounting methods to bring in customers. One of the most difficult guesses associated with keeping a facility full is determining where your comfort zone is financially. Some argue that cut-rate move-in specials are prohibitive to continued success and the bottom line. Others believe discounts bring in people that would otherwise wait or not utilize storage at all during these tough economic times. A few believe some rent is better than no rent.

With more than 53,000 facilities nationwide, I’d venture there are at least 5,300 different discount flavors to choose from. So what to do? A $1 move in, $20 move in, half price, prepay for three, get one free? The ideas are endless, and the discussion is sure to become even more interesting as more people offer up their own ideas. 

We’ve tried many different versions since doubling our facility. One of the main components to any discount is to ensure you do it properly. Do you always enter the normal rate of the unit on your contract? Do you clarify the rate is only valid as long as the tenant is not delinquent? Or do you discount even for people who are very delinquent? Is your discount understandable to your tenants?
 
Have you taken the time to analyze the cost of your discount versus the return income based upon your facility averages? Do you know how to determine the return on investment of your discount programs?
 
If your average tenant rents from you for 11 months, multiply your average rent by 11 and see what your average tenant is worth. Let’s say your average rent is $100 per month times 11 months equals a customer value of $1,100. 

Once you know the cost/value of a customer, you can begin considering discount rates and what cost you believe you can bear to obtain that customer. Is a new customer worth $100, $200, $300 to you? At what point are your discounts hurting you? Are you planning out discounts so they expire when normal seasonable rent ups return so that you may maximize your returns?

This topic and many more are being discussed right now on Self-Storage Talk. Join in, learn from each other and contribute ideas. Who knows, you may find just the solution you need to make a difference to your bottom-line profit.

Litton Presents Sales and Marketing Boot Camp at ISS Expo

Tom Litton, president of Litton Property Management and a renowned self-storage authority, will present a five-hour intensive workshop on self-storage marketing as part of the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 5, self-storage owners and managers can participate in Litton’s high-energy, fast-paced “Marketing and Sales Boot Camp,” which will address powerful marketing techniques that can be implemented at any facility quickly and inexpensively―in person, on the phone and online. Litton will debunk common marketing myths and provide dynamic ideas that will inspire facility operators to generate new business.
 
Created for self-storage industry owners, managers, developers, investors and suppliers, the ISS Expo comprises four days of educational seminars, product and service exhibits, and networking opportunities. It will take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, Oct. 5-8, 2009. With a theme of “Today’s Challenges Are Tomorrow’s Profit,” the event focuses on strategies for generating revenue and perfecting business branding in a demanding economic environment.
 
For details and to register, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.

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Legislative Improvements for AZ Self-Storage Pass House

A bill that will improve the lien statute governing self-storage in Arizona has passed the House of Representatives. House Bill 2435 passed the without opposition in a 56-0 vote, said Richard Marmor, chairperson of the Arizona Self Storage Association Legal and Legislative Committee. The Senate may soon review the bill during a special extended session.
 
The bill was introduced to the Arizona Legislature in March. Spearheaded by Marmor, who is an attorney, it addresses the lease and foreclosure activities of Arizona self-storage operations. The complete bill can be viewed at http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/1r/bills/hb2435h.pdf.

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Self-Storage Could Be Taxed in Illinois

In January, Illinois Senators revived Senate Bill 750, which would restructure the state’s tax system to support schools but include a sales tax on self-storage rentals. Their aim is to reduce dependence on property taxes for education by increasing income, business and other taxes. The change will create an approximate $7.2 billion increase in taxes while reducing property taxes by about $2.5 billion.

SB750 amends the State Finance Act and the Illinois Income Tax Act, and creates the School District Property Tax Relief Fund. It increases the tax rate for individuals, trusts and estates from 3 percent to 5 percent and the tax rate for corporations from 4.8 percent to 8 percent.

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Hickory Developer Gets Grant for Self-Storage Conversion

On March 17, the Hickory, N.C., City Council voted to give a $25,000 Vacant Building Revitalization Grant to Hickory Printing Group Facility LLC for a building at 542 Main Ave. SE, which will be renovated into a retail self-storage facility. The grant requires matching funds from HPG. The total project is estimated to cost about $606,000, and Earl Finster of Superior Self Storage LLC will develop the property.
 
The city’s VBR grants were established by the council in September 2008 to provide money for developers seeking to rehabilitate vacant buildings. The city earmarked enough money for 10 grants.
 
Source: Hickory Daily Record, City chips in $45,000 for renovations of vacant buildings

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