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Articles from 2001 In August


QuikStor Security & Software

QuikStor Security & Software
Enterprise Suite: corporate office and management software

QuikStor Security & Software, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is pleased to introduce its new Enterprise Suite corporate office and management software. Features of the package include:

  • Centralized collections, payments and site analysis;
  • Centralized multisite reservations, payments and move-ins;
  • Automated home office and consolidated report generator;
  • Cost-effective door-alarm security and management; and
  • Windows management software designed for managers accustomed to using a DOS-based system.

Account Management

QuikStor's account-management software provides business answers when they are needed. Customer service representatives, district managers and the corporate office can view real-time site information about occupancy, vacancy and details regarding individual tenants. No more waiting for overnight transmissions or backup disks to arrive from the sites. Corporate personnel can have instant access to modify tenant records, add notes, take payments, etc.

QuikStor's enterprise management tools are optimized for the bandwidth of any Internet connection or private frame-relay network. It even works on a 56K connection. The entire system is seamless and non-intrusive--the corporate office can even access tenant files without the property manager's intervention or knowledge.

Call Center

From one centralized location, or from multiple corporate call centers, sales agents can help prospective customers select and reserve a unit at any storage location. They can process payments and deposits by credit card, and immediately direct that money into the property's merchant account or a master corporate account. Agents can even perform complete tenant move-ins or reservations, and the information at the site is updated immediately. Tenant account records are updated instantly and reflect the latest call-center activity. Each agent's work is in "real time" and does not require any action on the part of property managers. Likewise, all work done by the property managers is instantly reflected at each call-center workstation.

Corporate Office

QuikStor's corporate-office software automatically prints site-specific reports on whatever schedule they are needed. Each morning, those reports are waiting for the property manager and his account representatives and customer-service employees. Reports can also be automatically e-mailed to the district manager, regional manager, business partners and accountants. The corporate-office software also includes a full suite of consolidated site reports. The monthly revenue and marketing information from an entire district, region, division or enterprise is aggregated for quick and accurate executive viewing.

To protect a business against disaster, the Enterprise Suite can automatically retrieve daily offsite backups from each facility for storage at designated headquarters. For added protection, QuikStor software can automatically back up to removable media.

Individual Door Alarms

QuikStor's QuikGuard and QuikSentry door alarms provide a competitive edge in tenant security. Both systems are true wireless and designed specifically for the harsh metallic and abusive environment of a self-storage facility. Installation is extremely easy, without pulling any wire or accessing a tenant's unit.

QuikStor door alarms provide wide area coverage and a visual crime deterrent, all within a sleek, rugged case. They are available in either a 10- or 20-year battery version. The company's management software automatically tracks which storage units have door alarms and monitors all door activity. It allows managers to rent door monitoring for a modest surcharge, typically $5 per month. This can increase a facility's gross revenue by an additional 5 percent to 10 percent. Managers can alarm their entire site or purchase only as much security as needed. Expand-on-demand security is a QuikStor specialty.

The company's support staff can even service its security systems though a telephone line. With more than 100,000 wireless alarms installed, QuikStor has the proven products and expertise to provide a reliable, affordable security solution to any size facility and budget.

Management Software

QuikStor introduced the industry's first Windows management software in 1995. This year the company introduced Express, its successful third-generation version. QuikStor Express automatically completes dozens of time-consuming tasks without any manager intervention, eliminating human error and the manager's "close of day" routine. The package offers options for automatic credit-card billing and multistation networking.

QuikStor's QuikEmail option reduces the time, materials and postage costs of mailing letters. Without any work on behalf of the manager, tenants automatically receive e-mail messages of late notices, invoices, receipts, as well as copies of any certified notices. The manager controls the list of which tenants receive materials by e-mail, postal mail or both.

QuikStor uses strong encryption and multilevel security so owners can restrict who has access to their business records. The software supports options for rental incentives, such as $1 move-in; free days, weeks or months; discount coupons; reduced rent for any time period, etc. Owners can even create additional income accounts to meet specific needs.

QuikStor understands managers' concerns about being able to use Windows and operate Windows software. Because of the intuitive design of Express, it is very simple to use. The company provides expert data conversion from a site's current management software and can train employees at a corporate headquarters and each manager's office.

Every week, QuikStor helps sites convert from DOS management software to its Windows management products. These clients experience a very mild learning curve. And with QuikStor, it is simple to add a second, third or 100th workstation at any busy property.

QuikStor has the power to integrate self-storage management, retail sales and site security. It can custom-program integrations with a site's truck rental and routing, accounts payable, payroll or other software. For more information, call 800.321.1987, e-mail [email protected]; www.quikstor.com.

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 09/2001: Keeping Vacating Summer Tenants

Keeping Vacating Summer Tenants

By Pamela Alton

The summer holidays and graduations have all passed, students are getting ready to return to school and the weather is getting cooler--all sure signs that summer is coming to an end. That rush of rentals you experienced in early spring may be ending also. Homes bought this summer are closing escrow, tenants are moving into new apartments and college students are back on campus. They don't need storage anymore, so it seems they're moving out in droves while new rentals seem to be declining.

Your owner or supervisor is wondering what happened to the income and what caused the drop in occupancy. The pressure is on you, the manager. What are you going to do? Throw your body in front of the rental truck and stop your tenants from vacating? Now, that is not something I would recommend to any manager, regardless of how much your occupancy drops. But there are some ways you might be able to put the brakes on that downhill slide you may be experiencing.

Marketing

If you haven't already been out laying a solid marketing foundation, now is the time to start. Make up fliers and hit the local businesses in your area. Stop by the apartment complexes down the street and talk to the managers about referrals. Call other storage managers in your area. Find out what unit sizes they have available that you don't and vice versa--negotiate a referral program. Look in your local newspaper for handymen, carpenters, gardeners, electricians--any small-business owners who could use storage. Call and tell them the advantages of storing with you.

Always carry your business cards with you and be prepared to give them out wherever you are: standing in line at the grocery store, a restaurant, the doctor's office, a gas station or bank. Put on your thinking cap. To whom can you market and earn rentals that will last all year?

Downsizing Those Vacating Tenants

When your tenants come to vacate those larger units, point out to them the advantages of keeping a smaller unit to store seasonal items, excess garage items, and business or personal items. If your tenants are students who are now back from summer break, let them know you have some smaller units available to keep the personal items they don't want a roommate to get into. Asking a tenant why he is vacating gives you clues as to how to approach him about staying on board with you.

Ask for Referrals

Each time a tenant vacates, always ask him to remember you when he needs storage. Give him a discount card for the next time he rents a unit. Ask for referrals. Does he know anyone who needs storage--a family member, friend or coworker? What about his company? Does it have excess records or office furniture or supplies that could be stored? If you don't have a sign on your counter or exit gate reminding tenants to "tell a friend," you should invest in one.

Be Clean, Friendly, Service-Oriented and Professional

People will remember you and your facility and want to store with you again if you offer superior customer service. Always keep the hallways, driveways and units swept clean and locked. Your office should be inviting, professional-looking, uncluttered and clean. You should always be dressed professionally, well-groomed and ready to greet your public once those doors open in the morning. Don't forget about your relief managers--they need to be taught about marketing and how to keep those vacating tenants. Be friendly, helpful and professional and you will always be a winner in the self-storage game.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations-only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call (800) 646-4648.

Phasing for Greater Profits

Phasing for Greater Profits

By Dan Curtis

Profit is, of course, the ultimate goal of any self-storage project. Profit is the best return with the least risk--the least risk for the owner, but also for lenders or the owner's available cash. It is in this context that phasing makes good sense.

In the early stages of project planning, the best and most efficient layout needs to be established. The plan that best fits the property will take the following factors into consideration:

  • Entrances and exits
  • Setbacks and easements
  • Utilities
  • Construction costs
  • Generated income
  • Competition
  • Available capital
  • Types of buildings

It is during the early stages of planning that phasing should be considered. In general, phasing delays the final decisions of unit mix and construction, allowing for them to be based on actual events and not just estimates. There are several types of self- storage projects that may need to be phased:

  • Conventional
  • Climate-controlled
  • Multistory
  • Conversions
  • Combinations of the above

Conventional Storage

In order to phase conventional storage, land must be left available on the site for additional buildings. Extra land should be a strong consideration from the initial search for the property. Many times, larger tracts of land can be purchased for a more reasonable price.

One good idea is to move ahead and pour the concrete slabs for all phases during phase one. Then, when occupancy on phase one hits 60 percent, the construction process can begin again on phase two, which should require about half the time it took to build the first phase. More of the costs will be during the first phase, as the building with doors and partitions is about all that is required in the second. Electricity will probably be needed for lighting, but most of the planning will involve first-phase costs. The second phase will take advantage of construction changes and building innovations.

Climate Control

Climate-controlled space is handled similarly to conventional space when phasing. Many times, the complete building will be constructed with the heating and air-conditioning systems already in place. The hallways, doors and some of the partitions can be omitted. By leaving the doors, hallways and partitions out of the first phase, the unit mix can be adjusted to whatever is renting most successfully. This ability to change the unit mix will keep the project on track, allowing the owner to have units to suit all needs.

Multistory Buildings

Multistory buildings will need to be built out with the exception of doors, hallways and partitions. One recent four-story project left one floor for conventional units only (no HVAC). This was done to offer climate- and non-climate-controlled spaces at the outset. The eventual goal was to convert the entire project to climate control, thus increasing revenue.

Multistory buildings are usually 60,000 to 100,000 square feet or more. Most often, the first half of the project is built with phasing in mind. Usually, it will require seven months or less to complete a project, and a 50 percent lease-up should occur within one year. At that time, second-phase work should start. Completion should be expected about four months later. Of the total cost, about two-thirds will be in the first phase with the balance being in the second phase.

Improved Financial Statements

The impact of phasing on the financial statement is shown in two or three different ways. Rent-up percentages are higher. This is a confidence builder for the lender. High mortgage payments are not being made early on, but are delayed until a time when the project has more operating income. In fact, some projects will have cash flowing by the time the second phase is completed. The impact on reduced negative cash flow is very positive and lender confidence will be improved. Since phase two will have a unit mix based on actual units rented, income will be improved. If the market wants improved security or any other features, these needs can be accommodated in phase two. Again, income will be improved.

Adjusting to Competition

Not only will phase two correct unit mix and construction problems, but it will allow an owner to adjust to a new competitor just down the street. If this new competitor has a different type of storage, which might be considered an improvement over what was built during phase one, it is possible to make adjustments. Many times, projects are completed without climate control. If competition swings toward offering this feature, the already completed project is out of the market. Attempting to add climate control to an already completed project is very difficult because insulation, doors and electrical systems are not conducive to making the necessary changes.

Phasing is a process well-known to the large operators in the industry. It offers flexibility to market changes. It minimizes capital exposure and reduces risk. Phasing needs to be seriously considered on every project, even conversions.

Dan Curtis is president of Atlanta-based Storage Consulting & Marketing, which specializes in market studies, feasibility, site layout and design, marketing, conversions and climate control. For more information, call 770.432.2417; e-mail [email protected].

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 09/2001: The Competition Litmus Test

The Competition Litmus Test

By Harley Rolfe

Do you get calls asking about rates for specific unit sizes? That's a heads-up. It means you weren't the caller's first query (who told him what size to request?). It also means he views you as a commodity he can shop. Neither of these conclusions bodes well because what it ultimately means is you are nearly helpless against the onslaught of price competition. Essentially, your rivals are setting your prices. Some of you may think this doesn't matter if you are meeting your goals regarding pricing and occupancy. But if you suspect the day is coming when you can't meet those income goals, you may get more curious about what we marketers do. Unfortunately, many don't like it when they discover what's involved in first-rate marketing.

I hear from owners who think putting up a nice facility in a good location and keeping it clean and staffed with nice folks is enough. They think all the talk about commodity this and marketing that are factors they should be able to ignore. When asked about competition, they say it's a "phase," with the sentiment "this too shall pass." Still, when they feel the bite of price competition, they may come to believe they should give marketing a whirl. That attitude can lead to an ambush. Thinking marketing is a temporary need prompts them to dabble at it. But installing a diluted program may not work and convinces the owner marketing isn't worthwhile. He becomes resigned to using price responses to meet the competition, figuring he has done all he can. That's sad.

Hold On, I Know My Market!

If you've concluding something serious must be done to improve control of your income, the first move is to master the composition of your local market. That means gaining an intimate knowledge of who uses storage and how they benefit. You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, I already know my market. I've been in this business for 10 years!" Perhaps, but I hold that most commodity self-storage operators tend to let the prospect figure out on his own how storage can help him. The prospect walks in, they sign him up. They don't know--or believe they need to know--how each tenant benefits and what problems they are solving. So the owners' role is relatively passive. But that role must change when adjusting your position for more aggressive marketing.

Break It Down

The greatest tool you have to become active in the prospect's decision-making process is to determine what gives rise to his need for storage. The hallmark of any marketing program is the subdivision of the tenant population into meaningful segments. "Knowing your market" means knowing what the segments are, how they solve their problems with storage and how to reach and influence each. You need to break down the sources of your income for the same reason you itemize your expenses: control. That's how you manage anything. Income and expense control starts with knowledge that alerts you to key problems or opportunities.

Here is an example. We know the primary market segments are split between personal and commercial applications. Of the two, we know commercial applications have longer tenancies than personal. The occasions for personal use are often transitory. They are triggered by some change in the prospect's life: he bought a house, got a job in a different city, is going home from school for summer, is moving parents to a nursing home, is getting a divorce, etc. These events are finite. The occasion that spurred them comes and goes. For you, this means considerable turnover or short tenancy periods. However, the need among commercial users is ongoing because it is often an integral part of the operations of a business. The need doesn't stop unless the business goes under or undergoes some other major change. So, we know commercial renters generally stay longer. What we may not know is why.

One reason these segments are different is transportation. In both cases, the prospect must solve the transportation issue, but in one case it may present a problem. Not all residential users have pickup trucks or other large vehicles to transport their goods. So in the case of personal use, transportation is an issue that should be acknowledged by the self-storage operator. That isn't true of commercial applications because most businesses and government entities will have their own transportation.

Once we know the types of things that trigger needs, we can demonstrate our sensitivity to the prospect and know how to fine-tune our pitch. In regard to the transportation issue, for example, you may want to offer your prospect free or discounted use of your rental truck. That might not be how you close the deal with a commercial tenant.

Selling Anything

The trick to selling anything to anyone is to know enough about the prospect's needs to offer a solution to his problem. Simple, right? But how many self-storage operators can identify their market segments, cite the amount each contributes to his income, and show tracking progress in attracting them? Very few. I know of one large operation that cannot tell with any precision how its business breaks down between those general categories--personal and commercial uses--let alone the dozens of subdivisions within each. Yet as a business, it does wonderfully. Some facilities have no need for professional marketing. We're addressing those that do.

Marketing is a specific process, a series of steps that form a repeating cycle. Like the Energizer Bunny, it goes on and on and on. Your good ideas will be copied and your not-so-good ones--well, you'll drop those. In either case, you need regular, fresh approaches for each segment. That means having intimate knowledge of the needs and activities of the segments most important to you.

Curiously, most operators think their marketing should begin with the most expensive step: use of media and other advertising. But how do you know what to advertise, how and to whom if you don't identify who is using storage and why? The place to start is identifying your segments. Most self-storage facilities will not benefit from spending money on expensive advertising efforts, anyway. Most of you use the Yellow Pages and know what a dent that makes in your budget. Using select media requires you to target the prospects uncovered by examination of your area and its market segments. The cash outlay for this initial step is minimal.

Watch That Duck

Have you ever watched a duck gliding serenely across a pond? It looks effortless, doesn't it? But if you look below the surface, his feet are paddling like mad. In a similar way, your numbers may look good on the surface, but they don't tell the whole story. Your total income and occupancy are simply the sum of what goes on in all your market segments. But there's something different taking place in each, beneath the surface. Maybe rents resulting from residential moves are dropping, but records storage is increasing. You'd never know that by just looking at the bottom line.

The bedrock for a marketing effort of any consequence is to catalog how and to whom the facility is delivering benefit. The self-storage operator has the advantage of investigating his existing tenant base. Each tenant has already cast a vote in favor of your facility. He will happily tell you his reasons for doing so. Just ask him.

Harley Rolfe is a semi-retired marketing specialist whose career includes executive-level marketing positions with General Electric and AT&T. He also owned lodging and office facilities for more than 20 years. Mr. Rolfe holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Wabash College and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Indiana. He can be reached at his home in Nampa, Idaho, at 208.463.9039. Further information can also be found in Mr. Rolfe's book, Hard-Nosed Marketing for Self-Storage.

Self-Storage That Jack Built

Self-Storage That Jack Built

This is self-storage that Jack built.

This is the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the man,
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the owner,
Who hired the man,
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

The is the planning and zoning board
That approved the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the concrete boldly poured
At the grace of the planning and zoning board
That approved the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the contractor in accord
With use of the concrete boldly poured
At the grace of the planning and zoning board
That approved the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This is the manager nearly floored
At the speed of the contractor in accord
With the use of the concrete boldly poured
At the grace of the planning and zoning board
That approved the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

This "Building of the Month" award
Is for the manager nearly floored
At the speed of the contractor in accord
With the use of the concrete boldly poured
At the grace of the planning and zoning board
That approved the building where goods are stored
Owned by the owner
Who hired the man
Who devised the plan
For the self-storage that Jack built.

In this annual construction issue that Inside Self-Storage built, you'll find information about the plan (see articles on phasing, layout and design, roof installation and security), words of wisdom from the contractor (see article on elevator placement), sound advice from the manager (see "From Behind the Counter" and "Managers' World" columns), and so much more. As to the "Building of the Month" award, stay tuned for more information in future issues.

Happy building,

Teri L. Lanza
Editor
[email protected]

Layout and Design

Layout and Design
Maximizing use of your self-storage site

By Ken Carrell

Anyone can build a building, but how well that building comes out is another story. The design of the facility can make or break a self-storage project. With the cost of land constantly rising, maximizing the amount of building you can get on your site may make all the difference. The facility design becomes extremely important to this end.

Choose a Style

In designing the layout of the typical self-storage facility, there are two distinct styles. The first style surrounds the property with a fence and has the storage buildings in the middle of the site. While this layout is very common in older facilities, it is still used on smaller sites where you don't have a lot of area to work with. One of the distinct advantages of this design is it allows for the maximum number of drive-up spaces for the buildings.

The second style, which is much more common, uses a perimeter building that also serves as the security fence for the facility. This is known as a "fortress" style. A definite advantage to this layout is it maximizes the site coverage of the lot. This layout is generally used except where setbacks from the property line would create a significant loss of building area.

Office Space

The next important consideration of the design of a storage facility is the manager's office. This is where your customer gets his first look at your facility. He wants to feel his "stuff" is safe, and the office can give him the impression it will be. If your customer sees security monitors, cameras, etc., when he walks in the door, he feels his property is going to be well cared for. But the office is also your selling place, and layout becomes important for this reason as well. Packing materials and other retail goods for sale should be displayed so they are easy to reach and view.

Parking

Your customers need to be able to get to the office, so parking is an important consideration. Even still, it is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of site design. Although a typical parking space is 9 feet wide by 18 feet deep, you also lose the backup space needed to get a car in and out of the space. A typical parking space takes anywhere from 300 to 400 square feet of area that is better used for your buildings. While planning and zoning boards always want to see a lot of parking incorporated into a site, the truth is, it rarely gets used because customers tend to park in front of their units. The Self Storage Association has information on the amount of parking required for various size facilities. While this provides a more realistic idea of the amount of parking required for a project, it takes convincing of the planning department to allow it. If you can convince the planner you don't need that much parking, you can put that space back into your storage buildings.

Driveways

Once they've rented a unit or two from you, customers need access to move in. The typical stacking distance at the entry gate should be approximately 40 feet. You can get away with less than that, but if you have the space, it's always better to provide it. This allows for the truck to pull in off of the street and operate the gate keypad without blocking traffic. And access to keypads requires some thought. You want the driver to access the keypad without having to get out of his vehicle. But since the driver sits on the left side of the truck, he typically has to pull in on the left side of the driveway in order to operate the keypad. This creates some interesting situations for traffic control.

Multistory Sites

The design of your self-storage site incorporates several different building decisions. Should the buildings be single-story, two-story or multistory? How wide and long should they be? In two-story buildings, should you use elevators or lifts, or make them drive-up? Are you able to provide secure, 24-hour access to the buildings?

Single-story buildings are the least expensive to build. If your land cost is low and you have a large enough parcel, plan on going with one story. The more expensive the land becomes, though, the more incentive you have to go upward. The cost of the structure goes up with each floor added. Up to a maximum of three floors, you can use an inexpensive form of construction for the typical building. Once you go beyond three floors, you must use costlier forms. To determine how many floors to build, you need to look at not only the cost of the land and construction, but whether you'll be able to fill up the space once it's built.

If you decide to build two stories, you have other options to consider. Do you use elevators or lifts, or use a drive-up type of building? Elevators cost more than lifts, but provide your customers a better sense of comfort. If you go with a drive-up second floor, you need to have room available for the ramps required at each end of the building. With buildings above three stories, you will need to have elevators. The design of the building can determine just how many elevators will be required.

Buildings should generally be no wider than 60 feet. This allows drive-up access from both sides and one or two interior corridors, which will maximize the building efficiency. Likewise, the length of the building should be around 300 feet. This allows corridor lengths that won't exceed 150 feet, the design standard a customer will be willing to walk to get to his unit. This isn't to say you can't or shouldn't make the building larger or smaller than what has been discussed here.

To Use or Not Use an Architect

A lot of facility owners ask why they should use an architect to design their facilities. Often, steel-building manufacturers provide the design for the owner when there is nothing special about the site. They have staff dedicated to the design of facilities for their customers. These designs are useful, but are not always laid out for efficient use of the site. When the site is small, unusual in shape, steeply sloped, etc., it is useful to bring in an architect. Because architects specialize in the design of buildings, they focus on how to make the facility work. They also know how to design the facility to accommodate the various codes and ordinances every city seems to keep adding. For this reason, it is to your advantage to find an architect who specializes in the design of storage facilities.

As you can see, the design and layout of a site involves consideration of many factors. Although there is no one perfect layout for a site, the ideas presented here make a good starting point. The ultimate goal in any design for a storage facility is to get the customers in and keep them. Making your project user-friendly is a good step in the right direction.

Ken Carrell is principal of KC Architects, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. His firm specializes in self-storage as well as other types of commercial architecture, and is licensed in several states. For more information, call 949.716.0114.

Construction and Security

Construction and Security
Planning sites with security efforts in mind

By Anthony Gardner

Security in the self-storage business has undergone a dramatic evolution. No longer are padlocks and a chainlink fence enough to keep burglars out of a facility and away from tenants' belongings. Prospective tenants may not always ask specific questions, but they are certainly looking at the services you offer to protect their valuables.

Your security considerations must span from the planning stage through to your grand opening and beyond. This article will cover potential pitfalls and describe how to plan security that will draw tenants and repel criminals. Even mature and established facilities will find dozens of valuable tips and professional security strategies.

Initial Planning

Location is everything. Select a site that has great visibility from the public road, passing freeway or highway. This is not only a great way to showcase and advertise your new facility, but it also inhibits potential burglars from sneaking around your site unseen.

As with all construction, an affordable and attractive building requires a skilled general contractor (GC). I have seen self-storage projects that exceed twice their scheduled time and budget due to the inexperience or inability of a GC. The GC will select the other trades and vendors that will construct your facility; this includes the electricians and possibly your security vendor. There are some great contractors across the country, and I have worked with many of them. Do your research at this stage; your overall profitability and your tenants' happiness will depend heavily upon it.

You need to get everything on blueprints before the contractors and vendors have been chosen, and well before construction begins. The GC will usually take care of all the construction permits. Confirm with the GC that he has familiarity with your local codes. For example, low-voltage permits are required in some counties and not others. It was just a few months ago that one of my largest clients ran into problems in Dade County, Fla. They had not secured their low-voltage permits and had to pay heavy fines and redo sections of their work.

Avoid change orders and extras whenever possible as they can cause your construction costs to skyrocket. This means you and your GC should get everything onto the plans. Any trade/vendor, particularly a security vendor, that is an afterthought can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars in extra fees once your building is nearing completion. The big killers are conduit and electrical capacity. Including more conduit or electrical capacity from the get-go adds very little to the overall job price. But adding just one conduit or more circuits and electrical capacity can cost thousands of dollars worth of change orders. A little more planning now will save a lot of headaches later.

Landscaping and Lighting

Landscaping is often an overlooked part of construction. Let's examine this from a security point of view. Large trees and bushes visually block your facility from prospective tenants and provide places for thieves to hide in wait for tenants. Trees are rarely a good choice because they can quickly grow too large for the landscaping of your site. Keep bushes and hedges trimmed low and keep the number of trees to a minimum.

Lighting is often an afterthought, too. A well-lit storage facility is important for the safety of your tenants and minimizes vandalism. Make sure the entrance gate and offices are spotlighted. These areas are the first places your tenants see. Hallways or corridors should have sufficient lighting to illuminate walkways and the storage units.

For energy-conscious owners (and you all should be), I recommend putting hallway and corridor lighting on a motion sensor, so electricity is only being used when needed or when someone is moving about. This is another good way for a manager who lives on-site to be able to tell when someone is on the premises after hours. A light coming on late at night could indicate someone lurking around your facility.

Security Systems

Pay careful attention to your electric security options. Storage security has matured rapidly over the last few years, and some solutions can even become an active source of income. Some companies specialize in one field of security, such as software, access controls, video surveillance or door sensors. The obvious choice is to select a company that caters to all of the above. The fewer vendors required, the easier your installation and ongoing maintenance.

Look at the record of the security vendors you are considering. How long have they been in the business? What security options do they offer? How many facilities have they secured with the type of system you want? What is the level of customer satisfaction with their products and installation? Ask them for a nearby facility where you can view the security installation and overall appearance. Talk with the owners or managers of the site about the system. Question its ease of use for tenants and management.

What types of security components should you include at your site? What do you really need to keep your site and tenants safe? Have a consultation with your security vendor. Together you can determine where to concentrate or emphasize security and what is needed most. Security options include:

  • Individual door alarms (wired or wireless);
  • Access controls for gates, hallway access doors, and/or elevators;
  • Sirens and dialers;
  • Smart-logic controllers that provide record keeping, etc.;
  • Video surveillance cameras, monitors and time-lapse recording;
  • Site graphics and monitoring; and
  • Motion sensors to protect boats and RVs, plus perimeter beams.

Individual Door Alarms

There are two technologies with door alarms: wired and wireless. The correct choice will depend on the layout of your site and which phase of construction you are in. There are advantages and disadvantages to both as listed below.

Wired--Pros

  • Cost is the same as wireless if done before construction;
  • The method of installation is familiar to most installers; and
  • Electrical needs can be placed on the construction plans.

Wired--Cons

  • Expensive labor costs and tenant inconvenience when installed after the construction phase (conduit needs to be run to, or through, every occupied and vacant unit);
  • Requires access to tenant spaces for servicing, risks an upset or no-show customer;
  • Rarely modular if you want to add more sensors later; conduit and wiring needs for existing wired sensors may not allow for easy additions; and
  • Maintenance costs are high if any door-alarm magnet is knocked out of alignment or security wiring breaks.

Wireless--Pros

  • Easy installation and maintenance; sensors can be added to the outside of unit doors whether occupied or vacant without requiring access into the tenant's unit;
  • Completely modular; a manager or owner can easily add a new sensor to any unit;
  • Less expensive than wired systems when retrofitting an existing facility;
  • Available in two formats, narrow band and 900 MHz, to accommodate a wide range of construction and site layouts;
  • Provides a visible crime deterrent;
  • Can be rented to tenants on a unit-by-unit basis;
  • Magnets are outside of the unit and cannot be knocked out of alignment.

Wireless--Cons

  • Wireless sensors require battery replacements, costing time and materials;
  • Tendency toward a one-size-fits-all mentality; and
  • Expansive sites may require repeaters to increase coverage area, which can require extra electrical outlets in specific locations.

The most vulnerable part of a wired security system is the alignment of the door magnet. This is the primary cause of false alarms. Rather than a traditional bracket-mount magnetic alarm contact, you can use a door-latch contact. These are fairly new devices that show good promise but lack the track record to guarantee performance.

Another method for wired systems, albeit more expensive, is to have the door contacts mounted flush into the ground. This is very reliable, but quite intrusive to the infrastructure of the building. It is time-consuming to either saw-cut the concrete after the slab is poured or form the hundreds of small holes that need to be in place during construction (plus running all the conduit).

Wireless comes in two varieties: narrow band and 900 MHz. Narrow band is a better choice for cavernous metal hallways. The metal surfaces act as mirrors to provide extraordinary area coverage. The 900 MHz variety uses brute force and is best suited for cement structures. Sites with both types of structures will need to be analyzed to determine the correct technology. Regardless of the chosen system, wired or wireless, select a security vendor that has proven experience in the field and installations you can visit before buying.

Access Controls

Create a logical flow of traffic throughout your facility. If you plan on having multiple access gates, consider making one an "entrance only" and the other "exit only." This will accomplish two things: It will prevent bottlenecks of people trying to come in and go out of the same gate, and it will provide one point of entry to monitor.

Keypads for gate entrance and exit, elevator control and access doors have been a standard for storage security for decades. New keypad features are now available for tenant services and property management. Gone are the days of a small featureless keypad that just lets a tenant in and out of a facility. Now, when a tenant comes to your site, he sees a screen display that welcomes him by name. He can also use a built-in intercom to summon the manager. An extremely popular feature is the ability for delinquent tenants to make payments at the keypad using a credit card.

Sirens and False Alarms

Sirens can create a love/hate relationship between managers and tenants. On the one hand, they quickly and effectively indicate a break-in for a particular unit; on the other hand, they can be very annoying to tenants if they sound often, especially due to false alarms. What causes a false alarm? There are two key considerations:

Is it really a false alarm? When a tenant enters an access code at the gate, elevator or door, the system proceeds to disable his sensor so no alarm event happens when the unit door is opened. If the tenant follows, or tailgates, another tenant into the facility, the system cannot know the tenant is onsite. Therefore, that space is still armed. When the tenant opens the space, the siren sounds. This scenario is very common and can cause grief to the tenant and manager. With any alarm system, some tenants may need to be reminded how to use their security protection.

Was the door-alarm sensor installed properly? This is something that needs to be addressed during construction and installation. There are two parts to a unit-alarm sensor: the actual sensor and a magnet. The magnet is installed on the door and the sensor is installed next to it on the doorframe. If the gap between these two components is misaligned or too wide, then false alarms will occur. Outside units are especially vulnerable to a bad installation as high winds shift the door in its tracks.

Sirens can be placed on each floor and/or in exterior locations. You must balance your desire to scare away intruders with the need of nearby shops and homes for quiet. The above scenarios describe legitimate alarm soundings that will be perceived as false alarms and disruptive to other businesses. Telephone dialers are less intrusive to your neighbors, but can result in expensive response calls if faulty installation allows normal door play to cause "false" alarms. Spot check the installer's work by trying to shack a closed unit door to cause a false alarm.

Security Controllers

The controller is the brain of your security system. Whether you only have a single access point or a total security solution with all the bells and whistles, you will have a centralized source to control and monitor everything. Controllers come in two varieties: hard-coded and PC-based.

A hard-coded controller is a stable, featureless box that has minimal user settings and expandability. PC-based controllers reside on the other end of the spectrum. These are jam-packed with features, and most can be easily customized and upgraded. For example, a good PC-based controller can specify which sirens react to which door events. PC-based controllers are similar to your office computer. They depend on a Windows operating system and have vulnerable moving parts. Both systems should easily integrate with your management software or work as a stand-alone system. The newest controller systems are Linux-based dedicated systems. They have no moving parts yet provide all the features of a flexible PC controller, plus the stability of a hard-coded unit.

Video Cameras

A typical self-storage facility contains a maze of hallways and driveways. These hidden areas are a natural place for surveillance cameras. The main entrance gate and office should be monitored at all times. Those cameras should be highly visible to serve as a marketing tool and crime deterrent. To increase visibility, use an auto-panning camera system. The next most important areas to monitor are the elevator lobbies and exterior access doors. Since these are on the protected side of your facility, static cameras are acceptable here.

By this time, you will have anywhere from six to 16 cameras. Rather than having a separate monitor screen for each camera, you should use a video multiplexer to display several cameras on one screen simultaneously. Multiplexer models are available to share four, nine or 16 cameras. The 16-camera version divides the monitor screen into squares too small to be useful. If you have a high quantity of cameras, it is better to have two monitors, each with a nine-camera multiplexer.

Use a large monitor or television to show off your video-camera coverage. I recommend using one or two 19- to 25-inch monitors mounted to a wall bracket in the rear corner of the office. This allows the tenants and manager to see your security monitors with minimal effort.

The office should have two VCRs. One is a dummy VCR that is publicly seen behind the manager, while the real VCR is hidden in the back room or other lockable space. You will need one real VCR for each multiplexer in use at your site. Rather than using a common six-hour VCR, select a 40-hour, time-lapse system that can record without frequent tape changes. For about a 25 percent increase on your video budget, you can have a motion-sensitive, digital-recording VCR. This provides recording from only the cameras that are seeing movement. As an added bonus, the digital picture quality is superior to its analog counterpart.

Site Graphics

Site graphics display a graphical layout of your facility. The most common system uses a large monitor mounted to a wall bracket in the rear corner of the office, opposite the surveillance monitor. Each storage unit is shown in a color that represents its current status. A vacant unit may appear green, while a unit opened by a tenant may show as blue. With one glance, your manager can see the status of every unit at your site. The key consideration is to plan for the site-graphics monitor to be large and visible to your tenants. This is a powerful sales tool and conveys a strong sense of security.

Motion Sensors

Motion detectors enhance your site security to also include hallways and office space. These are typically passive infrared (PIR) devices that detect motion and transmit an invisible signal back to your security controller. Some vendors offer wireless tabletop motion sensors your tenants set in their boat or RV. Tabletop units can be easily added or removed and rented to your tenants. Tabletop PIR has the added advantage of not requiring any installation. Just select some free counter space in the RV and aim the PIR unit at the door.

Another form of motion detector is the perimeter beam. This is a chain of invisible, laser-like beams that encircle your facility. If an intruder passes through any beam, the interrupted light signal triggers the controller to sound the alarm. Birds or guard dogs can also trip these light beams, so their use should be balanced against the risks of false alarms.

Protecting Your Protection

Your keypads, door alarms and cameras provide strong protection for your site, but they can come under attack by a determined thief or careless tenant. Consider the following:

  • Bollards, or crash posts, should be mandatory protection for any keypads in the path of vehicular traffic. A 4-foot-high-by-4-inch-thick concrete-filled pipe is the industry standard. Paint them in a neon color, mount reflectors or use reflection tape so they can be easily seen at night. If your company colors are bright, consider using those on the bollards.
  • Mount security cameras close to the roofline, high and out of the way of potential vandals. Vulnerable exterior access doors should have two security cameras placed at opposite sides of the door for protection. Any person trying to tamper with one camera will be seen by the other.
  • Never mount or run anything into or through a tenant's space. Tenants have a way of finding very creative ways to utilize your security equipment and wiring. Recently, I saw rows of clothing hanging from alarm conduit. The tenants desire for storage efficiency resulted in a failure in the wired door security of the nearby units. This was an expensive, and avoidable, service call.
  • Ground everything. Outside equipment will be subjected to all kinds of weather, including lightning. A good equipment ground will significantly reduce the possibility of equipment damage and tenant injury. Although no amount of grounding can provide 100 percent protection from lightning damage, equipment that uses optical-isolation surge protection will provide the greatest chance of survival for your security investment.
  • No matter which system or vendor you choose, maintenance is a fact of life. Ask your security vendor or GC to define which parts of your security will be within tenant units, under pavement, within walls or other inaccessible areas. Each area that cannot be reached will dramatically increase your costs should those sections ever need servicing.

When it comes to planning your site security, a few hours spent now will save you valuable time and money later. A secure and profitable site will not happen by accident. It requires your participation in the planning and preparation stage. Take the time to ensure the planned security matches your business goals.

Tony Gardner is director of security installation for QuikStor Security & Software, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He specializes in commercial and industrial security. For more information, visit www.quikstor.com.

The Standing Seam Roof System

The Standing Seam Roof System
Meeting the challenge of installing standing seam on self-storage

By Ken Buchinger

Years ago, installing metal roofs on self-storage facilities was relatively easy. Most buildings were narrow and simple rectangular shapes, and a through- fastened panel such as an "R" panel was used. But times have definitely changed.

Today, self-storage owners are building facilities in or near residential areas, and the need for aesthetic considerations has skyrocketed. Facilities are much more architectural in nature, which usually results in a more complicated roof design. Plus, the industry has switched to standing seam roof systems that require more design consideration and greater skill to install than the "R"-panel roof.

Since Galvalume standing seam roofs typically carry a 20-year perforation warranty, the goal should be to provide the building owner with a roof that will last a minimum of 20 years with minimal maintenance. To accomplish this worthy goal, everyone involved must be committed, including the design professional, roof manufacturer, roofing contractor and owner.

Most multistory facilities are being designed with architectural features such as high side and rake parapets, multilevel roofs and irregular roof surfaces. While these various features add aesthetic value to the project, they also make the roof much more complicated to install. In addition, the design professional should give consideration to the manner in which the roof system will interface with other materials and appurtenances.

Here is a list of items to pay particular attention to when considering a standing seam roof system on a self-storage project:

  • Special attention should be given to anything that interrupts the flow of water off the roof, such as roof hatches, air-conditioning units, and especially elevator or stairwell penthouses. In addition, thermal movement must be considered on wider roofs. The panels and the trim must be capable of handling this movement.
  • Manufacturer's installation details should be available for standard conditions such as the ridge, hip, valley, eave and rake. The manufacturer should also be able to help with details on special conditions and provide needed information on approved curbs, pipe flashings and other roof-related appurtenances. To help eliminate the potential for problems, comprehensive details for each special condition on the roof should be approved by the roof manufacturer, submitted to the design professional for review, and included in the erection package for the roofing contractor to follow. No detail should be left for the roofing contractor to install as he pleases.
  • Never allow the roof panels or trim to come into direct contact with or receive water runoff from lead or copper, as this will cause galvanic corrosion and void the Galvalume perforation warranty. This includes condensate from roof-top air-conditioning units. If masonry or parapet walls are to be installed adjacent to the roof, provide protection to prevent these materials from being dropped onto the roof, which may cause corrosion of the Galvalume metal.
  • The roofing contractor must not cut panels with an abrasive blade, as this melts the Galvalume coating and leads to edge rusting. Do not allow a cutoff saw to be used on or near the roof to prevent metal filings from being scattered across the roof. These filings, while hot, will melt into the Galvalume coating and begin rusting.
  • The best way to ensure the above recommendations are met is to address them in the project specifications. Specifications should cover: 1) who is to install the specific items (the roofing contractor should be responsible for the installation of items such as curbs, pipe-penetration flashings and crickets); 2) the type of materials to be used; 3) roof manufacturer's approvals; and 4) warranty requirements for the roof and accessory items. If the specifications are thorough, the roofing contractor will have all the information he needs to properly bid the project, the roof installation process will be more efficient and leak problems can be avoided.
  • Finally, the owner should be supplied with a maintenance manual to assist him in caring for his roof. Standing seam roofs are "low maintenance" but they are not "no maintenance." In general, the owner should plan to inspect the roof at least twice a year to remove objects thrown on the roof. Steel objects allowed to remain on the roof can cause the roof to rust through. Also, leaves and other debris should be periodically cleaned out of the gutters and off the roof.

Installing a standing seam roof on a building with many architectural features can indeed be challenging. However, with cooperation from each of the parties involved, it can be successfully accomplished, and we all wind up with a successful project and a satisfied owner.

Ken Buchinger is general manager of product development and product installation for Houston-based MBCI, where he is responsible for product testing, improvements and development. He is in charge of the company's Erector Certification Program, which trains erectors in the proper installation techniques of MBCI's metal roofing systems. He is also in charge of inspecting and approving projects for Weathertightness Warranties. MBCI, part of NCI Building Systems, is a manufacturer of metal roofs, walls, soffits and fascias. For more information, visit www.ncilp.com.


Cricket installed by contractor on project with no details.

Roof curb made from sheet metal.

Properly installed cricket at same location.

Roof curb fabricated from aluminum with welded corners.

Air-conditioning condensation causing corrosion to Galvalume roof panel.

Residue dropped on roof during wall installation.

Cutting panels with abrasive blades leads to edge rusting.

Hurricane Facts

 

Breezing Through Hurricane Season

By David Wilhite

In any given year, during the months of June through November, an average of three hurricanes will strike the United States. In 1995, hurricanes accounted for more than 100 deaths and caused billions of dollars in damage. National Weather Service experts agree that science will never provide a full solution to hurricane safety. The question is: How can self-storage facility owners operating on vulnerable coastlines protect themselves and their business operations from harm?

Since coastal areas are vulnerable to storms, facility owners in those areas should enter each hurricane season prepared. Aside from such basic safety issues as having an evacuation plan in place and stockpiling emergency supplies, you should be absolutely certain you have appropriate insurance coverage in place to protect your business in case of disaster. Don't gamble on luck to protect you--the price you pay will be much higher in the long run.

Your first step is to secure adequate insurance coverage. In addition to protecting your business from hurricane- and wind-induced damage, a complete insurance package should also include loss-of-business income coverage and extra-expense coverage to protect your finances in the event of a loss. (Smart shoppers, take note: Your best bet is to purchase property coverage on a special-form basis, which also protects against hail, smoke, explosion and other perils unless the policy specifically excludes them.)

Once your coverage is in place, there are a several other steps you can take to prepare against disaster. If you own a camcorder, you can videotape the interior and exterior of your facility, describing each item as you record it (be sure to store the tape in a secure location away from your premises). Alternately, you can prepare a list of your valuables with photos. Either method can save a great deal of time and trouble when making a claim.

Once a hurricane watch has been issued, precautions should be taken immediately to protect your facility. Board up windows or secure them with storm shutters, and brace all exterior doors shut. Secure any loose objects surrounding the area, such as trash cans, signs, etc., so they don't become flying missiles. Unplug electrical items and shut off gas lines--hurricanes moving inland can cause severe flooding, which brings attendant risks of fire and electrocution. Above all, play it safe. Monitor the progress of the storm through National Weather Service advisories and be prepared to evacuate the area immediately. Hurricane warnings may be issued only hours before a storm strikes, so plan your time accordingly. Avoid any last-minute rush that may leave you stranded if disaster threatens, and stay calm.

After the storm passes, call your insurance company as soon as possible to report a claim. Avoid the temptation to sightsee affected areas--you may be mistaken for a looter. Carry valid identification, along with proof of residency and your business license. Drive carefully through debris-strewn areas, and watch for fallen power lines, especially in areas with standing water. Enter your business with caution. Don't use matches in case of gas leaks, and don't use electricity until your business has been checked by proper authorities. If the area in which your facility is located in is heavily affected, it could take two to four weeks or longer before local roads are cleared and the area opened to the public.

A catastrophic loss can deliver a knockout punch that can devastate your financial future. Don't put yourself at risk.

In addition to loss-of-income and extra-expense coverages, Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a complete package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail [email protected]; www.vpico.com/universal.

Hurricane Facts

There are two areas in the continental United States in which hurricanes occur: the Atlantic basin, which stretches along the Atlantic coastline from the Texas gulf to the upper tip of Maine; and the northeast Pacific basin. The official hurricane season in the Atlantic basin dates from June 1 to the end of November, with peak activity in September; although hurricane activity has been known to occur slightly out of season, typically during May and December. In the Pacific basin, hurricane season is a year-round event, with peak activity in February and March.

Hurricane-storm intensity is ranked on a scale ranging from minimal (little or no damage to area structures; minimal damage to signs, trees and shrubbery; and minimal flooding) to catastrophic (buildings extensively damaged or destroyed; trees uprooted; full evacuation of the affected area). Hurricanes have historically been given proper names since storms typically last a week or longer and more than one storm can occur at the same time. According to historians, the practice of giving proper names to hurricanes originated in the early 1900s by a weather forecaster who named the storms after politicians he disliked.

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 09/2001: Online Marketing Secrets

Online Marketing Secrets
What every self-storage owner should know

By Fred Gleeck

I have been studying Internet marketing for the past two years. I've found it to be a tremendous tool in my own business, and I think it can be of great use to self-storage owners. The key is to make the best use of your website and get people to call or--better yet--visit your facility. Here are some secrets to get you started.

First Build a Site That Sells

In the storage industry, the ultimate goal is to get people to rent storage units, not to win awards with our websites. Many people don't understand the difference. When you go to the bank to make a deposit, awards are not accepted. The only thing the bank accepts is money. This being the case, you need to create a site that sells. Can it sell and be appealing? Perhaps. But if there is one characteristic that should take precedence, it is the selling power of the website, not its attractiveness.

How do we define success from a website-sales standpoint? From the number of renters generated as a result of visiting the site. Many visitors to your site will not rent from you online. I encourage you to give them the option to do so, but many will just come for a look. Most people who are interested will want to physically visit your facility before they will rent a unit.

What to Offer?

The goal of your site is to give people a seductive enough offer to make them want to visit or at least call your facility. What should that offer be? Before you make that decision, you must determine the value of each visitor to your facility--how much is he worth? Without that knowledge, it is impossible to make an intelligent decision on what to offer him.

Here's an easy way to figure out that value: Look at the total number of people who visited your facility last month and the net amount of dollars you generated from those visits. In this case, all we are looking at are new customers. Let's say you had 100 people who visited, which produced a net revenue of $30,000. Assuming the average person rents for seven months and the average rent is $100 a month, that means you net $300 out of $700 of gross receipts per person. (This assumes you close every person who visits, which isn't true; but let's leave it at that for purposes of example.) Now you know you can afford to "spend" up to $300 per visitor and not lose money. Of course, you want to get the visitor to come in for a lot less, but that's how you estimate his value.

The key to cost-effective marketing is to pursue those avenues that provide the greatest leverage. The Internet is one of those highly leveraged means. Let's say you were to offer people $50 just for dropping by your facility. You know the average visitor is worth $300, so if you have to give away $50 bills to get people to come by, do it-- provided, of course, you've used every other method of marketing that costs you less than $50 first.

The nice thing is you don't have to offer people $50. You can offer them something that has a very high perceived value but actual low cost. Make an exclusive website offer and label it an "Internet special." This is so you can track its effectiveness. One idea for this special is to use the coupon system, where you collect coupons from local merchants and offer them to your website visitors. The cost on something like this is neglible, but the perceived value is very high. One of my clients recently put a selection of coupons together worth more than $700 in perceived value. His total cost was less than $2 per bundle. You may also want to offer something tangible like a first-aid kit or some other novelty item. Whatever you use, make sure you can code it in such a way that you know the visitor response came from your online campaign.

Your website is there to get people to either pick up the phone and call or come in and visit your facility. It's that simple. If pretty pictures can support that effort, I'm all for using them. If they don't, keep them to a minimum. Make sure your Internet offer is front and center on your first page. Don't hide your sales pitch. Have a line that reads: "$50 in cash to everyone who takes a tour of our facility," or "Free first-aid kit (value of $38) to everyone who tours our facility."

Supporting Information

If you want your website to include supporting information regarding unit sizes, features and benefits, that's fine. Make your site simple and easy to understand and navigate. Test it on a sixth grader--if it's too complicated for him, you need to redesign it. A simple site that shows a picture of your facility, maps your location and describes features and benefits is enough.

I like the idea of having no more than five links to various pages off your home page. Also make sure people don't have to scroll far down on each page to get to the information. Place your Internet special at the very top of the first page, where most people put the facility name. Customers don't care about your name. Instead, use that space to make them an irresistible offer that will compel them to come in and visit. Your five simple links will then allow people to see:

  • A map showing them how to get to you;
  • Information on how to contact you;
  • Helpful storage tips;
  • Some photos to give them a sense of what the facility looks like, and how safe/clean it is;
  • A list of unit sizes and a description of how much each unit can hold (but no prices, please).

Driving Traffic to Your Site

After you've designed a site that sells, you must drive traffic to the site. A great site without traffic is worthless. There are a few key ways to get people to view your site. First, understand storage is generally a local thing. Unless you're a national company like Public Storage, promoting your site to a national audience doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Next, identify other local companies that get a lot of hits at their websites. See if there's any way to link to their sites. This would include local real-estate agents, moving companies, schools, churches, chambers of commerce, etc.--any business people might contact if they were moving into the area.

Getting high rankings in the various search engines will be a tremendous help in bringing traffic to your site. Search engines are key to making your site noticed, but getting listed on them may require some help. Two specialists in this field are Kimberly Judd ([email protected]) and Mike Buck ([email protected]). For what they deliver, their prices are extremely reasonable. Tell them I sent you and they'll give you a $50 discount.

Paid search engines are also an option, and there are a number of them out there. These are the places where you can pay for the opportunity to have people to click on your site. All you'll need to do is pick the keywords people might use to find you. For example, let's say you're in Orlando, Fla. You may want to buy the keywords "Orlando storage" and "Orlando self-storage." This will make it so your site comes up in a lead position any time someone types in these or any other keywords you select.

One of the largest paid search engines is www.goto.com, where a trial membership runs as low as $25. For a complete list of options, visit www.payperclicksearchengines.com. While you can pay a specialist to enroll you with these search tools, you can enroll yourself. Even I can do it, so you may want to give it a shot.

There are many other ways to drive traffic to your site, but these are good places to start. Remember: A simple, easy-to-use site that is accessible and makes prospects a great offer will raise your rentals.

Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant. He helps storage owners before and after they get into the business. He is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! and numerous other training items for self-storage operators. To get regular tips on self-storage, send him an e-mail at [email protected]; call 800.345.3325.