If you’re a self-storage manager, you probably have the same goals as other working humans: to be successful and make good money! Sadly, those goals can feel elusive in a highly competitive industry like ours.
Following are six things you can do to grab the positive attention of your owner, prove your worth and, ultimately, put more money in your pocket. They involve driving more business, which leads to greater revenue, and therefore, higher facility value. Done well, each has the potential to earn you appreciation in the form of higher wages and salaries, bonuses and other perks, and promotion opportunities.
1. Stay on Top of Facility Maintenance
As a self-storage manager, you should know every nook and cranny of your facility. Keeping your property in great shape will help your owner avoid major maintenance-related issues and expenses. It’ll also improve curb appeal, which will allow you to charge a premium for your product. Here are just a few tasks on which to focus:
- Regularly check unit-door hasps and springs to ensure good working order.
- Keep gutters clear of debris.
- Fix any leaks ASAP.
- When conducting facility walk-throughs, spray any weeds and look for damage to the fence line and buildings.
- Always carry a small broom and dustpan to collect trash.
- Sweep out vacant units immediately.
- Keep your golf cart clean and charged.
2. Keep Your Website Current
The vast majority of self-storage prospects begin their search online. To complete locally, your website must be mobile-friendly and in tip-top shape. Make sure it delivers current, valuable information about your property, including up-to-date, professional photos.
Pricing is also key. Today’s customers want to see rates as part of their shopping research, including discounts or specials. If you can, display reduced prices in a bolder typeface to attract the eye. Put your best deals on top, with wording like “today’s special” or “choice units.”
In addition, make sure your website allows customers to reserve or rent units online. This simplifies the process and facilitates contactless transactions, which have become the norm during the coronavirus pandemic.
Finally, don’t forget to ask customers for online reviews and testimonials and post them on your website. Prospects pay attention to these. In the end, it’s all about drawing traffic to your website and generating more leads. More leads mean more leases, which result in increased facility revenue.
3. Be Market Savvy
Know your self-storage market, including who your competitors are and what they offer and charge. Understanding demand and adjusting your rental rates accordingly can help increase revenue, so check the street rates in your market daily.
When conducting your research, go the extra mile and physically shop your competitors. Some managers are uneasy about this, but with a little prep work, you can convert most “enemy managers” into “friendly confidantes” by using simple gestures of goodwill.
For example, consider taking a pizza to a competing manager at lunchtime. You’ll be surprised at how much knowledge you can gain just by being a good neighbor and having a friendly chat. Not only will you learn your similarities and differences, which can be leveraged to better sell your units, you’ll be able to recommend a competitor if a customer isn’t a good fit for your property. This reflects well on you with the renter, who’s apt to recommend you to others because of your willingness to help, and with the other storage operator, who’ll appreciate the extra business.
4. Always Be Marketing
Your approach to service and marketing may have changed due to the pandemic (for example, no more handshakes!), but you can still connect with customers. In fact, there are many creative ways to interact and promote your self-storage facility in these times. When someone needs storage in your area, you want him to think of your brand first, regardless of how he first heard about you. Here are just a few ideas:
- Send a handwritten note to each tenant, on company-branded letterhead or a notecard, to thank him for his business. Include a request for an online review, and don’t forget to include a couple of referral cards.
- Consider starting a “Business of the Month” program in which you highlight one small local company in your email blasts and social media posts.
- Host a weekly or monthly Zoom event with a featured speaker who can teach people something fun or valuable, like cooking, tax preparation, crafts, etc. It may take time, but eventually tenants and community members will begin to look for your events and invite others to join as well.
- Find ways to give back to your community throughout the year with highly visible, positive activities like school fundraisers and donation drives to collect food, coats, blankets and toys.
- Host a virtual scavenger hunt or costume contest on your social media channels.
5. Focus on Ancillary Sales
Unit rentals are just one component of self-storage sales. You must also sell any ancillary products and services your facility offers, such as moving and packing supplies, tenant insurance, truck rentals, etc.
Retail sales are common in this industry, so let’s start there. Box sales typically bring a 55 percent markup, so this is a natural upsell to add to your facility’s bottom line. When assisting customers, take a consultative approach. Help them visualize their stuff packed correctly into the proper size boxes and protected with bubble wrap and other materials. Consider offering bundled discounts and even a box-buyback program in which you repurchase new, unused boxes customers don’t use. As an added touch in this contact-free age, offer free, curbside pickup for retail orders or even drop-off delivery of orders within a 10-mile radius for purchases above a certain dollar amount.
Tenant insurance is another popular self-storage offering. Take a few minutes to explain your program and its benefits to each customer. Explain how it differs from his homeowner’s or renter’s policy, which may not offer sufficient coverage. Selling this product is a win-win because it helps protects your facility against tenant-loss claims, and the business can earn a commission on each policy as income.
6. Regularly Raise Rates
Don’t be afraid to raise your rental rates as the market requires, even on existing tenants. Most renters won’t be compelled to move out if you up their rate a little each year. Monitoring your tenant rates against current street rates will also reveal income gaps at your property. By closing those holes, you’ll increase revenue. Even a simple 3 percent hike can increase facility value by a large margin over the course of a year.
Carefully consider scheduled increases for every eligible tenant, and leave yourself room to negotiate. Not all renters will object, but for those that do, it’s helpful to be able to strike a bargain, especially if they’re long-term customers in good standing. For example, maybe cut the increase in half for the current cycle, and then see where it falls the next time they’re eligible for a bump. You want to keep your gold-star tenants happy!
Your Future Is in Your Hands
Perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer is this: Be mindful that you’re the frontline representative and steward of a multi-million-dollar business! Everything you do and say should reflect that prestige and position. Always act professionally to maintain your facility’s dignity and brand integrity. Doing this and following the above steps can help you create opportunity. By generating more business and revenue, you’ll become more valuable to your owner and ultimately earn more income.
Sarah Beth Johnson is client-development specialist and Stacie Maxwell is vice president of marketing and training for Universal Storage Group (USG), which offers third-party management, comprehensive training programs, and start-up or conversion services for the self-storage industry. The company owns six facilities and manages more than 70 for other owners.
Sarah is the frontline representative who introduces USG to facility owners and investors. She started her storage career in 2012 as a facility manager. Stacie oversees the branding, design, marketing-program planning and implementation for the company, including all offline and online marketing for the portfolio as well as marketing and internal/public communications for USG corporate. She has more than 19 years of industry experience.