As a self-storage manager, you wear many hats during the course of a work day. One of the most important tasks for which you are responsible is tracking your facility advertising. Although your owner or management company may have determined the advertising budget, a schedule for implementing programs and what specials to offer, it’s you who must make it all work.
For example, let’s say you manage a midsize facility in the middle of a large, metropolitan area. You have a lot of competition, including several public companies and many smaller stores.
Let’s assume there are numerous Yellow Pages directories in your community: perhaps a large citywide book, a regional one, several smaller books, and possibly specialized books such as a military directory. The cost of a large ad is probably way more than your owner is willing to spend, so he decides to place a small, in-column ad in the citywide book, a quarter-page ad in the regional book, and a half-page ad in the military book.
Now let’s assume you are diligent about asking customers where they heard about your facility. Perhaps you ask the question on your new-rental paperwork. A customer checks the “Yellow Pages” box on the list provided. That’s great, but at the end of the month when you review this data, you won’t know which of the three ads he saw. This is where ad tracking comes in.
Tracking Your Ad Dollars
Why is ad tracking so important? Let’s assume your in-column ad costs $3,000 per year, the quarter-page ad costs $2,500 per year, and the military-directory ad costs $1,800 per year. Combined, that’s a lot of money. In this example, you have no way of knowing which ad was the most effective, or where you should be putting your ad dollars.
However, by changing our tracking methods, you’ll be able to easily determine which ad is the most effective and cost-efficient. If you use a customer form that asks how people heard about you, list all your advertising outlets—Yellow Pages, regional or special directories, website directories, etc. Each should be clearly identified on the form so customers can identify exactly where they heard about your facility.
Using our example, let’s see how the ad results look when we track them. Let’s say you received 25 rentals from the in-column ad, six from the quarter-page ad, and 15 from the military-directory ad. Your average customer rents for nine months, and the average rental rate is $75 per month.
In this case, if you know two of the ads are successful in earning $5-plus back for each dollar spent, your owner will likely continue to purchase those ads. However, if the facility is only gaining $1.62 for each dollar spent, you might consider using those funds in a different place, or increasing the size of the ad (more cost) to see if a bigger creative will produce better results. Regardless, you now have the facts to determine how to allocate some or all your advertising funds.
You can do this exercise with all of your advertising methods—Yellow Pages, website, drive-bys, referrals, fliers, and promotional items such as key chains, magnets and pens. Tracking where customers come from will help you and your owner spend advertising dollars more wisely.
Because the Internet is so large and contains so many sources, it’s critical for you to track how your customers find you online. For example, if you’re spending money each month on a Google pay-per-click campaign, you really want to know who found you on Google vs. who found you on another search engine. With Internet advertising, just like Yellow Pages, you should know exactly what ads your facility has online so they can be tracked.
A simple way of tracking online advertising is to insert a “valued customer questionnaire” in every rental packet. Ask tenants to complete the questionnaire before they leave your office. Review the sheet while the customer is on site in case you want to ask any follow-up questions.
Managers and owners working as a team can produce positive results. You should know and understand your facility’s online and print advertising budget and how to track all incoming leads. Find out from where every rental comes, how far each customer lives from you, and what he liked best about your ad. Knowing this information will help you put your advertising dollars to work, ensuring higher rental percentages and the overall success of your facility.
Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo and other industry conferences, a contributing writer to Inside Self-Storage magazine and a founder of the Qualified Storage Manager education program. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected].