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One on OneWith Rick Crumley

July 1, 2000

7 Min Read
One on OneWith Rick Crumley

One on One

With Rick Crumley

Rick Crumleyhas spent the past 17 years working in the communications industry. He has spent fiveyears in the self-storage business, including a partnership with Eddie Bell runningLubbock, Texas-based Magnetic Marketing as well as two storage facilities in Texas.Crumley and Bell's newest venture, yourstoragenamehere.com, is a website-development andhosting service specializing in complete and interactive websites for self-storagefacilities. The company is an offshoot from Magnetic Marketing, best known for its RentReminder Magnets™ now used by thousands of storage facilities nationwide.

Inside Self-Storage is now pleased to present an interview with Rick Crumley...

What background do you have in the storage business?

I've been involved in all phases of the self-storage business, including design,construction and facility operation. In fact, the sample storage facility you see when youvisit yourstoragenamehere.com is our latest facility, the South Loop Storage Zone inLubbock, Texas. I've also attended many of the industry trade shows and seminars, both asa vendor and facility owner.

How is the Internet currently being utilized by the self-storage industry?

Most storage facilities now have listings on directory-type websites. These sites guidepotential renters to a list of available facilities, usually by searching for a city orzip code. These directories are very useful, and it is important to be listed with them.Other facilities have their own websites, which would include the larger operators andchains.

How do you see that changing over the next one to two years?

I still have contacts in the communications industry, and I'm hearing a lot ofinformation about phone and cable utilities devoting vast amounts of resources to whatthey call "the last mile," which means providing digital or high-speed access toindividual homes or offices. It's already available in the form of cable modems, and ISDNand DSL lines in a lot of places. Many companies are battling now to establish theirpresence on the Internet because they know consumers will use this resource. In the nextcouple of years, I think self-storage operators will also need to establish their ownpersonal presence on the Internet because customers will soon just expect them to bethere.

How did the idea for yourstorage namehere.com come about?

We've personally used the Internet for years to do research and conduct business, andwe understand what an important tool it can be if used properly. The idea for our servicecame about while developing websites for our own storage facilities. In doing research, wediscovered the majority of self-storage facilities, excluding the big chains andfranchises, do not have websites. Also, most of the operators that are on theInternet do not even own their domain name.

Why does a storage facility need a website?

Most potential customers want information before making a purchase. They look in theYellow Pages, usually call the storage facilities closest to them, then make a decision tocome out and rent based on what they've learned. This is not likely to change; however,they can only call during business hours. A storage facility with a good website is open24 hours a day. Your site can be the perfect sales pitch every time, and you can offertimely specials that change with your demand. No Yellow Pages ad can do that. We havedesigned storage websites structured to give customers--and potential customers--theinformation we know they want based on our own experience as facility operators.

What services does the company provide?

A good website requires a lot of information to be useful. We've set up a process tocollect that information, using simple step-by-step forms, tips and instructions. Withthis information, we design and publish a facility's site on the Internet. We also reservethe facility's domain name (or Internet address) so, just like a phone number, theybasically own it. And, finally, we host and handle updates to each site, which will beavailable on our servers for all to view 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days ayear.

How are your web-design services different from others?

There's an abundance of excellent web-design companies to choose from out there.However, most don't know anything about your business, so you're paying for them to learn.They also design for a wide variety of companies, so they start with a blank page whendesigning a site. On the other hand, we know the storage business. We know whatinformation a site should include and have designed templates to speed up theimplementation of the site. You still have control over the colors and styles that giveyour site personality, but why re-invent the wheel? By doing this and utilizingtechnology, we can give our customers effective, well-designed Web sites for a lot lessthan they would expect to pay elsewhere.

Why not just use one of the existing storage directories that are available forfree? Why invest in a full-fledged website?

I think directories are great resources for potential tenants, but most directories aredesigned to help locate you from a distance. We know the average storage customer liveswithin a three- to five-mile radius of our facility and will never use the Internet tolook us up. They will, however, visit a website address they've seen in the Yellow Pagesor heard about in an ad, especially if it's afterhours and they can't call around. And toget the most effective use out of a website, you need to include all the kinds ofinformation a potential tenant is wanting when they look you up. For example, our websitesprovide an online tour. This is accomplished with pictures and short descriptions showingoff your facility step by step, just as you would if they had come out to your office. Weknow from experience that the chances of closing the rental are much greater if thecustomer visits the property, but if they can't, why not give them the next best thing?

Another very important reason to have your own website is to control your own domainname. Abcstorage.com is an example of a domain name. When you register a domain, you ownit much like a telephone number. And just as dialing a telephone number is the way you canbe reached by phone, typing in your domain name on the Internet is the way someone reachesyour website. So you can see that it's very important to control your own Internetaddress, especially if you plan on putting it in printed advertising.

How is a storage website promoted once it's on the Internet?

We submit each site to all the major search engines on the Internet. We suggestregistering a site with all the storage-related directories available. Most are free, andyou can include a link to your site. However, the most important thing for a facility todo is list its Internet address in all of its advertising, such as Yellow Pages, businesscards, fliers, signs, radio and anything else you can think of.

How does a website differ from regular advertising like the Yellow Pages?

A website is interactive and provides space to give customers useful information that aYellow Pages ad just doesn't have. The tour I talked about before is one example of afeature you can offer. Another good example is showing unit sizes. You can list sizes in aYellow Pages ad, but that doesn't mean a whole lot to some customers. On your website, youcan show them you have 5-by-10s and that the units are about the same size as a largewalk-in closet. They understand--it's something they can visualize. Finally, it's veryeasy to change a website. If your office hours change--no problem, just update your site.If you have a particular unit size that's not renting, offer a special discounted rate tosee if that helps. Need to run a special in April for university student summer storage?Just add a coupon to the site. The possibilities are endless.

Are storage websites expensive to implement and maintain?

We've set up a system to design a site and register its domain name for a low one-timesetup fee. We then provide hosting and make any monthly updates requested for about thecost of what most facilities charge for one of their smaller rental units. We also offeraffordable rate structures for facilities with multiple locations.

What does the future look like for self-storage and Internet marketing?

The future looks very bright for the Internet and storage facilities that learn toutilize it properly. I think in the very competitive storage market of today and tomorrow,it's what you do better than the facility around the corner that will justify higherrental rates and help you maintain high occupancies. And I think a well- organized websiteproviding useful information to your customers is one small, inexpensive part of doing itbetter.

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