By Rob Kaminski
From prehistoric cave paintings to the Las Vegas Strip, mankind has always used signs to identify, communicate, warn, direct and entice. In todays self-storage marketplace, the effective use of signage can spell the difference between success and failure. In this article, well explore the use and purpose of exterior and interior signs.
Bring in New Customers
Have you ever heard a new customer say, I must have passed your place a hundred times and never really noticed you? Most self-storage renters live within a few miles of their facility. Since its likely your new customers passed your site often, how could they not notice it? The explanation has more to do with them than you.
Modern consumers are exposed to everything from billboards to TV spots, junk mail to spam, radio commercials to those little stickers on bananas, let alone signs. Yankelovich, a market-research firm, estimates consumers see up to 5,000 messages daily. Fortunately, the human brain is wonderfully adaptable, so it disregards what doesnt interest it.
So if you dont need a new car, you barely notice auto commercials, dealers garish lots and their mail offers. By the same token, to passersby who dont need self-storage, your beautiful facility is so much unappreciated scenery. The problem is that when they finally do need to store stuff, they dont recall that youre so close, and you end up competing with all the other guys in directories or online. You should have an edge. Heres how to get one.
Enhance Your Visibility
Assuming your facility name is easy to read, large enough and perpendicular to the road so it can be seen as cars approach, you might add enhancements. Motion catches the eye. Consider using fluttering banners or air dancers, which are those inflatable figures that dance in the wind. If you need to meet zoning requirements, try adding American flags. One creative auto dealer with nearly two blocks of frontage had a parade of flags on 20-foot poles running the property's full length. It was eye-catching to say the leastand very patriotic.
Invite Customers With Non-Storage Offers
People whove actually been in your facility are more likely to recall you when they need storage, right? Then give them other reasons to stop in. You sell boxes. Do you rent trucks? Use attention-getting signage to let drivers know it. Think outside the box (or boxes), too. Some self-storage operators offer post-office boxes, propane refills, even notary services. Their non-storage traffic is so high that their recognition keeps occupancy always near max. And the profit on non-storage business adds to their bottom line.
If you have the parking-lot space, consider drawing attention with community events such as school or team car washes. Its great publicity and will heighten local awareness. And, trust me ... Cheerleaders get more attention than any sign. Once youve made friends in your community, more opportunities may arise. For instance, some schools sell Christmas wreathes as fundraisers.
Signs: Using Your Inside Voice
Effective interior signage can trigger sales, increase average sale dollars, train employees and improve customer relations. The cliché is signs are your silent salesmen. The reality is informative signs can keep your sales staff from being too silent.
For example, put signs on different sized boxes that explain their uses such as Small box: for books, dishes, tools and other heavy objects or Large box: for linens, pillows, clothing and other light, bulky items. Such information will not only help customers choose the boxes they need, theyll serve as selling tips to your staff when theyre helping customers.
Signs can trigger sales when they spotlight specials such as Buy by the bundle and save, or Save your receipt. You can return unused boxes. This will encourage extra box sales. Hint: Most customers wont bother to return one or two leftover boxes.
Sale signs can pump up sales sometimes without discounting. If youve discontinued merchandise, pile it in an inexpensive dump bin with a sale sign. Users have reported increased interest even when they dont mark prices down.
Signs can also help cross-selling to increase your average sale amount. If youve assembled boxes on display, add a Dont Forget sign with tape guns, bubble wrap, and/or markers atop them. Customers wont forget to buy those additional items or your helpfulness.
Signs can also help to sell box assortments. Most customers have no idea what kinds or quantities of boxes theyll need. Signs that suggest the proper assortment plus tape and cushioning material are needed for a kitchen, bedroom, apartment and so on. Adding prices for each gives the customer (and your manager) a starting point and makes your facility seem more knowledgeable.
Not All Signs Are Signs
Displays that demonstrate how products are used can be more effective than a sign explaining it. A garage sale end table or dresser showing how stretch wrap can hold drawers shut in transit is one example. To demonstrate a glass or dish-pack kit in use, cut a diagonal window on one side of a box and pack up bargain dishes or glassware. Then customers can see how the bubble bags and dividers inside protect their valuables.
Adding New Signage
Dont be afraid to experiment. Borrow concepts from other self-storage facilities and major retail outlets. Visit these places and make note of how other professionals use signs. Before you try to create and deploy all these signs on your own, however, consider consulting your retail-products supplier representatives. They should be eager to make suggestions and be able to set you on the right path. After all, theyve seen many examples of effective signage in facilities similar to yours all across the country. Theyll also have inexpensive signs and displays in stock. Good luck.
Rob Kaminski is vice president of Supply Side USA, a national distributor of packaging, moving and storage supplies for more than 50 years. He has helped self-storage owners improve their retail sales for more than 25 years. He has written numerous articles on the topic and speaks at industry tradeshows. For more information, call 800.305.6110; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.supplysideusa.com .