Marketing is the most important aspect of managing and owning a storage facility. It’s a misunderstood concept because, all too often, we see marketing as fliers, brochures, ads and gimmicks. The reality is marketing is everything we do to find, influence, motivate, service and retain customers.
With the current economic pressure on the marketplace, is it any wonder everyone is looking for creative and innovative marketing ideas? While growing up, my father would often say to me, "If it was any more obvious, it would jump up and bite you." The same adage holds true today. Most marketing ideas exist right under our noses.
There’s nothing secret about marketing―nothing sacred―and no one has a corner on brains when it comes to this skill. Ninety nine percent of the time, marketing any product or service simply involves discovering what customers want, offering more than they expect, and getting their attention.
Ring of Demand
The marketing of boat/RV storage has slightly different dynamics than the marketing of conventional self-storage space. For example, consultants will typically espouse that most self-storage customers live within a 5-mile radius of the subject property. While this analysis is accurate, boat/RV storage tends to attract customers from a much greater “ring of demand.”
Many renters will drive up to 15 miles for their storage needs. This is due primarily to the lack of boat and RV parking in most markets; therefore, the consumer must drive simply to find space. This information is useful because dollars spent on marketing for boat/RV storage can be justified in publications or mediums that reach a much greater viewing audience. Local cable-access commercials or newspaper advertising tends to produce better results for boat/RV renters.
These consumers also stay much longer than conventional storage renters. The average tenant stay for a boat/RV customer is well over 24 months. In other words, you can spend more to attract prospects because you have a much longer rental period to amortize your marketing costs. Moreover, outbound missionary marketing efforts, though expensive to implement, tend to yield a much higher return for these customers because of their tendency to stay longer.
Boat/RV customers tend to be influenced by amenities, security and conveniences, more so than conventional self-storage renters. This is due in large part to their commitment and desire to stay longer. In other words, once the boat/RV renter finds suitable storage space, he tends to stay, remain loyal and pay well.
This is especially true if the self-storage operator is selective in the types of vehicles allowed on the property. The typical renter will assess the quality and value of the other vehicles he sees on the site in determining his desire to rent. If there’s a visual, high-quality cadre of other vehicles, he will tend to favor a facility, even if the rents are higher than low-end properties, such as towing yards, marinas, etc.
Are there any secrets to marketing boat/RV storage? The answer is right under our nose. Boat and RV renters want secure, hassle-free storage, and they want a long-term relationship. Here are some creative ideas to better market your facility:
The wash. Purchase a portable power washer, stepladder, squeegee and tire-dressing solutions and wash every boat, car, motorhome or other vehicle every month. Boat and RV customers absolutely love this service and will rave to their friends about it.
The power washer simply removes surface dirt, dust and accumulated grime. After spraying the vehicle down, immediately squeegee the windows so they remain waterspot-free. Lastly, swipe a tire dressing, such as Armor All, on the tires and dry any other remaining water accumulations. Most maintenance personnel can wash 50 vehicles per day, depending on the size of the vehicle. During the important summer months, this service is invaluable to customers.
When marketing and advertising boat/RV storage, be sure to emphasize that this service is included free with each rental. This information should be on your Yellow Pages ad, website and any fliers.
More power. A few innovative boat/RV-storage marketers install electrical outlets to accommodate motorhomes. This allows them to offer trickle chargers free of charge or on a rental basis to motorhome renters. They love this service because, in many cases, especially during long periods of inactivity, the batteries run down and must be recharged. A facility in Gilroy, Calif., offers this feature and it rarely has a vacancy in its motorhome spaces.
Bigger space. Many of us fail to see that we all are in the boat/RV-storage business. Because of the current economic crisis, many facilities now have 10-by-25 and 10-by-30 storage spaces sitting empty. These idle units are producing no income as standard storage, but what about as covered boat/RV spaces? Some astute self-storage marketers are offering them as the ultimate in clean, safe and secure vehicle storage.
The spaces can be marketed this way by giving renters special pricing for a limited time, such as six months. New rental contracts can always be reviewed and renegotiated at the end of the term. This has strong appeal during the winter months when parking a boat or vehicle out of the elements is more desired by the consumer.
Get referrals. Self-storage facilities get phone calls every week inquiring about boat/RV parking. Approximately one in 10 self-storage facilities has purpose-built, boat and vehicle parking. The question is, are you cultivating a relationship with your competitors to send you these inquiries, and are you paying them for it?
If the answer is no, you’re overlooking a very important marketing tool: referrals. Self-storage facilities turn away these calls every day. The only way to get your competitors to keep sending you referrals is to actively cultivate these relationships.
Every time a competitor sends you a customer, you should reward, thank and encourage him to do it again! Be creative. Every new referral should become more lucrative. For example, if he sends one referral, send a $10 gift card or cash. On the second referral, send a $20 gift card or cash. On the third, send a gift certificate for dinner at Outback Steakhouse, etc. Referrals are valuable; don't waste them.
Marketing is hard work and must be coupled with innovation and sprinkled with creativity. Think outside the box and get busy renting storage spaces.
Tom Litton is the president of Lodi, Calif.-based Litton Property Management Inc., which specializes in self-storage and provides manager training, seminars, manuals, instructional guides, development, feasibility and management consulting. Litton is a well-known industry expert and professional seminar presenter. For more information, call 209.334.3800; visit www.littonmanagement.com.