Self Storage Marketing

Date Added: September 13, 2007 03:29:19 PM
Category: Self Storage Advertising and Marketing

When the self storage industry was in its infancy, marketing was not a big concern. Since there were very few facilities in existence, an owner merely needed to provide a fairly safe and clean environment for the small number of people looking to store their belongings. Over the years the number of available units has grown, as well as the number of people needing storage. Today, there are nearly 50,000 self storage facilities in the U.S. alone. Therefore, the savvy customers have developed much higher expectations, making marketing in the self storage industry a vital tool.

Self storage marketing is the promotion of your self storage business. Self storage marketing is usually always centered on the customer. A recent industry study showed that the reasons people need self storage are that, 44% are moving, 34% don’t have enough space and 15% are people with business needs. Self storage businesses determine what the customers needs are, and implements them into their self storage properties.

A well-known analyst and marketer has divided marketing into four general sets of activities that are common in any business. These activities have become universally recognized as the “Four P’s”, and are often referred to as the Marketing Mix.

• Product: The product aspects of self storage marketing deal with the specifications of the actual features, benefits or services that the self storage properties offer, and how it relates to the self storage renter needs and wants.

• Pricing: This refers to the process of setting a price for the unit, including discounts.

• Promotion: This includes advertising, sales promotion, publicity, and personal selling, and refers to the various methods of promoting the product, brand, or self storage company.

• Placement or Place: refers to how the property gets recognized by the customer.

As well as the standard Four P’s (Product, Pricing, Promotion, and Placement), marketing for a service industry such as self storage calls upon an extra three activities, totaling seven and known collectively as the Extended Marketing Mix.  These are:

• People: Any person coming into contact with customers can have an impact on customer service. They must be appropriately trained in the ways of self storage, well motivated and the right type of person.

• Process: This is the process involved in providing a service and the behavior of people, which can be crucial to customer satisfaction and service.

• Physical evidence: Unlike a product, a service cannot be experienced before it is delivered, which makes it intangible. This means that potential self storage customers could perceive greater risk when deciding whether to rent. To reduce the feeling of buyers’ remorse, and improving the chance for a rental or reservation, it is often vital to offer potential customers the chance to see what a service would be like. (Site visit)

For a self storage marketing plan to be successful, the mix of the four "P’s" must reflect the wants and desires of the self storage consumers in the target market. Trying to convince a market segment to rent something they don't want is extremely expensive and seldom successful. Marketers depend on marketing research, both formal and informal, to determine what consumers want and what they are willing to pay for it. Marketers hope that this process will give them a sustainable competitive advantage. Marketing management is the practical application of this process. The offer is also an important addition to the 4P's theory. As in any business, the idea of marketing is to promote the business – both as a whole and on an individual level.

In the past, self storage as a whole has sometimes had a bad reputation. Oftentimes when people think of the industry they think of the horror stories that are shown on the evening news – the meth lab found in a unit, a soldier’s items being auctioned by mistake, the hurricane damaged storage property, the car used in a homicide being stored in a space. Unfortunately for the storage industry the every day good things that occur are just too mundane to draw attention. This is one reason why positive marketing on a national level is extremely important. Self storage organizations, private, statewide and nationwide have all become very important in the positive marketing for all self storage owners and managers. Many of the larger private self storage organizations put on large conventions to increase the awareness of the self storage industry. This allows owners and managers to meet, exchange ideas and learn some new techniques. Positive feedback nationally will always help locations on the local level.  

Most self storage companies today have a customer focus. This implies that the company focuses its activities and products on consumer demands. Generally there are three ways of doing this: 


• The customer-driven approach consumer wants are the drivers of all strategic marketing decisions. Every aspect of a market offering, including the nature of the product itself, is driven by the needs of potential consumers. The starting point is always the consumer


• The sense of identifying market changes—being one step ahead of the competition will enable you self storage business to succeed.  


• The product innovation approach—using that crystal ball to be able to take into account customer needs vs. what will be profitable for your business. 

In the field of business, self storage marketing is a broad term used to describe marketing in the self storage industry. Don’t confuse self storage marketing with self storage advertising. Self storage advertising is only one function of self storage marketing. Besides self storage advertising, there are other functions in self storage marketing like, sales of self storage, communications, pricing, market research and more.

The market will bear what research has been done to meet the customer needs. Figuring out which site should have climate controlled units, RV parking, drive up or stacked units will show in your occupancy rate. Being able to provide the customer and the local market with what will sell is the goal.

Direct self storage marketing is a function and type of marketing. Two main definitional characteristics distinguish direct self storage marketing from other types of self storage marketing or self storage advertising. The first is that it attempts to send its messages directly to self storage consumers without the use of intervening media. This involves unsolicited commercial communication with consumers or self storage businesses. The second characteristic is that it is focused on driving purchases that can be attributed to a specific “call to action.” This aspect of direct self storage marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable results regardless of medium.

“Bulk mail” is the most common form of direct self storage marketing. Bulk mail is sent at a reduced rate specified by the post office. Different areas or lists are used to decide where the mail will be sent. Telemarketing is the second most common form of direct self storage marketing. Marketers use random or selected telephone numbers to try and reach potential self storage customers. The third type of direct self storage marketing is, email marketing (including spam). This type of self storage marketing will soon pass telemarketing as the second most common form. While annoying, many people are drawn into the spam email by offering a promise, a discounted item or other “too good to be true” item. It’s very inexpensive and only takes a few people to fall for it to make a profit. 

Prospecting customers through direct marketing and advertising can prove to be very beneficial to new self storage companies that might have a new site open. It has been shown to be highly effective to make yourself known in an affirmative way to the surrounding area and neighborhoods. By presenting yourself and your company in a positive way, the good deed will come back to you in rentals. You want to make sure that the area that your property is in knows that you are proud to be a part of the neighborhood.

Direct self storage marketers use other media such as;


• Package inserts- commonly referred to as “stuffing”, package inserts can be as diverse as cereal boxes to cigarettes to diapers to instant mashed potatoes. Recipes, mail away promotional items and offers are some of the things that might go in a package insert.


• Magazines- glossy ads that catch the readers eye—There is a magazine out there for any type of hobby, hairstyle, fitness, glamour, gossip, travel, sports, boats, cars, families, babies, women, men, weddings, teen life, gay life, muscles, cooking, lifestyles, storage, consumer goods, decorating, seasons, clothing, shoes, lingerie, non profit organizations, gentleman’s, dogs, cats, pets and more.


• Door hangers- relatively inexpensive and used to target specific areas of your town or city. Whether you have a large student, elderly, retired, middle class, young families, etc. the inserts can be tuned to fit the type of market you are trying to reach.  A door hanger can be one piece of paper or many sheets put into a plastic bag hung on the door.


• Newspaper- a common way to market your business with an ad in the local newspaper. From small town newspaper to big city printing, newspaper reach different markets and can be delivered to your door or picked up on the corner. It’s easily accessible, is light and travels nicely.


• Television – most U.S. homes contain at least on television and with television come, commercials. Commercials are a way to get inside peoples homes where they might be more receptive to new ideas without being threatened.


• Radio- a mainstay in many homes and has been around form decades. To pay for radio programming, commercials are also used. Radio has recently had to reinvent itself to keep up with technology. New radio programming over the Internet is commercial “free” but there is still advertising around.


• Email- can include spam.  If you have an Internet connection you probably are familiar with spam. It’s basically junk mail that is sent over the Internet trying to get you to buy designer watches, Canadian prescription drugs, sex enhancers, herbal supplements, and more gimmicks.


• Internet banner ads- you’ve seen them flashing at the top of almost every web page. Shoot the duck; swat the fly, guess who this is, and punch the bad guy are just some of the bigger ads you will see. When you click on the ad it takes you to that companies website and they show you want they want you to see. 


• Pay-per-click ads- these are like the Internet banner ads but a third party is involved. You might have a personal website and by adding a pay-per-click ad you could be paid by that advertiser.


• Billboards- these large and sometimes controversial signs line some of America’s highways. They provide larger than life ads meant to catch your moving eye.


• Transit ads- larger cities benefit from this type of advertising on buses, in buses, in cabs, on cabs, in trains, in planes. People using these types of public transportation are inundated with ads. Even pedestrians walking on the sidewalk see the ads pass by on the streets. 

If the ad in the medium asks the potential self storage customer to take a specific action like; visit a self storage website, call a toll free phone number, make a reservation or rental, complete a survey, or visit a PURL—then the effort is considered to be direct self storage marketing.

Marketing specific types of self storage services helps self storage businesses fill a niche. Some self storage companies cater to construction and remodeling companies by providing on site or mobile storage , while some businesses focus on document shredding and document storage for legal firms, doctors offices or public offices. Self storage sites have even begun having driveway sales and involving the renters and the people at that property. One self storage site lets a customer that has a unit outside of the regular gated area sell fresh produce. The manager like the increase in traffic to his site and the tenant appreciates the simplicity of the unit. The self storage marketing business is growing because people have new and innovative ideas to keep the industry thriving.

One of the best ways to keep your self storage business thriving is marketing your security features. The self storage site across the street from you rents units about the same price, but what can you do to differentiate your self storage business from them? One way is to out secure them. By providing more than excellent security and marketing your self storage site as secure, you are setting the bar for the other guy. Letting people know that their belongings are safe with your storage company, will put their minds at ease. Some of the basic types of security are; gates, fences and lights are standard security items. Door alarms, surveillance cameras, biometric thumbprint or hand scanners and on site managers would be considered the next level of providing a secure self storage property. Make sure to highlight your advanced security to every customer on the phone, yellow page ad, flyer and walk in customer. Vary your sales techniques so that you are approaching different customer groups with slightly different sales scripts. You should always create a sense of urgency. You might have 50, 5x5 units vacant, but that is a limited number; you don’t have 51 units to rent. Creating a sense of urgency gets the customer to want to rent or reserve a unit now. You don’t want the customer to be without a storage unit, do you? Saying something like, “because I have a limited number of units, the best way I can help you is to reserve that unit for you, which credit card would you like to use?” Make sure to get the customers name and phone number so you can follow up with them later. Jot down a few notes about your phone conversation or office visit. Don’t forget to follow up. If a lead just sits on your desk, it won’t do you any good. When following up, don’t be discouraged if they have rented someplace else. If you provided the best customer service and your property is safe and clean chances are they might rent from you in the future or refer someone to your place. A friendly face goes a long way in the self storage business

Whatever self storage marketing plan you choose, make sure to follow it to the T. It may take a few tries to find a proper self storage marketing plan that will fit your business and in the end show up looking great on paper. Remember, self storage marketing is the big plan with the way you market your business being the smaller (but important) parts. Devise a marketing plan that is flexible enough for you to make small adjustments so that it continues to work for you on an everyday basis. Self storage marketing is a business must. And, it must be used all the time for your successful self storage business to be profitable.  


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