Not every storage owner can afford to have a marketing professional on staff or hire the top marketing firm in town, especially if you own just one or a few small to medium sized storage properties. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a digital marketing strategy. If you want to compete with the big guys down the street and be found by prospective tenants, there are some tactics you must begin doing if you haven’t already.
Most importantly, you need to get online. Now. Everyone has a smart phone these days, and that is how they are finding (or not finding) your business. There are more places online that you can be than I can even name. However, there are a few important ones that every business needs to be using to be successful in our digital world.
A website is certainly best, but it will not bring you results if you don’t do it right. If you cannot afford to pay five figures to have a website firm design and code one for you (if you can, what are you waiting for?), there are some free or inexpensive tools out there that can get you started. You can check with your website provider like GoDaddy, Yahoo Small Business or one of the other top hosting companies to see what they have available. Most of the reputable ones have free website building tools built into their platform that are available when you purchase your domain and hosting through them. These tools let you basically drag and drop photos and graphics then type in your content very easily into templated pages. Their support techs are usually very good as well and can walk you through questions you have about the process. These tools also have some built-in SEO (search engine optimization) and are Google-ready from day one. Not the ideal way to get a website live, but a great option if you don’t have one and don’t have the funds to have one professionally designed for you.
You can also check with your local college or design school for seniors and recent graduates. Most web designers do freelance work on the side and you can likely hire them for a fraction of the cost of a firm. Keep in mind you are getting someone fresh from training but with limited experience. You can get a very nice website going this route, but you may not be able to get all the bells and whistles because they haven’t had much time with advanced coding in the real world just yet.
Another route is to look into purchasing a WordPress template from an online marketplace. A common one is using Envato Market and ThemeForest to find a pre-built template that you can purchase for around $100. You can look through thousands of templates, search by type and business and even play around with a live demo to see how the site will function. Sounds pretty cool, right? But there are some limitations to this method. First, you need to understand how to use them. That means at least knowing the basics of design and coding software to some degree. You will be logging in to the backend of the website and then replacing their template images with your own, editing headers and text, creating menus and navigation, and adding page links to name a few. You can even add many plugins to these templates such as photo sliders, contact forms and SEO standards. This is not for the technically illiterate individual. You need to be quite savvy with technology and design. If you have a friend, relative or know a younger person who understands that world, you may want to have them take on this project with you. It can be done if you know the right people.
There are a few vital elements to make your website user friendly and give your visitors what they want, whichever method you use to get your business online.
- You simply must have great photos that showcase your storage property, inside and out. Make sure the photos are taken when it is bright and sunny, and everything is green and alive. Don’t take photos in the fall or winter when everything is dead or dormant, or too early in the spring before flowers have bloomed and the leaves on the trees have returned.
- Next you need to have your contact information big, bold and easy to find on every page. That means your phone number and/or email address at the top of every page. Also have a contact page that shows a map of your location(s), your address, phone number, email and even property manager name(s) and hours of operation. You can also link to your social media pages here if you have them (and you should, we will review that next).
- You also need information on your current rental rates. That means you need to keep this updated. Don’t set it up and then never change it. If your rates change every week or every day, that should be reflected on your website. Companies like Sitelink and ClickandStor offer platforms that you can embed in your website to offer your visitors the option to reserve and even rent a storage unit online. These will update constantly on their own as you make changes in your management software, keeping your rates current online.
- Educate your customers. If you have time, use a blog on your website. Post an article at least once a month, but as often as once a week, about tips and tricks on using storage. Giving your visitors something valuable for free is a great way to build a relationship and have them coming back to you for more.
You also want to make sure you have a responsive website, meaning that it looks great on a desktop computer, tablet and mobile phone. Google will actually give you bad marks if your website is not usable on mobile. You also need to make sure it is ADA compliant, so that the people with disabilities can navigate your site. And, you now need to make sure it is a secure site and purchase a SSL certificate through your hosting provider. Google has started adding a warning message that states the site may not be secure if you do not have one. Getting a website live takes some work, and some budget dollars for sure. But, it is a necessity that you cannot ignore.
Social Media Pages.
There are a lot of social media platforms out there these days. You are probably on several of them yourself. And if you have kids, you know of many more that they use or at least talk about. We don’t need to go crazy here, but there are a few important ones that you need to be using to reach your customers.
- Facebook is one of the top ones. It’s super easy to use and has 214 million users in the United States alone with 1.8 billion (that’s right, billion) active monthly users. You just need a personal account set up in order to create a business page. It takes about 20 minutes to do and gives you access to that enormous user base immediately.
- Google Maps is also very important. Google boasts over 2 billion monthly active devices, and each of those devices uses Google Maps. (Apple devices default to their Maps app, which uses Yelp maps.) Google Plus is a failed social media platform in my opinion, but it is still a good idea to have a page for your business via Google My Business if you are willing to set that up. Google remains the top search platform and they will favor your business if you use their other platforms. Make sure you claim your Google Maps listing and ensure the data is accurate and your business is plotted correctly on the map (sometimes they are wrong). The public storage companies are on there and their info is updated. If they are showing up on Google Maps, you better be as well.
- Twitter is ok, but not essential for self storage owners. Twitter has morphed into a platform to follow people and mostly celebrities from when it began. There are 69 million active users in the United States, so businesses should have a page as well if just to take advantage of that reach. But if you don’t, it will not hurt your other marketing efforts.
- LinkedIn is something to consider. This platform is designed for networking of business professionals, 467 million of them in the U.S. alone. You can easily reach other business owners by having a page. A lot of small businesses need extra storage space. If they can find you on LinkedIn and you are actively posting on your page, they will check you out and consider using your services. Studies have been done that show owners and CEOs on LinkedIn actively look for other business to work with who are using this platform. And, business professionals know lots of other business professionals, and they can like and share your posts which spreads your reach even further to that market segment.
For all your social media pages, make sure you add the vital info like your phone number, address, website and operating hours. You should post to your business pages at least once a month, but once a week is best. You can post your move in specials, a link to your latest blog, spotlight your employees and so on. Social media is designed for less formal interactions, but you still want to be professional. Make sure to post a photo with your text to make it more visible, as these platforms favor posts with photos and video over ones with just text. And, if your followers comment or post on your page or leave you a review, make sure you reply within a few days. Interaction is key to making social media a successful marketing tactic. Don’t just post and move on. Check your pages at least weekly and stay involved.
If you collect the email addresses of your tenants, you should be sending them marketing emails. If you are not collecting email addresses, you need to start. You can use a platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact to set up simple emails very easily, then send to your customer database. These are free accounts until you get to a certain number of email addresses, which is a pretty high number like 2,000, and send a certain number of emails a month, which is somewhere around 10,000. Most small storage companies will easily be in the free account for a long time.
I recommend sending an email at least once per quarter, but once a month if you can. You can share the latest retail coupon you are offering, link to your blogs, provide tips for the season and more. You can even share your holiday hours, updates on property improvements and anything else that may affect how your storage customers are accessing your property. If you provide quality information that is useful, your readers will look forward to your emails and actually read them.
There are many other digital marketing tactics you can explore if you have the budget and time to do so. Some examples are Google PPC (pay per click) ads, Facebook promoted posts and paid ads on other social media platforms, paid SEO for your website through a marketing firm, hire a blog writer, create a Yelp page or even pay for Yelp ads, among others. The possibilities are almost endless.
Let’s recap. You need a user-friendly website that works on all devices and provides your customers with great content. Your contact information needs to be clear and bold and on every page. And your content needs to remain updated at all times. Getting on social media, at least some of the main platforms, is important. You should be posting at least once a month but up to once per week on all of your pages. Interact with your followers and respond within a few days when they post a comment or review. Send emails to your customer database once per month to give them important updates and share valuable information such as blogs and coupons.
It can be overwhelming to create a digital marketing strategy if you aren’t already using any digital platforms for your business. But, with a little planning and a small budget at least to start, you can make an impact. Most important thing is to get a presence online now so your customers and potential customers can find you quickly and easily. Don’t lose out on those leads to the competition, because most likely they are already online and doing many of these tactics, and could be “stealing” your rentals.
If you are wandering how you can get started and what the best tactics are for your self storage business, you can contact us for more information. With our marketing department’s more than 20 years of experience, we can set you in the right direction.