This is a guest post from John R. Wharton, Director of Marketing for American Classic Self Storage. He can be reached on Twitter @lookingforstorage .
As the Marketing Director for 11 self storage facilities in Virginia, attracting new business while understanding where our referrals originate is top of mind. There are two things I require each morning; a strong cup of Joe (with a shot of expresso) and a clear understanding of how customers find our product.
John(right) and Roger(Left) at an American Classic Self Storage facility in Portsmouth, VA.
If you have managed a business for any amount of time you understand the importance of tracking. We teach our team to ask renters how they found us. Our managers often do this as an afterthought, but it takes discipline to track data and time to analyze. This is where we can beat our competition.
Do your rentals come from “walk ins”, “drive-by”, “internet searches” “Google AdWords” “3rd party referral sites” “word of mouth” or other outside marketing efforts?
Perhaps your latest referral came from the maintenance man at the apartment complex next door? Is he your biggest advocate? I once traced back 4 referrals to, you guessed it, the maintenance man at the neighboring apartment complex.
During my 5 years as a resident manager, I developed a relationship with Ralph the maintenance man. I never asked him to send me business. But he knew who I was, and I visited the rental office where he worked 10 times a year. I did reward him for his efforts with the occasional gift card. Best part of the story is when I went to give him a gift card and say “Thank You.” He asked me what my prices were on a 5x10, because he just bought a little motorcycle. He then became a customer.
Sometimes we need to get out of the office and interact with the community. If customers are coming from your zip code, you need to create genuine strategic relationships. Some of us do this naturally, and others just need a little push. Below is an acronym I created about 8 years ago that originally appeared in Self-Storage Now!
Please share if it helps you or your staff focus your efforts.
Make some NOISE
at your facility with Grass Roots Marketing! To really make “noise” and attract attention from your community, adopt these practices:
N is for Neighbors.
Introduce yourself to your business neighbors. You might be missing out on sales opportunities by not introducing yourself to the owner of the nearby bakery. Who better to refer customers to you than the business next door? Perhaps they’ll have a storage need you can take care of in the future. You want to break into their circle of contacts, so you must become visible to them. Know your immediate surroundings. Walk into the offices next to you, introduce yourself, and ask if you can be of assistance.
O is for Outside.
Remember that marketing is an action verb. The age-old strategy of hitting the streets and going door to door works! Of course, you’ll hear “no” more often than “yes”, but that’s the way it works. The numbers work out eventually, and you never know whom you may meet.
I is for Inside.
Don’t forget to focus on the customers inside your facility. Who is a better resource for you than current customers who know and use your product? Your customer base is a true referral goldmine. Tap into it and set up a dynamic referral program. This, too, requires getting out of the office. Walk the property to get to know your customers, their needs, their businesses, and what is going on in your community.
S is for Sales.
Doing some reading on sales techniques will help you determine your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You should be consciously varying your sales approach for different groups, such as single mothers, commercial customers, or soldiers. Regardless of which approach you use, ask for the sale. “Do you want to pay for that with a credit card or cash?” is a simple question to ask. “Would you like to rent it today?” and “Can we move you in right away?” also work. Create a sense of urgency. At the least, get a phone number and follow up the next day.
E is for Educate.
Continue to educate yourself about your competition, your industry, and your surroundings. Information is powerful. Educate your customers about self-storage, what your competitors offer, and why they should choose your facility.