Have things changed in today's economy? Some say yes, some say no. I, for one, believe that marketing is one of the most critical aspects that will determine your success or failure in this business, or any business, no matter what the economic climate may be. Furthermore, it never ceases to amaze me that when occupancy is low, and traffic is down, some companies decide to actually decrease their marketing efforts; the very thing that brings customers in the door! With that in mind, I encourage you, no matter what your occupancy, or the current economic climate looks like, to set aside a budget of roughly 6-8% of your gross projected annual rental revenue for marketing and advertising to build your marketing plan around.
Creating the Marketing Plan
“Marketing plan, what marketing plan”? All too often, this is the response I get when I begin working with our clients to improve their marketing efforts. It has been said that those who fail to plan, better plan to fail. I strongly suggest that you begin this entire process by laying out the foundation for a 12 month marketing plan. Don't worry, it's not too late to begin on February 1 if you are a procrastinator. Also, your plan doesn't have to include every little detail, it just needs to be written down so that the organization has a plan to follow each month to collectively row in the same direction.
The plan should also be tied to your budget, representing roughly 6-8% of your gross annual rental income. It then needs to be tracked monthly for effectiveness and altered accordingly. I also recommend that you adopt a consistent theme such as being the market leader, or lowest cost provider (if you choose). There should also be specific goals, such as 92% occupancy, for example, and specific milestones once you raise occupancy by 3-5% increments. Tracking can be easily accomplished with your Property Management Software. I would also recommend involving your managers in the creative process and reward them when the mutual goals are achieved. In addition, don't forget to account for the seasonality of the business when forecasting occupancy on a month by month basis.
Then, it's time to put the creative wheels in motion and begin looking at ways to keep the clients we have, and to constantly, and consistently, bring in more. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet or magic wand. We employ the shotgun approach, utilizing approximately 60 different strategies throughout the course of the year across all our facilities to keep the plan fresh and to hopefully, eventually, hit the hot button for those clients we were unable to convert the previous month. Simply matching what the “Big Guys” are doing in your market isn't going to cut it.
You need to be more nimble, creative, and smarter than they are. We're utilizing many new tools of the marketing trade such as videos on our websites and changing the content monthly to match the current promotion. We're placing ads on Craigslist, and cross promoting our ancillary profit centers to drive more door swings. And we are constantly seeking out more and new avenues for reaching the vast pool of clients who are unaware of us, and educating them on the benefits of utilizing Self Storage for their business. And then we're testing, testing, and testing to measure the success of each program in every market we serve to see what converts the best, and whether that program should be used again, or not.
Let's not forget folks, we're not in the Storage Business. Each individual Self Storage Operator or Manager is in the MARKETING BUSINESS for our own company or the company we work for. Our every action throughout the day should revolve around the marketing of our facility and how to pack it full of clients – and Keep it that way! Cheers to a Successful 2010!