The self-storage industry in the United States has tripled in size since 2015; it now covers more than 68 million square feet with annual revenue of $38 billion.
And the reason is quite simple: whether you own a small facility or a major set-up with multiple large storage properties, everyone wants to rent out more units at the best rates, keeping the occupation rates high.
The good news is that vacancy rates for self-storage units have remained around 10% across the nation. This means that if you want to rent more units, it’s time to rev-up up your marketing efforts.
Marketing Spend is Increasing Across the Industry
A majority of self-storage users shop last minute and take quick decisions on whether a particular service is worth their time and money. As such, it is essential to take an all-inclusive approach to marketing and be present where they are shopping.
Your competitors are already doing all they can to enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns, as is evident by the increase in marketing budgets across the industry.
For instance, one of the UK’s biggest self-storage companies, Big Yellow reported a 15% increase in its budget over a year. Similarly, Public Storage, one of the largest self-storage operators in the U.S. also reported a 7.3% increase from 2017 to 2018.
The fact of the matter is that only 46% of the public have a good understanding of self-storage and how they can use it. This indicates that the traditional methods of marketing and advertising aren’t as effective as initially believed.
The Big Shift to Online Marketing
The 2018 Annual Report for Public Storage stated that nearly 73% of their move-ins in 2018 originated via the website.
The European Shurgard self-storage company reported that a large portion of their sales and marketing activities are now related to online customer interactions. They also had an 8.1% increase in their marketing expenses and contribute it to the rising online marketing costs.
Self-storage marketing has evolved significantly over the past decade or so; Yellow page advertising, direct mail, etc. are no longer as effective as they used to be as marketing becomes synonymous with building connections.
So much of what we do is online and influenced by others – reviews, star ratings, and images guide people when they are about to make a purchase. These are online tools, but they come from real people who are also your customers.
Fewer people are reading newspapers and magazines, having subscribed to their digital versions instead. Also, increased competition has given rise to hundreds of new advertising channels such as social media platforms.
In other words, just like Big Yellow you have to commit to taking your brand online, establish its presence, get more reviews and improve your rating. In fact, the storage company increased their marketing budget by £0.2 million for the year with a singular purpose, i.e. to convert more prospects from their digital channels.
Emerging Trends in Self-Storage Marketing
Renters don’t just want a warehouse; they require a tailored experience that lets them pick and choose the options they want, and book quickly.
Self-storage companies are on the lookout for new technologies and trends to cater to these needs as they are forced to evolve in order to compete in this digital era.
Consider this: while there is no shortage of business, how can you ensure that your storage units get filled up faster than your competitor’s? The answer is simple: understand the changing trends and emerging opportunities, and adapt accordingly.
In other words, your audience dictates when and where they want to be reached so make sure that your brand is present on all those venues.
Online Search as the First Stop
Gone are the days when a prospect would see a billboard, call you and you’d lead them down the sales funnel.
These days, 71% of buyers conduct a Google search when they decide they need to buy something. This is just the preliminary search; they’ll go back to the search engine to compare others in your industry.
As such, self-storage companies are being forced to take Search Engine Marketing (SEM) seriously, as they transition from a 100% offline trade to an online business.
The Advent of the App
Millennials are expected to spend $1.4 trillion by 2020; that’s why they are shaping the way marketing happens. This generation is used to apps for getting all kinds of services, so why should storage be an exception?
In other words, give them the ability to order your services via an app and they’ll choose you first.
The Adoption of Automation
There is no denying the fact that better technology leads to increased operational efficiency.
Many self-storage operators are already automating their units and rely on technology for everything from regulating indoor temperatures to keeping units locked and secure.
Then there is marketing automation – research shows that four out of five firms increased their leads by incorporating marketing automation software in their repertoire.
Make sure your online presence (website, social media pages etc.) can give your current and prospective tenants what they are looking for.
Start your digital marketing tactics with mobile optimization as this will help ensure that your website is always accessible by your prospects no matter what device or platform they have at their disposal. Now is the time to display your self-storage brand front and center for mobile customers with mobile only ads, mobile-friendly websites, and other strategies.
Next, know that inbound marketing is the key to success. Bigger brands across the industry are already using inbound technologies to boost the effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts, but it’s not too late for smaller businesses and new entrants in the industry.
In addition to Search Engine Optimization, and Pay-Per-Click marketing, invest in local marketing that proactively brings people through the door. Build relationships with local businesses and communities to ensure that your self-storage business is well respected in the community.
Overall, self-storage companies are increasingly investing their time and efforts into digital marketing and online channels – this is where your customers are and these are the channels where your brand needs to be.