It was a great ride while it lasted. In the early days of self-storage, you could pick up commercial property, convert it with cheap facilities and rent away. Competition was there, but there were still lots of opportunities to make money – renting a box full of air. Business was good.
Self Storage as an industry has matured dramatically in the last few years. Due to the economy, consumers are chasing the closest location at the cheapest possible price, making margins tight. Third generation storage is ramping up the competition — climate control is now expected, high security is a given, and aggressive players are adding extras like wine and fine art storage. And conglomerates gobble up any competitors they can’t beat.
So how do you win? As a Self Storage business you can either resolve to engage in the never ending war of “cheaper” or you can start to be different.
The first step is to know what your competition looks like.
Have a look at this.
These were 3 of the top 5 results when I was looking for Self Storage.
Sadly, this is what what the majority of the industry looks like. “Cookie cutter” websites, often with the same navigation and more or less the same content. The only difference? A logo and a color scheme. These are created by ‘specialist’ developers who churn out the same basic site for every customer. No wonder consumers think all self-storage options are the same.
Why should the consumer choose one over the other?
As a head of a self storage business you need to start thinking, and acting like a brand.
You have to help the self-storage shopper understand why you are the better choice.
The classic self-storage differentiators are the 3 Cs: Closer – Cheaper – Cleaner.
But with increasing competition you have to dig deeper. It starts by looking at these 4Cs: Your Customer, Your Company, Your Competition and Your Core Value.
Customer: Is it really ‘everyone’? Or do your clean, safe hallways and helpful staff attract women? Do your big drive-in spaces attract contractors? Or does your big yard attract off-season boaters? Maybe it’s not about the customer you’re getting now, but the customer you want to attract. You have to know that person and what motivates them. Then you have to communicate that.
Company: Do you have a long history in your location? Are you a trusted member of the community, or the biggest player on the block? Are you hard to find or easy to see from a drive-by?
Competition: You can’t say exactly what they say and expect consumers to tell you apart. To overcome your competition you’ll need to start using classic brand development and marketing strategies, which have been implemented and proven for decades, like a SWOT analysis and positioning exercise.
Core Value: What obsesses you? Helpful management? Clean facilities? Community involvement? Focus on one thing you would never compromise (something meaningful to your customer) and make sure it’s apparent in everything you do. Then stick to it and don’t change it –ever. Like BMW, the ultimate driving machine. Or like Volvo, the safe car. These are positioning concepts that have been consistently repeated over years and the manufacturers never failed on the core promise.
What’s the point of all this branding work? When you are able to define a unique value proposition for your customers and differentiate yourself from your competition you will experience reduced price sensitivity, more leads and higher conversion to occupancy.
As marketers with 30+ years combined experience in brand strategy, marketing communications and digital we do not claim that this is easy, fast or cheap – but we guarantee you that it pays off.
We did it for Hampshire Self Storage (our first self storage client). We started with a positioning exercise and helped the business to start differentiating itself from the rest of the crop. We methodically analyzed results and kept shifting the budget to the most successful lead sources. The results were visible within weeks. The leads the website generated almost doubled after launch, and while we were reducing cost-per-lead Hampshire saw business growing exponentially.
For a detailed case study click here.