SiteLink Awarded ISS Best Management Software

For the fifth year in a row, SiteLink has been awarded Best of Business in the category of Best Management Software by Inside Self-Storage. SiteLink is especially honoured to receive this award because the on-line voting allows actual storage operators to select their favourite company as the best in business.

“Since 1996, the SiteLink team has focused on faithful service,” said Ross Lampe, SiteLink’s President. “We continue to be dedicated to advancing quality software and our #1 goal is to help our customers succeed in their business ventures. It is gratifying to receive this recognition of our hard work for a fifth year in a row. I want to thank all of our customers, technology partners and friends for being so supportive.”

SiteLink Smart Management Software operates more than 11,000 stores worldwide, including those of 70 of the top 100 operators. SiteLink integrates with services of more than thirty technology partners, including INSOMNIAC, mobile devices, websites, tenant insurance, accounting programs and call centers at no additional cost. “Our technology partners are the building blocks of our success,” said Markus Hecker, SiteLink’s COO. “We have worked hard with our friends to expand reliable, feature rich integrations to deliver more value to storage operators.”

SiteLink’s growth and popularity stems from integrated features like Total CRM, Total Accounting and SiteLink Merchant Services™ to deliver payment processing without a third-party provider. Other industry-first services include the TeleTracker phone integration and SiteLink eSign™ for electronic signature capture, online rentals and lease archival. Turning customer suggestions into powerful features will deliver the new Price Optimization and Dashboard in the September 2015 update.

SiteLink would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote in the 2015 election.

Learn more about SiteLink Smart Management Software on our website

Marketing Self Storage – Is the Australasian industry mature enough to compete on price alone?

With almost 40 years under its belt, the Australasian Self Storage market has developed well beyond its infancy. Standing like bookends to the Australasian market are the now extremely mature US market with 0.68m2 of self storage space per capita, and the new kid on the block, the Asian market with just markets as small as 0.009m2 per capita in Japan and a miniscule 0.0001 m2 in China. What does our level of market maturity mean for how we are selling self storage, or how we elect to position self storage in the consumer market, and are there any lessons to be learned from the more experienced American market, or fresh faced Asian markets? Further, are we ready for online pricing or is our product not well enough understood to be compared (and compete) on price alone.

I recently attended the SSA Asia conference in Tokyo where I had the opportunity to lead a panel on self storage law. Covering relatively new markets across Asia, the Asian Self Storage Association and its members are still working hard to define self storage both professionally and legally. The challenge in Asia is to alert consumers to the existence of the product, a vast majority of the market never having heard of self storage, and many more not really understanding how it works or how it might be of benefit to them.

In our market many will remember the iconic Millers television advertisements in the 1980s depicting the diverse uses for self storage. In the commercial, people were shown storing fully constructed and operational model train sets, a vintage car, and if memory serves me correctly, wine. Simple, clear and effective, the advertisement did a fantastic job of educating the Australasian public about what self storage was, and what it could do for them. It is this sort of basic marketing, educating consumers of the existence of the product, that the Asian market will need to focus on.

A similar ‘this is what our product is’ approach to marketing is evident in the also young French self storage industry. I have previously written about Annexx Self Storage and their external displays, posting on their buildings oversized photographic images of people using self storage. People carrying filing cabinets, lounges and so forth send a clear educative message about what self storage is.

Do we need to be engaged in this base level marketing of self storage? In our market, one in three people have used self storage, and a very low 20% of those surveyed in 2013 had little or no idea what self storage is.

With more than two thirds of the market having knowledge of self storage, albeit often limited, and with 0.15m2 self storage space per capita across Australasia self storage in our part of the world can no longer be classified diminutive or ‘largely unknown’.

At the other end of the spectrum is the extremely mature US market, with self storage supply per capita sitting at a huge 0.7m2. In that market, self storage is no longer a new, novel or even fringe purchase item. The proliferation of self storage default sale shows, like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have helped to create mainstream interest in self storage in that market.

I read with interest a recent article on loyalty programs and their potential applicability to the self storage market in the US. The article starts with the presumption that self storage is no longer a ‘one off’ or occasional purchase, but a product or service that is part of main stream consumer life. It’s not whether people can be convinced to use self storage, but rather how we can ensure they keep coming back to a certain brand or facility.

When a market focuses on loyalty schemes it is clear that the market is no longer in the educative phase. Customers know the product, customers are using the product, the challenge is to sway the consumer choice to favour your businesses over a competitors. I don’t believe this is where the Australasia market is at this time.

I would suggest that our market is no longer in the ‘what is self storage’ phase, but nor are we in a position to focus entirely on directing the demand of a customer base in an existing market. I believe the focus in our markets should now be on differentiating our products, an extension or more sophisticated version of the ‘what is elf storage’ approach. Where once our focus was on explaining what a space could be used for, now we need to focus on the many different types of self storage.

Although our market may understand self storage as a concept, as a whole the general public do not understand that all spaces and self storage facilities are not the same. They do not appreciate the difference between various products in the market. This means if a facility wants to compete for a customer’s business they may focus on easily understood features, like price – but there is only so long an industry can compete on price alone.

Competing on price alone has long been identified as a race to the bottom.

With respect, competing on price alone is the lazy, white sugar, white flour, drive thru fast food approach to selling. When we compete on price alone, we educate our customers to look no further than the price, and we diminish the value other elements our product has – like security, quality of construction of buildings and customer service.

And when we compete on price alone, and don’t market the other unique or particular benefits of our product, we miss the opportunity to educate our customers to be more savvy consumers.

Ever paid a low price for a crappy hotel room and then complained about the threadbare sheets? Probably not, because the hotel industry is mature enough that you understand the product and how the products within that market differentiate from one another.

As our industry matures, so perhaps should our sales pitch. Perhaps it is time to move away from marketing self storage on pricing or location principals alone and engage in a more educative approach with marketing. Using the hotel industry as an example again, if I am booking a hotel room of course price is relevant, however it is only one factor. I know a room at the Hilton is going to cost me more (and be a better product) than a room at an Ibis Budget. As an industry, aside from those engaged in brand marketing, I believe in self storage we don’t make enough of the points of difference when promoting our product, and I believe it is time we did.

I can almost hear as I type the outrage with which some members will respond to my next argument, but stay with me. It is for the reasons outlined above that many operators choose not to list their prices online. I know of one multi site operator who was displaying their prices online for some time, and they were disappointed with the decrease in phone enquiries. They removed their online pricing, their phone enquiries tripled and their occupancy soared. Why? Because staff were able to speak with callers and point out the benefits of those facilities – security, location, access, cleanliness, quality of the build and the consequential stable internal temperatures and humidity, and good customer service. When they were competing on price alone (as they were when they had online prices displayed) there was no focus on these other important differentiating aspects of the product.

Interesting, some other industries who do not openly display their prices or display limited price information online include luxury furniture manufacturers, certain bespoke electrical and plumbing products, timber flooring manufacturers, software providers and animal kennelling services. These industries know that their product can’t compete on price alone, because the value of their products can’t be articulated successfully from customer lead internet research. Instead, if Big Ass Fans (it’s a real company) are going to have any hope of convincing me to spend $1200 a fan that looks pretty much like a $80 fan from Bunnings, they are going to have to actually speak with me and tell me all about why their product is so fantastic that I’d be throwing money away if I didn’t buy their product.

Interestingly, many vendors who choose not to put their prices online or display limited prices have extremely informative websites. This means as I’m jumping around on the bespoke tap website, I am learning why the product is so much better than anything else on the market. By the time I call the company or send an email requesting a price, I’m so convinced I need the product that I pretty much don’t care what it costs.

As to the argument that tapware, furniture and other items for the home are an emotive purchase, I make the suggestion that nothing is more emotional than storing one’s personal possessions. Self storage is an emotional purchase as the items people are choosing to store are important enough that the Storer is electing to spend money on their protection, rather than throwing them away or sticking them in their mates garage.

Unlike the mature US market, I don’t believe our market is mature enough at this time, and our product not well enough understood in Australasia, for it to stand up to transparent online pricing such as exists in the hotel and airline industries. This is not a criticism of any member who does choose to put their prices on line, but it is a challenge to members to reflect on our next whole industry challenge – how do we educate the public about the differences in our product? How do we move into the next phase where there is room for both the Ibis Budgets and the Hiltons of self storage and ensure price is only one factor in the consumer decision choice process. Surely that approach, a move away from competing on price alone, would be good for everyone?

Facility of the Year 2014 Q & A

  1. What did it mean for Fort Knox Self Storage, Vermont to win the 2014 Facility of the Year Award?

The Fort Knox team was extremely excited and delighted to be awarded the 2014 Self Storage Association of Australasia winner for Storage Facility of the year award for our Vermont facility.

This is an awesome achievement and something we are very proud and humbled to be bestowed. Our team was thrilled to be recognised as the leaders within the self storage industry and it gives us a great sense of achievement to be recognised for all our hard work.

  1. What do you think sets the facility apart/what do you attribute to this success?

Well recognised by its grand stature our Vermont facility location is ideally positioned just 1.2 kilometres from Eastlink making it extremely accessible for all commuters. Our site is prominently positioned on a large intersection, and is well branded with striking signage that internally illuminates at night.

Apart from looking great I attribute our success to constantly measuring our performance and identifying new opportunities to grow and improve. Here at Fort Knox we have very stringent control measures ensuring all policies and procedures are followed. With monthly site audits, annual performance appraisals and continuous training workshops we are very proactive in improving performance standards. Anyone can build a fabulous facility but we recognise our team as our greatest asset and work alongside them ensure continual growth and development which intern drives success.

Fort Knox Vermont 2

  1. Do you feel it has benefitted the business and staff?

The award has certainly had a positive impact on our team. To be recognised in an environment with some tough competition is a huge honour and something that our team has embraced with great pride. For our business I feel it endorses customer trust in our brand. It enhances buyer confidence knowing that their goods will be looked after by an award winning facility. It give us a prestigious edge.

  1. Would you nominate for an award again?

Absolutely, we are currently awaiting for council approval for plans of another Fort Knox Self Storage facility that we hope to start building this year. We have great ambitions for our new site and will not hesitate in entering it for this award when it’s up and running.

  1. Would you recommend award nomination to other SSAA members?

Yes I would. I think it’s important as an industry to recognise excellence and to inspire others to push the boundaries and embrace innovation and development.

  1. Have there been any major changes at the facility since 2014?

Not really, although we have been working on a paperless move-in initiative.

Fort Knox Vermont 3

  1. What has been one of the hardest challenges for the facility?

The toughest challenge for all self storage businesses in Melbourne has been to increase occupancy in our economic climate.  And to advance processes to improve the client experience.

  1. Is there anything that you might have done differently in hindsight?

There are always areas you can improve on. For us the experience has been fabulous and we will continue to measure and develop our strategies to grow our business.

  1. What are the future plans for the business/what are you working towards next?

We want to grow our sites and the Fort Knox Brand and continue to push the boundaries in customer service excellence. We are currently working on a paperless move-in process that we have designed in-house and are excited to roll it out at all our facilities.

  1. What is your best tip for other facilities who are striving for success?

Don’t become complacent. Ensure you are also assessing your strengths and working towards new opportunities. Visit other facilities and engage with service providers. Don’t be afraid to ask about new innovations and be proactive in providing feedback. Work with the experts to develop your business. And most importantly grow your team with people who want to succeed as much as you do.


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