David vs Goliath: The challenges of marketing a stand alone brand against the big boys

Is marketing a stand-alone facility in the era of large players impossible and too costly?

It doesn’t have to be!

Since the internet era, marketing has become a lot more accessible to small players, and a lot easier to track.  Think back to the dark ages of Yellow Pages, when the shiny shoed, gold toothed salesman knocked on your door, knowing that you couldn’t afford NOT to buy his ¼ page advert for the amazing yellow book that cost more than you were paying your manager for the year.

Then you sat in the office and waited for the phone to ring, hoping desperately that you could start to fill those storage units that were hastily getting built at great expense to you.

The modern era has seen the advent of many great advertising tools such as websites and Google AdWords that level the playing field.

But what are the most important things in marketing a small business?

  1. A brand. A catchy bold name and an equally bold Logo and colour scheme.  This is important to get right early, as this will carry through your marketing for years to come.  Some people might only see your logo once a year, but when they need storage you want them to remember something about your brand that make them call you, before your competitor. It might be something as little as the shape and colour of your logo!
  1. A plan. Self storage advertising is a little challenging as generally people only seek out your product when they need it. If you offered a 4×3 unit at an unbeatable price for June, you wouldn’t find many customers store a house-load of furniture because they love a bargain!

Self storage marketing is all about being in the right place, when customer DO come looking.

That means,

YOU NEED A WEBSITE! And a good one! Not one built by a mate for a cheap price! it needs to reflect your logo, your colours, and most importantly your business. Fill it with content such as videos, pictures, helpful hints, payment features, booking links.

– You need to be on Google, as close to the top as you can for the suburbs where your customers are coming from. Set realistic goals such as top 3 for ‘storage Croydon’ and ‘Storage Ringwood’.  Don’t waste your money trying to get top 3 for ‘Self Storage’.

– It is possible to set up Google AdWords yourself, but Googles algorithms are a complex and ever changing beast and having a specialist set up your account can save you a fortune in the long term.  Use a SSAA service member as they know our industry inside out!

  1. Local focus. This is where you have the advantage over the big players. Get involved with the sporting clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, the church. Chat to the local school about whether you can let them park their minibus in your carpark in exchange for a sign on their fence?

If you live locally, signwriting your car means it gets seen by hundreds of locals every day. Park it on the main road, and walk the extra 200 metres to work. Park it at the Gym, the pool…..let it be your best conversion tool! 

  1. Be the innovator. New technologies are coming out all the time. New apps are getting popular all over the world before they come here. Be there first.

Be on Yelp, advertise on gumtree, sell boxes on eBay, and upload videos to YouTube, Instagram, and Vimeo.

On some of your advertising, try a slogan that is funny or thought provoking.  You will be surprised how many people walk in the door because they like your quirky ads!

Arm Wrestling

  1. Social media. Have a Facebook page for the business.  Fill it with customer stories, packing hints, removal recommendations, and if you have something funny to share, share it! Make a video about your small business as this will personalise the business to people who have never dealt with you. There is nothing better than a complete stranger walking into your facility and already knowing your managers name!
  1. Deliver The Product Well. Once the customer arrives on your doorstep, make storing their stuff a pleasure, walk them to the unit, show them where everything is, take trolleys to the removalist, offer a drink, have a chat.  This way, they tell their friends.  After all, word of mouth and repeat custom is the cheapest form of advertising you will ever do.  And for business customers, it’s the gift that keeps on giving as they tell their customers, suppliers and friends. This is the way that you can differentiate your facility from your competitor who has a staff member on minimum wage behind the counter, who has no interest in building the business. 

So in summary, you can play with the big boys in the big sandpit!

Why not get along to the next Self storage Association regional meeting or Conference and chat to the hundred other business owners just like you who will be happy to share what does and doesn’t work for them.  Change seats in each session so you are chatting to new people with new ideas and new perspectives.  If you haven’t been to a conference or meeting, you will be surprised at how open your competitors are about sharing their marketing hits and misses.

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