Technology is not always a time saver

There is so much new technology coming out all the time it’s hard to keep up. Just when you were getting your head around email, now there is Facebook messaging, Twitter, Pinterest and who knows what will come up next…

Rather than become overwhelmed by it all, maybe consider the old adage it is better to do what you do well, than do more poorly. So rather than try to hit every new medium, pick some you are familiar with or you think will be effective for your business and execute them well. Social media is a classic example and if you want to be active in this field then it takes time and resources. You need to be posting new content and feeds all the time, which means thinking about creative things to be saying, working out where your client base ‘hangs out’ and how to access them, and how to convert your ‘friends’ into customers.

Hootsuite
While it can certainly provide great results it does take work. If you are going to venture into social media then consider using software like hoot suite. This allows you to post messages to all your social media streams (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more) through a single post. What’s even better is that you can write these posts and then set them to be released in the future through the scheduling feature. This means you can write a whole stream of posts and set them up to go out during the week automatically.

Just be careful you don’t get caught out by current events that occur after you have scheduled a message. Hootsuite is free for the basic version which will be suitable for most users and only a few dollars a month for the advance version which allows you more social network feeds and advanced features. Remember though, you still have to write the content and posit it, so if you don’t have the time or ability to do this then stay out of social networks as there is nothing worse than having a stale account on social networking where people can see that you are not using it.

Email
There has been a lot said recently about the death of email, yet there are still around 15.5 billion emails sent around the world each day. Imagine if we sent that many letters by traditional mail! OK, so only about 14% of these emails are considered important by end users, but that’s still over 2 billion emails a day and there are only 7 billion people. Obviously people from all walks of life are still using email, in fact despite the increase in social media, email is still the communication method that reaches more people.

The real change is that many people now consider email slow, relying on their instant Facebook and Twitter notifications instead. People may only clear their emails a few times a day, even if they are mobile, while they will jump straight onto their social media feeds. So don’t write off communication with potential and exiting clients using email. Play to its strengths; you can usually provide more detail in an email, you can be creative with the layout, but be careful with attachments as more and more email clients are dropping them off as potential virus threats, and most mobile devices won’t download them unless requested by the user.

Make sure you view your emails on a web mail client like Gmail or Hotmail as a test run, particularly if you are using fancy styles and colours as often messages that look fine in outlook are unreadable on web mail, and a lot more people view their emails through the web rather than paying for software like outlook.

Google Ad-words
Google ad-words can be viewed as the next yellow pages. Everyone says you have to be in it, and once you get in, the costs seem to keep escalating without any real benefit in returns. The cost of some self storage based keywords have more than tripled over the last 18 months, and that’s not because they are providing better results, just because more self storage businesses are bidding for them.

Just like with the old yellow pages, there reaches a point where it is simply not economically viable to spend that much money advertising in a single stream. Particularly when most key word advertising is only targeting people who have chosen to use self storage and you are not actually attracting new customers to the industry and expanding your marketing. If you are going to get into Google ad-words, then make sure you spend the time on it.

Keep monitoring the effectiveness and price of the words you are bidding on, look for words that target your local market and those that other operators are not bidding on, consider misspelt words and other anomalies that can sometimes provide great results. Remember if an ad-word is a quarter of the price then it only needs to have a quarter of the results to be equivalent to an expensive term. Unlike the yellow pages ad-words is not a ‘set and forget’ thing that you do once a year. You need to be constantly monitoring and tweaking it to make it run effectively.

There is no doubt that to be a successful self storage business in today’s technological world you need to have a strong web presence. However your don’t necessarily need to be strong in every single stream. You can concentrate on one or two, do them well and reap the rewards. There are some very successful businesses with basically no web presence as such, they do all their work in social media and vice versa.

You need to decide what is best for your business, who is going to look after it and how much resources you are willing to allocate to it. Remembering that people’s time is a resource that costs you money and often these mediums can be very time-consuming methods of marketing your business.

Make sure whatever you do, you do it well and you will reap the rewards.

What is more important? Attitude or qualifications?

It’s no secret that hiring staff is an expensive business. The loss of productivity with the departure of a highly capable staff member, the recruitment campaign – from placing the advertisement, screening applications, interviewing, reference checking, contract formulation and getting the new employee ‘up to speed’ is both time-consuming and costly. None of these costs begin to consider the possibility that the new hire isn’t the right fit for the company’s culture and the risk that the whole process may have to be repeated.

Mark Murphy, the author of the best-selling book, ‘Hiring for Attitude’ makes reference to research that demonstrates that of those people who fail in roles within the first eighteen months of employment, 89% of the reason for the failure is due to attitudinal deficiencies and only 11% is due to a lack of required skills to do the job. Ultimately, he demonstrates that attitude and not skill is the top predictor of success or failure for an individual in a new role.

Consider the case of a potential front line employee for your storage facility. Do you hire the individual with ten years of similar work experience and suitable qualifications, but a seemingly chequered history in terms of stability (a number of different companies over that time)? Or do you opt for an individual with limited relevant work experience, who seems to be brimming with motivation to learn, can demonstrate the ability to be innovative, collaborate with team mates, handle feedback and coaching and, instinctively appears to be a good fit for the company’s culture?

Why focus on Attitude?
1. What you know changes, who you are doesn’t.

Hiring people with the right experience but the wrong attitude and expecting that they will successfully integrate into the company’s culture is foolhardy. Individuals can always be taught more skills, but it’s almost impossible to change innate traits they demonstrate (i.e. being overly competitive or not being a team player in the workplace).

2. You can’t find what you’re not looking for.
Analyse the personal characteristics of some of the top performers in your current workforce. If they are thriving (increased telephone query conversions to sales etc), ask yourself why and look to hire new individuals who exhibit similar traits.

3. The best way to evaluate potential staff is to watch them work.
Steer away from traditional interviewing techniques that reaffirm what you already know from the individual’s resume (their previous work history). Simulate ‘real’ job tasks and give the individual a set time to perform the task and then evaluate their success and potential suitability for your job vacancy.

4. You can’t hire those who don’t apply.
This concept is a again related to that of analysing the traits of your top performers. The mindset they possess has enabled them to succeed in your business. Don’t be shy to use this to your advantage. Seek referrals from current staff as to their friends or acquaintances who may be looking for work. Your top performers are likely to interact socially with like-minded individuals.

How to recruit for attitude?
The question then remains, how do you alter your current recruiting processes to ensure that you focus on ‘hiring for attitude’ and ‘training for skill’? How indeed do you avoid falling into the trap of hiring for experience vs. hiring for the right mindset? Again a check list provides a useful reference guide.

1. Advertise for specific qualities you are looking for in the job.
Try to gauge an individual’s passion for the role they have applied for. What is it about the self storage industry and the desire to provide exceptional customer service to storers that excites them? Perhaps ask them to describe what such exceptional customer service might look like.

2. Engage behavioural interviewing techniques.
Ask questions that demand the interviewee detail examples of where they have provided exceptional customer service; times they have bent rules or flexed company policies to exceed customer expectations. Challenge them with questions that perhaps catch them off guard and illustrate attitudinal traits. For example: Describe a time when your sense of humour helped you get out of a sticky situation, or what is your personal motto?

3. Induct, train and performance manage.
Give your new employee the best chance of success in their new role. Provide them a solid induction, reinforcing the importance of converting initial sales enquiries and the revenue benefit of selling customers packaging materials and boxes. Train them how to use customer management systems like Sitelink, Storman and Winsen. Don’t keep them guessing as to how they are performing; give regular feedback and address any issues as soon as you become aware of them.

4. Consider ‘personality fit’ not just ‘experience fit’.
Technical competence for a job doesn’t guarantee longevity of employment for the benefit of both the individual and your company. What are the chances that the person you are considering employing will simply come to work to collect a pay check? Will they ‘fit’ the culture of your business?

Previous work experience has traditionally been given a disproportionate weighting in job interviews by employers, whereas a person’s attitude has been considered secondary. Convention suggests that this is important. Whilst not to be discounted, it’s useful to consider the employment mantra of some of the world’s most enduring companies. For instance Southwest Airlines has been operating on highly competitive American flight paths for the past 42 years. The airline has forged an enviable reputation as a carrier that continually differentiates on customer service as many of their competitors falter. Their employment mantra can be summarised as follows:
– Character before credentials
– Attitude over aptitude
– Hire people based on who they are first and what they know second

History suggests this mantra has service Southwest Airlines well; perhaps it could od the same for your self storage business? Food for thought at least!

Amended from ‘Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill’, Peter Carbonara

5 Lessons in Overcoming Crisis

I have been asked to write this to tell you of the lessons learnt and my experiences during the Christchurch earthquakes.The most significant thing for me was the effect these events had on my staff, family and customers. You can never understand this without living through it personally but these tips may help you prepare in some small way.

1. Be safe
The most important thing to remember in a natural disaster is to stay safe. This includes caring for those around you. Think very carefully before entering building and do not allow your staff to put themselves at risk either. Evaluate carefully before taking any action that may put anyone around you in danger.

2. Stay calm
Easer said than done I know, but as a manager or owner of a self storage facility you must remember that your staff and customers look to you for guidance in a time of crisis. Take a methodical approach to every action and simply keep moving (with caution) onto the next task at hand.

3. Be Compassionate
Those around you will perhaps react very differently to yourself and will have their own concerns about their families and possessions. I know myself that it was almost 5 hours before I could get to my son’s school which was in a very badly affected area. The pure joy of seeing him safe was overwhelming and his needs to be with me was the same. Remember, your staff will have these same concerns for their loved ones also.

4. Be realistic
It makes no sense to complain about the lack of phone coverage etc during a natural disaster. Essential services will be either stretched or damaged, so getting upset about it will only put you in an emotional state that is of no use to anyone. Do the best you can with what you have around you. It is your only sensible option and those around you will thank you for it. As a leader you need to try not to get caught up in things you have no control over.

5. Be prepared
We all moan and complain about checking our first aid kits etc, but please take it from me that these things are essential to getting you through a disaster. I suggest that you should have the following things at your facility, just in case:
– Stocked first aid kit
– At least 5 litres of drinking water
– Hard hats for you and your staff
– High visibility vests for you and your staff
– Torches with spare batteries
– Some simple packet food items like muesli bars, biscuits or similar
– A cheap gas cooker so that you can boil water if necessary

None of the above items are expensive and trust me when I say that you will need them. We had an elderly diabetic lady stranded at our facility on the day of our February 11th earthquake who desperately required food and water. Fortunately we were able to assist her because we had the necessary items on hand and readily available.

Talk to your staff about the possibility of a natural disaster event and even talk through their individual responsibilities. You never know when you may need it! I was very lucky to have great staff around me who, as luck would have it, had done personal training in this area. I would suggest that you will not all be that luck and at some point, may need to rely on your preparation and reserves.

On a brighter note, Christchurch is slowly getting itself together again. I firmly believe that in the years to come this city will be ‘the place to be’ in terms of a modern and well designed green city. Peoples houses are slowly being repaired now and the infrastructure is slowly being put to rights. It is a massive job though, for a city so small and of course there are a lot of (and in some cases, valid) disgruntled residents. It is fair to say that planning a route around this city is a hazard in itself, as the amount of closed roads and detours changes almost daily.

It is important to remember that ‘it is what it is’, and by being a little prepared and using some common sense you can get through.

Geoff Adams
Manager Storage King, Ferry Road – Christchurch

In Review – Inside Self Storage World Expo

The aura of Las Vegas proved irresistible for self storage facility operators and suppliers to industry who gathered at the Paris Hotel recently for the Inside Self Storage World Expo, run from March 31st to April 2nd. A contingent of Australian self storage operators and SSAA Service Members made the lengthy trip across the Pacific Ocean to attend the Expo and hear first-hand about the latest industry developments in America.

Opening Keynote – Systematic and Dynamic Self Storage Pricing
A training seminar conducted by Sitelink on the Sunday afternoon prior to the Expo’s commencement was followed by an informative opening session on the power of systematic and dynamic pricing to increase revenues and profits of self storage facilities. The session was presented by Dr Warren Lieberman, President of Veritec Solutions, a consulting and software development firm focused on helping companies optimise their pricing and revenue management capabilities.

Dr Lieberman spoke of the fact that when using price to stimulate demand, it’s important not to send incongruent messages about unit pricing to current and potential customers. By understanding current demand for different unit sizes and availability of same, an operator is less likely (for example) to offer a 50% discount on a unit size in scarce supply. He demonstrated that modest price increases can lead to significantly larger positive impacts on facility profits.

Dr Lieberman also challenged facility operators to monitor price sensitivity and length of stay of their customers, reiterating that many may not necessarily terminate storage agreements when prices are increased. In doing so, he reinforced the benefit for a facility to use descriptive and predictive analytics tools that consider likely changes in demand and occupancy as pricing structures are altered. Ultimately, Dr Lieberman endorsed open communication between a corporate head office and local storage facilities regarding price setting, appreciating that managers operating these stores will likely have an intimate knowledge of local trends and competitor activity.

Expense Management and Cost Reduction – Collin Duncan, Extra Space Storage
Collin Duncan, Senior Director of Operations, Extra Space Storage, presented a thought-provoking session on how self storage facilities can minimise variable costs. He spoke of how the group’s advertising budget had been cut by 23% in a move from traditional Yellow Pages advertising to predominantly internet based marketing initiatives. Mr Duncan also described how, through analysing time and motion studies of facility staff, Extra Space were able to determine that 28% of their time was spent engaged in direct customer facing activities (e.g. renting units and foreclosure activities).

He demonstrated how a conscious move to paperless, electronic processes has afforded a significant reduction in paper and toner costs, from $75 per site, per month in 2010 to $21 in 2013, as documents are instead scanned into self storage software programs. From an energy use perspective Mr Duncan described $50 savings, per light fitting, per year in a move from 150 watt lights to 35 watt LED lights, that come complete with a five-year warranty and have three times the lamp life of traditional non-LED fittings. He detailed a delamping project where the number of lights (and resultant costs) were reduced, given replacement LED lamps had greater lumens (brightness). Mr Duncan also advocated taking advantage of available rebates on alternative energy sources like solar power.

Managing Self Storage Collections – Tried and Tested Techniques
Brad North is an internationally renowned self storage facility owner, operator, consultant and trainer, having been in the industry since 1989. He presented an informative session on developing a collection system that works, including collection tips and techniques and how to create urgency among delinquent customers to take action. Unsurprisingly, he reinforced the importance of documenting all interactions with customers during this process.

Tried and tested techniques he described included:
– Calling delinquent customers from a blocked number to generate a better answer response rate
– Courtesy reminder phone calls – tomorrow is the day your late fee is imposed. Pay now to avoid it.
– Waiving a late fee in the event a customer agrees to set up an automatic monthly payment
– Cross reference different communication methods – e.g. call to ensure customers received an e-mail
– Promote a ‘No late fee program’ for customers who sign up to a credit card auto-payment scheme
– Creating urgency when making an appointment for a customer to pay an outstanding bill. “Would 11am or 4pm work better for you?”
– Immediate follow-up if a customer does not keep their payment appointment to maintain accountability!
– Demonstrate compassion – “I’m on your side. I’m trying to assist you to avoid a late fee!” “I don’t want an outstanding payment to impact your credit rating.”
– Finding days and times that ensure more likely direct contact e.g. making calls on Saturday AM
– Show appreciation and thank people who make payments
– Keep abreast of when credit card expiries occur and advise customers, in advance, of forthcoming dates
– Know customer pay days and contact them in the days prior to ensure they can make the payment
– Ensure customer contact information is up to date – address, phone number and e-mail address

Training Self Storage Staff to Create a High Performance Team
Frank Certo, Director of Property Management with Guardian Storage in the US presented a comprehensive appraisal of steps to undertake in developing committed, capable employees. From the outset he spoke of the distinction between making the ‘right hire’ vs. the ‘easy hire’ and the need to hire a different skill set based on the profile of the facility i.e. in a mature facility hiring a manager well versed in relationship and revenue management and in a new store one who is a sales orientated ‘go-getter!’

He reinforced the importance of providing the employee with a comprehensive overview of the self storage market and competitive environment in which the facility operates; its ownership and management structure and an explanation of self storage specific jargon like ‘gross potential rent’ and ‘economic occupancy.’ Mr Certo also endorsed providing three weeks of initial structured training, where each week the training concentrates on six specific aspects of the self storage business and is signed off, as completed. Between 45-90 days of employment he suggested it was timely to fill in any apparent training gaps for the new employee and reassess progress to ensure both parties (employer and employee) were well suited to one another. He also emphasised the Facility Manager should act in a manner consistent with how the owner of the business would think. Finally, Mr Certo encouraged the setting of KPIs that not only consider metrics specific to the business, but also comparisons against ‘like’ businesses in the industry. This included a motivational tool for site managers that ranks them based on such key metrics and is attached to a bonus structure that is challenging, attainable and consistent.

A summary of other informative sessions delivered at the Inside Self Storage Expo will be presented in part 2. These include: “Planning your Self Storage Exit Strategy,” “Self Storage Facility Maintenance – from A to Z,” “Owner/Operator Executive Workshop,” and “Self Storage Management Workshop.”

dhollis
Dougal Hollis SSAA CEO

How to avoid crisis management

It always surprises me how many small to medium-sized businesses seem to survive on ‘crisis management’. In other words, they keep doing whatever it is they are doing until there is a crisis and then they react. Consequently, they are so busy putting out busy fires, they never get time to see the big picture and plan where they are going.

I was reminded of this phenomenon recently when I was asked to facilitate at a strategic planning session for a company I work with. Their industry has been undergoing massive change and rapid advances in technology, with the rapid growth of the internet and e-commerce affecting them in particular. This has led to a shake-out of some smaller players and a number of take-overs and mergers. Consequently, the organisation was approaching something of a crisis. The company was under threat on a number of fronts however this destabilising chaos had also presented them with an array of interesting opportunities.

Some critical decisions had to be made. They elected to call a strategy planning meeting to decide on the best course of action to fend off the impending threats, explore the opportunities and create a plan to take the company forward and into the future.

The job at hand
The meeting was attended by the directors of the company and a small group of carefully selected key staff members.

My job as meeting facilitator was to guide them through the various options and ensure they stayed on track, reaching a definite conclusion. I was also charged with making sure that the dominant personalities didn’t dominate too much and everybody got their say, in a free and open exchange of ideas. This is one of the major advantages of hiring an outsider to facilitate such meetings). An interesting point was the company was trading along quite well. Profits were up and shareholders dividends had increased regularly every year for the last few years. So on the surface all appeared to be going along nicely. Oddly enough, this actually presented another potential stumbling block.

If it ain’t broke – why fix it?
In other words, the company could simply keep on doing what it was doing and hope that the impending problems either went away or sorted themselves out. However, despite the temptation to maintain the status quo, the CEO was astute enough to realise that if they did nothing, they would eventually come unstuck. His attitude was more along the lines of: ‘If it ain’t broke – let’s break it before someone else does!’

Why am I telling you all this? I thought it might be timely to look at your business strategy plan for the next year and beyond. ‘Hold on a minute,’ I hear you say. ‘Strategic planning is only for big corporations, isn’t it?’.

Definitely not! Strategic planning is just as important for a small to medium-sized business as it is for BHP Billiton. When I talk about strategic planning, I’m not just talking about your formal business plan, the one you take to the bank to borrow money with.

What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning determines where an organisation is going over a specific period of time and how it’s going to get there. Furthermore, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. The methodology will vary depending upon your needs however there are some simple steps you will find useful to make sure you cover off all the areas:

1. Identify your purpose
What is your core business? (You may even find it useful to define a statement of purpose).

2. Examine your SWOT analysis
What are your major Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

List each of them in detail. For instance, your strengths might be things like, only storage facility in the area, 24 hour access, video surveillance etc. Weaknesses could be hard to park, difficult to find, lack of signage etc. Opportunities could be the ability to expand or discover untapped new markets. Threats could be more competition coming into your marketplace, an ageing population or a change in demographics in your area etc.

Try to devise a strategy to overcome your weaknesses and ward off any threats, capitalise on your strengths and maximise your opportunities.

3. Define your goals and objectives
What does your organisation want to achieve? (Develop your mission or vision statement). Do you want to become the biggest self storage supplier in the southern hemisphere or simply the best in your area? It helps enormously to have a clear picture of what you want to achieve. As the cat said to Alice in Wonderland – if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there!

4. Develop your strategy plan
List the strategies you need to implement to reach your mission. These might be things like more local marketing, improving signage, expanding your facility, training staff better etc.

5. Identify the specific actions needed
Identify the specific steps you need to take in order to implement each strategy.

6. Monitor and update the plan
Put a system in place to frequently measure and monitor your success (or lack of it).

How far ahead should you plan?
Five year plans used to be a popular time frame but in today’s volatile marketplace, I wouldn’t recommend planning much more than three years ahead. Too many things can change. It’s better to plan for a shorter period and revisit your plan regularly. One final word of warning – set your goals in concrete and your plans in sand. In other words, be prepared to redefine, lower or raise the performance objectives as you go along, and make adjustments where necessary, but don’t loss sight of your goals.

Peter Thorpe
Peter Thorpe

Urbis Storage Index – Best Quarter Since December 2009!

The Urbis Storage Index monitors the performance of the Self Storage industry across three main categories; monthly revenue generated, storage area occupied in each facility, and overall average storage fee rates achieved in each facility.

A snapshot on the December 2013 results highlights the following results:
– The December 2013 quarter of the Urbis Storage Index marked the best quarter recorded since December 2009.

– All seven (7) Zones experienced increases in Area Occupied and Monthly Revenue over the December 2013 quarter. Six (6) of the seven (7) Zones (excluding Melbourne Inner Zone) experienced increases in the average achieved Storage Fee Rate.

– Notwithstanding a marginal decline in the average achieved Storage Fee Rate, the Melbourne Inner Zone was one (1) of two (2) Zones (the other being the Brisbane Outer Zone) to experience positive net absorption in Area Occupied in excess of 3% over the December 2013 quarter.

– The Sydney and Brisbane self storage markets have experienced increases in all three (3) indices over the twelve month period to December 2013.The combination of increases in average achieved Storage Fee Rate and Area Occupied have resulted in Monthly Revenue increases over 4% over the twelve month period to December 2013 for these markets.

The following graph shows the weighted average achieved Storage Fee Rate per square metre, average unit size and Area Occupied for the seven (7) Zones, as well as the East Coast of Australia and combined Australia and New Zealand averages as at 31 December 2013.
Urbis – Graph

If you would like to join the Urbis Storage Index email list, please email Timothy Creighton – tcreighton@urbis.com.au

It’s all about conversion

Many facility operators are focused on obtaining a high-ranking on the front page of Google and pay a pretty penny for the privilege when undertaking a Google Ad-words campaign.

Logically, this explains why one competitor’s facility ranks higher than that of another, even if the web user has searched for a self storage facility in a location that is closer to that of a facility who may have bid less for search result listings under particular ad-words. Darren Vowles, Internet Marketing Guru with Reach Local suggests, that depending on how a facility targets their advertising and who they direct it toward, the owner may actually achieve a greater return on investment (ROI) and lower click-through costs from being positioned on one of Google’s 3500 partner websites (e.g. YouTube, Gumtree and Smartcompany). Darren offers a word of caution prior to deciding where to place an advertisement, when first advocating the need for a facility operator to understand what their customers like, what their buying habits are and, importantly, where they live.

Every time a potential self storage customer searches for a facility on Google, Ad-words runs an auction to determine the ads that show on the search results page and their rank on that page. To be ‘in the game’ and place ads in the auction, a facility operator fist has to decide what type of customer action they would like to pay for.

Bidding options include:
1. The number of times the facility advertisement is displayed, (cost per 1000 impressions). This is a good strategy for facility operators intent on increasing widespread awareness of their brand.

2. The number of times the advertisement receives a ‘click’ (cost per click).
Cost per click (CPC) is often a good initial on-line marketing strategy. Costs accrue based on the number of clicks the facility gets on their ads, allowing for easier management of advertising costs. Many operators will be acutely aware that as words such as ‘self storage’ are bid on, then clicked on, the price goes up. By way of example, ‘asbestos’ is now $42 per click; ‘real estate’ is about the same. Importantly, some software providers have platforms that can work out which keywords get an enquiry or a phone call from a customer, rather than just a click and no follow-up purchase intent. This software can determine, for example, whether paying ‘top dollar’ for terms such as ‘self storage’ actually provide a sufficient conversion rate to warrant a sometimes substantial investment. Inquiry calls to self storage facilities by potential customers can also be recorded and replayed for training purposes.

3. Each time users take a specific action on the facility’s website after clicking on the ad
This is known as cost-per acquisition and is useful for self storage facility operators who are interested in tracking conversions like purchases, phone calls or sign ups. Maximum cost per click limits can be set when users click on ads. If for example, the self storage facility operator sets a maximum of $1 for a cost per click on their ads $1 is the most they would pay when a customer clicks on their ad. Often, much less than this $1 maximum may be paid, remembering that during the ad auction, they would only pay what was required to rank higher than the advertiser below them.

On-line Directories
These directories mimic on-line telephone directories and sell advertising space to generate revenue. In the event this listing is undesired by the self storage facility operator, their use of appropriate search terms enables their website to gain a more prominent position in search results for specific key word searches than that achieved by the on-line directory.

Ask yourself whether the web company controlling your on-line marketing budget can definitely demonstrate which ad words lead to sales conversions and which don’t.

darren-p-vowles
Darren Vowles
Reach Local

Reap the rewards of sponsorship

You don’t need to be a marketing guru to operate a successful business, but local knowledge and having a sense of community issues can be a major advantage with building relationships, alliances, and reaching new audiences.

As a self storage facility, sponsorship of community groups, government organisations and local events can boost your facility’s; image and brand if you use your resources wisely, to their full potential and cater your message to your audience.

Sponsorship is the financial or in-kind support of an activity, used primarily to reach specified business goals. It promotes your business in association with your sponsee. A sponsee can be a local sporting club, home show event, car club, youth group, charity or wine appreciation society just to name a few.

Community organisations and local events are great marketing opportunities for businesses to develop good local community relations. Participating in or sponsoring a local community group or event can build solid relationships between yourself and your future potential customers. Sponsorship and the positive public relations that follows, will place your brand and what you offer throughout your circle of customers and communicates to them that your business cares and is interested in the same issues they are.

You can find unlimited opportunities to broaden your competitive advantage by increasing your credibility and image in sponsoring events or groups attracting your target market. Set up an event calendar or diary for your business. Note all opportunities for events as the year progresses. Also note when your customers may be having events. Then over the year you’ll be able to refer to your calendar, call your customers in advance, and ask what you can do to help them with their upcoming activity. This pre-emptive approach is very effective, and all it takes is a few notes scribbled on a calendar. Watch your local papers and community bulletins for events you didn’t get to participate in this year but will not want to miss selling to next year.

Sponsoring a team means the opportunity for them to wear your facility logo and name. Their families, friends and supporters will become your biggest fans, and you’ll get to know a lot of people you’d otherwise never be able to reach. Donate your time and talent as well as your products or services when the community could benefit from them. You will be repaid a hundred fold in the long run. Participate in community groups such as Rotary, Lions or RSL groups. Offer to be a speaker at schools, leisure centres or local associations. Consider donating a unit to a local school, police or fire brigade.

So, why should your company be interested in sponsorship? When done well it offers significant opportunities for distinct marketing and competitive advantages, as well as showing support for something that is in common with your local market. A large number of events these days use sponsorship support to offer more exciting programs and help defray rising costs. Sponsorship allows you to reach specifically targeted niche markets without any waste. In addition, it is a powerful complement to other marketing programs (your own advertising, marketing and media releases) and can have a dramatic influence on customer relations.

Sponsorship offers the possibility of achieving several goals at once such as:

Enhancing image/shaping consumer attitudes
Often self storage facilities are looking to improve how, if at all, they are perceived by their target audience. Sponsoring events that appeal to your market is likely to shape buying attitudes and help generate a positive reaction. In turn, this support can place self storage in the minds of your consumers as a real option to them. Although research shows that the majority of people understand what self storage is, they are still filling their garages, spare rooms and relatives places with goods that, in other countries like the U.S., are found in storage. Sponsorship and the message you portray with it, will help keep self storage and your facility, as a ‘front of mind’ option for consumers.

Driving sales
Sponsorship geared to driving sales can be an extremely potent promotional tool. When sponsoring an event, cause or club the results of such a strategy need to be measured over a longer term. Whilst you may reach those customers that are needing your product now, there will be those that because your brand has been brought to their attention through your community involvement, will use your facility when they need to.

Creating positive publicity/heightening visibility
Every sponsor is seeking wide exposure in both electronic and print media. Positive publicity helps create heightened visibility of products/services. Various media covering the event may include sponsors names and/or photos. In addition, the kind of media coverage a sponsor may get is often unaffordable if the company were to think of purchasing it directly. To maximise this objective, it is important for the sponsoring company to have a comprehensive media campaign to back-up the regular media coverage promoted by the organisers. One example of this is Big Box Self Storage in Labrador who have been mentioned on the Special Olympics Australia website.

Differentiating from competitors
The mere act of sponsoring an event, especially an exclusive sponsorship or naming rights, is a significant way to create competitor differentiation. Your company name has the opportunity to stand out head and shoulders above the competition. This is particularly helpful if your company wants to combat a competitor with a larger advertising budget.

Target audiences often perceive sponsorship in a positive way. They see you as making a greater effort to support the event or community group, often allowing more or better activities to take place as a result of your sponsorship. Tankar Self Storage in Mittagong are a sponsor of their local radio station Highland FM and have been listed on Highland FM’s sponsors page with a ‘big thank you’, and regularly mention them during broadcasts.

Helping with the good ‘corporate citizen’ role
Another powerful sponsorship objective allows companies to be viewed as a ‘good community contributor’. To be seen supporting the community and contributing to its economic development is extremely powerful and creates enormous goodwill. Ikin Store-It sponsor a junior development program within the Toyota Cowboys Rugby League Team. The following is only a snippet of what has been published by the teams PR group: “The program is proudly supported by Ikin Store It Storage, one of Queensland’s leading self storage businesses. They are a major sponsor of the Junior Development and Recruitment Programs. It is with the support of generous sponsors like Ikin Store It that the Toyota Cowboys are able to make a significant contribution back to the junior rugby league players and clubs of North Queensland”.

Enhancing business, consumer and networking relations
Sponsorship that offers hospitality opportunities is always very attractive to businesses. Perks may include special exclusive networking setting such as receptions, golf tournaments or other sporting events. These are great opportunities for sponsors to meet key customers and solidify business relationship. It is important to evaluate each opportunity and look for ways it could tie into your marketing objectives.

Don’t forget to follow-up on your community participation with your own local marketing and public relations. Le the local media and your customers know of your support and why you are enthusiastic about the group, event or cause. Simply creating a media release showcasing your involvement and distributing it to media contacts can drum up free publicity and get your brand out there to your local market. Community involvement and sponsorship is a great way to build good public relations and gain free publicity of the best kind.

The old saying ‘you have to give to receive’ holds true in business also.

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