Not all self storage facilities are created equally

No two businesses are the same – especially nowadays, as companies adapt to a changing marketplace & become more creative with their offerings in an attempt to “stand out from the crowd”.

With this in mind, it’s important to make sure your prospects (potential customers) understand your points of difference. After all, if they’re shopping purely on price, the more expensive facilities probably won’t even make it onto the list! If that’s you, then it’s time to give prospects a reason to choose you! Let’s take a look…

Self Storage facilities are different?
We work in the industry, so we know this – but do your prospects? If they’ve only ever seen self storage on TV (and it’s a bunch of rusting shipping containers on a block of land with a chain-link fence around it), then that’s what they’ll assume it is. If they get your quote and it’s substantially more expensive than your competition, they may not stop to ask why.

To continue reading this article please see: http://storman.com/blog/not-all-self-storage-facilities-are-created-equally/

Self Storage Technology

No matter the size of your facility, technology has both tangible and intangible benefits that will help you make money and produce the results your customers deserve. A precisely outlined technological plan affects the culture, efficiency and relationships of your business. In today’s storage world, it is necessary for employees to interact with tenants quickly and clearly. When customers use technology to interact with a business, the business benefits because better communication creates a stronger public image. In the past few years self storage has seen an exponential growth in technology. This article will help you understand a new way of looking at technology that could prove both profitable and sustainable.

Technology is here to stay. The sooner you understand that the better. Tech isn’t something that you should shy away from. Technology is an action verb, it evolves. Tech changes so much that business have departments dedicated just to that. You need to understand that technology will bring you more revenue. It is critical that you understand how and when to implement it. If not, you might be paying for technology that will give you little to no return.

How tech benefits your daily operations
The purpose of technology is to help productivity and to assist workflow. For storage the goal is to make operations run smoother and to eliminate “busy work” and increase revenue. By taking advantage of technology you can free up that time for managers and employees to work on projects to help move your business forward.

Look at your daily operations and see what tasks you can make easier with technology. For example, we contact tenants 3 times before they are over locked. In our previous software emailing large number of people wasn’t easy, so we called them. It was an enormous waste of time. In a typical day we would devote at least 2 hours to the task list. After researching other storage software we realized there were better products to suit our business need. The technology in our current software allows us to send reminders via email with one click. A task that took 2 hours can now be done in less than 5 minutes. Do your research and look at various opportunities for technology in your self-storage business. I cringe when I hear someone use the excuse “this is how we have always done it,” or “my people can’t do that.” If that is your mentality, you are missing out on some wonderful opportunities at your disposal. Encourage your staff to look at what the industry has to offer. Continually challenge your thinking on your processes.

What is the right criterion for choosing technology?
The tech industry refers to the concepts “bleeding edge” and “cutting edge.” Bleeding edge technology is a brand new technology that hasn’t been widely tested and perfected on a large scale. It’s referred to as bleeding edge because if you jump in with both feet, be prepared to lose some blood. Often the blood is in the form of technology not working as promised, patches and countless bugs. Many times operators are caught up with the idea of technology for the sake of technology. Remember this is not a new phone upgrade. You are potentially spending a lot of money on something that is unproven and may not even be necessary. Save “cool” tech for your phone, not your business.

The second concept is “cutting edge.” Cutting edge is bleeding edge that has had some time to be test and improved. It has been out for clients to use. Most of the bugs have been changed and tested. It’s still not bullet proof but if you are interested in new tech this might be the category for you.

I would like to introduce to a third category I call the “rubber edge.” The rubber edge takes its name from the idiom “where the rubber hits the road.” This is something that is used every single day. It is something you can rely on, it is something that has been tested and it is something that helps move your business along. The rubber edge is not tech for the sake of tech. It is what works for you and helps you in your daily operations to generate more revenue.

A rubber edge point of view means that you have a clear path of where you want your business to head and how you want technology to support your business goals. For example, I am currently writing this article on a 3rd generation tablet. I knew I wanted a certain amount of RAM and memory. The first two generations failed to provide that. The 3rd generation was perfect for my needs. Of course now there is a more updated versions, but I knew what I wanted and I am happy with I have.
What are the criteria for choosing a rubber edge technology?

1- Ask yourself “am I just adding technology for the sake of technology?” What is your motivation for purchasing the newest technology? Are you a person that needs to upgrade your phone because they have a new color? That’s okay if you are. However, remember your decision in business is more important than just a new phone. You have employees and tenants that depend on you to make good decisions for their benefit. Don’t let your need for the latest and greatest cloud your judgment for business technology.

2- Know your audience – If you have a facility in a small town where people still don’t lock their doors, you might have a different need from a facility in major city. When you understand who your general audience is you can use tested technology when needed.

3- Is it worth it in the end? This is an extremely important point. If you decide to change to a new system or add some additional technology you need to know what the return is. Are you doing something that will increase your revenue? Keep in mind that switching to an operating system that takes less time to process accounts is increasing your revenue. As previously stated your staff will have increased time to work on projects to move your business forward.

4- Are you taking full advantage of what you currently have? If you are not using your current tech to the extent of its ability you are missing out. Most companies have manuals and webinars for you to learn more about their products. If all else fails contact their sales rep and ask to be put in contact with someone who will help you explore your options.

If you remember the rubber edge criteria when choosing technology you will always have a well thought out tech plan. Embrace what is out there and challenge your current thinking. The world of technology has come to self storage. Enjoy it and profit from what it has to offer.

By Rick Beal
Rick Beal is part owner of Cubes Self Storage. He’s involved in the company’s leadership, marketing, planning and training. Rick resides in Salt Lake City Utah and is a board member of the Utah Self Storage Association. He’s motto is “storage is a business of inches not miles.”
Cubes Self Storage – Salt Lake City, USA.
www.cubesselfstorage.com
rickb@cubesselfstorage.com

Outside the Box

Kennards Self Storage have continued to innovate and create brand awareness in the local area with the introduction of their Kennards bicycle.

The bike is free for customers to use and is designed for those that may not have a vehicle to transport their goods or box purchases.

The bicycle was custom designed by Psbikes and features heavy duty straps to secure items such as boxes, a wooden cargo hold, bright Kennards branding, and a rear basket.

KennardsBicycle 2

Kennards are currently trialing the bike at Moore Park NSW and North Melbourne VIC due to the close proximity of bike paths and apartments and the lack of hills in the area.

The unique style of the bike and stand out colour scheme is sure to draw attention when it is being used and helps offer another talking point as a feature for the centre.

Technology & Customer Service

The world’s communication techniques are rapidly evolving due to fast-moving technology and as such the way self storage facilities relate to customers is also changing.

In fact, the way self storage facilities engage with their local municipality, competitors and the online community at large is experiencing a major overhaul. As we find our fee in this ever-changing environment fuelled by technology that seems to change more quickly than it can be mastered, it is vital to accomplish a balance between good old customer service and the inevitable automated experience that accompanies this new technology. A savvy computer program will not bring a cup of tea to an elderly customer, and yet, to that particular customer the cup of tea is a gesture that will be remembered. While technology has its many merits, it is still our job to achieve harmony to create a favourable and memorable experience for our customers.

Keeping up with technology
While we are busy keeping up with technology, creating websites, using the cloud, updating Facebook profiles, publicising promotions – we need to be mindful that our customer service remains consistent with, and equivalent to the technology we are employing. Consistency is critical. For example, there is little point in sending out an email saying ‘come in and speak to our super friendly staff about our Super September promotion’ when in fact, customers who do come in are met with a decidedly unfriendly (and slightly surly) staff member, who unfortunately knows little to nothing of the Super September promotion…definitely not consistent.

Talk to the customer as if they are in the store with you, which is exactly what you would do in person. Websites where possible, should not replace the human element and should encourage feedback and two-way communication. Websites when created appropriately, can easily entice customers to store with you using brightly coloured pictures and meticulously landscaped gardens. Consequently it is important to back this up in person. When your potential customers make a site visit they will expect to see a clean environment, maintained storage units and a respectable reception office as depicted on your website. Basically whatever they have seen on your website is what they will expect to see when they make an unannounced visit.

Infinite possibilities for communication
Technology has definitely changed the manner in which we communicate with self storage customers, and in turn, how we provide customer service. In the past customers were called on a landline, sent a letter, or you waited until they dropped by the site in person to communication with them. In today’s setting you have more options to contact and communicate with your customer. They range from emails, texts, telephone calls, on-site visits, IM, your website, Facebook and a long list of other social media alternatives.

How many of these mediums are successful for self storage? Not all of them, that’s for sure. In your process to trial these and work out what’s best for you, you can get a bit creative. Have you had a customer who is not paying their bill? Try looking for them on Facebook. Do you have a customer who has moved away temporarily that you need to discuss something with? Why not arrange to Skype with them?

Do you want to make better use of your social media profile? Use it to announce promotions, moving tips, renovations or photos – then send an email to customers asking them to check out your site and follow you. Photos of employees going about their business, merchandise on your shelves, the family dog, the staff picnic – these are all things that give people an inside look and are a clever bridge to building rapport. People tend to do business with companies they feel comfortable with and creating an online relationship helps facilitate that relationship. Give some thought to which posts or websites have caught your attention and ask yourself why? Consider creating a competition online to see how many views you get and make a big deal about promotion of the winner and the prize. Above all, don’t be afraid to try something! If it doesn’t prove successful try something else until you find something that works for you.

In this instance, technology alone doesn’t do all the hard work, it’s just a tool for you to improve your customer service and your interaction with your customers.

Wilson Storage Community Day

As part of our opening of our brand new Rowville self-storage facility Wilson Storage undertook to create strong community awareness of the same by conducting a” Community Day” where all proceeds from raffles and food sales were to be donated to local charities.

Using our broader Group reach we were fortunate to have V8 Supercars and drivers in particular the Volvo Racing Team whose primary sponsor is Wilson Security.

Wilson Storage  (2)

The drivers and the support team members provided very interesting commentary regarding their personal experiences on the race track, advice on defensive driving techniques, especially for the younger generation who came on the day as well as signing autographs and having pictures taken with many members of the public.

We further promoted the day by placing two sets of half page advertisements in the local papers, email invitations to all of our many thousand Wilson Storage / Parking / Security customer data base as well as placing a large double sided signage that was placed on the nature strip exposed to more than 14,000 vehicles that pass the facility each day.

Given it was held on a Saturday and to make the day as child friendly as possible we provided jumping castles, clowns, balloons and face painting for the kids, coffee and soft drinks for the adults, a sausage sizzle as well as static displays of the V8 Super cars.

Wilson Storage (7)

We also were fortunate to have the local dealer provide many different Volvo vehicles on display as well as exposure to our Non-Emergency Patient Transport Ambulance business – “Medic One”, which also shares the facility with Wilson Storage at our Rowville facility.

Many hundred members of the public attended the day and the overwhelming feedback from those who attended was very positive, given our main priority for the event was to create strong Community awareness about our Group as well as to give something back to them as well.

Wilson Storage  (1)

We also judged the day to be a complete success as we managed to generate quite a few thousand dollars from donations generated in the raffles that included V8 Super car hot laps at the next Wilson Security Sandown V8 super car race day, a year’s free parking in the CBD and complimentary storage packages to name a few.

All funds raised on the day were then immediately transferred to both the Ardoch Youth Foundation and the Flamingo Group.

This form of marketing has also led to quite a few new customers for our new facility, some who attended the day, others who knew of the event by our advertising and others again by way of positive word of mouth from those who attended.

We would recommend this type of marketing and community involvement to all SSAA members.

Member Profile: Space Base Self Storage

Space Base Self Storage in Coconut Grove Darwin has been operating since 1988, when it had only 68 storage units, and was managed by a tenant, who ran a diving business! Over the past 28 years the business has progressively been expanded to include a further 432 units and 4 office/warehouse units over 2 different sites.

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In 2013 tenants of the warehouses decided not to renew their leases. With an occupancy consistently above 90%, the decision to convert the warehouses to self storage spaces, incorporating a mezzanine level, was relatively straightforward. As part of the expansion an additional adjoining building was constructed to further increase the total no. of units.

The design (by a local firm of Architects) produced 150 new self storage units of varying sizes. Space Base also chose to use a local builder familiar with the NT Cyclone code as well as Steel Storage for the fit-out. The expansion enabled the facility to better utilize space, without the need to acquire additional land.

Space Base 6

Initially, NT Planning was reluctant to approve the additional building, and the Darwin City Council was even stronger in their opposition due to their perceived belief that there would be an increased demand for car parking in Delatour St. However, armed with the SSAA Demand Study, photos of the facility and streetscape, and the gate access data, Space Base were able to convince them to approve the development.

This was not the only challenge faced though, with the building phase commencing during the ‘wet’ season. Planning with the builder before construction commenced ensured continued access to the office and facility, which was a crucial due to the business having 450 existing customers. When drainage work was necessary, Space Base emailed or called all storers who may have been impacted, and when necessary, discussed one-on-one with them, their specific requirements.

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In addition, the business recently installed solar panels (made in South Australia) to utilize the free sunshine so readily present in the NT. This will help Space Base cover the additional electricity requirements of the new units will not cause significant increases in their electricity costs. The number of 24/7 CCTV cameras at the facility has also been increased to ensure excellent security for storers in the new building.

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To promote and enhance the new addition, Space Base have also undertaken the following:
• Upgraded website.
• Social media campaign
• TV/Radio advertisement
• Large banners and new corporate signage outside the facility
• Special paint treatment on the roof of the new extension to minimize the impact of Darwin’s heat.

Space Base Self Storage
Space Base Self Storage

Despite being a small facility by national standards, operating in a city of only 120,000 people, Space Base Self Storage is clean, well designed facility that and prides itself on helping clients find the right space to suit their needs.

Not all Self Storage Facilities are created equally

No two businesses are the same – especially nowadays, as companies adapt to a changing marketplace & become more creative with their offerings in an attempt to “stand out from the crowd”. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure your prospects (potential customers) understand your points of difference. After all, if they’re shopping purely on price, the more-expensive facilities probably won’t even make it onto the list! If that’s you, then it’s time to give prospects a reason to choose you! Let’s take a look…

Self Storage facilities are different?

We work in the industry, so we know this – but do your prospects? If they’ve only ever seen self storage on TV (and it’s a bunch of rusting shipping containers on a block of land with a chain-link fence around it), then that’s what they’ll assume it is. If they get your quote and it’s substantially more expensive than your competition, they may not stop to ask why.

Your facility may be at the opposite end of the quality scale – but if your prospects don’t know this, then you may not even get considered as an option – even if you’re genuinely worth it.

Some examples of points of difference may include:

  • Price
  • Ease of access
  • Covered driveways
  • Range of unit sizes available
  • Location
  • Size of goods lift (small lifts mean many trips – especially for removalists, who usually charge by the hour)
  • Security offerings (PINs, individually alarmed units, on-site manager, cameras, guard dogs, CCTV, etc)
  • Customer testimonials, your Google reviews or your Google star-rating

Our goal here is to make sure your prospects understand that not all self storage facilities are equal… so how do you make sure your prospects are comparing apples with apples? Easy – start with the bananas.

Discover your Points of Difference

The first step to finding out where you stand is to mystery-shop your competition. Ask a friend or colleague (someone they won’t recognise) to visit a competitors facility and find out a little more about their offering. More importantly, find out where they excel, where you excel and what tactics they’re using to sell against you.

The traditional rent increase method creates a lot of work

 

If your competition runs a facility like this, you may never be able to compete on price – but you could certainly compete on looks & security!

From this information, we can create two lists (frequent readers will know that I love lists) and begin to ascertain our businesses strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Start by writing down everything that both you and your competition offer. This is the POP (Points of Parity) list. It’s basically a list of things that you can’t compete on, because you’re both the same in this respect. These are your apples.
  2. Secondly, write a POD (Points of Difference) list. This is a list of areas where your business excels in comparison to the competition. These are your bananas! It’s these exact reasons that you need to highlight when you’re talking to potential customers.
  3. Finally, you may wish to create a POD (Points of Difference) list for your competition too – this is made easier if you’ve visited them and seen their offering first hand. It’s this list that you’ll need to have “ammunition” ready for, because your competitors are likely using these against you.

Give customers a reason to choose you

Now that you’ve worked out your facility strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to weave these into your sales process! Highlight your PODs in your sales spiel, on your website and in your marketing materials.

The traditional rent increase method creates a lot of work

 

Find your Points of Difference and use these to stand out from the crowd.

 
Develop some strategies in dealing with your competitors PODs, too – it can be something as simple as helping a colleague come up with something to say in response, if a prospect says something like “I understand you don’t have undercover areas in all of your facility, is that right?” – to which you might reply: “That is true, but all of our access corridors lead to an undercover area where you can park your car to unload, so you & your goods will be dry while you’re putting them into storage”.

Turning negatives into positives

If analysing your competition has revealed a series of weaknesses in your business, spend some time working out how to make changes or improvements. You may also be able to turn a negative into a positive, as per some of these examples:

  • They have 24/7 access, we don’t: Turn this into a positive by selling the benefits of a daytime-only facility. “Do you really want strangers roaming around at night time when there’s no one here?” – or evaluate the storers requirements on a case-by-case basis.
  • They have a move-in truck, we don’t: “We’ve decided not to have a move-in truck, in order to keep costs down for our customers. We do, however, have a trailer that you can use for free during move-in… and if you did need a truck, we have a deal with XYZ hire company for 20% off van & truck rentals.”

Further reading…

If you come across a customer that isn’t sold on storage (in order words, they’ve called to inquire about pricing but they think storage in general is too expensive), you might like to direct them to my other blog post, “7 reasons why Self Storage is a good idea“.

Additionally, you might also like to learn a few new ways to stand out from the competition, by being appealing to your customers. Happy selling!

Regards,
Andy (Customer Experience & Marketing Manager, StorMan Software)

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