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

Chairman’s Report – 2016 Mid-year update

I know we say it every year, however 2016 seems to flying past at a rapid rate of knots. Through discussions with various members around Australia and New Zealand, there are mixed reports on the state of their market and the self storage industry. On the whole, sentiments are positive and given the challenges of the wider economy, upcoming federal election in Australia and some negativity in the media around current growth forecasting, the growth of our industry continues to be healthy and buoyant.

From a Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA) perspective we have been very busy. Unfortunately our CEO, Simone Hill, resigned from the position in April. Simone was CEO for approximately 18 months and was extremely hard working, dedicated and brought 20+ years of storage industry knowledge to the role. The board extends a big thank you to Simone for all of her help and support over this time. We would also like to congratulate Simone on her new role as the Legal Advisor to the SSAA. Recruitment for a new CEO has commenced and we anticipate that there will be some excellent candidates.

The membership drive that the Association office and Board commenced late last year is in full swing. Through tireless research and verification of storage listings, we have well over 700 potential new members that can now be approached and informed of the benefits that are available to SSAA members. Increasing the number of members in our Association will secure the future financial viability of the SSAA and increase awareness of best practice storage industry standards to operators that aren’t currently members. More members will also assist in the amortisation of SSAA operational expenses and reduce the cost of future events, like annual conventions.

The Board has identified that the current traffic study in Australia is out of date and has commissioned an update to the study. This will be released over the coming months and assist any members that are building new facilities or completing renovations to comply or object to the sometimes onerous car parking requirements handed down from local planning authorities. We would like to thank all of the facilities that have volunteered to be a part of the study and we appreciate that this will help the industry as a whole.

Over the past year the SSAA office has been investigating options to upgrade the current SSAA website. We are happy to announce that the construction of a new website has just been approved and this will see extensive improvements to all facets of the user experience. The ‘Storage Finder’ porthole will be completely upgraded and the ability of SSAA members to update their information and promote their facility will be greatly improved. Integration of the various accounting and management systems used by the SSAA office will be integrated into the site and this will make membership management, reporting and communication more streamlined and efficient. This is a huge project and we are really looking forward to the release of the finished product.

The Bi-annual 2016 Convention at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne is just around the corner. The venue, speaker line up and activities on offer are second to none and this event is not to be missed! If you haven’t booked already, spots are very limited and I really encourage you to get involved. This event now runs every second year, in between the Summit and Staff Retreat, therefore it has been 2 years since the Gold Coast and a long time since we could join together, exchange ideas, socialise and learn. Please contact the SSAA office today to book your spot. I look forward to seeing you there.

In my last Chairman’s report I discussed the high number of board positions that are becoming available at the next election. If you are interested in joining the SSAA board please start to think about the election process, talk to your peers about your intentions and start campaigning for election. It is such a rewarding endeavour and great opportunity to give something back to the SSAA. The Board is currently working on future strategies that will reduce the number of board members vacating at one time, however that will occur in the future and it is important that the positive initiatives and momentum that we are currently experiencing is fostered into the future by a strong Board.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Melbourne for the 2016 Convention and hope that 2016 is proving to be a positive and prosperous year for you.

All the best

Guy Wilson

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.

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.

Internet Marketing Tips for Your Business

This video talks about customer focused marketing and how to make the web work for your business. The 4 key areas are:

  1. Why traditional ‘selling’ is dead
  2. The importance of listening to your customers
  3. Putting a positive spin on things
  4. Why you should give something away for free

Reaching your customers online

As more and more people use the internet to find products and services, digital marketing is becoming increasingly important to the self storage industry. Potential customers are likely to be looking for your business on-line, so it’s important to understand how and where they’re searching for you.

1.Use of smartphones and tablets to get on-line

In Australia, 92% of households are connected to the internet and each year more and more of us are using smartphones and tablets to get on-line. In 2013 68% of Australians accessed the internet through their smartphones (up 10% from 2012) and 50% accessed the internet through a table (up 16%).

With smartphone and tablet use on the rise, make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices. To see how your current website looks on a smartphone you can try out the ‘Go Mobile’ tool at yellowadvertising.com.au (under the Knowledge section).

Interestingly people are not just surfing the net for entertainment or using it for work. The vast majority of Australians use the internet to research their purchases. In fact, 87% of Australians look for information on products and services online, including 55% who do this on their smartphone and 63% who use their tablet for this purpose.

2. You can reach 65% of Australians through social media

Many businesses are using social media as a way of building stronger relationships with customers and helping to spread word of mouth. It makes sense when you consider the size of the audiences in these channels. Social media reaches most Australians, with over 65% using social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. It probably comes as no surprise that Facebook continues to dominate this space, capturing 95% of Australian social media users and boasting over 11 million Australian users.

3. Storage businesses appeared over 6.5 million times on Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages is no longer just a book, but it is also much more than just a website. In fact, the Yellow Pages digital network includes on-line, mobile, social media and maps as well as digital powerhouses like Google, Yahoo7 and Bing.

Over the past 12 months, there were more than 6.5 million appearances for ‘Storage – General’ on the Yellow Pages digital network. More importantly, 50% of these interactions resulted in a lead for storage businesses across Australia, meaning that for every two interactions completed, a lead was generated for a storage business.

  • Over 86 000 calls were placed to businesses listed under storage headings
  • There were 7273 requests for direction to businesses
  • There were over 5000 requests to send business details to a mobile phone

4. Customers use Google and Yellow Pages differently

Looking at the top self-storage search keywords gives us insight into the behaviour of Australians when they’re trying to find storage solutions. Most Google searches for self storage are brand-based, whereas 98% of the searches on yellowpages.com.au are category-based – that is, people don’t have a particular facility or brand in mind. This suggests that Google is more commonly used by customers who have an idea of which storage facility they want to use, whereas yellowpages.com.au is more commonly used by those who haven’t yet decided which facility to do business with.

5. What information should you include on-line?

There are clear business benefits from having an on-line presence. If you’re creating a website or putting together a digital listing for your self storage facility, consider including the following information:

  • Easy to find contact details
  • Your location
  • Price points
  • Other content like photos or videos of your facility
  • The benefits of using your facility
  • Any unique selling points
  • An on-line enquiry form so customers can easily get in touch
  • Customer testimonials

Visit yellowadvertiser.com.au for more insights, digital marketing advice and success stories.

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