Summertime is the perfect time for self-storage facilities to host events to draw potential customers, get involved in the community and simply show appreciation for current tenants.
When Michelle Bakva plans these events, she tries to think beyond the traditional yard sales or barbecues. She’s vice president of marketing for The William Warren Group, the Santa Monica, CA-based operator of StorQuest Self Storage.
While StorQuest has done the whole gamut of traditional summer events, Bakva said teaming up with local or regional organizations on community events has proven most successful.
For example, StorQuest partners with an organization that hosts surfing events for paraplegics. One is held at the beach that’s right across from StorQuest’s headquarters.
“It’s a really a cool opportunity,” Bakva said. “It’s more of a team-building thing, but also a great opportunity to get our name out there. We’ll go with our StorQuest-branded T-shirts and set up a small tent on the beach and give out StorQuest water bottles and temporary tattoos.”
“There are about 100 people living with paralysis that come to these events, and we get our employees to participate,” she added. “It gives us the opportunity to brand ourselves outside the confines of our self-storage facilities.”
Combing the beach for trash
Another example: StorQuest partners with an organization in Northern California that cleans up beaches. A group of StorQuest employees will meet at a beach wearing StorQuest T-shirts and help clean up the coastline.
“While our goal is to generate activity [for our facilities] with these events,” Bakva said, “if you remove that out of the equation and say really our goal is to help the community, do something for a good cause and empower our employees, then everything else starts to fall into place better than just focusing so much on customer acquisition.”
Bakva said it’s important to branch out in the community and form partnerships with organizations that can cross-promote and cross-market events.
“That’s where you see the best return,” she said. “So instead of just marketing a garage sale at ‘so-and-so self-storage,’ partner with a pet shelter and do an adoption event. That organization will promote you and use their resources and online presence.”
Also, capitalize on those opportunities, Bakva added. Post the event on your Facebook page and other social media outlets, along with your website.
“Take lots of photos. Make sure any companies you partner with get those photos and put them through their channels,” she said. “Local branding and local recognition go a long way.”
Roseville, CA-based LifeStorage uses cross-marketing in hosting its summer “Cruise Nights.” Facilities with large parking areas invite car and motorcycle clubs to show off their antique or souped-up cars, said Michelle Wight Sands, LifeStorage’s director of operations.
LifeStorage advertises the weekly Cruise Nights through its websites and social media outlets, while the clubs pay for newspaper and magazine ads.
“They take care of it all. We’re just providing them that space,” Sands said. “It drives a lot of people to your facility and gives you the opportunity to get out and talk to the public and offer fliers and just bring that exposure to your facility.”
Also, Sands said LifeStorage’s garage sales—where both tenants and non-tenants can sell items—are quite successful. LifeStorage provides units and tables, and markets the events on its websites, via social media, on local chamber websites, and in newspapers and magazines.
“We have lines of customers waiting outside for the doors to open,” she said.
After these garage sales, some non-customers have turned into customers.
Highlight your best features
When planning events this summer, showcase your best attributes, said Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training and developmental services at Universal Storage Group, an Atlanta, GA-based self-storage operator.
“What makes you unique or different?” she asked.
“For example, maybe you’re not one of the super-cool new facilities with all the bells and whistles, but you’re a solid operation with the widest drive aisles in town. Host a yard sale or pet adoption event and hand out cold water bottles with your logo on them, or host a child seat safety check. Or maybe the fire department comes and teaches kids how to ‘stop, drop and roll’ or some other community service that would showcase your wide drive aisles.”
If you rent out the only climate-controlled units in your market, have all of your promotional materials and social media focus on, “Come and chill out with us on the weekends,” Ballard said.
These “chill out” gatherings could include giveaways of watermelon, popsicles or logo-bearing water bottles, she said. Or perhaps you could team up with a snow cone vendor or an ice cream company and hand out free treats.
Ballard said summer events don’t have to cost much. The best way to keep the tab low is to team up with retailers, restaurants and other local businesses, she said.
Marc Goodin, president of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Storage Authority Franchising, has done all kinds of summer events. They include putting 50 flags around his property for the Fourth of July, hosting high school or 4H car washes, walking around his property handing out free water and soda to everyone who’s packing and unpacking, and hosting Saturday cookouts.
“Be creative,” Goodin said. “How about Friday night wine and fruit tasting? Friday night visits with local celebrities or businesspeople? Or promotions like ‘Rent today and get a free pass to a local amusement park’ or ‘Rent today and if it’s over 95 degrees any day in the next 14 days, get one month free.’”