[ by Tom Cox, Strat Property Management ]
Traditionally, companies have the socially awkward, hoodie-wearing tech nerd who only appears from his or her cave to fix computer issues, grumble about needing more bandwidth, and patronizingly explain that user error is the problem. In the other corner, you have your marketing team of edgy, hip social-media-using extroverts talking about the big picture, requesting a larger budget, reinforcing the importance of your brand, and swearing they don’t know how that virus got on their computer, because they were definitely not downloading music at work.
But tradition has gone out the window and the game has changed. Marketing has gotten quite technical, and faster than most would have liked or expected. The same is true for the technical folks who need to become more marketing-savvy. It is time to realize that marketing and tech employees will likely never be the best of friends, but can play very nicely together.
The self-storage industry is no different from any other when it comes to the digital revolution. Digital marketing is a completely new type of marketing–it’s entirely technology-driven. To understand search engine marketing (SEM), you need to master search engine optimization (SEO), which means grasping (or trying to grasp) how the Google algorithm works to rank websites, how the structure of your website and social media presence affects it, and so much more. You need to understand how your potential customers search and what’s the easiest way for them to find you. You need to absorb pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and how to best utilize it–for example, you want to advertise for storage, but you don’t want to show up for Tupperware storage. You need to know how to track mobile web traffic differently from web traffic. And you need to know how to market differently to those mediums. It’s not just about understanding your consumer, your brand or marketing strategy anymore; you have to recognize how the technology works in the first place.
This tech-marketing mix need has given rise to the Techie-Marketer. There are two ways to go about modern marketing: one is to find a marketer that also has some technical savvy. They need to understand how websites are built, possess basic HTML skills, and understand SEO. But they also need to understand the importance of your brand. They need to be trained marketers so they can calculate the ROI on all mediums and produce quality content for your company.
Option two is to find a team that combines these skill sets. There are many amazing marketers that do not have a technical bone in their body, just as there are some fantastic technical people who will not be able to wrap their heads around basic marketing concepts. But by coordinating and regularly communicating, this combined team can accomplish unfathomable amounts more than either would alone.
You might be thinking, “Okay, okay, so digital marketing is more tech-based. I get it, but I’m still not sold.” Well, digital marketing is just one piece of the pie. Think about your facility management software (FMS) and how much you rely on it at each facility. Are you just using the basics or are you maximizing its potential? Some types of facility management software can integrate into your website and online marketing sources like StorageFront and SpareFoot. So when you update prices or availability in your FMS, it automatically updates your website and marketing sources so that renters see your prices and availability in real time. Integrating those systems gets pretty technical quickly, but is almost 100% for the benefit of the marketer.
How about lead and rental tracking? Are you using customer relation management (CRM)? A good CRM will tie into your phone line. When a call comes in, it can track what marketing source the call came from, if you use tracked numbers. It can monitor email leads that came in from different sources. Most importantly, it allows you to get an accurate snapshot of where your leads are coming from and if your managers are reporting into it correctly. And when utilized right, it can even tell you the source of your rentals. This is a marketer’s dream come true, but takes a lot of tech skill to set up and manage.
We can’t avoid digital marketing or using facility management software, but it is easy to avoid maximizing their potential. By keeping your tech and marketing teams in close proximity and regularly coordinating projects between them, you will be three steps ahead of anyone whose teams aren’t working together. You will find that the basic tools that you use can be transformed into powerful and effective marketing machines.
Tom Cox is the Director of Marketing and Technology for Strat Property Management Inc. (SPMI). SPMI manages 35 storage facilities in California and Texas. Previously, Tom worked for a software and digital marketing firm specializing in SEO and web development for the self-storage industry.
Image courtesy of myturnstone.com