We recently wrapped up our Best Self-Storage Marketing Ideas contest for operators. Congratulations to Kindle Fire prize winner Cindy June of Birmingham, AL, whose Facebook marketing idea claimed the most votes out of five jury-selected finalists. A total of 32 participants entered, and we want to share all of their creative storage marketing ideas with you (edited for clarity). Check them out, and you’re likely to pick up something to try at your own business. Thanks to everyone who participated!
“Facebook Networking” by Cindy June [winner]
We opened this property in January 2011, knowing no one in Birmingham, AL. We set up our Facebook page and began liking and joining any and everything locally. In this area, we have several food trucks in different parts of the city. One day on Facebook, I saw one mention they were on their way to a popular shopping center. I commented back: “If you were coming to iStore, you would be sold out!” They contacted me and asked if they could set up in our parking lot. They now come twice a week. They have over 6,500 fans and they mention our name and location 3-4 times twice a week …that means our name and location is sent out to minimum of 40,000 plus! This has been a great connection and help in getting our name and location out through Facebook! I always comment or like just about every person and company on my page, which forms a relationship and builds trust for us.
“Storage Hunt” by Marcella
Hold a community scavenger hunt every three months, with the grand prize being free storage. Participants could either stay in the storage area for smaller prizes, or go all over town for the bigger prizes. You can also go high-tech and place a QR code somewhere in the hunt that leads to a separate prize for those who are interested. The answers to the hunt questions could be numbers that correspond to the storage units. This could be held right before an auction day, so participants can see what units are going to be auctioned.
“Partner, Partner and Partner!” by Gus
Reach out to all moving companies in a 20-30 mile radius of your facility. Offer a 10% monthly recurring referral fee for customers they bring to you.
“Reward Points” by Melinda
Who doesn’t like a special reward for being a good customer? A lot of companies give out rewards in the form of points. One idea is to involve Facebook, one of the most-used social sites. Start a page on Facebook for your company. Have someone from the marketing department of your company go to a busy location once a week (for example, a local mall or grocery store) with a laptop, and have people sign up on the spot as a fan of your page. Just for signing up, a customer could receive 100 points. Then they’ll receive more points for different things they do:
- Refer friends to your Facebook fan page and get 500 points
- For every month you sign up for a rental, earn 1,000 points
- If you refer another customer and they sign up for a monthly rental, you receive 250 points for every month they have a monthly rental
Once a customer has enough points, let’s say 10,000, they get a one-month free rental. You could also partner up with other companies that offer points like Air Miles, Aeroplan, etc., and customers can convert their points to other points or vice versa.
“Let The Kids Win!” by Nick
Hold a contest with local schools. Have teachers tell their students they may optionally participate by getting a shoe box and displaying their best storage organizational skills. If it’s older students, they could even calculate the exact area their items take up within the box. The class that participates the most wins a prize. Younger kids will most certainly ask their parents for help, which gets the word out to potential customers. If you offer a prize to benefit the class/school rather than individual students, the teachers/schools will be more likely to encourage participation. Plus, any prize you give to a public school is likely tax-deductible.
“Tied Selling With Vehicle Dealers” by Scott
The leasing of a vehicle unit could be advertised and tied with local RV, boat and/or sports car dealers— perhaps the purchases could even be financed as a package. This would allow those new to “toys” to enjoy them without experiencing the space constraints.
“Great ideas? Outside The Box. Self-Storage? Always In.” by Jennifer
A video or online ad campaign with the following imagery/copy: “We’ll free up space (clutter) in your life, to make more room for great ideas.” Imagine a person standing in a modern room with images of “stuff” neatly moving into a storage locker floating above their head. Creative idea could extend to a tidy garage, storage shed, boat interior, etc., with creative copy targeting audiences with greatest need for storage solutions.
“Storage To Die For” by Paul
Approach funeral homes offering a $200 referral fee for estates. Approach local probate lawyers. When people die, their families have to pay estate debts, and if the deceased owned a home it will normally be the biggest asset. The family will need to clear it out fast to sell, but why rush distributing Grandma’s possessions? Move them into storage, giving the family time to sort who gets what while the house sale proceeds.
“Fusion Marketing” by Kelli
Have other locally owned business join you in fusion marketing. Go to area businesses that are NOT franchises, and ask if they would like to collaborate with you. One example: If the business is a pizza restaurant, ask them if they would like to join you in an ad campaign that would benefit both businesses. You could staple your storage coupons or fliers to their take-out bags, or tape them on pizza boxes. In exchange, you could give all new tenants pizza coupons with their paper work. Be sure to track your coupons by listing a unique track-able phone number or by asking every new tenant how they heard about your facility.
“Partner With ‘Deal A Day’ Websites” by Mike
There are a number of “daily deal” websites that offer limited-time local deals. Partner with one of these sites, offering a Buy One Get One special for a month of storage. While you do have a customer acquisition cost in the form of that free month of storage, you are getting the word out about your facility in an inexpensive fashion. Groupon and Living Social are the major players in the “daily deal” space. You could also partner with a local deals company in your own city, if there is a dedicated one.
“Boat Ramp Bonanza” by Angela
This marketing strategy has been successful since I live in an area that has a huge lake. I take a couple of big coolers and fill them with ice, sodas and water. I go down to the boat ramps and hand out free drinks to the boat owners and families with a flyer advertising our outside storage. It is fun and it builds relationships with potential customers. When someone thinks outside storage, they remember the fun storage people handing out free drinks!
“Black Friday” by RK Kliebenstein
In the wee hours of the morning, you will get coffee and doughnuts ready. You will visit your local discount retailer like Wal-Mart, and give out hot coffee and doughnuts to a captive audience that is waiting in line for the $468 55-inch TV (for real!). The cups and donut bags will have your logo on them, and there will be a “Santa’s Closet” three-fold brochure taped to each donut bag with information and tips for storing gifts. This is an amazingly inexpensive way to market your store.
“Black Friday Madness” by Colleen
Team up with your employees who are all going to the major stores near your facility. Gear them up with hand warmers, gloves and hats in a large box with your storage location on it. Offer coupons for a $1 daily rent to hide gifts in one of your units. Walk the lines and hand your “Free Climate Control” items out. Make sure your staff is wearing all of the accessories with your company logo themselves. Tell shoppers the facility is open waiting for them to come hide the holiday gifts they just scored. Takes a bit of prep work, but everyone will talk about how cold it was and the free items they were given from your facility!
“Helping Kids Help You” by Stephanie
Contact the teachers/coaches of every class/sport/activity at every single school in your area. Offer your location as a donated venue for fundraisers like car washes, bake sales, etc. These types of events are worked by the students, who are followed by parents, who in turn market the event to their friends and family. Insert snow ball effect here. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The kids get to raise money needed for their events that most school board systems cannot afford to give away anymore, and you gain a ton of exposure. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you a thing, unless you like cookies!
“Treasure Hunt” by Christy
My idea is to do a Treasure Hunt by hiding goody bags with prizes around the city for people to find. This is a great way to get people to subscribe to your Facebook and Twitter updates, and get community participation. It’s a bit elaborate so here goes:
- Generate a lot of hype about your Treasure Hunt a few weeks before you start by handing out flyers and promoting the Treasure Hunt on Twitter and Facebook. Get the word out any way you can. This is a very important step, as if people don’t know about it, they can’t participate. You can get someone to walk around in a pirate outfit and hand out flyers. They have to stay in character and keep saying “Yarr, I’ve lost my booty! Help me find it by following me on Twitter.”
- Once you have generated enough interest. It’s time to select specific hidden locations around your town to hide the Treasure. Use your imagination! Treasure can be anything: Gift cards, free storage coupons, the latest video game, a bicycle, etc. The prizes should get increasingly more valuable as the hunt goes on. Treasure should also be accompanied with a goody bag filled with pens, magnets, bottle openers, and a T-shirt all labeled, “I got Booty at 30.380978, -88.754743” and customize each goody bag for the specific location where the treasure is be found.
- Now the fun part! Post clues or coordinates about your secret location and hints to what the prize could be to your Twitter and Facebook feeds. You will need your pirate character on location to determine the winner, make sure the prize is not stolen, and also to hand out consolation goody bags to anyone who showed up but was too late to claim the prize. “Arr! You missed the booty, but here be some treasure for ye.” Remember, staying in character is very important.
- Promote the winners and post lots of photos of each hunt. Then choose another location and start over at Step 2 until you have given away all prizes.
- Optional: Post one last location for people to find and have them end up at your facility! Provide hot dogs, soda and hand out coupons while potential customers sign up for a raffle to receive the grand prize. Now you have new customers at your door, and they are registering as leads. Make sure you include a check box on your raffle form for permission to contact them!
“Optimize Website For Handheld Devices” by Louis
In 2012, Apple will have sold over 9 million iPads, and experts predict that this year 71% of tablet users will make holiday gift purchases using their tablets. Google released a study that showed 95% of mobile searchers search local info. By creating a site that is optimized for handheld devices and tablets, you will lower your bounce rate and visitors will have a better experience, increasing your chances of making a reservation. Cost= Less than $500.
“Apartment Tweet-A-Winner Contest” by Richard
A challenge with distributing fliers to apartment complexes is getting the community manager motivated to “spread the word” about your facility. Even if your fliers are seen by community members, there is no real motivation for them to actually read and/or hold onto them. Self-storage is difficult to market because no one ever thinks about it unless they need they need it at that moment. The trick is to get people to think about storage BEFORE they need it, and associate YOUR name with it. This marketing idea will address all of those issues.
First, assign EACH apartment complex a “code”. For example, two apartment complexes in your area are River Run Apartments, and River Place Apartments. River Run Apartment’s code would be “01”, River Place Apartments would be “02”. Then fliers would be made for the participating complexes that include both your facility information and the following:
“Make a tweet on Twitter telling us something odd, comical or something else that’s happened to you while making a move. Include the hashtag #yourstorstorage01, or #yourstorstorage02, and we will pick 1 winner to receive a $50 Visa gift card. The winning tweet will be retweeted from @yourtwitteraccount on a day of your choosing.”
Each participating self-storage property would have their own UNIQUE hashtag… example: #Riverside, #Riverdale, #StoreContest, #StorageWin – It doesn’t have to have your store name in it, the important thing is that it contains the apartment code at the end, i.e.: Riverside01, Riverside02 or Riverdale01 Riverdale02.
When distributing these fliers to the apartment complexes, explain to the manager that the code indicates THEIR property to us, and that they themselves will ALSO win a $50 gift card IF the winner comes from their community. It is not necessary for the storage location to have a Twitter account to view the results. All they have to do is search the hashtags they have assigned to the different apartment communities. If your company does have a twitter account, the winners can be retweeted from that account on that day of your choosing.
Also, contests could be held monthly but changed up a little each time. For example, next month could be a “caption contest” with a self-storage related cartoon (think New Yorker). The flier would read:
“Tweet your best caption for this cartoon. Include the hashtag #yourstorstorage01, and we will pick 1 winner to receive a $50 Visa gift card. The winning caption will be retweeted from @yourtwitteraccount on the designated date.”
Although this marketing idea will require a little organization and effort, it shouldn’t be too cumbersome seeing as many of us do half of this already by creating and distributing fliers to apartments. This is a great (and different) way to get your name out there and get people talking and thinking about you. Of course the best thing about this idea is any aspect of it can be changed and tailored to fit your company’s name, image, budget, and/or goals. If you think $50 isn’t a large enough incentive for your market, raise it. If you would rather conduct the contest quarterly instead of monthly, go for it. Planning a promotion like this in advance would only yield better results.
“Self Storage Quarterly Yard Sale” by Satyra
Similar to self-storage auctions, set up times throughout the year for tenants as well as non-tenants to sell their belongings at a “yard sale.” A lot of times people have things they want to get rid of, but don’t know how to exercise their local resources as far as running ads, posting posters etc. An event like this would not only allow tenants to get rid of that stuff they’ve been hoarding for years, but it will also drive visitors for your facility. And instead of loading whatever doesn’t sell to take back home, offer specials so guests will just store their leftovers in a unit.
“YouTube Videos” by Andrew
Promote your brand through creative YouTube videos.
“Win A Storage Makeover – With Celebrity Peter Walsh” by Mark
At the moment there is a lot of hype about the show Hoarders. And on the Oprah Winfrey Network, there is a makeover show with celebrity Peter Walsh. I would capitalize on this new area of interest and offer to help your storage customers clean up their lives. You could offer a new service where they would pay for sessions with clean up experts… and you could have a competition with a chance to win a clean-up session with celebrity clutter cleaner Peter Walsh.
This could be a big marketing exercise. It would help the people get rid of the stuff they don’t need, but they would still want to keep some things that require storage. The cleaning expert could visit the customer’s home and teach them to keep more stuff in storage – in organized style – so their homes are streamlined and beautiful. It would bring more money to your facility in many ways, and motivate customers to come to you, as you are helping people. I would love to win a session with Peter Walsh myself!
“Storage Raffle” by Kevin
A way bring customers in is to have a raffle at your storage. The idea is to put an “X” value of money on a random storage unit. Whoever signs up to rent or whoever currently rents that unit will win that “X” amount of cash. You have to set a deadline for when the prize will be awarded.
However, the amount of cash put in has to be a reasonable amount to drive people in. Lets say you put in a $1,000 dollar reward on whoever signs up to rent that bin. In order for them to win, they have to be renting it for a certain period of time. Then, when it comes time to draw the raffle, you randomly pick a number and whoever has that unit gets the prize.
Before you start drawing, you may want to advertise on your local radio/TV/online so people will have an idea about it, and know when to come in. Start promotion a couple of weeks in advance. This is also a plus for current storage renters, because this may influence them to extend their rental period
Another option is during the time of the raffle, whoever signs up or extends their lease will get a certain percentage off (ie: 10% off a 6 or 12 month rental).
“Pay On Time, Get One Month Free!” by Eric
For every 12 months of on-time, in-full rent payment, customers get one month of storage credit free (not redeemable for cash).
“Christmas Marketing” by Megan
We all know in the storage industry that the winter/holiday season is a slower time for us. I have come up with a few ideas that might help bring in some much needed foot traffic! Using one of the larger climate-controlled storage units, you can set up a gift wrapping station. Provide tables, chairs, gift wrap, bows, tape, scissors, etc. Play holiday music and serve hot chocolate! You can do one big event or publicize it for every Saturday afternoon or something that works for you. This drives people in to your facility.
Also, set up a Toys For Tots program so you can collect unused toys and donate them. The more people who come to the facility, the better, and they will tell their friends as well. It’s also a good idea to run an event online via your website or Facebook page for the holidays. Have people take photos of their Christmas decorations, excess presents, etc. and have people vote who deserves to win a storage unit free for 3 months!
“Pictures Worth A Thousand Words” by Matt
Put several useful moving/packing supplies in a smaller unit, set them up nicely. Take a picture, making sure the number can’t be read. Then use what ever media you have— could be printed-out pages tacked to the bulletin board of an apartment mail room, the common area at a university, or through a contest on social media. The idea is that you will open one empty unit per day, every day for two weeks, and the person who guesses the date each locker is opened wins the supplies and locker (for some period, say a month or three). The rest of the people who enter are solid leads who may need storage or supplies now or in the future.
“QR Codes” by Michelle
QR Codes (quick response codes) are an excellent way for even the smallest of storage facilities to get in on mobile marketing. Best of all, it can be done for free! Awesome opportunity to get more info out and can be used in both print and online campaigns.
“A Win-Win Situation For Everyone” by Abhishek
Have a wheel at the facility and offer everyone a free spin. Here are some example choices for your wheel:
- Kindle Fire
- Free storage lock
- Free self-storage rental for a month
- Additional spin
To download a free white paper about modern marketing tactics for independent storage operators, visit selfstora.ge/competelikeREITs.