Since self-storage facilities and moving companies oftentimes are dealing with the same customers, experts say it makes sense to team up. That way, they can make referrals to one another and make it easier for customers to take care of storage and moving business.
“Partnering is a great idea because they’re talking to the same people,” said Tron Jordheim, head of marketing at Columbia, MO-based StorageMart. “People moving need storage and not all moving companies have warehouse space available. And those that do may not have enough room when they get busy.”
Looking to boost your self-storage business? Download this free white paper today: bit.ly/1SGGVhC.
Jordheim said self-storage managers should contact local movers to find out what they do when their customers need storage and whether they’re recommending any storage facilities. If you get a warm reception, then ask whether the moving company is open to back-and-forth storage and moving referrals. Of course, Jordheim said, you should check out a mover’s reputation and make sure it’s licensed before you shake hands on a deal.
“Have a stack of business cards and brochures, and a plaque on your counter that says, ‘We recommend these movers,’” Jordheim said, with those movers returning the favor. “You also could post stories about them on your Facebook page and vice versa.”
Jordheim recommends partnering with several movers, because the companies often get busy and sometimes specialize in certain types of moves. Plus, your customers will want to call several movers for quotes.
“You have to manage the program and keep up your relationship with the movers,” he said. “And you want to get a report back from your customers when they move and used someone you referred to them. Did everything go fine? You need to know because you don’t want to recommend them to someone else if it didn’t go fine.’”
Besides simply joining forces to promote one another, storage and moving businesses can offer reciprocal discounts, said Scott Meyers, who leads Indianapolis, IN-based Self-Storage Profits Inc. and SelfStorageInvesting.com. For example, a mover can extend one month of free storage at your facility to its customers.
Rob Consalvo, director of operations at Winter Garden, FL-based iStorage, said all of its facilities typically have partnerships with local moving companies. He relies on facility managers to build these relationships. They screen movers through recommendations and referrals from current and previous customers, and conduct Internet research.
Through such partnerships, storage facilities can secure web links to moving companies’ “preferred vendors” pages.
“It’s a great marketing tool,” Consalvo said. “The local link building is so valuable. We don’t typically do any joint marketing with the local partners, other than being on each other’s websites. The movers are really a referral source for us, and we’re a referral source for them.”
Consalvo said partnerships with local movers work best for iStorage.
“We’ve tried partnering with some national brands, and you just don’t get the same effect,” he said. “Most folks who use self-storage really are doing local moves, and maybe they’re 30 to 60 days between houses [and need temporary storage].”
Maria Lopez, manager of iStorage in Mullica Hill, NJ, said her facility’s local moving partner, Adams Moving Co., has sent several customers to her in the past couple of months, and many of those customers are renting 10×30 climate-controlled units. Lopez’s company took over the facility in January.
Are there cons?
Consalvo said a downside to storage-and-moving partnerships can be finding reliable movers.
“Being as large and as spread out as we are, that’s nothing that I can centrally manage,” he said. “We’re relying on our local managers to make those connections. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t choose the right partner, so you might go through a partnership once or twice. I can personally say that we’ve had very good success with the quick little screening process that we do, and it’s nothing expensive.”
Meyers cited another disadvantage: Moving is a tough business with slim profit margins, and a lot of moving companies go out of business.
“It’s a low barrier-to-entry business, so there are an awful lot of folks that can get into it fairly easily. But the attrition rate or failure rate is pretty high,” Meyers said. “Being tied to a company that isn’t doing well or doesn’t deliver on the promise may not be a good move.”
A contrarian view
Gary Delaney, president of self-storage owner and developer Banner Storage Group in North Brook, IL, has a different take on partnering with movers.
“I’m a little bit the contrarian in the fact that I’m buying up existing moving and storage companies and converting them to pure self-storage companies,” Delaney said.
“Also, I haven’t found it a major benefit [to partner], because you get a few customers who utilize moving and storage when moving, but that’s such a small portion of the self-storage customer nowadays. That’s less than 10 percent of our customers.”