Every Self-Storage facility needs a solid brand to succeed. Without a strong brand, securing new business and retaining tenants is challenging. While building a brand can seem daunting, and every market has its differences, these recommendations can be universally applied to any market and industry. Checking these boxes is just the start of creating a brand and identity, but doing so puts a brand on a solid platform that allows for scaling and multiple touchpoints to engage with your tenants.
Building Your Identity
Standing up a new facility can be an exciting time for any operator since this is the time to decide the overall footprint of the property. Similarly, this is also the time to consider the brand footprint and set up guardrails around the brand. Initial efforts will naturally lean toward creating a name for the operation that will separate itself from the competition and help communicate its value proposition. When thinking of a name, make sure also to consider how that name can translate online in the form of a URL or web domain. Fortunately, many online tools like WHOIS.COM allow business owners to easily and quickly query different variations of a name to assist with finding a domain that aligns with the selected name.
Logo creation is often the next exciting journey and should ideally embody who the company is and what it does. Many people often make the mistake of selecting a logo in full color.
A best practice is to ensure the logo works well with black-and-white applications since color can always be added later, increasing its versatility.
It is advisable to involve a designer or small agency during this process since they have depth and breadth of experience in logos and how they are used. Fortunately, several boutique shops and freelancers can be hired online (from sites like upwork.com) for very reasonable rates. A little investment at this stage is highly recommended since everything done moving forward will build around this effort.
Moving forward, an experienced boutique shop (and most freelancers) will recommend a business owner to develop some defined brand guidelines. Typically, this is a short document that captures where and how the logo will be used, the brand colors, and what font(s) to be associated with your brand. This document will act as a source of truth for all marketing designs moving forward and help ensure consistency as varying pieces are produced to message the customer or tenant.
What are the next consideration for the operation that has already checked these boxes? How does an operator get their message efficiently out to its tenants? Read on and discover some other considerations for any self-storage operator.
Building a Brand with Your Website
In this increasingly digital age, a user-friendly web presence is essential. Storage Café estimates that prospective tenants execute 3.4 million online searches for storage units per month. Therefore, having a website is critical for operators to who wish to promote the facility especially for local audience. The 2023 Self Storage Demand Study published by the Self Storage Association (SSA) reports that 41% of consumers find their self-storage facility online. If properly done, websites provide operators with an efficient means of differentiating one facility from another. But what factors should you consider before building a website to support your business?
Having an effective website today requires it to be three things: responsive, searchable, and easy to navigate. According to survey data published by Statistica, 21 percent of respondents used their mobile phones to search for a local business daily. and a recent SSA report estimates that 50% of consumers who find their self-storage facility online use their mobile phones. Therefore, self-storage operators need a “fully responsive” site that adapts to any viewing environment and all devices (desktop and mobile) for a seamless user experience. But to offer a great user experience, potential customers must first find the site. That’s where search engines come in, and search engine optimization (SEO) ensures a local facility can be easily found.
One of the most effective ways to be found for the likely search phrase “storage units near me” is to make Google aware of the business.
Fortunately, this is a relatively easy task that can quickly be accomplished by visiting google.com/business and simply creating or claiming the business’s profile. Often overlooked, this is probably the single most crucial action an operator can do to promote their facility online, even if you do not have a website.
Outside of a fully responsive experience with a focus on SEO, the cornerstones of an effective website include an intuitive and easy navigation structure. It is often tempting to get too complex but remember that your tenants are looking for:
- Unit availability
- Hours of operation
- How to contact you
At a minimum, check these boxes on the site before venturing further with additional content, or run the risk of your visitors leaving quickly to find another operator.
Getting started on your website may feel daunting since most of us do not understand HTML code or how to stand up a website. Fortunately, many services will help, including WordPress, Wix, GoDaddy, and Squarespace. These services provide operators with a low to no-cost alternative and can also help secure a memorable or catchy domain/URL for the new website.
Fortunately, several companies solely aim to assist small business owners in building their website properties. One firm specializing in website development for self-storage is Automatit (https://selfstoragemarketing.com/). Shops like Automatit are designed to assist business owners in bringing a site to life with minimal effort on the business owner’s part.
Even with professional services help, setting up a website is a relatively inexpensive endeavor. Using companies specializing in building sites is often the quickest route to successfully launching a fully responsive, search engine-friendly site versus the DIY approach. Questions to consider when hiring a website design partner may include:
- What services do they provide other than web design? (Content creation, graphic design, search engine optimization)
- Can they accomplish a design within your set budget? Communicate your budget before starting any project, especially since scope creep can often come into play during website construction.
- Is the development done locally, or is it outsourced? Outsourcing can lead to communication issues or delays but can be more cost-effective.
- Who will be the main point of contact?
- What are the design process and approximate timeline?
- Have they provided samples of their work?
- What content management system will they use? (WordPress/WIX/Squarespace/Other)
Regardless of if you decide to try to build your own site or involve an outside organization, your input will be a critical component that helps to determine the overall success of your online brand.
Building a Brand with Social Media
Another critical aspect of building your brand includes building a social media presence. Social channels allow prospective and current tenants to interact directly with your brand and facility. You can use social media to highlight facility upgrades and introduce the employees behind the brand. Posts that contain these and similar themes allow your followers to get to know your facility and encourage them to engage with the company.
Another advantage of social channels is that they provide tenants with immediate feedback and facilities that can reach followers almost in real-time.
In the event you receive a less-than-stellar comment on your social channel, it is essential that you publicly acknowledge it and let that individual know you will reach out to them.
Frustrated tenants want to be heard, and a quick response can turn a negative experience into a positive one. Prospective tenants also want to know that the company will address any concerns promptly. Some reviews you receive will be negative, but if tenants see that your company addresses issues quickly, they can be confident that you will provide a great customer experience and demonstrate your commitment to customer service
Each social channel is unique, and not all may fit your facility. While LinkedIn excels at business-to-business messaging, it typically falls short in business-to-consumer (or operator-to-tenant) communication. Similarly, Twitter (once the huge buzz in social media) is often considered more of a political platform and not an effective tool to reach new customers. Facebook is a strong choice for sharing business-to-consumer messages, like promotions, new offerings, and information that could help with decision-making. Instagram is a highly visual channel and would be a strong choice for sharing attractive facility images, new product additions, and friendly staff faces. Consider your target customers when standing up social spaces to reach and interact with them.
Once an operator decides to stand up a social media presence, it is essential that they also commit to posting regularly to develop a following, increase engagement and be successful on social. Doing so also helps the facility stay top of mind while encouraging greater loyalty and improved satisfaction. Setting a goal with at least one post per week is a great starting point, and fortunately, there are several free tools to assist operators with making sure their posts look polished. For example, Canva is an excellent resource with free social post templates that can be easily customized with the selected brand colors and logo. Working with a template will ensure posts look polished while maintaining a consistent, professional appearance while reducing time needed to hunt for content or design ideas.
Building a Brand with Reviews
Finally, asking tenants for reviews is crucial to strengthen the brand as they immediately add credibility to the facility and remove any customer concerns. While interacting with tenants, encourage them to leave positive feedback on Google or Facebook. With the tenant’s permission, a facility can share the review on social media and its website to showcase the positive experience.
Many companies put additional effort into managing their online brands and often start with one of the most used online review sites – YELP. A facility that is keenly interested in providing an outstanding customer experience while protecting its online reputation will often start by creating a free account at business.yelp.com. Doing so will provide customers another means of messaging the facility while also providing the insights into how customers or tenants are perceiving it.
More Branding Resources
Building the brand is critical to the storage operation’s overall success and does not happen over night. Like anything, a defined plan with specific action items and a consistent approach over time will yield the greatest output. A strong brand identity, coupled with a well-designed website and social presence are the foundations any operator needs to do well to drive both tenant engagement and revenue.
Looking for additional resources for building a strong brand? We dive deeper into branding resources on the articles found in the PTI Blog below:
- How Online Reviews Impact Your Self-Storage Operation
- Six Social Media Post Ideas for Your Self-Storage Facility
- Automatit.com – website developer specializing in self-storage
- CANVA – online tool for graphics creation
- WHOIS.com – great online tool for researching available domains for purchase
- UPWORK.com – online, project based freelancers who work for extremely competitive rates
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