Although contactless rentals and remote management are growing in popularity within the self storage space, there’s still a lot to be said for engaging with the community. By creating meaningful connections and establishing a positive presence, you can give your business’ bottom line and its reputation a boost, while standing apart from the competition.
“There’s a lot more ‘missionary marketing’ going on now [post-pandemic],” says Carol Mixon, owner of SkilCheck Services, Inc., a self storage consulting, training, and management firm. “Owners and managers are getting back out into their communities to make contacts and build relationships.”
1. Consider Your Market
Mixon says to consider any services the market may need. This could be by offering RV parking spaces for rent or providing ancillary services such as a business center or packing center. Amazon Hub, a worldwide network of pickup locations, could also bring people to your property. The program enables any business with a physical location to offer secure package pickup and returns to Amazon customers, and in -turn reap benefits from the potential increase in foot traffic and sales at their location.
Outside the box thinking can also benefit your business. Mixon says that one self storage facility she has worked with that is in a market with an aging population has partnered with retirement homes and assisted living facilities in the area. She says that many residents of these facilities have accumulated a lot of items over the years, and it’s not feasible, or they’re not allowed, to keep all their belongings with them in their new dwellings. “The self storage facility holds their belongings for them,” she explains. “They also deliver the items when a resident needs them and picks them up when they’re done with them. This could be anything from Christmas decorations to golf clubs.”
2. Connect With Influencers
Influencers can have a big impact on your business. Of course, we’re not talking about Tik-Tokers and famous Instragrammers, but rather locals who are well-known in the community, such as rRealtors. “They know who’s moving in and who’s moving out, and what their storage needs are going to be,” says Mixon. “They may know of empty
nesters who are downsizing and need storage, or maybe a military family that needs to ship off for a while and store their stuff while they rent their property.”
Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training, and development services at Universal Storage Group, encourages outreach to local retailers. She says connecting with them, especially before the holidays, can be very lucrative. “We have facilities made up of 15 percent or more retail clients, who may need to store holiday inventory,” Ballard explains. “One facility has a Hallmark store that regularly rents two to three 10-by-x30s to house all those holiday cards and gifts.”
Reaching out to local law enforcement can also benefit your business. By allowing officers to stop in for a free cup of coffee, giving them business space to write up reports, or designating K-9s training days on your property, you are helping them while sending a message to customers concerned about security – as well as would-be criminals – that the men and women in blue have got your back.
3. Partner With Charity
Giving back by partnering with charities is a great way to connect with your community. This is especially important when it comes to attracting younger generations who take notice of business’ charitable efforts. In fact, according to a 2022 “Why America Gives”
report, 90 percent of Gen Z surveyed plan to give to charitable causes and want organizations to do the same.
Earlier this year, employees of Extra Space generated more than $51,000 in donations for hunger-relief organization Feeding America through a virtual holiday food drive. It’s an effort the REIT has been part of since 2021. The company then matched the contributions.
Efforts can also be done at a local level. A Public Storage facility in Houston, for example, provides a local nonprofit, Open Gate Homeless Ministries, with reduced pricing on storage to hold excess donated clothes, and U-Haul regularly offers temporary free storage to victims of natural disasters in specific areas.
Of course, you don’t need to be a REIT to make a difference. Smaller independents can also partner with local charities, or even get involved with nonprofits such as Charity Storage or StorageGives. Both of these nonprofits work with storage facilities to benefit charities by auctioning abandoned or donated items.
4. Develop an Online Presence
To be a community hub, not everything you do needs to take place at your facility. Some things can be done online. “Events and contests can all be done online,” says Bethany Salmon, product marketing manager with Janus International,. “but the best content is authentic content. Stories about the facility, its employees, how you give back to the community …”
Salmon says stories about tenants can be particularly engaging. “Perhaps someone using a unit as a storage hub for a unique online business, highlight that. Also, retail and business tenants are good candidates for these types of stories as they can benefit from the cross promotion.”
Tutorials are the third most-watched videos on YouTube and other social media sites, so Salmon recommends producing this type of content. “You might consider topics related to moving, organizing, and storage solutions. This provides value while demonstrating your business’ expertise.”
5. Hold On-Site Events
Not particularly tech savvy? Host live events on your property. Turn that online tutorial into an on-site workshop on how to pack properly before a move. You might also consider hosting yard sales, storage swaps, and holiday events, such as an Easter egg hunt, drive thru Christmas light event, or a Halloween “Haunted Self Storage Facility,” which Burbank Self Storage in California does every year, generating attention and press. If you have a large parking lot, consider allowing organizations to hold their blood drives, car washes, bake sales, etc., on your site.
“Chamber after-hours events are another great opportunity,” Ballard says. “You can set up food, beverage, raffle, and swag stations in different areas or units of the property, giving guests a map so they have to make their way around. This allows them to see a good portion of the property, and once they experience it, they’re more likely to tell other about it or come back to rent themselves.”
6. Connect With Local Organizations
Not every connection needs to be charity related; sometimes, you may want to simply consider sponsoring local events. For example, you might support a local sports team, theater troupe, or school, which can make your brand an integral part of the community.
If a financial sponsorship is difficult, consider in-kind offers, such as providing storage space for their equipment and supplies, or offering discounts. Showing support for the
community encourages brand loyalty from those that live in it, and gets your brand name on banners, flyers, booklets, and any other materials they may produce.
By implementing some of these strategies, your self storage company will be poised to become a pillar within the community – a business that is active, respected, and influential. This can help you in the short term financially, and even in the long -term should you plan to renovate or make expansions that require going to those notoriously difficult zoning board meetings. They’re sure to look more kindly on a business that is already well-known and active within the community!