Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Truck Rental Intangibles and your storage business!

As with any New Year, businesses are reenergized and looking for more ways to add to their bottom-line or do better than the previous year.  For self-storage operators that can come in the form of diversifying their offering beyond just self-storage rentals.  For many, retail products, mobile/portable storage, or truck rentals can be a source that gets your business over the hump this New Year.  The best way to find out what works is to listen to your peers that are already doing it.  Below is my real life story of what’s worked for one self-storage operator this past year (condensed version of course);

Last week I rented a U-Haul truck from an independently owned self-storage location.  The nice young lady at the facility and gentleman (owner) didn’t know anything about me other than I was a customer renting a 26’ truck.  This location has been renting U-Haul trucks for just over a year.  I asked the owner how business was.  His response, things are much better this year.  He said since becoming a U-Haul dealer he’s noticed the turn around in his self-storage business.  My response, wow, the commissions you’re getting from the rentals must be really good.  His response, “the commissions are nice but it’s the awareness that these trucks bring to my storage business is what’s great.  As soon as I parked a truck in front of my business I had people come in and say they’ve lived in this area for years and never knew I was here until I saw the truck.”  The commissions are nice, but the awareness I get from these truck rentals is great.      

A quick back story, I’ve lived in this general area for just over six years now and hadn’t stepped foot into this business until I rented the truck.  Even if I only rented a truck from this location this one time, I now know who I will be renting storage from in the future.

This is one of many of stories that are out there.  No, renting trucks is not always going to be roses, and yes it will take some investment from you as far as time and payroll hours, but for the owner on the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ it reenergized his business and has added tremendous value beyond the commissions he receives from each truck rental.  A great way to start this New Year is to listen to your peers, see what’s worked for them and attempt to replicate this success in your own business.  Truck rentals might just be the boost your business is looking for. 

Good Renting...and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and yours!

Sam

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feedback Good (or Bad) is Always Good!

Heading up an online review based network I’ve learned a lot about the value consumer reviews can have on a business.  While I’d like to sit here and say that every review posted on our network is positive, I’d be lying and our network would lack any credibility.  Yes, sometimes too much “good” can be bad in the consumer’s eyes.  Sounds odd but let’s put it in simple terms many of us can relate to, dating. You meet the person of your dreams, they look great, say all the good things you want to hear but for some reason in the back your mind you’re thinking, too good to be true.  OK sounds silly I know, but for many of us this is the psychological reality of how we deal with things and usually this behavior works its way into how we act as consumers.   Let’s put this into our own business world, informed decisions is what your prospective customers are looking for and reviews are a major component of that.  Be it on my website, your website, or any of the social media outlets out there today, the consumer will get the information they need to make an “informed” decision.  Whether or not you like reviews customers have been reviewing your facility for many years, it’s called word of mouth.  With the advent of the internet it’s now called world of mouth.  But let’s not be confused, don’t fool yourself and assume that only the good is what you want your prospective customers to hear.  Constructive consumer feedback is a necessary evil of successfully running a business today.  Even if the customer is wrong in your mind, it’s still their opinion.  For many of us, it’s that constructive feedback (review) that has helped make us better business people.  Look at the companies that have thrived utilizing reviews, eBay, Amazon, and yes our own, eMove. It’s the unbiased nature of the review that helps make these businesses successful.  Can you imagine eBay without reviews?   

Consumer feedback can and will generate more business, how you react to that feedback will ultimately determine the true effectiveness of garnering more business out of reviews.  Lastly, don’t fool yourself into thinking that the one bad review will sink the ship, it’s the bad ones that open our eyes and help make us that much better at what we do. 

Good renting!

Sam

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We’re not in the auction business!

With the recent popularity of self-storage auction shows more and more attention has come to the self-storage industry.  For the industry this attention has a positive and negatives and we should be thoughtful of how we react to it.  Let’s start with the positive (singular), more awareness about self-storage.  Yes, your foot traffic at your location is up, especially during auction time, but is it the foot traffic you want?  The negatives (plural), negative perception from your consumers, more wrongful sales, more risks to owners/operators, more fear of storing.  The most important thing to remember is that we are a consumer driven industry and your prospective, existing, and former customers are watching shows like these and wondering why we are glamorizing the potential auctioning of their goods.  As an industry we need to remember why we’re here, to serve the customer; rent, lease, offer self-storage to an ever growing customer base.  Of course you’ll continue to have auctions, but it’s the dirty part of our business that we don’t like doing.  Think about it like this; if you’re sitting in court attempting to defend your location in an alleged wrongful sale it’s going to be difficult to convince a judge that you did all you could to prevent the sale when at the same time you’re promoting your delinquent customer’s goods on a website that says their goods are “hidden treasures”.  Of course you need to advertise the sale, but keep within the confines of the law.  Do not glamorize delinquent accounts; focus more on the settlement before the sale. And remember, WE’RE IN THE SELF-STORAGE BUSINESS.   

Good renting

Sam

Monday, October 3, 2011

Should I jump?

In today's day and age self storage facility owners are looking for more ways to save money and make more money.   Yes, sounds like one of my ads in an industry publication but this is the reality of the world we live in today.  One common theme swirling around the self storage industry is when should I make the jump away from the yellow pages.  Recently I heard two CEOs of larger chains say that they are done with yellow page advertising and focusing all of their efforts online.  I can tell you that these weren't overnight decisions and you can bet these larger companies had a fleet of people counting numbers before they made the "calculated" decision to exit the yellow pages completely. What we're witnessing is the early stages of what's quickly becoming a very busy arena of calculated moves bought and paid for by the guy with the biggest checkbook.  Just Google (Bing or Yahoo) search "storage" and the market your facility is in. Yes the bigger guys will buy position just as they did with the yellow pages.  Sitting here as someone representing a group that only functions online it should be easy for me to say JUMP NOW WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!  But I believe that common sense tells us to think before we do it, don't do it just because the other guy did it.  Just as the larger guys calculated their jump so should you.  As I've said in previous blogs, outbidding the big guys is not a sustainable practice for a smaller operator.  What I like to compare it to is bidding on that double truck or full page ad...it's hard to compete and usually beyond most of our budgets.  Of course you should make the jump at some point if you haven't already done so, but make sure you're prepared and have aligned yourself with someone who can help you compete against the “big guys”.

Here are a few simple suggestions; know your existing and prospective customers and find out how they heard about you.  If 90% say I saw you in the yellow pages your decision is simple, although this is doubtful. And when you find out that no one uses the yellow pages anymore, make sure that your prospective customer can find you online, get details about you online, and can transact with you online. And remember, the internet is ever changing so don’t assume you can manage it like your yellow page ad.  Conforming to this shift is just a start.

Good renting!

Sam      

Monday, September 26, 2011

Did he just say that?

I was recently reviewing some notes from a tradeshow I attended in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.  This was a typical SSA show, the usual vendors, some new guys, and great storage people we had quality conversations with.  During the show I had the luxury of attending the “keynote” session given by Dean Jernigan of U-Store-It.   To my surprise much of this keynote was a sales presentation.  This seemed to surprise many of the people in attendance as well.  Much of the audience were independent self storage owners, so you can imagine their surprise when the chairman of a larger self storage operator makes a statement about his company’s efforts in gaining first page ranking on Google by purchasing multitudes of key words and how they buy more key words than anyone else in the industry.  I believe the quote was, "if you're not buying the right key words or first on Google you're losing." Wow, not the best thing to say to a group of owners who are desperately trying to gain relevance on the internet more so now than ever and you’re telling them you’re doing your best to outbid them.  My opinion, this came off sounding more like, my budget is bigger than yours and good luck trying. 

From my perspective I can tell you what I heard and what we do.  I can also tell you that we’ve never charged our eMove Storage Affiliates an additional dime for the placement we’ve gotten them on Google or any online directory nor have we had to bid on keywords to gain relevance on the internet.  We have a dedicated team of hard working people working to get our network members visibility on the internet.  We’ve committed resources to these efforts many years ago because of our mutually beneficial interests, SURVIVAL IN THE SELF STORAGE INDUSTRY.  Don’t believe me, ask the 400 plus local sites we’re listing our Affiliates on and not charging an additional dime for. It’s because of this many of our network members our able to sustain a competitive online presence. As far as bidding on keys words here’s my advice; Bidding on keywords is not a sustainable practice for the smaller operator, don’t believe me just try it.  Better yet, I’ll give you my $100 “free” advertising coupon I received from the Google Small Business Team last month.  Google even allows you to set your daily budget to spend this $100 in free online advertising; you might get a whole day out of it.   

Back to our original topic…I commend Dean’s efforts to get his new name out there in front of a captive audience but there’s a better forum for it.  His presentation would have been best left for his investors.  Maybe I should be saying, Shame on you SSA.   

Good renting!

Sam   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So Many Experts, So little time!

If someone tells you today that they can get you first page Google placement turn and run unless their business card says I OWN GOOGLE.  Within the last few years I've seen many new self storage "experts" come into this industry claiming that they're SEO experts, Social media experts, or best of all, Google experts.  Really, a Google expert?  Such bold statements for an area (the internet) that changes daily and truly has not been around that long. As for social media, the only experts are the ones who created it; it's hard to argue otherwise.  Major universities can't teach this stuff quick enough. By the time a semester is over, much of what the CIS student (Computer Information Systems) has learned can change before the end of the semester, good luck to college professors trying to create the curriculums. 


Back to our industry…Do your research before you choose an "expert". Make sure they know your industry and know your customer, anything else is merely their opinion.  Be cautious of the guy with the magic elixir, there's a good chance his potion might not work for your prospective customer.


Good Renting!

Sam  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How far we've come!

Throughout the year I am fortunate to travel many places and visit with great people in the self storage industry.  Personally I have been involved in this industry for many years, just over 17.  I have seen a lot change in the self storage industry throughout the years, from the ways we market the storage product to the ways we manage it.  Today, everyone is talking about what you should do online, from management software to the replacing your yellow page ads with online directories.  I can remember in the late 90s early 2000's when owners would tell me that they would never display their rates online.  Their reasoning, why would they want to make it easy for their competitor to know their rates.  I must say it's good to see this mindset somewhat evolve with more and more owner/operators displaying their rates online.  For those operators not yet convinced, the guy down the street appreciates you not helping the prospective customer.  Remember, if you're not displaying your pricing the perception from the consumers standpoint is your prices are too high.  At the end of the day your website should function no different than you or your employee answering the phone at your location; Yes I can quote you a price, Yes I can give you directions to my location, Yes I can reserve that room for you, etc. Fulfilment is what your online prospective customer is looking for.  Don't waste online visits by hiding your pricing.   

Good renting!
Sam