The Storage Facilitator
When it comes to achieving success in the self-storage business, Marc Goodin believes you are your only competition. In his latest book, “Crush Your Competition,” Goodin writes that fear of failure, limitation of your beliefs and reluctance to push yourself ultimately will be the reasons you fail—not the storage facility down the street.
“Crush Your Competition” gives storage owners and managers a week-by-week approach to carrying out marketing strategies that can improve a facility’s physical appearance, customer service, community presence and business-to-business relationships.
Long before opening his first self-storage facility, Goodin designed storage buildings while working as a civil engineer for 25 years. In 2004, he opened his first facility, Coventry Self Storage in Coventry, CT. Since then, he’s opened one facility in Mansfield, CT, and another in New Brunswick, Canada.
Aside from being a self-storage owner, Goodin is a consultant for storage facilities. He also has publishedother books on how to build a self-storage facility, as well as a self-storage business plan, employee handbook and marketing calendar. This fall, he’ll publish a book about how to boost sales in the self-storage business.
The Storage Facilitator chatted with Goodin about what it takes for your storage facility to thrive.
In the book, you explain that customers don’t let price or distance dictate renting from a storage facility. Rather, the main reason customers pick one facility over another is because it just feels right. How do you explain that “just right” feeling, and how can a facility ensure that it’s “just right”?
Take a first-class approach. Your facility is spic-and-span clean, the landscape is trimmed and neat, there’s music in the background, there are flowers at the front desk, and there’s candy for the kids. The manager goes around the counter and greets customers before they have the opportunity to say or ask for anything; the customers don’t observe anything wrong or out of place. Attention has been paid to every detail. A warm ambiance makes them feel at home.
You place great importance on the appearance of the facility. You write, “The most successful self-storages know they are in the fashion and service business.” Why is it important to see the industry as more than space for rent? And in what ways can self-storage facilities make their businesses more “fashionable” on a limited budget?
Too many people think of it as a commodity business. The more fashionable you are, the more noticeable you are. It’s all about creating an image. When a customer drives by our self-storage and another one within a mile, which one will he remember? The one with impeccable landscaping! He may think, “That’s the greenest grass in town. If he takes care of his grass that good, imagine how good he will take care of me!”
It doesn’t take much to create an attractive landscape or office space. A $200 budget is enough to create a 6-foot garden blooming with tulips or daffodils in the spring. And you can easily use merchandise, such as locks, to create a wall display. It’s all about organization and using what you have to create a retail atmosphere.
Community service and random acts of kindness are an intrinsic way to become a part of the community. This is a rewarding way to inadvertently market your business, but how do you determine the best ways to get involved with the community that also will be the most beneficial to your business?
It’s a long-term process. Start with your employees. Allow every employee paid time off, every week, to volunteer locally—whatever cause they are interested in.
Send letters to your fire department, offering free storage to fire victims. Send letters to nonprofits, donating free three-month storage certificates for raffles and silent auctions. Allow civic groups to use your site for fundraising events, such as car washes. Be present at these events to hand out awards.
Gifts of space and service don’t cost much other than manpower. The goal is not to try to sell anything at that moment–just bring awareness to who you are and what you do. Once you connect with the community and they see that you are supportive, they will remember.
Business-to-business marketing is also a key part of your marketing strategy. You said that you should make friends with real estate agents, bankers and your competitors. How do you make friends with the competition?
Most of my referrals come from real estate agents and other self-storage facilities. Be direct. Go visit other facilities in person, shake their hands and let them know who you are. We work together to fill the customers’ needs. I refer customers to them; they refer customers to me. Plus, I give them coffee and doughnut gift certificates to say “thank you.” It’s always important to let other businesses and customers know that you appreciate them.