Harnessing Technology to Simplify Marketing
It’s 2023 and the reality of our digital age is becoming increasingly evident. Self storage is no stranger to this trend. Technology has changed move-ins, locks, gates, payments, and even our regular interactions with tenants. Marketing has not gone untouched either, with more marketing “best-practices” and “must-have tools” hitting the industry daily. When occupancies were high, marketing may have been an afterthought. Perhaps it still is for you. However, increasing move-outs, an unpredictable economy, and relentless competition have made effective marketing not just important, but absolutely essential.
With a myriad of responsibilities to manage, you might be asking, “How can I possibly master marketing?” This is where technology comes to the rescue, simplifying complex tasks, offering tools and resources that were once accessible only to large corporations or marketing gurus. Over the next few sections, we’ll delve deeper into how technology can be your steadfast ally in overcoming marketing challenges, helping you showcase your facility like a seasoned pro.
Maximizing Efficiency with Technology
Increasing traffic to your facility through your website is hopefully top of mind for you as you think of marketing. Hopefully you already have a website in place where potential tenants can find and rent units. If not, we probably need to have a separate conversation. Google is still king by a wide margin for searches, and the two areas to focus on there are your paid ads and your organic search rankings. Paid ads, or pay-per-click, can be tricky, time consuming, and extremely expensive. The industry giants are shelling out $30 per click or more, crowding the same space smaller operators are trying to fill. This is where technology is your friend.
Tech tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends can help you rise through the ranks organically, effectively reducing the need for those budget-draining PPC campaigns. Organic ranking is not just cost-effective; it’s sustainable and ensures long-term visibility in the digital landscape. Maybe you can’t spend a ton on PPC, but you can learn how to optimize your website to rank higher, or enlist the help of a professional who can do it for you.
Another common hurdle is obtaining regular reviews to boost your organic rankings, and provide potential customers with an accurate impression of your business. QR codes are easy to produce with free browser plugins and can effortlessly guide your customers to review sites, streamlining the review process. With a free Google Business Profile, you can respond right away. If you’re finding the task of managing reviews overwhelming, a reputation management company can simplify the review process and give you insightful metrics about your online reputation.
These are just a couple of ways that technology can give your business a boost. The best part? There are even more tools out there that are either free or very affordable if you decide to handle marketing yourself.
The Right Tools for the Job
The world of technology offers an array of free tools that can transform your marketing strategy. Google provides several free tools, such as Lighthouse, Google Ads, and Google Analytics. These tools can empower you to measure the impact of your online presence and make appropriate adjustments. Is the money you spend on ads producing what you hoped? Is the time you spend on social media or your Google profile impacting rentals? Is your website performing like it should or how your website time promised? Knowing the results of what you’re putting into marketing is crucial to making the most of your limited resources. Almost all of these free tools can provide those insights. Reports generated right from your Google Business Profile can tell you how many calls they’re sending your way, how many clicks to your website, and even how many times people asked for directions to your facility. This provides you with real-time analytics of your online visibility.
Additionally, free resources provided by Meta, Canva, and others can assist you in creating visually appealing marketing materials and distributing them at the right time for the most impact. Another free resource I have to mention is ChatGPT. As we advance further into the digital era, the power of AI cannot be overlooked. Tools like ChatGPT’s online search features can give you an edge over your competitors. Strong prompts can create effective social media ideas or even tell you what competitors near you are charging for a 10×10.
Balancing In-House and Outsourced Marketing Efforts
One crucial element of managing your marketing strategy is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options to maximize your marketing. Keeping it simple can be difficult, but it starts with knowing your limits and implementing tech or tech minded people to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Tasks such as website design and optimizing SEO can be quite complex and are a “weakness” for most operators. I’d recommend leaving that to professionals unless you are willing to take the time to really dive into the world of web design. While there is a cost associated, it’s more apt to view it as an investment in your online visibility.
On the other hand, more personal tasks like managing social media, gathering reviews, and posting pictures can often be effectively managed in-house. These are areas where you can let your unique brand voice shine and establish a direct relationship with your audience. As your operation grows, using free tools to manage your time effectively will help maintain the quality of your engagement, ensuring your marketing efforts don’t fall by the wayside.
As I mentioned earlier, Meta has built in free tools for scheduling, monitoring, and responding to posts on Facebook and Instagram. Each social platform has similar features. As you grow, maybe a cost-effective program like Buffer would make sense for scheduling posts. The important thing is to not spread yourself too thin trying to do everything at once. Start small and lean into what works for you. If there’s something you identify as a high priority, you’ll have to make that choice of doing it yourself or outsourcing it to someone else. Either way, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
One of those instances for me came in the middle of 2022. The company I was with was growing exponentially. Growth is exhilarating but it often brings new challenges. As our company expanded from a few properties to more than 20, we faced the daunting task of managing an influx of messages from various platforms like Facebook, Google, and direct texts. We were also seeing the need for increased reviews to boost our organic website traffic. As the sole marketing person, I looked for options that would maximize my time. Birdeye, a reputation management company, was the answer.
They established a unified platform for all our incoming messages, which could then be assigned to the appropriate team member. This streamlined communication, enabling us to respond quickly to tenants, and made sure no potential rental opportunities slipped through the cracks. They also aided us in amplifying our online reputation. They automated the process of sending custom text messages to all our current and past renters asking for reviews. This strategy significantly increased the number of our reviews and helped us grow our online presence. Furthermore, they facilitated a feedback system allowing our renters to contact us with direct feedback for more critical comments. This open channel of communication allowed us to improve our services and meet our customers’ needs more effectively. Was it a financial investment? Yes. Was the time it saved worth the cost? Absolutely. Leveraging this piece of technology saved time and enabled us to do more with our marketing resources.
To sum it up, integrating technology into your marketing strategy is no longer a choice but a necessity. The self-storage industry is facing more challenges than ever, but with the right tools, strategy, and mindset, you can navigate this landscape effectively. Start by assessing your needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Utilize the plethora of free tools that the digital world offers. Outsource tasks that require professional handling while maintaining the personal touch in tasks that you can handle in-house. Remember, every tool, every service you invest in, is a step towards a stronger online presence and a more successful business.
As daunting as it may seem, the transition into tech-savvy marketing is a journey worth embarking on. Not only will it maximize your marketing efficiency, but it will also free up your time to focus on other important aspects of your business.