Marketing one’s self storage facility (or portfolio of self storage facilities) is incredibly fun. Each and every customer who walks through the door (or the virtual door of your website) is facing a unique life experience, oftentimes involving great transition and change. Self storage managers have the good fortune of catering to each customer’s unique needs, crafting an experience that truly impacts their life.
Unfortunately, in the world of marketing, our human tendency is to implement a “one size fits all” strategy. Today, I want to share some actionable strategies on how your marketing can evolve and become more personalized via customer segmentation and personalization initiatives. Imagine: Your website, social media, and in-person customer experience directly aligns with the specific life situation of each individual customer. This can all be accomplished by understanding your customer personas, and crafting personalized marketing content strategies.
Step 1: Define Your Customer Segments
Before one can craft relevant, specific content, one first must understand their customer base. Within any customer base exists a variety of segments. Typical segments include:
- Age: Are your customers 18-34, 35-55, or 55+? These age bands may make absolutely no sense for your business. If your business skews very young, you may want to segment by: 18-24, 24-30, 31-35, and 36+. The key point here is to truly understand your age brackets, because the content of your marketing will differ substantially based on your core audience. Which age brackets are most relevant for your self storage business?
- Life Event: Do you have a lot of new movers to your community? How about those recently married or divorced? How about new businesses? Each community is different. Truly understand the life events that drive customers into your self storage facility.
- Profession: Is your facility near a major university, with students leveraging your smaller units for storage each summer? Or, are you next to a major medical facility with a multitude of pharmaceutical reps leveraging your climate controlled units? How about construction and landscape professionals, do they love your facility for storing their tools and equipment? Understanding the professions of those who store at your facility can greatly help in crafting relevant content and customer experiences.
- Passion: Do you have a self storage facility in the great outdoors? You may have a variety of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts renting units for their gear. How about the middle of Silicon Valley? You may be the inventory warehouse for the latest and greatest startups!
- Duration: Do you have a multitude of short-term customers, or are your customers renting self storage for the long-term? The needs of a short-term customer can vary dramatically from a longer-term one.
- Product: Do you offer a variety of extra products including car, boat, RV, and/or wine storage? Do customers value these products and come to your facility because of your unique products? Which of your products are customer favorites?
Two important notes on identifying your segments:
- Be Selective: You cannot craft custom experiences for each and every segment right away. Rather, your marketing will evolve, and your segments will fuel great ideas for years to come. Upon determining your core segments, prioritize which you want to address first. I recommend starting with your top three. For example, you may find that students, landscapers, and surfers are your big three. Bonus Tip: The overlap of two or more segments indicates a very important segment. For example, if you find that students and 18-24 year olds are both large segments, you know that doubling down on the student segment will be important for your marketing strategy.
- Think Outside The Box: The segmentation themes here are meant to get you started. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point. Consider taking a day outside your office, outside your comfort zone. Go to your local coffee shop or park. Start brainstorming segments freestyle. Even better, make it a team event and invite your on-site managers, those who know your customers better than anyone. It’s these “out in the field” days that will inspire your most creative marketing work.
Step 2: Establish Customer Personas
Now that you know your top three segments, it’s time to craft personas for each of them. I like to think of personas as my “cheat sheet” for building relevant marketing content, experiences, and strategies. Personas get everyone in your organization on the same page, aligned around the unified meaning of each segment. Continuing with the last example, here’s a sample persona for a hypothetical student customer:
- Age: 18-24
- Occupation: Student
- Storage Duration: Temporary (summer)
- Decision Criteria: Price (incredibly price sensitive)
- Unit Type: Small (favorites include 5x5, 5x10, and sometimes 10x10)
- Unique Qualities: Sometimes shares their unit with friends to keep costs down.
- What Can We Do For Them: We can make their life easier by offering a move-in special, and highlighting our free moving truck program. Since they are often traveling for the summer, we can also highlight our mobile payments app, making their self storage easy on-the-go.
- What Can They Do For Us: Students are incredibly tech savvy. While they may not be our most profitable segment due to their shorter rental tenure (and smaller units rented), they are very enthusiastic on social media and are the future of our world! Let’s see if they can help us with reviews and testimonials online.
Step 3: Build and Deploy Customized Content Online and Offline
Once your top three segments are identified and personas are built for each, it’s time to take your marketing to the next level! While personalized marketing is a very complex topic with never ending opportunity for content creation, I want to share a few fundamental, actionable strategies today that you can implement literally overnight.
- Write Relevant Content For Your Blog: You have a blog, right? If not, get one deployed on your website ASAP. And, start writing helpful content that is relevant to your personas. For example, why not write a blog post highlighting the top 5 tips for students leveraging self storage? Bonus Tip: Make sure your blog posts are well-written, helpful, and long (I like posts that are between 800-1,000 words).
- Deploy Relevant Updates To Your Social Media: Do you have Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles for your self storage facility? Start sharing content directly relevant to your personas. An easy way to start: Share the blog post that you just wrote!
- Develop In-Person Marketing Strategies: When someone walks through your doors, quickly identify their segment and persona. Then, craft their entire experience accordingly. If you know they’re a student, share stories of how other students leverage your facility. Take them directly to your low cost, smaller units (we know they’re price sensitive and don’t have too many items to store). Bonus Tip: Offer them a nice handout that shares your top tips for students storing at your facility. Of course, your handout contains your contact info.
- Create Custom Webpages: Someone is more likely to find value (and ultimately buy) from a webpage that speaks directly to them. Do you offer the ability see prices, make a reservation, and potentially even rent a unit on your website? Consider having a separate webpage (or “landing page”) for your personas. Make sure everything on the page - the images, the ad copy, and the offer - applies directly to your segment. Make it easy and engaging. Consider linking to your customized student page directly from your homepage. And, consider linking directly to it from your ads (see next tip).
- Develop Customized Ads: Do you run ads on Google AdWords? One of my favorite aspects of Google Ads are sitelinks. In addition to your main title and call to action, you can include sub-links (known as sitelinks) towards the bottom of your ad. Why not incorporate your top segments and personas into the sitelinks? If you know students are looking for your facility, include a link just for them! Bonus Tip: Have the student link go to a specific page on your website just for students (see prior tip).
At the end of the day, our job as marketers and self storage operators is providing a superior level of service to our customers. With these basic segmentation and personalization tips, the value you bring to your customers will rise to the next level!