Inside Self-Storage

MAR 2019

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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T oday's self-storage operators are well-oiled, unit-slinging machines capable of generating a powerful revenue flow with the touch of a button. Their customer service is inspiringly effective yet never lacks that personal touch, and they possess organizational skills that would put Martha Stewart to shame. How did these self-storage masters perfect their craft? What sacred arts have been passed down through the generations? There's no mystifying trick; they simply take advantage of the technologies available to improve the customer experience. While finding and renting a storage unit can take mere minutes for the end user, the processes that work together behind the scenes to streamline that experience are intricate and precise. The real magic lies in careful planning and efficient execution of modern technology. Let's look at a few key tools being used today. SEO and SEM According to a study by Forrester, a market-research company that advises on the existing and potential impact of technology, 71 percent of consumers start their buying journey with a Web search, and 74 percent use search engine information when purchasing. That means nearly three quarters of your potential customers are already making judgements about your business before they even see your website. To make a good impression, you must first get your business in front of them. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) complement each other and become crucial points in your business plan, as they ensure your presence isn't lost in local search results. SEO is an extremely broad subject with many aspects, but it focuses on the overall goal of reaching your desired audience though organic search. This includes but isn't limited to on-page SEO, such as unique content with naturally flowing keywords, image optimization, and all manner of meta data, and off-page SEO, which includes local listings, backlinks and anything that speaks to a website's quality and authority. Basically, if you don't know your way around some code and understand what factors are important in this area, it's probably a good idea to let a professional assist. SEM, on the other hand, refers to paid advertising results within search engines on a pay-per-click design. The most commonly recognized form is Google AdWords. Usually the first three results from a Google search, these customized ads appear marked with a small "ad" tag. Implementation of these tools involves a forgiving setup process and isn't as expensive as you might think. They allow you to set budgets and bids at will for testing at an average cost per click between $1 and $2. In general, I consider SEM easy to learn but difficult to master. It's worth considering. Website/Software Integration So, now you have some tools in place to direct traffic to your website and you're ready to be found by future renters. This brings us to your website itself. The most important thing to remember is you only have a few seconds to grab peoples' attention. In fact, Chartbeat, a content-intelligence company, looked at more than 2 billion visits across the Web and found that an astonishing 55 percent of searchers spent fewer than 15 seconds reading the pages on which they landed. This means you have an extremely short window in which to make an impression on your visitors and ensure any services you offer are readily available. Integrating your website directly into your management software has become a standard within the self-storage industry and allows services tenants have come to expect. Luckily, most cloud-based software providers will manage this integration at little to no additional cost. These include online payments, reservations and rentals, all completed with an electronic signature. Once integrated, your software will update unit inventory and customer accounts in real time. Because I'm a firm believer of providing consumers with as many options as possible, I strongly recommend you offer, at the least, a combination of online payments and reservations, or online Streamlining the lead-to-lease experience By Kevin Kerr Tech Tools and the Customer Journey LEARN MORE Learn more in the seminar "Will Your Next Self-Storage Manager Be a Robot? An Overview of Industry Technology," presented by Adam England, and "Smart-Connected Self-Storage Facilities: Business in the IoT Age," presented by Thomas Brooks, at the upcoming ISS World Expo. Get details and register at issworldexpo.com. Can't wait? Check out the videos "The Age of the 'Unreasonable Consumer': Tech Essentials for Self-Storage, Today and Tomorrow" and "What's Next? A Look at Technology Disruptors and the Future of Self-Storage," available in on-demand and DVD formats at iss-store.com. 24 ISS I March 2019 www.insideselfstorage.com

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