Marketing isn’t easy. There’s a lot to consider – a lot of variables to analyze and tools to choose between and then learn how to use. I empathize if it all seems overwhelming at times.

While a complete guide to the ins and outs of every marketing decision you make for your self storage business is a bit beyond the scope of this article, I would like to help steer you in the right direction. To make sure you’re getting your marketing right, check out these five self storage marketing blunders to avoid!

1. Assuming Correlation = Causation

This is probably something you heard a thousand times in your high school math or science class, but that’s because it’s true! A correlation between two events shows that they followed a similar pattern over a certain period of time. But it doesn’t show that the pattern of one event was caused by the other, or vice versa.

For example, let’s say you start a new marketing campaign in March, and it continues through June. In that time, your leads increase drastically and you rent far more units than you had in the winter and spring. Were those leads the result of an awesome advertisement?

Reservations in 2014

Possibly. But you have to consider all the factors. Self storage operators almost always experience an influx of new tenants during the summer months. In order to determine whether your advertising campaign was more effective than previous ones, you need to look at past data during the same time frame.

Reservations in 2013

As you can see, there’s only a marginal degree of difference. Maybe the advertisement was the reason that a few extra people came to your storage facility this year, but it wasn’t the main reason you had a huge leap from March to June.

Conversely, don’t condemn a particular marketing tactic just because the first time you tried to implement it was in the fall when sales decline. Look at all the variables and compare your current data with past data or data from another nearby storage facility.

2. Ignoring Call Tracking/Call Recording

The phone call is your facility’s bread and butter. You might have a significant number of walk-ins, but the majority of prospective renters call beforehand. As such, there’s simply no excuse for ignoring call tracking and call recording. These tools allow you to monitor and analyze what is very possibly the single most important step in your conversion process.

Call tracking allows you to assign different phone numbers to different marketing campaigns. Your website has one number, while your Yellow Pages ad has another. The number on the billboard out on the highway is different from the one on your sign out front. This allows you to log in to your call-tracking or management software and see how many calls are coming from each source. In doing so, you can easily determine the return on investment for all your marketing dollars.

Call recording is separate, obviously, but often offered by the same providers. A good owner or manager will listen to some of his or her employees’ phone calls to hear exactly how the conversations go. You might find an issue that consistently pops up or an employee who needs a little more training on the phones – something you won’t otherwise know unless you’re right there by their side all the time.

3. Overlooking Smaller Markets

Self storage has four primary markets: homeowners, students, small businesses, and military personnel. This is a good guideline for directing the bulk of your marketing money, but don’t limit yourself only to the majority demographics in your area. Non-English speakers need self storage, too. Different cultures and ethnicities might respond better to a novel advertising approach.

If you look only at the demographics currently renting from you, you might miss out on some fantastic opportunities elsewhere. For example, how many customers come to you because they’re moving into a new house? And how does that number compare to the number of recent houses sold in your community? If it’s lower than you’d like, you could partner with a moving company to increase your exposure in that particular market.

Look at national and regional statistics to see how your demographics compare to other storage facilities throughout the area. The Self Storage Association website has some great statistics on the self storage industry, as does this slideshow on Inside Self Storage.

4. Neglecting Web Analytics

To supplement your call tracking, you should also make the effort to monitor your leads and activity through website analytics. These programs, such as the free and easy-to-use Google Analytics, allow you to monitor every single page of your website. If visitors are getting stuck somewhere on the way to your reservation page, analytics will allow you to pinpoint where things go wrong.

Example of analytics

You can see which calls to action are stronger than others and update them accordingly. You can identify pages that load slowly, driving potential customers away. Some platforms can even integrate incoming calls into your analytics software, putting all your traffic sources together for easier analysis.

With website analytics at your side, the internet becomes a lot less scary. By observing just a few metrics – traffic, time on page, and bounce rate, for example – you can streamline your website and greatly improve the user experience.

5. Forgetting Customer Surveys

Customer surveys can yield all sorts of information. Exit surveys can tell you why people are leaving. Entrance surveys can tell you how people found you or why they chose you. Customer service surveys let you know where you need improvement, as well as where you excel. Knowing your facility’s strengths will provide insight as to which features you should promote in your marketing efforts. Surveys can also give you important demographic information about your customers.

How old is your average tenant? This might not be information you collect anywhere outside a customer survey, but it is incredibly useful information. You wouldn’t market to baby-boomers the same way you would to college students.

As an example, here are some questions you might consider asking on a survey given to new tenants:

• How did you hear about our facility?

• What were the primary reasons that you chose to store with us?

• What is your motivation for using storage?

• How often do you plan to visit your storage unit?

• How long is your commute to our facility?

• What could we do to make your move-in easier?

If you’re having trouble getting people to fill out your survey, offer a prize of some kind. Many people love winning things more than they hate filling out surveys, so you can make people happy and get the information you need.

There’s plenty more to learn about marketing that StorageAhead has covered elsewhere or will cover in the future, but if you avoid these five pitfalls, you can begin – right now – to reap the benefits of smart marketing. If you’ve made any blunders yourself that you want to warn against, share with us in the comments below!