Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
If you’re a self storage owner, there’s a good chance that summer is your busiest time of the year, and storage unit rentals begin to slow down as fall rolls around. If your facility is located in a major metro area, this trend is probably even more profound. By the end of summer, the outdoor recreation season is over, fewer homes are being bought and sold, and snow birds might be taking off for warmer weather.
The summertime rush is typical across the entire storage industry, but if you’re in a college town, you might be able to avoid the winter slump by marketing to college students year-round - after all, they’ll need storage space over winter holiday breaks, too. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how you can polish your student marketing efforts and bring in more renters all year long!
Take some time to look at the features your facility provides. If you haven’t previously evaluated your services through the lens of what matters to college renters, you could be missing out on some extremely easy ways to gear your services more toward students.
Below are some amenities college students are most likely to care about:
Extended access hours. College is a strange time where the regular 9-to-5 schedule is almost completely irrelevant. There are late nights, early mornings, midday naps, and tons of intermittent study times that can take place at any hour. If you offer extended or 24-hour access, students won’t need to keep track of your access hours or rush out between classes, making your company a more appealing storage solution.
Low rates/student discounts. With tuition, books, meal plans, and social activities, college students usually don’t have a large amount of disposable income. Even if they desperately need more space, they’d probably rather leave belongings behind at home than rent a storage unit that’s out of their budget. If you don’t already, consider providing student discounts (even 10% to 15% can be helpful). If you’re known for being a low cost provider, are you advertising that point where college students can see it?
Short-term lease options. College students are on the go, often driving to and from their mom and dad’s throughout the year, scoping out study abroad options, and thinking about where they’ll work (and where they’ll move) upon graduation. Because of these factors, students are less likely to be drawn to long-term renting options. If you provide month-to-month leases to your college market, your services become more appealing, especially to students who only need storage during breaks from the school year.
Small, affordable unit sizes. While business owners, independent contractors, and families will be more interested in your larger units, college students often don’t need much more space than what a 10’x10’ rental provides. They’re not as likely to store furniture, so their belongings usually come packed away in boxes and take up less space. Do you have many smaller units? Do you offer a wide variety of smaller options? Smaller spaces mean lower rent, which is another reason they’re a great option for the college market.
Modern technology. Similar to extended access hours, your college student market is likely to want ‘round-the-clock service. If a student were to pull up to your facility after the office closes, could they get help through a call center or a self-service station? A student should be able to log onto your website (from their computer or mobile device) and easily pay their bill, reserve a unit, and manage their account. One of the most important factors of marketing to the younger market is technology, and it’s something they consider before choosing where to do business.
Many of these services are pretty easy to tweak. Once you have some or all of them in place, you have a compelling reason for college students to rent with you, which can now appear in your storage marketing efforts and on your website.
Speaking of your website, your online presence is the perfect place to share the news about your student-specific services. In addition to providing a website that’s optimized for mobile, functional and visually appealing (which establishes a sense of trust with this tech-savvy generation), consider the following ideas to make it easier for students to find your website in search results:
A student storage page. Add a page to your website that’s targeted at college students. Even if you highlight those features listed above throughout your website, having a student-specific page will help your website rank higher for college storage searches. Optimize your title tag with something like “Storage Units near [local university name]” and include driving directions from the local college to your storage facility.
A specials/discounts page. Whether you choose to offer an overview of all your specials or you’d like a page specifically about your student discounts on your website, be sure to highlight your low student rates on your site. Let college students know explicitly that renting a unit with you is affordable and your rates are competitive.
Reference students on your FAQ page. This idea is a great way to rank your website higher when college students search for storage facilities. Pages with frequently asked questions are valuable in general, but by adding information geared specifically toward students, you’ll be more likely to show up in student-specific searches.
Target headings at students. If you can alter the headings on your self storage website, consider including a few that are welcoming to students in your area. It can be something as simple as, “Perfect for students from [X university].” The main idea is that a college student, upon landing on your page, will feel like they’re in the right place.
A resource page for students. Consider what other kinds of resources could be helpful to college students. If your town’s university has a high enrollment rate for out-of-state students, what kind of information should they know about their new city? Which moving companies, packing supplies, or organization techniques do you recommend to college renters? Perhaps you could add information on your site that outlines these points and links to other helpful resources.
Again, when you have the right website in place, implementing these changes is fairly easy to do. Making these small tweaks will make your website extremely welcoming to a college student looking for storage. Plus, they make your website appear more relevant (and thus more likely to be linked to by other student-related sites).
Now that you’ve made your self storage website a relevant resource for local college students, you’ve got a good foundation for getting it listed on university resource pages. The benefits of this approach are twofold: You’ll get your business’s name in front of local college students and you’ll get a .edu link to your site (which is absolutely one of the most valuable links you can get when it comes to SEO).
To get listed on an .edu website, you’ll need to:
Find the right point of contact. As with any link building efforts, half the battle is finding the right person to reach out to. Before you send out your email to a mass list, check the university’s website and hone in on 1-3 people who seem most likely to have the authority (and interest) to help you out. This information may be available on the resource page itself but it may require a bit of digging around the site, too.
Check policies on dorm living. In order to make your pitch as appealing as possible, do a bit of research on that university’s campus living situation. Do they require students to vacate the dorms by a certain time before winter break? Are their housing options exclusively dorms, or do they offer campus apartments, as well? Are there certain items prohibited in the dorms that are okay to store at your property? These are great questions to answer.
Frame your request and make your case. Anytime you’re trying to build links, you have to strike a balance between what you want and what you have to offer. Asking to be listed on a resource page simply because you want to be listed is probably not in the college’s best interest. However, if you know that they don’t have any storage facilities listed, their dorm rooms are particularly full, you dug up any helpful information about their policies, and/or your facility website promotes student storage services, then you have a stronger case to prove that students would actually benefit from a link to your website on the university site. Remember: Having an attractive and functional self storage website will affect your success here.
Follow up and persevere without harassing. If you’re reaching out in the fall, your point of contact may be coming out of a busy time as college students are being moved onto campus. They might still be quite busy as the school year kicks into full swing. After you’ve reached out, wait a few days to a week and send a kind follow-up email to make sure they’ve seen your request. To avoid bombarding them, limit yourself to one follow-up email per contact.
University links are notoriously difficult to get, so don’t be discouraged if your efforts don’t pan out right away. Remember that local colleges are most interested in providing helpful community resources for their students. If you’ve done everything you can to make your facility appealing, you’ve framed your story in the right light, and the university still denies your request, don’t give up! Try asking what you can do differently in the future and try some new self storage marketing tactics to get your name out there.
Fall is the perfect time to step up your marketing efforts so that your facility is the first one college students think of when they need more space. Find out if one of the following PR and marketing tactics is a good fit for your brand to effectively market to the student audience:
Offer scholarships. What college student doesn’t want to save money on school? If you can afford to, consider offering a scholarship (even if it’s small) for the following semester. Added perk: This tactic could get your site listed on the scholarship section of the university’s website.
Attend university events. Getting involved in campus activities is a simple — and often fun — way to make yourself more visible to college students. One obvious kind of event to attend with flyers and business cards is campus sporting events and tailgates. You could even buy ad space at these events.
Partner with successful businesses. If your request to list your facility website on the university’s resource page doesn’t work, one sneaky tactic you could try is this: Look at the businesses that are listed on that page. Are any of them someone you could partner with? What they’re doing is working, so having them on your side (and getting a link from their site to yours) could be more effective than you’d think.
Provide moving supplies before break. Before the break rolls around, students are probably cramming in assignments and tests and not thinking too much about how they’ll get their belongings to and from home. Ask the university if you can donate packing supplies to students as the break approaches, then make sure your company’s information is attached, front and center for college students.
Post flyers around campus and town. This strategy is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Create professional-grade flyers and post them in university offices, dorm room lounges, and hangouts around the university (with permission, of course!)
Target your Facebook ads. If you’re running a social media page for your storage business, consider buying ad space on Facebook. These ads are usually pretty affordable, and more importantly, you can target them at an extremely specific audience (like university students!).
Assist study abroad students. Get in contact with the study abroad department at the local university and see what you can do to provide your facility’s information to students who are about to leave the country for weeks (or sometimes months) at a time.
You can choose a couple of these ideas and hit them hard, or spread out your efforts and try to get the biggest reach possible. It all depends on your time, your budget, and your interest in these various strategies. Don’t forget to take into account the things you know about your community and the habits you’ve observed of the college students in town and choose tactics that you anticipate to be most effective for that market.
After you’ve given these tips a try, assess what worked to bring in renters without breaking the bank. Be sure to get feedback from your student renters to find out why they chose to rent with you, how they heard about your facility, and what they enjoyed most about their experience (or think could be improved).
Take what you’ve learned and make tweaks to your efforts to bring in more student renters. Continue this process over time and you may just find that your facility becomes a go-to storage hub for college students in the area.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Attract more businesses to your storage facility, 4 niche storage ideas to explore for your new build, and 5 things to know before you become a self storage owner.