Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Selling and marketing are undoubtedly important aspects of running your self storage business. With multiple facilities vying for your target market, it’s becoming increasingly important to differentiate your brand to attract new paying customers.

Let’s break down the process of getting a lead, converting a lead, and keeping a lead – or in other words – marketing, selling, and customer retention.

Step #1: Getting a lead = Marketing

When you’re making your business decisions, you’re certainly concerned with driving the biggest return on investment (ROI) possible. Before you begin any marketing strategy, it’s wise to estimate the potential ROI. Check out the infographic below for a break down of cost per acquisition across various marketing sources.

Click below to enlarge.

Check out this infographic to find out what the ROI is for various self storage marketing efforts.

  • Website and front sign = The lowest price per lead. These kinds of marketing materials maximize the exposure of your storage facility with minimal expense, leading to a greater chance of bringing in more leads for less money. Think of low-cost resources like a user-friendly website, social media posts, or your building’s signage. These are your biggest money-making lead sources because they cost your facility very little.

  • Billboards = A higher cost per lead. You’ll pay a higher price tag per lead when using marketing resources like billboards or self storage aggregator sites like Sparefoot.com. Even if the initial investment is lower for these materials, you’ll likely pay more for each generated lead.

  • Pay per click (PPC) and Yellow Pages ads = The highest price per lead. The price will vary for each method, but in general, you’ll be paying a large chunk of change for each new lead in this category. These methods include PPC campaigns (like Google Adwords or Facebook Ads) and ads in the Yellow Pages. These lead generating tools don’t offer as profitable of an ROI, but they can be a good way to fill empty units fast when occupancy is low.

Your goal is to move to low-cost lead generators

When you’re at extremely low occupancy, it may be worth your while to start with more expensive lead generators like PPC or Yellow Pages ads. While it isn’t always true that these resources will be more effective than more affordable tactics, they are built to help justify the higher price tag.

Of course, you do not want to run an indefinite PPC marketing campaign. You have to manage PPC ads, and managing them requires a little ad knowledge. Your business’ goal is to move to a point where you’re paying somewhere between $0 and $25 for each acquisition. By keeping your eye on that end goal and consistently refining your marketing strategy, your brand will continue to build its reputation and generate the leads you’re after.

How do you improve your marketing strategy?

Whenever you do any marketing for your business, always keep in mind the end goal of your hard work. Marketing expert Tim Williams says, “the goal of marketing is to make a product, service, or company so relevant and compelling that it literally sells itself.”

So, before you start buying every newspaper ad you can, you must first start by evaluating how your storage services satisfy the needs of your target market. Just as importantly, you have to be flexible enough to make adjustments as you take in new information about your potential and current customers, such as updating your unit mix or adding improved security.

When your leads can run a quick Google search and find one of your competitor’s nearby storage facilities, the process of differentiating your facility may seem impossible. But don’t be discouraged! Here are some concrete steps you can take to enhance your marketing tactics:

  • Ensure that your website is well designed and engaging. Remember that providing user-friendly content is king. Be sure to use relevant, local language (including listing local colleges and translating content for customers who may speak English as a second language).

  • Create and maintain social media pages. Maintain an active social media presence that reads and posts consistently to build your brand’s image. Foster relationships with local businesses who are generating a lot of interest on social media.

  • Seek opportunities to give back to the community. Actively seek opportunities to enhance your community and give back to local residents to stand out from others. This can be anything from running a canned food drive, hosting a mobile mammography screening in your parking lot, or sponsoring a little league team.

  • Run price comparisons. Evaluate your prices frequently and adjust as often as needed based on your occupancy rates and the needs of your target market.

Step #2: Converting a lead = Sales

Conversion is a term you’ll hear often as you talk to web marketers, but it’s also relevant for face-to-face (or over-the-phone) sales opportunities. Conversion boils down to taking a lead and turning that lead into a customer.

Marketing vs. sales

Though sometimes lumped together, it’s important to distinguish the difference between marketing and sales. If getting a lead is categorized as marketing, then converting a lead is sales. Both skills are extremely useful and you can’t effectively have one without the other. In other words, marketing generates the demand for your services, and sales fulfills the demand and generates revenue.

It’s important to remember the scope of each activity that you perform to help separate marketing and sales. Here are a few differences to keep in mind:


  • Focuses on the general population

  • Identifies customer needs and creates services to fulfill those needs

  • Protects the brand’s reputation

  • Tells the company story to a large group of people

  • Relies on sales to convert leads into customers


  • Focuses on an individual

  • Persuades the customer that the service fulfills his or her unique needs

  • Protects the brand’s customers

  • Brings the company’s story to life

  • Relies on marketing to generate leads

Understanding the differences between marketing and sales will help you find your business’s weak spots and strengthen your overall conversion process.

Improve your team’s sales abilities

Selling Storage’s writer, Kenny Pratt, provides a number of helpful articles that challenge facility owners to improve the sales abilities of their staff members. As you analyze and adjust your sales strategy, think on the following points and determine their potential for bringing in stronger profits for your facility:

  • Fine-tune your sales script. Use a call recording software to monitor your manager’s calls. Look for patterns where the customer seemed disconnected or the manager failed to make the close. Work together with managers to come up with new ways to sell your brand over the phone or in person.

  • Keep moving from sale to sale. Many managers think of each unit as a switch – either it’s on (occupied) or off (vacant). Challenge your staff to think about all the features your facility has to sell, like renter’s insurance, locks, packing supplies, and moving trucks. Help your manager shift their perspective to look for a new opportunity to sell to each existing customer.

  • Practice phone calls. If you own multiple facilities, try routing all the facility lines to one store for a period of time. You’ll put that manager of that facility “in the hot seat” for a few weeks, and that’s what will give him the real practice he needs to improve his abilities.

  • Consider a call center. In self storage, it’s extremely important for the customers’ calls to be answered. If a manager regularly misses calls, they will start losing business - these interested leads will soon move on to the next facility that answers or returns their call promptly. It may be worth the money to implement a reliable call center.

  • Hire a secret shopper. Honest feedback on real situations is priceless. Plus, a mystery shopper will likely provide an outsider’s perspective that you would never come to on your own. Secret shop your competitors, as well. Find out what they’re doing differently that’s driving sales away from your business.

Step #3: Keeping a lead = Customer retention

Even though marketing and sales are often more difficult than customer retention, this last step cannot be ignored or downplayed. Most self storage tenants end up renting for a longer period of time than they initially planned for. Whether you’re looking for a lifelong customer or a way to boost your facility’s review ratings online, you’ll need to be on the lookout for ways to keep your current tenants happy.

Customer retention boils down to three factors:

  1. Customer service. Provide a superb experience with every interaction, and always address customer concerns promptly.

  2. Overall quality. Seek opportunities to improve the facility, units, services, and overall customer experience – even after earning a customer’s business.

  3. Convenience. Offer a plethora of convenient features and amenities, like 24-hour unit access, text reminders, mail delivery, and pay online portals.

Never lose the drive to improve

It’s likely that you’re stronger in one of these areas than you are in the others - and that’s okay! Your challenge as a self storage owner is to refine your process and look for areas of improvement, even while juggling the day-to-day work of managing your storage facility.

In the end, it’s the drive to improve that will always set you apart from your competition. Customers are attentive. They aren’t willing to buy into ploys, they can spot a bad web presence from a mile away, and above all, they’re concerned with value. Strive every day to provide that value so that they’ll indisputably have a friend in the self storage industry: your brand.

Thanks for reading! If liked this blog post, you may also like: What’s the ROI on your self storage marketing efforts? (Infographic), Why videos are more powerful than photos in storage unit marketing, and Local link building: What it is and how your self storage business can get in on the action.