What do you need to do to prepare your website for winter? Skip the ice melt, snow shovels, and antifreeze and stock up on new web content, fresh images and videos, and updated rental promotions to help your website make it through the cold winter months. Danny Schumann, Director of Digital Strategy at storEDGE, and Alex Ball, Marketing Lead at storEDGE, discuss the big things storage operators often forget to do with their website before winter hits in this recent podcast. Check it out below!
Alex Ball: Hello and welcome to today's podcast. My name is Alex Ball and I'm the Marketing Lead at storEDGE and it is my pleasure to have Danny Schumann with us today. Danny is our Director of Digital Strategy here at storEDGE and he's been talking to us today a little bit about what you can be doing to winterize your storage website for the rest of the year and make sure you’ve got everything you need before the winter months come. So Danny, thanks for joining us today - could you tell me a little bit about your role and the role of your team here in storEDGE?
Danny Schumann: Yeah! My job is really to ensure the success of our clients and our partners with digital strategy, all things digital strategy. Obviously the hub and the core of that is the website, with all the activity coming to the website, getting people to come to their websites and prospective tenants to come to the websites and ensuring that we push them toward the path of conversion with the least resistance. And then also pain of thinking about ancillary or outside marketing options and products and channels to consider to amplify what would otherwise be coming to their websites.
Ball: Awesome. Well, like I said today we want to talk a little bit about what self storage owners need to make sure they cross off their list and get on their website before the end of the year. So maybe if you could tell me a little bit with the end of the year approaching, what are a few big things that you should do related to your website to maximize leads?
Schumann: Yeah, the first thing that comes to mind at this time of year is discounts and promotions. In the past six months or so - in the spring, in the summer - you can for the most part as an industry get by with just offering your price and realizing that the demand is strong and high enough that you really don't need to necessarily give away margin or give away money to get tenants to fill units, depending on your market and your individual scenario.
But in the fall, demand drops off pretty significantly, especially after tenants kind of get in the back to school mode in the August and September time period. So you may want to be comfortable with giving away a little bit of margin or giving away a little bit more to provide more of an incentive to get tenants to rent through you. And at first, that may seem kind of uncomfortable. But the nice thing about the fall time period is that new tenants tend to keep their units rented a little bit longer, definitely through the winter months. So keep in mind you're looking at a longer residence so to speak in the tenant world, and in most cases, it’s a good idea to get comfortable with the idea of giving away the first month for free or at a discounted rate knowing that you're going to likely have longer-renting winter tenants.
It’s also a really good time to experiment with partners or marketing channels like Google Ads or SpareFoot whereas again maybe in the spring or winter months it doesn't make sense to give away margin knowing that you're probably going to be able to get tenants in for full price. But the fall and winter months are a good time to experiment knowing you're probably going to have to provide incentive or kind of compromise something in terms of revenue to fill your unit. So get experimental with marketing if you consider Yelp or Google Ads or SpareFoot or other ad getters, try some to determine kind of a comfortable enough budget to keep in mind. Also know that even if you don't necessarily get your ROI back, you've learned something throughout the process. So it’s definitely a good time to give yourself a little bit of insight into other marketing channels.
“Fall is the perfect time to take those pictures that you’ve been meaning to put up on your website’s facility page or home page. In the winter months, everything can get kind of ugly outside and you might start wishing you had better images online to help really sell your units. Fall makes for fantastic colors and lighting for photographs and drone videos.” Director of Digital Strategy at storEDGE
Ball: Awesome! Thanks for that, Danny. Another question I have for you is with the winter months coming up, what are some good reminders our self storage owners should be thinking about doing before the weather turns as it relates to other websites and social media, say beyond discounts?
Schumann: Yeah, definitely look at the next few weeks especially as the right time to take those pictures that you've been meaning to take to put on your facility pages or your home pages. It's kind of one of those things you run into a lot where you’re in the middle of the winter months where everything is kind of ugly on the outside and you wish you had better images to put up on your facilities to sell your facilities or sell units, and you kind of wish you'd done it in the fall.
Fall is actually a fantastic time of year in terms of colors and lighting, and it’s a great time to get the photographs. In some cases, especially if you're kind of willing to put forth a little bit of money, you may want to hire a drone photographer to get an aerial shot of your facility. These things can be an asset for your business. I’d definitely recommend that, and the nice thing too, is that photographs and videos are things that most owners can definitely do with their own phone, especially with phones nowadays and iPhone camera quality. It's something you can do yourself. You don't have to spend a whole lot of money to get nice facility shots. One thing I will say about that, though, is that if you do spend a little bit of money to get a professional photographer to come take shots of your site, those photos last years.
So it’s definitely worth the investment up front. If you’re needing new photos or videos, you’ll want to make sure to take those in the next several weeks or so before it's too late and things just aren't quite as nice outside. That's the case for the entire real estate industry really. Unless you're selling a cozy winter cabin, now's the time to get the best photos.
Ball: Great, that’s something I certainly wouldn't have thought of myself, being a little newer to the industry, but it makes a lot of sense. You can't get back time, so you might as well take advantage of the nice weather while you can. Another question I have for you what about winterizing is as it relates to RV and boat storage?
Schumann: RV, boat, and even motorcycle - this is the time of year where those toys are going back in their garages. In self storage, such a big segment of our industry is vehicles and we probably take it for granted that many people only use storage for vehicles. For most of the country, right now is kind of that season where those vehicles are coming back our way to our facilities and our units, so make sure that your marketing material is clear that you offered RV, boat, and vehicle storage amenities.
Believe it or not, not all facilities offer vehicle storage and that makes sense, so make sure it's clear. Try to put yourself in the mind of your tenants or prospective tenants - go to each page of your website or to the facility pages or the home pages of your website, even your social media channels and ask yourself, “does it look clear that my facility offers vehicle storage?” Again, it's just those kinds of things that sometimes we take for granted that we offer that our customers might not know about, so make sure it's clear to your prospective clients that you do offer RV, boat, and vehicle storage.
And in some cases too we just mentioned discounts and promotions, you can do something specific to RV and boat storage in terms of promotions and promote it on your website, too. Whether it is specific to vehicles or not, this is a time of year where many storage owners are just decreasing prices because the demand is a little bit lower. Rather than just decreasing prices across the board, make it clear this is a special price just for RV and boat owners. Let them know this is the right time to act if they’re going price shopping. So when they see a price, give them a little bit of urgency, show that this is a limited time only discount specifically for boats or their RV or motorcycle, and make them feel appreciated. Let them know that we're fans of motorcycles or we are part of the club with special appreciation for vehicles.
And if you do offer vehicle-specific amenities, like maybe a vehicle wash bay, electricity hookups, dump stations, shuttle services, or anything that would really especially accommodate those with RV or motorcycles - promote that. Another thing that's easy to take for granted sometimes is 24-hour access. I think a lot of tenants can see the trouble of putting their vehicle away and not being able to jump in and go grab it as a minute's notice if they need it. If you do offer 24-hour access hours, make sure that's clear, too, as that is a feature that people often look for. And just kind of give a little reassurance that their assets are available whenever they need it.
“RV, boat, and even motorcycle - this is the time of year where all of those toys are going back into storage garages. Make sure that your marketing material is clear that you offer RV, boat, and vehicle storage amenities going into the winter season.” Director of Digital Strategy at storEDGE
Ball: Awesome! Well one other question I have for you today, Danny, is obviously you've been talking a lot about planning ahead, and as a marketer, I appreciate that, I always try to work on whatever I'm working on in January, I want to be really some it's not launching until March and the other one I’m working on in March is actually for May or June, to be as ahead of the game as I possibly can be...
Schumann: For sure.
Ball: ...what else along those lines should self storage operators be thinking about moving into Q4 of this year?
Schumann: Yeah, once you get those kind of fall initiatives in place and this month or next when demand starts to wane, it’s time to start thinking about spring. In my mind, I’m thinking of website SEO, search engine optimization. More specifically, when you do make changes or put in SEO initiatives on your website, it's going to take an average of six months for those changes to take effect and the benefits and increased or better performance to be recognized by Google. So really start thinking about that early this year. Also think about what did you wish you had in place last spring that you would have done over the course of the winter. Think about those things now an over the course of the spring and summer. Maybe you wish you were more prepared for low occupancy of vehicles or had a lot of interest in military storage or student storage. Whatever it is make it something specific that you feel like you can really put a focus on and make an initiative on your website to make it clearer to Google and to users, too, that you are, in fact, the best resource in town for X, Y, or Z. Think about what you can do for that and do it now because it is going to take a while to kick in.
Those who win with their fall marketing are going to have these kind of winter content initiatives on their website and maintenance initiatives done now, and are really going to be active and working ahead on spring. So start thinking ahead and make a plan for yourself. It’s easy to push those things aside, and the more you do it and the further you get into late winter and early spring, the more you’ll wish you’d started thinking about it earlier.
Ball: Great! That makes a ton of sense and I think it’s really great advice for self storage operators out there as it relates to their other web presence. On behalf of storEDGE, I'd like to thank you guys for joining us today and listening to this podcast on how you can optimize your storage website for the fourth quarter and even into the early spring.
Please make sure to follow us on our social media, we’re out there on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we’re all over. Also, check out our blog which you can find on our website - we're regularly updating that with other great content like this that can help you improve your operations and hopefully drive more revenue.
Schumann: Be sure to check out the specific tactical examples of things you can do for each of the points that I made today on this podcast page. What are some specific things you can do on your website, social media channels, or your Google Maps page? Check out those specific topics if you want to jump in and get started out on the on the podcast page.
Ball: Awesome! Alright, thank you all very much and have a great rest of your day.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: The importance of adding high-quality images to your website, How to winterize your self storage property, and Meet Team storEDGE: Lillian Wright, Product Manager.