This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Inside Self-Storage.

First: Know your image

You don’t need all the best features in order to market yourself, but you do need an accurate understanding of how the features your facility has are perceived by the community. If you’re a budget storage facility and your prices are only possible because of the simplicity of your property, there’s nothing wrong with that. RV and boat owners who are most concerned with snagging a deal will be drawn to your price. If you’ve gone through the work of installing features like onsite propane, electricity, and water, it’s important to spread the word about those features through your marketing.

Think about how you stand out from local RV and boat storage facilities. If a potential customer called you right now and asked why he should choose you, what would you say? Make that your selling point. When you write your website content, choose verbiage that draws in the type of renter you’re trying to attract.

Q&A with an L.A. facility owner

Acton Indoor RV & Boat Storage is located in Los Angeles, California, where boat and RV storage is very competitive. With a serviceable population of nearly 10 million people, facility owner Mike Groff must constantly evaluate his strategies and adapt to the changing needs of his market.

I asked Mike questions about his strategies, and he was kind enough to share his insight:

How strong is the competition for RV and boat storage in your area?

Naturally with this population, a good amount of healthy competition comes with the territory. Our biggest challenge is the fact that we’re priced higher than the discount facilities and the “big box” companies, so we need to convince our customers how the higher prices make for a better experience.

We also know where our advantages lie. We’re a family business, and we have been for more than 50 years. Versus the competition, we are positioned as the independent company with well-maintained facilities, top equipment, and – above all – solid customer service. Our customers are appreciative of that blend of business.

What marketing efforts have you considered for your facility?

We have a good mix of marketing. Whether it’s online strategies, print media, or supporting local events, making sure that a good image is projected to the public is so important.

In this new age of technology it is equally important to have a good, solid user-friendly website that fits your brand. Our site projects a nice image and can also provide intelligent data that we utilize to make decisions in other marketing areas.

From our experiences, we have found that it is most important to identify what is working for you and what is not. It’s crucial to keep in touch with the results because things change each day, and you have to run with the change.

Have certain approaches been more successful than others? Which ones?

For us it has been best to employ modern-day SEO technology and good old-fashioned print media advertising. We have found that being diverse with our approach works, so we definitely try not to stick with one tactic. You have to be diverse but also willing to try different avenues.

What, do you feel, are the added obstacles in marketing RV and boat storage (versus conventional storage)?

Generally speaking, it’s a real commitment for the customer. We must do our best to convince the caller of the advantages of storing with us. There is a lot of “upselling” that needs to be done because of the cost. It’s our job to convey the message and help the customer understand how they can actually benefit from the higher price tag. At the end of the day we have to stay on top of the game and move forward.

Creative marketing strategies

In addition to Mike’s advice, there are many marketing strategies you can employ at your storage facility. Keeping his thoughts in mind, try one or two of these and test what works for you.

Seek out laid-back environments. One of the best ways to get acquainted with your potential customers is to get on their level. Many boat and RV owners are outdoor enthusiasts, so where do you think you’ll find them in your community? One owner took his boat out on the lake, handed out water and lemonade, and attached a flyer for his facility. Look for opportunities to meet vehicle owners and their families. You’ll start to develop long-term relationships with them – which is precisely what they’re looking for.

Host RV- and boat-related events. Whether it’s a community car wash or an RV and boat show, you can satisfy current renters and draw in new ones with one sweep. You can hold events on your property or offsite, but the key factor is to bring people together for a fun activity. Frame the event as an opportunity for your tenants to network with other vehicle owners in the area. Chances are they’ll do half the work for you when they spread the news to their friends and family. You can get as involved as you’d like, hosting games for their kids or simply handing out refreshments.

Foster local relationships. If you don’t provide conventional storage units along with your parking spots, have you established a referral system with local storage facilities? Another good strategy is to partner up with local dealerships, mechanics, and businesses that wash RVs and boats. An often under-utilized tactic, partnerships are a cost-effective way to spread the word about your facility. You’ll please your customers by directing them to your needs, but you’ll also gain business when partners send them to you for services that they do not have.

Create an RV and boat resource catalogue. If your city doesn’t already feature these kinds of resources on its website, you can step up to the plate and earn authority in the industry. Gather information about all the local businesses related to RVs and boats, and then compile it into one place. You can post it as an extra page on your website (which Google will love), pass a printed copy along to those businesses, and/or leave it out in your office. It seems like a small step, but by helping your leads, you establish the trust they need to rent with you.

Blend the “tried and true” with the “exciting and new"

What’s important is to test out new methods, discover what works for your facility, and continue tweaking as times change – all while preserving a consistent image of your storage facility.

From your website to your marketing materials to the way you meet local owners, you can change your strategies while holding onto your brand throughout. Above all, your goal is to make the community think of you when they think of boats and RVs.