Slow Self Storage Market or Bad Marketing?

October 10, 2023

Sad marketing manager waiting for customers to show up
7 min

The rentals aren’t coming in as quickly anymore.

You’ve got units sitting empty when you’re used to being 90% full or more.

Something has changed - but what? Is it the market? Is it your marketing?

Keep reading, and we’ll teach you how to see whether a slowdown in rentals is because of your marketing… or just because of the market.

You may not be seeing the same sort of demand this summer that you saw in the summer of 2022 - and there are lots of reasons for that! Your self storage marketing is just one of many potential culprits.

The pandemic caused a boom in self storage. People moved around the country; people spent their money on recreational goods instead of travel; people bought boats and RVs because outdoor activities were safer. 

Nearly 40 million square feet of storage were added in 2022, and more is opening every day. In almost every area, self storage operators are seeing more competition open up. 

We’re also seeing a slight slump in demand compared to 2022! Demand is still higher than five years ago - but that doesn’t necessarily mean much if you’re struggling to fill up your facility.

5 ways ebook

So! You’re facing headwinds. You should expect to have a harder time filling up your facility than you did last year, both because demand is slowing and because competition is growing.

But it’s also possible that you’re seeing fewer rentals because your self storage marketing isn’t working as well as it did last year. Maybe you changed services or maybe something shifted in your market - how could you tell?

It makes sense to be worried when your business slows down, but if you make wholesale changes to a working formula, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot!

Here’s what to do to determine if you need to shake up your marketing, or simply be patient.


Look at the Competition

The single best way to determine if the market is slow in your area is to look at the other storage businesses in your area!

There are many different ways to do this:

  • Keep track of their rates. You can use a tool like stortrack or you can do it manually. If their rates are dipping, that’s a good sign that they’re struggling to find business too.
  • Check their website for availability. If they have a website that accurately lists how many units they have, you can estimate how full their facility is. Not every website does this - but it’s a good idea to check and see.
  • Ask. Self storage is a friendly business, and you’re not asking for trade secrets. Give your local competition a call and ask if they’re seeing a slowdown too. Self-storage association meetings and forums are a great place to do a healthcheck as well.

For a deeper dive on this subject, check out our Tracking Your Competition blog.

Because self storage is so local, different areas experience different economic conditions. A facility in Georgia may be seeing a significant increase in growth, while a similar facility in Texas could start getting squeezed by all the new competition.

You should also look at broader economic data for your area! While we have so far avoided a recession, self storage operators should be watching trends in how the economy is doing. 

If people are moving away from your area, you’ll see fewer rentals. If people are struggling, they’re less likely to have excess stuff that needs storage, and less money to spend on a storage unit.

Keep in mind that 2021 and 2022 were bumper years - and in response to those great years, tons of money has been poured into self storage.

The game just got harder, but you can still win.

Is Your Self Storage Marketing Working?

Don’t panic! If your marketing worked last year, it’s probably working this year.

Don't panic! If your marketing worked last year, it's probably working this year.

If you make too many changes, you could end up breaking the system that was working well for you last year. Unless you have a solid reason to believe that your marketing is lagging behind the competition, be careful about shaking things up. 

Unfortunately, it’ll be nearly impossible to parse out market conditions if you’re not keeping good track of your marketing efforts. If you don’t have any tracking implemented, now’s a good time to start.

What do storage customers care about the most? Download our Top 9 Amenities to  find out.

Unraveling this problem is going to be tricky, no matter how you do it. Demand is slowing compared to the prior boom year, so your marketing will produce fewer leads and fewer rentals because there are fewer to go around.

Without marketing, though, you could end up getting no rentals at all!

Was your marketing strategy working before?

Think back to last year during the same month. Were you doing anything differently? Was your marketing giving you the sort of demand you were looking for?

Marketing that worked last September is likely to be working now, at least in creating demand

That may not be good enough today! Marketing costs haven't gone down just because demand has, so you’re going to be spending more per rental. Once those costs get to a certain point, you may need to look for a new way forward.

That doesn’t mean your marketing isn’t working - only that it’s become too expensive.

Are you still getting leads?

Even if you aren’t getting many rentals, leads are a good sign that your marketing efforts are at least doing something.

Leads that don’t convert to rentals give you no money, so leads alone aren’t enough. But, leads mean that your marketing is reaching people who think they might want to rent with you. 

Leads that don’t convert could mean your product isn’t measuring up to the competition. Be sure your prices are competitive with the other facilities that offer the same amenities you do.

Low conversion rates could mean you're not marketing to the right people!

Low conversion could also mean your marketing isn’t finding the right people. Maybe your ads are running in areas that are too far away, or you’ve invested in physical self storage marketing in the wrong areas.

Renters generally come from close to your facility. Leads that are 30+ minutes away are going to choose a closer facility. Most storage customers don’t know a ton about the industry - price and location are the most important factors.

If you’re getting leads, though, you can probably improve your targeting or up your offer and get a better conversion rate.

When there are no leads at all - then you might be in trouble.

Common Marketing Problems

Here are some common marketing problems that storage operators often run into. 


Your marketing message may not be reaching people who actually want to rent with you. This could be because you’re targeting the wrong areas or because you’re targeting the wrong customers.

According to the Self Storage Association market reports, customers will come from within 20ish minutes of your facility. This range is much smaller if you’re in a busy market - few renters will drive past three or four competitors to get to your facility without a fantastic reason.

Wayward marketing might also be finding the wrong people. Self storage is a need-driven industry. Unlike fast food or transportation, not everyone uses your service. You need to find people who are looking to rent storage, and then convince them to choose your business. 

Weak Offering

Another reason your conversion rate may struggle is that your offering - whatever deal you showcase to customers - isn’t as good as the competition’s deal. 

Check that your rates are comparable to other nearby storage facilities. This can be tricky with REITs offering huge discounts for the first few months - if you’re not finding any customers at all, you may have to mimic them. 

Focus your marketing on the amenities that people actually want or will pay more for. Check out our Top 9 Self Storage Amenities download for more information!

5 ways ebook

Improving your storefront can also go a long way to convincing customers to choose your business. If their first glance at your facility doesn’t look welcoming and professional, they’re likely to choose someone else. 

You also need a good self storage website, which is your online storefront. Both your online and offline storefronts play a big role in converting leads into customers by creating a good first impression. How you manage your storefront shows your customers how you manage the rest of your business.

Wrong Channels

One of the biggest marketing errors storage operators make is misunderstanding where their customers come from.

Around 80% of your customers will rent with you either because they saw your facility as they drove past or because they found you online.

If your marketing dollars are invested in other avenues, you may be sending out money that never comes back. Radio, TV, blogging, and social media are all inefficient ways to reach your customers.

When someone needs storage, they either already know a place that’s in a good spot, or they Google it. Spend your money making sure that when they do need a storage unit, you show up.


When demand slows down, business owners are right to worry. The trick is understanding what you can control and what you can’t - and not letting that worry push you into mistakes.

Before you start shaking things up, check that your business is:

  • Visible online
  • Visible offline
  • Offering good rates
  • And looks like an attractive option to potential customers

Beyond that, you can try some new approaches, like running a Google ad campaign or sprucing up your physical marketing, including your storefront.

Once you’ve done all that, be patient. If you offer a good product and get the word out there, customers will find you.

What do storage customers care about the most? Download our Top 9 Amenities to  find out.

To read more about my favorite StoragePug features, take a look at

Self Storage Advertising: Facebook Ads
5 Steps to Mastering Self Storage PPC
How to Track Self Storage Conversions in Google Ads

At StoragePug , we build self storage websites that make it easy for new customers to find you and easy for them to rent from you.

What amenities do your customers value most?

Download our Top 9 Self Storage Amenities to find out!

Top 9 Self Storage Amenities - Cover