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June 14, 2023
What does it take to make your first year operating a self storage facility successful?
If you’re new to the storage industry, you may have been sold on the idea that “storage is easy.” It may seem that way, sometimes, but there’s a lot to know to actually succeed in the industry. That’s truer now than ever before with the fierce competition and oversaturating of various markets.
So, how do you make sure your first month is a success? Your first year? How do you stick around for the long haul?
Here are some steps to give your the best chance at a successful launch of your new self storage facility.
Before we get started, let’s establish some basics.
Every market is different. While there are some marketing, sales, and other strategies that work well across virtually the entire industry, many will have different levels of effectiveness based on the specifics of your market.
If you’re opening a storage facility, we’re going to assume you’ve done the work to know whether or not your target market can even sustain the facility you're building.
Unit mix, pricing, marketing tactics, and many other factors will highly depend on your area. If you have a lot of competition in the area with an outstanding web presence and running Google ads, you may need to do so to keep up. If your market has either low competition or very unrefined competition, you may get away with only the basics.
We’ll move forward assuming all of those other factors are already considered and covered!
These steps will help you get the most out of what you’ve figured out by helping you get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.
Here’s a quick roadmap overview of preparing for the opening month of your storage facility:
This is a basic look at how your game plan should pan out. For greater details and some specific numbers, make sure to read on!
You need to set your unit rates as soon as possible.
Prices can change later. In fact, they should! But when you’re starting out, you need to get your prices set.
Know how many units you have. Get your sitemap planned out in detail so that you can confidently reserve units even before construction is finished. And once that is done, start setting rates!
It’s important to have your rates online. While you may not be able to start getting leases signed yet, you want anyone that sets eyes on your site to know what to expect. This will also help you (and your team) sell future customers on the facility.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can wait until your grand opening to set rates! Do your homework early.
The ideal timeframe to launch your website is around 45 to 60 days before opening.
Google takes time to figure out and rank your site. It will actually take many months to accurately rank, but that’s alright. You don’t want to get it up too early, either, or else customers may start dismissing it—and that can also hurt your ranking.
One of the most important parts of having your site up early, though, is to show what you have to offer and how much it costs.
Ideally, you’ve established your rates and unit mix by this point. If you have, you’re able to launch your site with this all displayed. This helps your leads feel comfortable that your business is real, not just an idea.
Get yourself in front of those searchers in the month or two leading up to your grand opening.
If you wait until you’re open, you’ve already fallen behind!
Your GBP should be set up as soon as your office is constructed.
In reality, you should be making the Google Business Profile as soon as Google allows you to do it. Sooner is better. In most cases, though, this will be once your office is constructed so that you have a physical building completed on-site.
Because your website is fresh and will not rank well, having your GBP up and running is how you’ll get in front of Google’s users. This is because you’ll appear in the local pack—the three local business results at the top of a search results page—and in map searches.
And once you have a GBP going, you can link your website to the profile! This is how your website will receive most of its traffic.
You’ve done the research. You’ve done the setup.
Now you need to make sure you convert as many of those leads as possible into future customers.
Sales skills are important for your team at every stage of running a self storage business, but this is especially critical when opening a new facility.
Whether this is a team of people, a single manager, or just you depends on the size of your operation. Regardless, you need to catch these leads, follow up with them, and tirelessly work to convert them into future rentals.
It’s also crucial that every single click, call, and other lead contact funnels directly to the person or persons responsible for catching leads. If this isn’t you or your future manager, you may need to come up with a system to ensure communications are sorted the right way!
All of this work leads to one conclusion: pre-leasing is how you make sure your grand opening is as successful as possible.
Pre-leasing basically just means getting reservations before your storage facility is even open.
These other steps form a pathway that leads to being able to secure customers before day one. This way, when you open your facility, you can start ahead instead of behind! If your facility is open a single day without rentals, that’s ultimately a loss. This is why pre-leasing—and the steps that enable it—should be a standard part of opening a storage facility.
Mark Poole of Liberty Investment Properties suggests aiming for around 10% occupancy in your first month.
Of course, more is better. But if you can hit 10%, you’re in pretty good shape. It means your pre-leasing efforts were a success!
Mark Poole has another tip for succeeding with pre-leasing: the right specials.
Specifically, Mark calls out a special for your first 100 customers.
Depending on the size of your storage facility and many other factors, you might consider increasing or decreasing that number. But 100 is a pretty great target for the majority of facilities.
Imagine if you have a 400-unit facility and manage to get 100 successful rentals in your first month due to your special. That’d be 25% occupancy in month one!
25% shouldn’t be your benchmark for success, though. To start, just get as many reservations as you can. If you need a number, keep that 10% figure from earlier in mind!
It takes a lot of work to open a storage facility. Between construction, paperwork, and many more pain points, it's too much effort not to set yourself up for the greatest success possible.
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