Gabfocus Episode 20| Ask Us Anything: Meet Your Hosts

Gabfocus Episode 20|Ask Us Anything: Meet Your Hosts

Our amazing hosts, Tommy Nguyen and Melissa Huff, have been guiding us through Gabfocus Sessions all year, so we thought it's time we hear from them! We brought in special guest hosts, Chad Lundberg and Alonna Ross, to turn the tables and make Tommy and Melissa share their expertise on Marketing, Operations, and all things storage.

Featured Speakers: Melissa Huff & Tommy Nguyen
Moderators: Alonna Ross & Chad Lundberg

Category: Marketing & Operations
Focus: Owners and Managers
Aired: November 19, 2020
Duration: 1:12:26


If you don't have time to watch the whole Session, here are some of our favorite parts:

  • At 6:00 Melissa and Tommy give us their self storage origin stories
  • At 13:35, they talk about the biggest operational changes they've seen happen from COVID and which changes they expect facilities to stick with
  • At 17:51, Tommy and Melissa talk about Google Reviews and remind us that "Google's job is to give users accurate information"
  • At 23:50, Melissa tells us why her tenants are still her best advertising and talks to us about what word-of-mouth marketing she does
  • At 31:05, they tackle the big question, "what kind of marketing should I be doing if I'm at full occupancy?" and Chad chimes about how to consistently raise your rates
  • At 43:05, Melissa tells us how to start setting up your Google My Business profile
  • At 44:26, Tommy tells us how often you should be checking your website metrics and what you should be looking for
  • At 54:10, Chad tells us the difference between physical occupancy and economic occupancy
  • At 55:33, Melissa tells us why she doesn't offer permanent discounts and which referral programs she prefers
  • At 1:04:00, Tommy and Melissa our Question of the Week

Question of the Week

We asked Tommy and Melissa: What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about self storage?

“First, if you're new to self storage, go do a feasibility study. Don't do your own! Just because you own a shopping mall or apartments doesn't mean you understand self storage demand. Secondly, learn about the seasonality of self storage. If you did launch your first facility in 2020, unfortunately you had a wild year. But, you need to know there are slow seasons with storage. Thirdly, we aren't as much of a 'set-it-and-forget-it industry as everyone thinks we are at first. To really grow and thrive as a business, you have to put in the hard work to get it done." - Tommy Nguyen
"This industry changes constantly. Stay up on your education. Don't ever get the mentality that you know everything. If you go looking for it, you'll always be able to find new things to learn and new ways to grow your business. Another thing I'd say, if you're new, don't be afraid when someone moves out. It's all part of the process!" - Melissa Huff

Gabfocus Takeaway

It doesn't take an expert to realize that there's a lot going on in self storage. We love Tommy and Melissa's closing advice, to put in the hard work and never stop growing. From raising rates to updating your Google My Business profile, from improving your operations to keeping up with the latest lien laws, this session taught us a lot and reminded us that the best way to tackle it all is little by little. Connect with colleagues, reach out to experts, and stay a student of self storage, because this isn't a "set-it-and-forget-it" industry.

What are Gabfocus Sessions?

Gabfocus Sessions are virtual workshops for self storage owners, managers, and operators. Brought to you by the team behind Gabfest: StoragePug and MR Management.

Each session features hand-picked industry pros who will dive deep into relevant topics surrounding our industry, share best practices, and explore trends in the market. It's our hope that these sessions help you navigate your self storage business better during these uncertain times.

Want to learn more about self storage? Join us on select Thursdays for Gabfocus.

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Questions Answered in this Session

  1. Will you tell us a little bit about your journey with self storage? How’d you get started? What came next? What’s life look like for you now?
  2. What type of communications aside from receipts and other normal business communications do you send out as email blasts to your current guests? What topics have high open rates? How do we as an industry best engage with our guests?
  3. What’s one (or more) operational change that happened during COIVD, you expect to see operators keep indefinitely?
  4. What are the best ways to ask customers to leave a review?
  5. Do changes to hours of operation impact Googles impression of your business? (example-reduced hours due to covid or for the quieter winter months.)
  6. What suggestions (if any) do you have for in-person marketing? We still find word of mouth and location are huge in our area.
  7. Is it important to have a blog and continue to add content? Does that matter anymore in how people find you? Or are you better off just keeping your Google My Business page updated?
  8. Is YouTube still the #2 search engine? Is having a YouTube channel helpful?
  9. What is a good way to get a new facility on the map?
  10. How often should you be reviewing Google analytics?
  11. If your occupancy level is optimal and your organic presence on the web is strong, is there any reason to run Google Ads?
  12. One of our locations has equal move outs as move ins 2 years running. How do better reach that balance of lifers versus movers?
  13. What are some of the best referral programs or discounts you’ve seen implemented and what specific criteria are most operators focusing on? Any modifications to fit into our new digital social world?
  14. What potential new lines of business do you see starting or growing that could change future demand for your “typical” self storage facility?

These are just a few of the questions answered during this session! Get your pen and paper ready!

Live Poll Results: What tools are most important to provide to your employees?




Meet your speakers


Tommy Nguyen



Melissa Huff

MR Management & Consulting


Chad Lundberg

The Storage Group


Alonna Ross


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Resources from this session

Awesome Quotes

“Once your operation is in place, you can become more dynamic with your pricing, but that requires data. You need some method of being able to record the data that you need to know whether your price is in the right place - whether you need to move it up or start giving some concessions.” - Warren Lieberman
“I never want to downplay to what someone else is doing. I'm better than they are, then I'm going to be worth a higher price. That's what value is. If you go out to a restaurant and get really good service, would you go back? Yes! What if it was pricier? You'd still go back because you got better service and a better product.” - Jim Mooney
"It's good to be informed on your competition. I don't want to ignore them, but I don't want to respond too strongly to them either." - Warren Lieberman
"We did a survey of 10,000 facilities on their pricing. We found out that two-thirds of those operators didn't change the price of a single unit of the course of a month." - Warren Lieberman
“Rate increases and value pricing are the number one ways to grow your revenue.” - Jim Mooney
"Tenants in more convenient units tend to be less price sensitive." - Warren Lieberman
"The size of the unit is only one aspect of what people are willing to pay for." - Warren Lieberman

Question of the Week

We asked our panelists: What’s the biggest hurdle to introducing value pricing to my facility?

““Manager buy-in is going to be the biggest hurdle to overcome. ” - Jim Mooney
“Embracing the concepts and believing that this can really work. If you don't, you're going to find all sorts of reasons not to do it. After that, the next biggest hurdle is just ranking the units. You don't want to do it alone. Divide it amongst your team, and get help.” - Warren Lieberman

Gabfocus Takeaway

Traditional pricing for storage units has centered around size. A smaller unit costs less than a bigger unit. Right? In this Session, we learn how pricing can be dynamic and really depends on what matters most to a customer. Borrowing insights from other industries, Warren and Jim discuss how significant convenience and availability can be when pricing your units, as well as a whole host of other features and amenities.  In short, the value of your units isn't static. Introducing dynamic value pricing to your facility, can not only help you get more out of your units, but it lets your customers prioritize and choose the qualities about your units that matter to them most.

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