Gabfocus Episode 46 | Marketing in Slow Markets

Gabfocus Episode 46 | Marketing in Slow Markets

"We've had it easy," is the sentiment from most seasoned operators.

The last couple of years saw a flood of new storage customers and unprecedented growth for many. But what does marketing your storage business look like when the industry cools off or when the competition has moved to town? In this session, our experts talked about where storage marketing is today, the foundational tools every operator needs, and which traditional tactics operators are reaching for again.

Featured Speakers: Stacie Maxwell & Heather McCombs
Moderators: Tommy NguyenJosh Huff

Category: Marketing
Focus: Owners & Operators
Aired: March 30, 2023
Duration: 1:15:45


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

  • At 5:00, Stacie and Heather start to talk about trends they have been seeing with move-ins and move-outs.
  • 8:30, our guests discuss which data they compare when trying to figure out if there is a problem with their marketing or the market.
  • Starting at 12:00, Stacie highlights how she uses software and her managers to check whether their pricing is competitive.
  • At 14:00, Stacie and Heather talk about which sources of data they look for outside of the storage industry.
  • 16:20, Heather talks about utilizing your manager to identify the right marketing tactics for the community they are based in.
  • Around 20:10, our experts highlight the importance of hosting events at your business to network with the community.
  • At 24:00, Heather covers the importance of having photos for your event marketing.
  • 28:30, Stacie covers testing influencer marketing as a potential marketing lever, and Heather touches on AI and VR.
  • Starting at 32:30, our experts dig into ways you can identify charities to partner with in your communities.
  • 34:30, our guests chat about tactics they aren't reaching for anymore.
  • Starting around 38:30, Stacie and Heather cover how their marketing looks different when occupancy is high vs. low.
  • 45:00, Stacie talks about different promotions or discounts they've found to be effective.
  • Starting at 47:40, Stacie talks about bandwidth difficulties when you may have managers spread thin over locations.
  • Around 53:30, Heather discusses the type of person they look for when hiring a manager.
  • At 55:00 our guests discuss how they set marketing goals.
  • Around 58:00, the experts highlight the tactics you should reach for if you have a limited budget.
  • 59:40, the Lightning Round begins.
  • Starting at 1:05:00, our guests talk about how you could highlight amenities at your business with video.
  • 1:07:00, the experts talk about whether link building is worth the time or not.
  • At 1:09:50, each guest answers the Question of the Week.


Question of the Week

We asked our experts: What's the most overlooked marketing tactic in self storage?

Your managers. Just plain and simple. You don't realize how much they affect your business. They are the face. We hire someone who doesn't just sell storage but someone who can act like a concierge of a hotel. Your facility can sell itself, but they are the ones who will bring people back." - Heather McCombs

"We hire for personality and energy and train for skill. They don't have to know self storage. That person behind the counter running your facility, you want them to get out in the community. That person getting out and befriending the community and proving that they are a trusted resource is one of the most overlooked marketing tactics." - Stacie Maxwell

Gabfocus Takeaway

There are always certain marketing tactics you should reach for – from running Google Ads to having a seamless website, from utilizing your Google Business Profile to finding ways to improve your facility visibility. But when the market starts to slow or competition moves to town, you may want to dust off some of those "on-the-ground" tactics you haven't thought about in a while. You could sponsor a local sports team or charity, get your manager out networking with local businesses, or start an always-on referral program. Many of these tactics will better ingrain your business in the community and promote your brand to those who live there. Then, when they are in need of storage, your business will already be familiar to them. That community trust will be invaluable to increasing your business' occupancy! Yes, marketing is often digital, but storage is physical. Your marketing will work best when you're spreading strategy between both!

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 Affordable Storage Guys 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. What kinds of move-outs, move-ins, and occupancy are you seeing at your stores?
    1. Are things slowing down everywhere?
  2. How do you know if you have an issue with your marketing or an issue with your market?
  3. What are the first things you check when things are feeling down?
  4. How do you keep up with trends, your competitors, and pricing in your market?
  5. What marketing channels and tactics are most important to your business?
  6. How do you maintain your marketing strategies?
    1. How often are you checking them or updating them? What does this look like?
    2. Who on your team is responsible for keeping up with the marketing
  7. Do you do anything differently when occupancy is high vs. low?
    1. What do you do about promotions or discounts?
  8. Are there any new marketing strategies you're trying to implement?
    1. Any tactics that aren't working?
  9. Lightning Round
    1. Social media?
    2. Mailers?
    3. Community sponsorships?
    4. Referral programs?
    5. AI?
  10. Live Q&A
    1. Do you recommend raising monthly rental rates when business is down?
    2. What types of marketing goals do you set?
    3. How could you promote valet storage digitally?
    4. Is link building important?
  11. What's the most overlooked marketing tactic in self storage?

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




Meet Your Speakers

Stacie Maxwell

Stacie Maxwell

Universal Storage Group


Got questions or comments for the panelists?

Our panelists will be happy to answer any questions you have. We hope you enjoyed this Gabfest Session. Talk soon!

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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


Foundational marketing strategies to have in place - whether leasing up or stabilized:

  • Website
  • Set up listings (Yelp, Google My Business, Apple Maps)
  • Social Media
  • Establish Local Partnerships

Lease up marketing strategies:

  • Lead Generating Strategies (like digital ads)
  • Aggregators (Sparefoot, Storagefront, etc.)
  • Awareness Campaigns (like billboards, flyers, and sponsorships)

Your average customer value
Find the average stay length of all tenants. Next take your economic occupancy and divide by how many units you have. That will tell you what the average customer pays.

Multiply the average length of stay by what the average customer pays, and that's the average value of a customer.

For example, if a customer stays for 12 months and pays $100 per month, then their value is $1,200.

Your average lead value

Figure out your closing rate (or conversion rate) i.e. how many leads do you turn into tenants? Multiply that by your average customer lifetime value to figure out what your leads are worth. 

Pro Tip: see which lead sources are converting the best. It may be that certain sources have a higher conversion rate, so those leads are worth more to you than a source that barely converts.

Typical Lease-up timeline

According to our panelists, it's typical to see a 3-4% increase each month, putting your facility at 36% after the first year, and 72% after the second.

Alternately, you can look at your lease up goals through the lens of your units, aiming for 20 units rented per month.

For Nick and StorageMax, they pro forma their economic occupancy at 85% with their sweet spot at 92%.

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