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Gabfocus Session | Start to Finish

Start to Finish:
Understanding and improving your customers’ journey

As a self-storage operator, getting and keeping customers is probably what keeps you up at night. If you want to keep your facility full and your tenants happy, you need to understand how your customer makes decisions. You need to put yourself in their shoes.

Featured Speakers: Rick Beal & Magen Smith
Moderators: Melissa Huff & Tommy Nguyen

Category: Marketing & Operations
Focus: Owners and Managers
Aired: March 18, 2021
Duration: 1:07:33


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

  • At 5:40, Magen and Rick reflect on what makes people need storage. “You don’t need storage until you need storage.”
  • At 11:20, Rick talks about the wide variety of ways that people find out about facilities and reminds us that every location is unique. He challenges us to be relentless about keeping track of how people find our facilities and letting that inform our strategy. "Manage your weakness and play to your strengths."
  •  At 14:25, Magen and Rick break down the main channels that people are searching for storage and remind us that building a strong marketing foundation is a game of inches not miles. "It's a business of attention."
  • At 20:00, the whole panel discusses the different view points on rent increases and when's the right time to do them.
  • At 27:00, Magen talks about potential customers' highest priority - and it usually isn't price. Often making it easy and being available is all someone needs to store with you. Rick talks about being a "Swiss army knife" and being able to highlight whatever benefit or feature a lead is interested in.
  • At 32:50, Magen and Rick give advice for helping people through the process of renting. "At the end of the day, they have a problem. Figure it out and find a solution that works for them."
  • At 41:40, all the panelists discuss why some customers may not be "worth it" if they aren't sticking around. Don't fill up with seasonal tenants and miss long term tenants. “Stepping over the dollar to pick up a nickel.”
  • At 46:55, Rick dives deep into the onboarding process and insists "it's the most important part of the customer journey." He talks about the goals to set them up for success, to set their expectations for the rest of their stay with you, and to never stop improving your process.  
  • At 50:40, Rick recommends taking a big piece of paper and actually drawing out your customer journey. "If a customer calls or wants to rent online or comes into the office, what are the possibilities? What can happen? List it!" He remind us to go through each step and identify pain points that we can improve.
  • At 51:35, Magen gives her advice making move-ins easy. She recommends offering helpful information when customers need it, not all at once. “Your rental isn’t done until their stuff is in the unit, the door is locked, and they're driving away happy."
  • At 56:00, Rick and Magen talk about how often they communicate with tenants and how important it is to them create an "all inclusive" customer service experience. “Make it so people can take the good things for granted.”
  • At 1:01:53, the panelists discuss how they go above and beyond to stand out to potential customers.

Question of the Week

We asked our experts: What’s something extra special that you do to stand out to potential customers?

"We hire people who are amazing. We hire the right people for each facility that connect well with our customers. The amazing people we hire are the ones who are doing the extra special things for every customer they interact with." - Magen Smith

Gabfocus Takeaway

The days of "build it and they will come" storage are done. As the industry grow more competitive and more used, tenants want and expect the kind of ease, customer support, and consideration that they experience in other industries - from finding you, to renting from you, to moving in to your facility, each step of their process and each interaction should be the best it can be.

There's not a "one-size-fits-all" approach, so every facility needs to map it's own "customer journey." Look for your facility online, call the number, drive up, try and navigate your units. Are there hiccups or headaches? Would someone who knows nothing about self storage be able to navigate? Understanding your customer lets you improve your processes, and when you do, getting and keeping happy customers will only get easier and easier. 

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 makes people need self storage?
  2. How have peoples’ needs for storage changed over the last 5 years? Are there reasons that are irrelevant now?
  3. When people decide they need self storage, what do they do? How do they learn about you or find you?
  4. What are the main channels people search for storage and what are the best practices for those channels? (i.e. how is Google different from billboards or from being involved in your community)
  5. Once people have found your facility, what are they looking for? What’s important to them?
  6. What moves them closer to renting? What stops them from moving forward?
  7. How do you convert someone who is an interested “lead” into a customer?
  8. How long should I try and work a lead?
  9. Are there customers not worth getting?
  10. How important is the onboarding process to the customer journey?
  11. What are some best practices to make it easy for new customers to move-in?
  12. When’s the best time to ask for reviews? What’s the best way?
  13. Once I have a new tenant, what can I do to keep them a happy customer?
  14. How often should I be in touch? What should I be communicating about?
  15. What’s something special that you do for your customers?

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




Meet your speakers


Rick Beal

Atomic Storage Group

Website: https://www.atomicstoragegroup.com/
Email: rick@atomicstoragegroup.com

Magen Smith

Atomic Storage Group

Website: https://www.atomicstoragegroup.com/
Email: magen@atomicstoragegroup.com

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

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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