If you are a self storage facility owner who is concerned with profit and expansion, branding should be your number one focus. Today, branding in self storage can be broken down into two concentrations; physical branding and Internet branding.
Physical branding pertains to people’s natural perception of your product or service in everyday life (i.e. signage, traditional advertising, and community involvement). Internet branding is solely your presence on the internet (i.e. website, social media, and optimization). The two have some similarity with regard to how you can advance your brand and increase profit, but they are definitely different.
Physical branding is defined by a few simple constants. According to Laura and Al Ries and their book, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, there are 22. I cannot agree more (especially after reading the book), particularly if you have a national brand. Fortunately for (most of) us in self storage, we only need to concern ourselves with a few of them.
The first constant with which we should be concerned is something Laura and Al Ries call “The Law of Contraction”. This simply means that a brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus. I have seen self storage facilities all over the country that try to be everything to all people. This is confusing; if not overtly, then at the very least subconsciously. I have noticed more and more self storage facilities going up with car washes, bar-b-que restaurants, bakeries, mail centers, coin-op laundries, and coffee shops. This is fine if you separate the brand. You don’t ever want a potential customer wondering, “What is that place? Are they a bar-b-que place or a carwash?” Agreed?
It is fine to offer additional services at your self storage facility, but make sure they do not interfere with your brand. Make sure your signage is distinguishable and separate from any ancillary business you have on site.
Some of the greatest advice I have ever received is “have someone else carry your flag for you”! What I am talking about here is another rule in branding; publicity. Think of what your self storage facility means to your community, and exploit that. Join the Chamber of Commerce and make your grand opening or community service known to the public at large. Support local little league teams or other school sanctioned activities in and around your self storage facility. Adopt a street, maybe the street your self storage facility is on, and publicize it. Each of these things are designed to not only help get the word out about your facility, but also to help you help your community in the process. Everybody wins.
Zig Ziglar said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” How many of those people that you help do you think will start carrying your flag for you? All of them? For each wonderful thing you do for and in your community, release that information to the press. PRWeb.com has some affordable packages that make disseminating press releases simple. Send emails to your local news channels; it is free to do this! Local news stations are always on the hunt for personal interest stories like yours.
In the book, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Laura and Al Ries speak about a perfect example of successful branding through branding; The Body Shop. The Body Shop was created by Anita Roddick in 1976. She didn’t have a lot of money, but her concept was sound. She focused solely on publicity; her brand is now global. Never underestimate the value of publicity over advertising. It is cheaper, and more effective if done correctly.
The last constant I wish to talk about in our short time together is the perception of logo. Does your design of your logo (consciously or subconsciously) denote power? Just by glancing quickly at your logo do people think that you are first in self storage? Does your logo insinuate safety? Do people automatically believe their things will be safer at your facility than the one down the street? I have seen many profound logos in this industry.
U-Store-It covers a lot of the rules of branding with their logo. Since our eyes move from side to side, the best way to position a logo is horizontally. Al and Laura Ries say it best when they state the shape of maximum impact visually; “about the size of a windshield, roughly two and one-fourths units wide and one unit high.” U-Store-It’s is almost exactly two and one-fourths units wide and one unit high, and their typeface is easily legible.
Color is important when developing your brand. The color spectrum is made of five colors and two shades (simply stated). Because of the differing sensitivity of our eyes to different wavelengths of light, our retina perceives some colors as brighter and closer, while some other colors seem cooler and further away. For example, because red is processed by more receptors on the retina, it seems to be coming at you. Blue is processed by fewer receptors and consequently seems to be pulling away. U-Store-It’s logo is a perfect example of a logo that projects power. Its red color gives it more of an “in-your-face” feeling.
You can use color to drive home your brand intention. If you would like to project a brand that speaks of efficiency and power, you may use red. If your brand is more focused around price points you may use green; the color of money. If you want to focus on customer service, you might choose blue or yellow (cooler, friendlier colors).
Finally we are on to Internet branding. The duality of the Internet is fascinating, but rarely understood. The Internet is an advertising medium like TV or radio, but it is also a business opportunity like a storefront. People in the self storage industry often make the mistake of treating the Internet strictly as an advertising medium; a huge mistake.
To properly brand online, your website should not only be a glorified business card, but a fully functional and interactive business opportunity. Why spend thousands of dollars on a site that does not allow self storage renters to reserve a self storage unit on your site? Why not offer your self storage unit renters the convenience to pay their monthly bill online?
Be careful to not name your website too generic. Storage.com would be an example of being too generic, but it is owned by Extra Space and it jumps to extraspace.com. This is a smart move. Aside from that, Extra Space named their site appropriately and reaps the rewards. Some website names in the Self Storage Industry are so unidentifiable that you have to wonder if they are a shoe company, a company that sells prosthetics, or a remodeler. Please be careful with this one; in many instances it is the difference between success and failure on the net.
Make sure your online web address is easy to use in conversation, uses no numbers (i.e. storage123.com), and says what your about. This may seem difficult, but it is most certainly imperative.
Internet advertising (pay-per-click) is a cheap and easy way to bolster your brand online. It is extremely targeted and local (if you want it to be). Many people argue that “the big guys” can afford to dominate the web in self storage. This is not exactly true. Sure they may get the top result on the sponsored pages on Google (and this does win them points with Google), but they spend a fortune and don’t have to. According to the IQ Content website, only about 3% of search engine users use the sponsored results because they feel like those results are not specifically tailored to their needs. But pay-per-click advertising is important. If you limit your pay-per-click to $15-$25 per day you will immediately see better rank results in Yahoo, Bing and Google because you are creating back links (albeit temporary) on other sites that host Google Ads.
Social media is a powerful tool for branding. What many self storage facilities fail to understand when using social media like Facebook or Twitter is that not everyone wants to hear about your specials on a 10×10 self storage unit. It is fine to mention your specials or self storage unit availability every once in a while, but for the most part use these mediums to speak about topics of personal interest. Tell folks in your follow or fan list about upcoming events you are attending. Tell them about holidays you’ve celebrated (i.e. birthdays, Memorial Day celebrations, 4th of July, etc…). Put pictures of your staff having fun. This is what people want to hear about, not your specials. Social media is institutional it takes time to build a popular following. Keep it up, especially since it is free.
The internet is new and complex. When you add proper branding to the mix it seemingly more complicated. There are tons of search engine optimization techniques that I could ramble on about for hours that will help you develop your brand online, but that is for another day. I hope this brief foray into branding helped. If you have any questions about anything I have covered, please drop me an email. I would be glad to elaborate, or answer any questions you may have.