SSA 2016: What We Heard, What It Means
The Self Storage Association Fall Conference + Trade Show 2016:
An event recap, and what it means for the future of marketing and customer experience management in the self-storage industry.
At Linkmedia 360 we often attend industry events and conferences to
- Learn more about how we can create better solutions and provide better services to our clients, and
- To get valuable face-to-face time with our clients.
Each self-storage conference our team attends is really a win-win experience. We listen, learn, and leave with valuable insights we can use and pass on to existing clients who couldn’t attend, and new clients we form partnerships with. The following takeaways are what the self-storage team brought back and unpacked this year.
What We Heard
Storage operators need a strong technical website foundation that is integrated with a reliable inventory management solution. This is in addition to the strategic marketing activities where many operators desire to know more analytics and insights (the “why”) behind what they are paying for various digital marketing services. Are marketing partners moving the needle on results, both month over month and year over year? Are website visitors turning into new leases? How is my mobile and/or responsive website impacting visitor experience?
What It Means
A systems integration partner is necessary for a digital environment that’s holistic, one in which systems “talk” to each other. The site visitor may want to see availability, price and move-in specials – does the backend system surface real-time data/inventory on the front-end of the website? On the business side, operators want to be able to focus on the management of their facilities, assisting people in timely fashion and collecting positive reviews to share with other potential customers – are backend processes automated to allow them to do so? Technical enablement – designing an environment that allows for scalability and flexibility, will be essential to building a solid framework to support the marketing and sales engines. There are a handful of great backend solutions that we work with, ones that can be integrated with a custom front-end interface, that are digital marketing enabled. We are seeing more operators committed to investing in marketing technologies, in ways that benefit the website visitor and bottom line.
Say What You Mean
What We Heard
Occupancy rates in many markets are strong, but operators could be in danger of staying at the top of the search results, especially if there are changes in markets that present a risk – new competitor(s), age demographic shifts, local economy and real estate/construction – and not to mention daily changes in Google’s search engine algorithm. Word of mouth and referrals are fantastic to keep storage units occupied, but how can operators strategically raise rates and put more money in the bank or re-invest in physical property improvements and digital assets (including website enhancements, engaging content and tools/calculators)?
What It Means
Are we, as agency partners, effectively communicating industry trends well enough to our clients so they see the necessity to invest in digital? Are we speaking in layman’s terms or is it all marketing-ese? With over 3.5 billion Google searches per day, 1.49 billion Facebook users, and roughly 190.5 million smartphone users in the United States, the internet – and every trend and best practice that comes with it – isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will only grow, making it all the more important to design a digital presence that’s not only easy to use, but easy to understand from a business user’s perspective. What is search marketing? What are the inner-workings and details of local SEO that make it crucial to being competitive? Local listings management, citations, reviews and content strategy? None of it means anything unless value – tangible ROI – can be demonstrated through and integrated strategy with valuable monthly reporting with insights.
Know Your Audience
What We Heard
Your website is your brand, and if you are not investing in a modern, user-friendly website your brand perception will be negatively affected. The millennial persona may desire a low-touch/no-touch experience, so don’t force them to do something (or fail to provide something they desire) that isn’t second nature in their digital lifestyles. Conversely, baby boomers and gen-Xers might be looking for slightly different website content and rental/reservation options.
What It Means
This speaks a lot to the second point, but also highlights the need to understand your target audience and provide them with the information they need, when the need it, and in multi-screen fashion. Placing the customer at the center of all efforts, both traditional/off and online marketing, allows all brands (not simply self-storage) to create meaningful experiences throughout the research-purchase-and retention lifecycle.
If we had to choose a few words that wrapped up the event as neatly as a well-organized storage unit (other than success), we’d have to equate the SSA Fall Conference 2016 with: sophistication, differentiation, and integration. Storage operators (small and large) across the board are advancing their digital marketing and technical operations, being forced to differentiate offerings and site experience to stay competitive, and integrate systems or marketing partners to demonstrate a sustainable return on investment.
Where does your self-storage operation fall within these areas, and how can we help you stay ahead in your local markets? Contact us to get a free website assessment and learn more about our custom digital marketing solutions.