To set a marketing budget means you need to have a plan of action for your marketing efforts. Otherwise, you could be wasting valuable resources that bring little to no results.

The overarching goal of your marketing efforts is to achieve the mission.

Your #1 Mission: Make Sure Potential Customers Know Your Brand

The more you get your brand in the public view, the more likely it is that they will think of your facility when the need for self storage arises, especially if you have created alliances and promoted these alliances at your events. You can also demonstrate that you are a trusted resource through customer testimonials and community networking.

We really want to get the whole community talking about you and your store. To do this, focus on:

  • Referrals
  • Social media
  • Marketing visits
  • Community and club participation
  • Onsite events
  • Online and digital testimonials

All are important to developing wide-audience and awareness.

You must ask yourself:

  1. Are you sending out “save the date” emails to your entire contact list?
  2. Are you visiting local businesses, increasing the size of your contact database, then making follow up phone calls?
  3. Are you attending local club meetings or networking meetings, sending emails and postcards and creating your own networking group?

If not, you need to ramp up those efforts and work to achieve all that is possible within your community.

On-site events are a great way to get your neighbors out to fully inspect your offerings and amenities. They can include any of the following types of events:

  • Grand Openings (local media, press releases)
  • Chamber of Commerce (business after hours, ribbon cutting)
  • Yard Sale
  • Apartment Managers Drop-In or Breakfast Tours
  • Customer Appreciation Day or Week
  • Drive-Thru Haunted House or Seasonal Displays

Make sure to give food and drinks, marketing goodie bags and door prizes, and create a theme! Register all guests then follow up with an email to all your contacts showing door prize winners and event photos or videos. Get them to touch and feel your entire storage experience.

Plan Your Marketing

Then work the plan. To ensure you can extract measurements of activity, we use a form in-house called the Personal Marketing Goals (PMG) for each store. It is a one-page workbook where we input the goals for each activity and automate measuring of performance against goals. These are planned prior to January and coincide with budget planning.

__PMG messages include: __

  • Outgoing calls
  • Emails
  • Weekly visits to local businesses
  • Events on-site
  • Social media posts
  • Club meetings
  • Expos
  • On and off-site networking events

Visits are the heart of our marketing program locally; this means personal visits to all local businesses, hospitals, professional and real estate offices, apartments, universities, schools, etc.

We must also include in our budget local team and club sponsorships and local school partners in education as positive community involvement shows your customers that you are trustworthy and earns their respect.

A friendly tip: Never deliver only paper goods on marketing calls; you must have something three-dimensional to hand them. You can deliver on your goals and carry out your message on customized goodies that are easy to make yourself.

Once you develop onsite traffic and leases, it is critical to confirm how they found out about you and their source and motivations. Ensure you are forcing a marketing questionnaire at move-in for all customers. Here’s how our teams measured their customer traffic sources last year.

2018 Traffic Sources Internet: 36% Drive-By: 35% RREM (Repeats, Referrals, Events, Marketing): 26% Other: 3% Yellow Pages: 0.1%

It quickly becomes apparent that Yellow Pages is no longer a valid source for customers and that the internet must have an adequate budget for your website, aggregators, PPC – Pay Per Click advertising, social media ads and email marketing.

In 2018, our stores averaged 38,283 PMG marketing messages per store per year, or 3,190 per month completed by our onsite teams.

  • 26,556 visits were made to local businesses by our managers
  • Our 2018 Average Cost per Lease was $57.45. CPL = All Adv. Costs ÷ All Leases
  • 37,224 visitors attended on-site events at the stores

Now let’s look at what we spent for last year and get a set of budgeting guidelines.

For 2018, we spent $0.27 per square foot per year or 2.4% of actual income for all marketing and advertising efforts, and that includes all the promotional items and candy we gave away. Our stores average approximately 62,452 net rentable square feet, so if your store is smaller, this percentage will be larger; conversely, if your store is much larger, then the per square foot number or percentage would likely be smaller.

We also measure expenses as a percentage of actual income to enable us to spot any trends in addition to cost per square foot. Over time, technology has helped us lower marketing and advertising costs and achieve greater results for the money we spend.

For 2017, we spent 2.2% of actual income on all marketing and advertising costs. A new or lease-up location will require different expenses and numbers entirely, but once stabilized will fall into these categories as well.

At a glance, your marketing and advertising expenses for an average stabilized location will include:

  • Any general flyers or local printing/promotion the manager may want to do such as customized apartment flyers.
  • Candy and promotional items we give out during marketing calls to local businesses, onsite event give aways, catering and refreshments.
  • Printing referral cards, business cards, rack cards and pull up banners.
  • Memberships and dues.
  • Referral fees are the money paid to those referring new move-ins.
  • Events, ribbon cuttings, yard sales, chamber expos, etc.
  • Internet marketing: website maintenance, Pay Per Click (PPC), aggregators like Sparefoot, SEO and SEM, etc.
  • Email marketing platform for communicating with all of your contacts, both customers and prospects.
  • Donations

For new stores, your five-year budget planning may look similar to this; with a progression over time during the lease up of a lower percentage of income required to cover all marketing and advertising expenses and an approximate 3 percent escalation of expenses: Year 1: $15,720 | 8.7% Year 2: $16,034 | 3.4% Year 3: $16,355 | 2.3% Year 4: $16,682 | 2.1% Year 5: $17,016 | 2.1%

Lastly, for any money you spend on advertising and marketing, be sure you have listed those sources in your software as choices for new customers at move-in. A great example is to make sure the Chamber of Commerce is listed if you are member, and if you pay that membership fee then get out there and attend those meetings and participate.


M. Anne Ballard

Anne is President of Marketing, Training and Developmental Services for Universal Storage Group, a full service management company and top operator. She has served on the SSA Board of Directors and is a two term Past President of the Georgia Self Storage Association. Universal manages/consults to over 60 facilities in more than 14 states and overseas. She has been a frequent speaker at state, national and international conventions and a five-time industry winner of ISS Best Manager Training and 11-time Facility of the Year winner. She handles facility planning, feasibility studies, design, start-ups and operational consulting and training around the world.