Owners or investors in the self storage industry are building a behemoth of an industry - with over 49 thousand self-storage facilities operating in the United States as of 2021. Of these facilities, over half are owned and operated by small business owners. These are not major operations with think tanks, marketing and tech departments. Typically, the owner of a self storage facility works with or employs a minimal amount of people - this industry relies on maintaining low operating costs.
Knowing how intimidating being a business owner can be, and how one bad investment can sink you, it’s important to take advantage of the multitude of data and experience out there - available for free through the magic of the internet - it’s called crowdsourcing and it’s calling your name!
Investopedia defines crowdsourcing as “obtaining work, information, or opinions from a large group of people who submit their data via the Internet, social media, and smartphone apps.” Before the internet, people made business connections face-to-face, and industry knowledge and secrets were naturally gatekept by sheer proximity, helping to maintain a strong industry foothold for the knowledgable or lucky few - but as the internet as permeated our work and personal lives, basic information has become very easy to access. Data, opinions, experience and even money are available for the taking - it’s almost too much information. How do storage facility owners and operators find the data they need to grow their business when wading through a sea of trolls, talking heads and slick advertising!
In order to understand how to use crowdsourcing to our greatest advantage in the self storage industry, we must understand how it works in general terms. There are 4 primary types of crowdsourcing;
Wisdom - a large group of people offer ideas and knowledge, pooled together to create a vast reservoir of information (otherwise known as “idea crowdsourcing”)
Creation - a group collaborative effort to build or design something
Voting - a poll is conducted to determine the best path forward
Funding - a large group of people pool their financial resources to raise funds for a project or cause
Self storage REITS are massive corporations with access to endless capital, ideas, time and resources. Considering most self-storage owners and operators are independent business owners, it’s important that we create a space to share ideas, products, experiences and advice freely and easily, to avoid falling under the heels of massive corporations. The type of idea crowdsourcing the self storage industry needs is already in use across the world!
Opensignal has created a platform to gauge the mobile experience of users across the globe, offering market insights, data analytics and general experience reporting - all coming directly from mobile network users.
Film icon Ridley Scott released a film entitled Britain in a Day, in which Britain’s residents filmed and submitted video of their daily life, which were then compiled and released as a film.
Wikipedia - enough said.
By the People (created and managed by the Library of Congress) is a crowdsourced transcription project where citizens transcribe and edit other transcriptions of important literary works, which are then available for unlimited download to anyone.
Gooseberry Patch - this fun organization invites users to submit recipes to create community-style cookbooks.
There are many examples of how and why crowdsourcing is explosive for small business owners and operators. When the community is called together to give opinions, share experiences and compete, we see a massive amount of interaction, dedication and engagement grow. A great grass-roots example of this would be sending out a poll to your renters asking what services or features they use the most, or asking what features they would like to see in the future at your facility.
Unexpected solutions - asking a crowd of different people with vastly different life experiences the same question will often result in unexpected solutions to issues you are facing and can’t seem to overcome. For example, asking a crowd of self storage owners and operators about the “most common mistakes made when building a self storage facility” will certainly get you some unique insights and red flags to avoid through the process.
Greater thought diversity - each person’s diverse life experiences give them unique insight into problem solving, needs and requirements that might not be readily apparent when starting out a project. For example, customers in Miami will have vastly different self storage needs (space, climate, location) than customers in Maine or Wisconsin.
Reduced management burden - as an owner or operator of a self storage facility, you are responsible for decision making, ideas and execution. By taking advantage of crowdsourcing, you can lessen the burden on you as a manager by making more informed decisions.
More marketing traction - because crowdsourcing is quite literally data coming from a crowd of customers, it is quite valuable when attempting to understand the needs and motivations of your customers. For example, conducting a poll on introductory or promotional pricing, you might find the best path forward for your next marketing campaign and promotional pricing strategy.
Faster problem-solving - the power of many minds on an issue or roadblock typically results in faster resolutions. For example, asking a crowd of self storage owners and operators what type of management software they use for their facility will certainly help you make your decision faster and with less hesitancy.
Customer-centric data - looking at the data is very important, but looking at the people who submitted their opinions is just as important to a business. For example, what core demographics do most of the respondents share? Did the responses tell you anything about the education level, preferences or dedication of the respondents or customers?
Reduced cost of operation - for small business owners and self storage operators, crowdsourcing can help reduce the cost of operations at your facility by giving you a think-tank of dedicated advisors, negating the need to hire and pay a dedicated marketing professional, manager or business development employee.
Crowdsourcing is quickly becoming a method used daily to reach a broader audience, reduce pressure on expensive and overworked experts, and reduce the cost of research related to management, marketing and budgeting. As owners and operators of our own self storage businesses, we must take advantage of every opportunity to automate, reduce costs and grow your business sustainably - and crowdsourcing is the answer.
To get in on the ground floor of crowdsourcing in the self storage industry, we invite you to offer your experience, expertise and opinion on the future of self storage and self storage technology. ManageSpace invites you to see your self storage space differently using the power of crowdsourced property management technology - visit the ManageSpace community to get a good look at how crowdsourcing works and connect with other self storage entrepreneurs!
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