Understanding the marketing value of online management

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s the importance of an online reputation for a business. The pandemic has been a stark reminder that self storage operators need to adapt if they want to remain competitive in the market and retain high-value customers.

Enquiry generation is the lifeblood of the business in the self storage sector. When COVID-19 hit, it completely shifted the way in which most self storage operators manage their online presence. This became more vital for effectively generating enquiries. Having the capability to identify new online customer acquisition opportunities, deploy solutions in a live environment, measure and evaluate results at speed, and then repeat the cycle in the online space, is a key skill set and one which gives savvy operators a competitive advantage.

In today’s blog, we hear from the head of marketing of South Africa’s largest self storage operator, Stor-Age. Chris Oosthuizen, who has over ten years of experience in the self storage sector and even more in marketing and sales, shares his top tips and expert advice when it comes to managing the online reputation of your self storage business.

Competing with large operators

Most self storage facilities are located within close proximity of a competitor, and most often that competitor is a large, REIT-sized operator with many properties. These large stores usually have more marketing budget available as well. So how do you compete against them and dominate the online space?

Chris shares, “With digitalisation having taken the sector to a completely different landscape over the past 18 months, generating enquiries in the online space has become vital to the success of any operator. For small operators with limited budget, it can be a difficult space in which to compete. What small operators do have is the ability to give attention to local nodes or micro nodes. To dominate the market, they must present themselves as local specialists to that specific market – a local business for the local community. This needs to be communicated through their website, social media platforms etc.”

It’s also important to drive Google reviews for the business, as Google will reward small operators for having high engagement and positive review rates, putting the small operator in a better position to succeed.

Online reputation management

It’s important to understand that consumers make choices about a business before they even visit the facility. Traditionally, potential customers refer to those in their community to ask about their opinions, using feedback from friends and family to gauge if a business is reputable or not.

The online space offers an indirect peer review and referral platform. It gives consumers the comfort and trust needed to purchase your product. It’s another way of outperforming the big players. Google My Business and Google reviews are two avenues to pay special attention to.

Consider the example of choosing a restaurant for a family dinner, or selecting an Airbnb for a holiday. If the business has an average rating of 4.9 based on 300 credible reviews, then the risk of purchasing the product is removed. In turn, consumers can purchase a product without feeling threatened, robbed or disappointed. The same can be said for selecting a self storage facility.

Chris shares, “We live in an age with so much clutter and so many micro-decisions that need to be made. By giving the customer the perception of credibility, while they are doing the initial review of the products and services, it gives them the ability to easily make the decision to buy the product.”

Embrace all forms of digital marketing!

“What used to work just a few years ago is no longer as effective,” says Chris. “The pandemic brought about a shift in the way self storage operators attract new customers, and retain existing ones. Content creation, paid media, social media advertising and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are vital in today’s climate. While self storage has proven to be a resilient product, if operators are unable to change with the times, they risk losing market share to their peers, especially the bigger players.”

Chris Oosthuizen has previously shared tips on how to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and online reputation management plays a key part. Take a look at the blogs here.

We’re proud to offer a selection of digital marketing services, including online reputation management, that helps to position your store in a positive light. Contact our experienced team today to find out more about how we can help your store.