Think about a big-name brand that everyone knows. Chances are, you thought of Apple, Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola. That’s because they’ve developed a good, instantly-recognizable brand that evokes a response with consumers. Now, self storage brands are a lot less likely to be top-of-mind for people, and as such, they don’t need to worry about reaching the heights of brand recognition as these corporate giants.
However, in an increasingly competitive environment, it’s still important for small self storage companies to cultivate a brand that connects with people, especially if they want to compete with REITs, publicly-traded real estate investment trusts that wield a lot of financial power in the self-storage industry because of the brand names.
What Is Your Self Storage Brand?
So what is a brand, exactly? According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.”
As a self storage owner, then, your brand is everything that identifies your self storage facility and makes it different from the competition. This includes your signage along the road and on your facility units and office doors; logos on your merchandise, employee shirts, letterhead, printed ads, and business cards; and the look of your website, social media profiles, and digital advertisements.
Of course, branding goes far beyond your company name and self storage logo. It should include your corporate colors, symbols, designs, and slogans. Your brand is also reflected in the services you offer and conveyed by employees in the way they treat customers. In the end, you want all of these elements of your brand to communicate feelings of trust that make people want to store with you.
A final thought on the importance of branding: Today, in our age of contactless transactions and social distancing, your brand and its presence in your online marketing efforts might be the difference in where your customers turn to for their self storage needs.
5 Ways to Compete with REITs Through Branding
Let’s face it, REITs have a significant advantage over independent self storage owners when it comes to self storage marketing. They’ve got that nationally-recognized brand logo and a lot more money to promote it with. But competing with them is not impossible if you’re willing to take the time to develop your brand and invest in building brand awareness. When you do this, you can establish your business as the best self storage solution in town and stake your place in the market. Here’s how to get started with branding for self storage marketing.
1. Perform a Competitive SWOT Analysis
The first thing you should do when creating your brand is to conduct a SWOT analysis of the competition. Standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, a SWOT analysis helps you evaluate the competition to come up with ways to improve upon their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses. Talk about a win-win!
2. Identify Your Unique Value Proposition
Now that you understand the competition’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to come up with your unique value proposition. Identify what benefits you offer, how your company solves customer challenges, and what distinguishes you from the competition. Your unique value proposition will let prospective renters know why they should choose your facility over other players in the market.
3. Find Your Audience
Before you develop your brand, you should identify and cultivate your target audience, or personas. Persona development includes demographics such as location and income level, as well as psychographics such as interests, values, and activities. These fictionalized definitions of your target audience help you to accurately relate and market to them, creating a brand that resonates with them.
4. Establish Your Brand
Now that you understand the competition, your unique value proposition, and your personas, it’s time to establish your brand. Your brand should be able to conjure an emotion and lay the foundation for the rest of your marketing strategy, driving messaging, communicating your unique value proposition, and defining your place in the local market.
Design will play a large part in establishing your brand. This includes your facility signage, website, advertising, and marketing materials. Because, on average, it takes five to seven impressions before someone will remember your brand, make sure it’s consistent across all online and offline elements to reach those impressions quickly. Consistent branding also conveys a sense of trustworthiness, and is less likely to confuse consumers. Consistent branding has also been shown to increase revenue by an average of 23%, so again, make sure everything works together in harmony.
Lastly, be sure to communicate your brand’s unique value proposition on your website (keep it “above the fold,” so it’s clearly visible to users without having to scroll) and choose colors and design elements that speak to your personas. Keep your text concise and to-the-point, and focus more on what you can do for customers, and less on the business itself. And while imagery and video is great for capturing attention, don’t clutter your site with too much information that will confuse visitors. Remember, your goal is to get them to move deeper through your website and convert them from prospects to tenants, so use “conversion-focused design.”
5. Leverage Another Brand
Some small storage owners may feel ill-equipped to establish self storage branding or come up with self storage logo ideas. They may lack marketing knowledge or the time and money needed to invest into brand development. That’s completely understandable! Not everyone is a marketing guru (or has one on speed dial). That’s when joining a small storage cooperative can help.
A self storage cooperative requires membership from independent self storage operators. By becoming a member, they gain access to the co-op’s products, services, and members. Services that can help with self storage marketing and branding include gaining access to free videos to post on your website, reputation management software for monitoring online reviews, eye-catching digital signage, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) strategies, and more. The network of members in the co-op are also always willing to share their experiences and successes with branding. Who knows, they may have some great self storage logo ideas, messaging concepts, or other helpful marketing advice.
Storelocal®, the nation’s only cooperative created by independent self storage operators, offers a voluntary Storelocal Brand Program that allows self storage companies to use their branding to grow and gain visibility, yet stay completely independent! Learn more now and begin making a name for yourself in today’s competitive self storage industry!