Entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi has been quoted as saying, “Word of mouth marketing has always been important. Today, it’s more important than ever because of the power of the internet.”
If you haven’t involved your facility in a strategic digital marketing campaign, the world is not only passing you by, it’s talking about you and you probably aren’t even aware of what it’s saying.
In today’s business climate, every single company is involved in digital marketing–whether you want to be or not. When someone goes to Yelp or another online review site, or looks for you on Facebook, they are imprinting your company online, even if you haven’t.
What they’re saying about you will likely determine who goes to your website, calls your facility, or walks through your door.
Digital marketing doesn’t have to be complicated and should be integrated into your other marketing efforts. We talked to several experts in digital marketing for self-storage, and they came up with 10 digital marketing tips that will help your business establish itself and maintain a positive presence online:
Claim your profiles. Matt Casady, marketing manager for STOR-N-LOCK Self Storage in Salt Lake City, Utah, which has 22 facilities throughout the western U.S., says the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is claim your Google My Business profile. “Make sure your business is claimed and it is in the proper categories, just enough to describe what your business does,” says Casady. He adds some of these categories may include “self-storage facility,” “RV storage facility,” “boat storage facility,” whichever best describe the services you offer. You should also be claiming a Facebook page, which is created when someone searches for you on Facebook. It’s recommended you have a Facebook page, but it’s not mandatory as long as it is claimed. Claiming sites is important as it will bring you up in Google rankings, which is typically how new customers find your facility. Casady also advises not to put in a descriptor of a larger city if you’re in a smaller town close to it. “You have many more competitors in that larger city; just focus on the town you’re in and get the highest ranking you can there,” he says.
Make sure all information is consistent across all pages. Casady mentions that having an address listed as 135th Ave. when you are actually on 135th St., or having wrong telephone numbers listed on these pages, can throw the Google algorithms into a tailspin. If you are 135th St., make sure all of your pages, including your website, Google Business, Facebook, Yelp and all of them, list you the same way. If you use St. as an abbreviation, make sure it’s all listed as “St.” and not “Street”. It’s critically important all of them are listed exactly the same.
Build local links. Casady says that this is a “huge way to boost google rankings”. What not to do: Get involved with spamming type sites that put links to your site up out of the blue. This actually is an old practice that has been frowned upon by Google; if your site is included in one of these sites, Google will actually penalize you in the rankings. Here’s what to do: Talk to local businesses that compliment yours in some way, including apartment complexes, moving companies, truck rental companies, organizations you might work with such as the chamber, and others, and ask them to provide a site link back to your webpage. What not to do: Of course, you should be providing content on your site, which takes us to the next tip.
Content marketing. Contrary to what some believe, the blog is not dead. Many companies write quality articles (or commission them) to put on their website. These might include packing and moving tips or other helpful advice for your customers. “Content marketing includes blogs, videos and social media posts,” says Nick Bilava, director of sales for USstoragesearch.com. When you provide quality content, the local businesses you partner with for site links should have no problem exchanging links with you. What doesn’t work is keyword stuffing. Again, if the Google gods (i.e. the algorithms) think you are doing this, it will actually penalize you in the rankings. Provide quality content such as “How to pack your dishes when moving,” “The Five Best Ways to move a large piece of furniture,” etc.
Optimize your website. Bilava notes that you should always make sure your website is up to date and optimized for current technology. Today, that means having a website that is mobile device friendly, since 60 percent of all web searches are now conducted from a mobile device. You also need to make sure it is neat and user friendly and, ideally, allows your potential customers to contact you from the site. “As always, you need to make sure your website provides a good user experience and navigates easily,” says Bilava.
Ensure your marketing efforts are consistent. If you’re offering a 10 percent discount in your real-world marketing efforts, such as local ads, you need to make sure your marketing efforts are consistent throughout the digital world as well. “Having your marketing efforts consistent across all platforms makes you appear more relevant to the customer,” Bilava says.
Choose some social media. If you’ve lost count of all the social media platforms out there, you aren’t alone. It can be a huge and confusing task choosing which social media platforms to use, but you should be on them says Chuck G., social media and marketing specialist for iBid4Storage.com. “Whatever you choose to do, you should be on social media, if you aren’t, you will be a dinosaur,” he says. “The billboard days are over; the new billboard is social media.” There are, of course, tricks to using social media such as treating it as more of a social interaction than a hard sales pitch. People don’t like to see direct marketing coming at them through their Facebook pages, but what you can do is post fun or informative things that are relevant to your business. This could be links to articles on your website, videos that maybe show how to properly store things, or even spoofs. On Twitter, don’t just retweet a bunch of other tweets, that’s annoying and could get you unfollowed. Chuck G. says you should humanize your social media interactions, posting, for example, upcoming events in your town over the holiday weekend. Different social media platforms work for different businesses, but Chuck G. says the least effective has been Instagram. The most effective and two she recommends for everyone is Facebook and Twitter. Another tip she gives is that you don’t have to post every day; two to three times per week is sufficient.
Be aware of your reviews. Google, Yelp, Facebook, and several other platforms, including some local ones, allow users to write reviews about your business. All our experts agree that these reviews should be “managed” in that the negative reviews should get a response. When writing a response, keep in mind that other users across your area will be able to read and make judgements about how you respond to issues. The first rule of customer service is don’t take it personally. Be polite and invite the user to come back to your business and ask for you (or your manager) to discuss the issues one on one. This shows others you will handle complaints or issues quickly and with courtesy.
Highlight good reviews on your Facebook page. You can’t offer rewards for good reviews, but you can ask your loyal customers to leave good reviews on your pages. If you receive good reviews, there’s nothing wrong with highlighting those on your Facebook page, says Jana Haecherl, marketing specialist with storEDGE.
Don’t forget about email. “Email is still one of the biggest relationship builders,” says Melissa Burdon, senior director of marketing and optimization for Extra Space Storage, which has 1,400 properties. Burdon says that includes more than just sending out an e-newsletter, which are also effective. “You can personalize your e-mails, especially in the reservation to rental phase,” says Burdon, who added that these personal interactions should always keep in mind that the potential customer is going through some sort of a life transition and are more effective when they offer helpful tips in moving or something related to storage.
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.