Internet vs. Yellow Pages

A brief comparison of Online Marketing versus Yellow Pages in the Self Storage Industry.

Know your target market: A brief comparison of Online Marketing versus Yellow Pages in the Self Storage Industry.

Do you really know your tenants? Do you know their shopping habits and styles? If not, you may be missing opportunities you weren’t aware existed.

This industry has always been one of growth and of reasonable success with advertising patterns and techniques of late. With 90% of our industry being comprised of smaller, owner operators, it is sometimes a daunting task to identify and tackle changing consumer habits and environments due to budget constraints. We as a group, for whatever reason, seem to default to advertising traditions/patterns that were previously a success, despite their respective cost increase and, in many cases, exponentially lower ROI (Return on Investment) in today’s market.

The fact is that our industry has “grown” to an almost complete halt, with respect to new facility construction, for at least two reasons; the most obvious being the economy. The other reason is the simple fact that we were likely at the hilt of market saturation, if not over, prior to the economic downtown, now we are “the many, fighting for the few.” Competition has never been so high, and you need to act now with regards to identifying potential sales channels and you need to concentrate on your customer service.

So… who is your market, and what should you be doing. I’ve found that it isn’t a lack of knowledge about our tenants personally; it is a lack of knowledge regarding their personal purchasing behaviors. Who are these groups? According to Nielsen, they are:

  • Greatest Generation: born prior to 1946 (64 + years of age in 2009)
  • Boomers: 1946 – 1964 (45 to 63)
  • Gen X: 1965 – 1976 (33 to 44)
  • Millennials: 1977 – 1994 (15 to 32)

How are they shopping? “Nielsen determined that shoppers in these economic times are proving to be rational consumers with more than half relying on shopping lists and consistently comparing the unit price for a product. (Mining the U.S. Generation Gaps, March 4, 2010, Nielsen)” Rational consumers comparing prices… would you agree? If not, you may need to reexamine your sales strategy.

Loyalty has been generally high in our industry for years. We all operated under the assumption that people store their goods, forget about them, and remain loyal customers almost by default. With a shift in the percentage mix of the consumer groups occurring daily, it is important to know what not only drives them to you, but what drives them away. For instance, “the oldest of the Millennials are in the group (27 to 43 years old) and are most likely to cut ties with a business over customer service issues.” Pay attention to what your tenants want and from where they come.

Most of our submarkets have a healthy mix of the aforementioned categories, so we need a comprehensive approach. Within this comprehensive plan, internet marketing must be considered a priority. Every generation uses the internet in some form or fashion; some more than others. What that means is, if when they use a search engine to search for self storage facilities in your market and you are nowhere to be found, there is a certain segment of the population that will consider you to be just that… invisible. It is safe to assume that you wouldn’t intentionally alienate a large consumer sector by clinging to the advertising strategies of the past.

According to an article from featuring comments from Dean Jernigan, the CEO of U Store It, “he indicated that only 3 % of the company's business comes directly from the Yellow Pages.” That may not quite be your situation, but that should open your eyes a bit as most of us write that Yellow Pages check each quarter.

Here are some interesting facts from a Forrester Research study:

  • 93% of all internet traffic is generated from internet search engines. Out of that 93%, 89% of them are first-time visitors.
  • 92% of search engine users do not search beyond the top 30 results (first 3 pages).
  • 76.7% of Google users use the natural search links (organic, unpaid listings).
  • 65% of online revenue is generated from websites in the top three positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Knowing the above, don’t fall prey to Adwords or Pay-Per- Click campaigns as the end all be all of internet marketing. In fact, it is quite the opposite according to this study. Savvy shoppers are learning to trust organic results more because those companies didn’t pay to be there, they are there because they are perceived to be an authority in the subject or keyword group that was searched. Your website must be optimized for the search engines and customers to find you in order to be considered one of these “authorities”.