7 Ways to Learn From Your Competition

Jon Fesmire | Sep 11, 2017 @ 08:35 AM

One of the big challenges to running a self storage operation is keeping up with or surpassing the competition. After all, if people see another storage facility as a better option, they’ll patronize that business instead of yours.

Fortunately, you can learn from other storage facilities, from how they market to what services they offer. Here are some ways to learn from your competition. Once you know what your competition does, you can adjust your strategy.

Visit the Site

It’s a good idea to see firsthand what other self storage facilities in your area are doing. So, head over to each one and have a look around. Pick a half dozen sites and schedule time to have a look.

Consider going in with someone else, like a coworker or friend.

Ask questions about unit sizes and offerings. You don’t have to tell them you work for a competitor. It’s okay to gather publicly available facts.

Pricing

Consider the pricing structure of units and items sold in the facility store. Do they seem high? If so, why do you think that is? The facility may be located in a well-to-do area. Or, perhaps they set their base prices high and have frequent sales, allowing them to drop their prices and still make a profit.

Are the prices low? Again, this may be related to their location. Perhaps they have a good arrangement with a wholesaler and are able to get their goods for lower than usual prices. This may be the case with especially large self storage companies that are able to buy in bulk. If you’re a member of the storelocal cooperative, you can enjoy lower wholesale prices as well, since the member companies pool their purchasing power on the items they sell.

Store Flow

When you enter the office, how is it arranged? Past the stacks of boxes for sale, is the front desk easy to see from the doorway? Do they have screens behind the desk showing various areas of the facility? When you move around the main room, is it easy to find anything you might need?

This is all about the flow of the office. Notice what other facilities do to make customers feel welcome. Security screens visible from the main office show that the facility is concerned with the safety of its storage units.

Customer Service

We all know that customer services representatives need to be friendly. The people you meet working in the front office are the face of the company.

When you visit another facility, you can learn from the specific things that their customer service staff does. Do they have a specific greeting they use? When you ask about renting a unit or about merchandise, are their answers concise and well-informed? You’ll probably learn a lot from how they answer questions, and can adapt their style to your own facility.

Management Software

Now, we’re getting into information that you probably won’t learn by visiting a facility. You may need to do some research online for this one.

Today’s management software for self storage facilities can make a big difference in how smoothly the business runs. Often, these solutions are cloud-based, so you can take payments, upload lock checks, and much more from the computers inside the offices or your mobile devices. Some make it easy to call in a maintenance person when needed, document suspicious activity, and much more. Research various solutions, but learn what your competition is using.

Social Media and Website Presence

Social media strategy is a huge topic. Entire classes are taught on how to run and advertise on Facebook and other platforms.

Look at the Facebook pages for your competition. This is a great way to see what they’re up to. If they have a blog, they probably share each post as it goes up. Do they post humor about self storage? How often do they share special offers? What are they doing in the community to help bring in business? Borrow their ideas, and come up with ideas of your own.

How is their website arranged? Does it look like it’s from the mid-nineties, or does it take advantage of motion graphics and other options available today? Take note of what you like, and hire a professional web designer for your site who can create a unique look for your company.

Marketing

Look at the way your competition markets itself. This, of course, will include the social media and website presence discussed above. It also includes company logos. Consider what design elements have gone into each logo, and hire a designer who can create a great logo for your facility.

Where does your competition advertise? Do they take out ad space in the local newspapers? Do they use Google or Facebook ads? These days, marketing is about more than ads. It’s about creating a positive relationship with the community. How does your competition accomplish this? Perhaps they participate in the local Neighborhood Watch at each location, or perhaps they have recycling bins the public can use. They may give to charity, or sponsor events.

Use these ideas to help improve all aspects of your self storage business. Perhaps the most important piece of advice to take from this article is to not just learn from your competition, but to improve upon what you’ve learned.