A guest installment by Robert Madsen, President, U-Lock Mini Storage Group
Self-storage has evolved a lot since its humble, tumbleweed-style beginnings. Consequently, facility managers are finding themselves confronted with the chore of becoming not just great facility managers but also great social managers. For some, this has been an easy extension of their traditional roles, but for others this evolution has been challenging and uncomfortable. Not to worry, as this new role is often easier, more fun and more rewarding than it would first seem. Here are some steps toward becoming an effective self-storage social manager.
Being social in your community begins with the basics of maintaining your facility office and property. If your office and site aren’t presentable, inviting and friendly, then you’ll be as enticing as a campsite washroom. It is important for managers to take off their self-storage hat and assume the same critical stance as when observing restaurants, businesses and other experiences that naturally elicit critiques. Apply the same critical eye to your site as if you were the customer. If you don’t like what you see, fix it immediately because your customers are likely to think it’s even worse. Make sure your office is presentable; there’s little excuse not to have a clean office. Efficiency counts, too, and is aided tremendously with a computerized work space, self-storage management software and smooth processes. This is step one, and the return on investment can be infinite! Get it done.
These days, the idea of being social in business also means using forms of social media. To get things started, build out your work-related resources. Self-storage industry websites, blogs and online communities (like Self-Storage Talk) are essential in helping you understand where to get started, how to proceed and even embrace the benefits of successful social media interactions. By taking a brief moment each day to educate yourself, learn best practices and know what some of the most experienced facility managers in the industry are doing is easy and invaluable. Social media is like riding a bike, and the industry resources at your disposal are your training wheels. Before you know it, your self-storage business will be riding and going places others can’t even imagine.
Once you establish your resource base, it’s time to dive in and establish facility accounts on Twitter, Facebook, a blog and other platforms. I recommend starting with what’s used in your region. For many, this is primarily Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also want to look at e-mail campaign services, such as Constant Contact, to get the most out of your communications.
To leverage your social media presence, be sure to cross promote your social media links with your website. Wait … what? What if you don’t have a website?! If you don’t yet have a website to promote your business, do this immediately. In today’s business and consumer environment, your self-storage website is becoming just as important as your location. Once you have an established website, social media presence, cross-promotional links and an e-mail management system synced with your self-storage management software, you have the staples of a slick social machine. But what’s missing?
As you build your virtual presence, you also need to go old school with social interaction. Reach out physically to your community residents and businesses. This will allow you to build your brand and community awareness, as well as reinforce your social media campaigns. As you meet people and network within your community, add names to your e-mail campaigns and follow your new connections on Twitter and Facebook. Attend community functions and chamber of commerce events. Be a part of your community by assisting local groups like Rotary clubs, Lion’s Clubs and others. These are the folks you will help in times of need, and they, in turn, will also help you. They are the life and breath of your community, and believe it or not, they will be a natural part of your social media community as well. Social media tools and applications like Twitter are simply a method of staying in touch.
Becoming more social in the community and developing a presence on social media isn’t that complex, and it all starts from the foundation of what any good facility manager does to begin with. Don’t fear it. Get out there and enjoy a new world of infinite possibilities. If you do it right, you’ll know it when running the business gets easier and the leads pour in.
Robert Madsen is president of the U-Lock Mini Storage Group and a director of the Canadian Self Storage Association . Born into the industry, he has more than 25 years of professional experience. Robert started in the business with plunger, broom and hammer in hand, progressing to manager and, ultimately, executive. He is also a moderator on Self-Storage Talk , going by the username Madman.