Turn Your Slow Season Around

by Tron Jordheim

The “slow season” is upon us. That time when the winter holidays are approaching and cool weather is blowing in is usually not the time when you see peak demand in self storage.

Slow Season Marketing Tips

Rent as many units as you can, however you have to rent them, so you start with maximum physical occupancy when the spring busy season comes. Maybe you are feeling pretty full and happy. That is great. Why not challenge yourself to see how much you can grow your net operating income next year?

Test Demand

You have only two factors to consider: demand and supply. Big surprise, right? So first, test demand. Don’t change your rental rates, but if things are slow, advertise aggressive move-in specials. First-month-free, or first-month-for-a-dollar specials are hard to beat.

These strategies have been proven over and over again to be successful. Run your special, in combination with market rates, for the first month of slow season. Advertise it with some gusto. Spend a few bucks getting it out to the marketplace.

Measure Your Success Rate

Was your pace of rentals better than last year for the same month after running the special, or about the same? Were your conversion rates 60 percent or better? If you got 10 inquiries, did you rent to at least six of them? If you did not rent to someone, was it because of something other than price?

Review Your Supply

How did it affect supply? Still plenty of units? Or, getting tight on supply? If you are tight on supply, repeat the same special for a second month. Repeat the analysis each month during the four or five months of slow season.

I know owners hate giving the first month free. But if you are giving a free month to people paying market rate, what are you complaining about? When you start month two, you’ll be large and in charge, so get aggressive with first month free. If your month-end tests show you are not getting tight on supply and have plenty of units still left to rent, and your conversion rates are not 60 percent or more, cut asking rates. Yes, I said it, cut asking rates.

However, you must make it plain to people when they rent at reduced rates that these rates will discontinue on March 1, April 1 or May 1, whichever day correlates best with the start of your demand season.

Bring Rates Back to Market

Present the reduced rate as 20 or 30 percent off market rates until March. This makes it easier to go back to market rates when it is time, and fewer tenants will move out when you take them to market rates in anticipation of strong demand.

Empty units don’t help you in the slow season. Any income is good income if the other option is no income from an empty unit. The more physical occupancy you have at the start of high demand, the better position you are in to move market rates up early in the season. Many of your discounted renters will accept the increase to market rate and will not move out because they are expecting it. Some will move out, which will give you more units to rent at market rate. If they do move out, they will do so without bitterness or remorse because you made it clear to them from the beginning when their rates would go up to market rate.

You may have local conditions that won’t allow you to implement this strategy or another situation that will make this the wrong strategy for your site. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

But in the vast majority of cases, this will result in additional income for the last month or two of the year, which is always helpful. It will also result in additional income for the first few months of next year. And most importantly, it will be like rocket fuel for your efforts to maximize the high demand next spring to build maximum income for each quarter in 2018. This all means a big gain in net operating income.

Advertise Your Specials

What are the best ways to advertise this? Put it on your website. Put it in your social media. Use Google Ad words. Put a yard sign in front of your site. Get a big teardrop banner and set it out front by the curb. Put it on your main sign. Say it in your on-hold messaging. Say it upfront on the phone. Put out fliers in the areas of your neighborhood that are most likely to bring you some attention.

Reassess in the Spring

You may adopt a completely different strategy for move-in specials come April or May. You may be full enough and may have raised rates enough that you don’t have to offer any move-in specials next summer. You may want to tweak the specials by unit type. See how things look in the spring and decide as you see what your local conditions look like as the season develops. In any case, I’d be glad to hear from you next spring regarding how this slow season strategy was a winner for you.

Tron Jordheim is the business development manager for Store Here Management/ RHW Capital Management Partners, and a consultant in sales, call center practices, marketing and management. Tron has writ- ten three books, is a frequent speaker, and is a contributor to industry trade journals. Tron was a pioneer in search engine optimization, digital marketing and social media. Tron’s clients and employers have gained billions of dollars in asset value from what one self-storage industry icon described as his “quirky brilliance.”


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