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Self Storage Insight Blog

7 Tips to Stay Competitive: Insights from a Self-Storage Manager

Blake Angle shares how he went from a 13-year military career to managing a thriving self-storage facility. His journey, though marked by challenges, such as the economic downturn of 2008, ultimately brought him to lead a storage facility with a strong community focus. He took over managing Economy Self Storage in 2014, leveraging his budgeting skills and military experience to stabilize and grow the business. The self-storage industry proved to be the home he was searching for, offering a unique space to apply his leadership and logistical expertise.

The Evolution of Economy Self Storage:
Founded by two partners in 2002, Economy Self Storage grew rapidly as the only facility in its area at the time. However, the business landscape changed as the Port St. Lucie population expanded, attracting major chains like Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, and CubeSmart. These larger corporations could afford significant losses to establish themselves and leverage their resources, systems, and branding to push smaller competitors out of the market.

Navigating Market Competition:
Blake knew that playing by the big corporations' rules wouldn't work. These large chains had substantial financial resources to reduce rates and sustain marketing campaigns. Instead of competing on their terms, Economy Self Storage emphasized what they could do well: providing exceptional customer service and listening to the needs of the community. They doubled down on transparent pricing, friendly service, and unique features that larger companies often overlook.

Key Strategies to Outlast Big Chains:
  1. Research Your Competition: Understand the pricing models, trends, and customer experiences offered by competitors. Use this data to craft a unique approach that meets your customers' needs.
  2. Double Down on Service: Treat customers as individuals and prioritize their experience. Offering personalized support can outshine the larger chains' formulaic approaches.
  3. Find Your Niche: Identify what customers in your area value most, then invest in those features and services.

Transparent Pricing Policies:
Economy Self Storage guarantees their customers that rates won't change for a full year, fostering trust and predictability. They also avoid pro-rating move-out fees, simplifying billing and giving customers flexibility.

Enhancing Customer Experience:
Blake ensures that customers feel valued by listening to their needs and keeping them updated on pricing policies. The facility also offers ample parking for vehicles, boats, and RVs, catering to the local community's requirements. By allowing customers flexibility on move-out dates, Economy Self Storage gains trust and loyalty that translates into more referrals and positive reviews.

Building Strategic Partnerships:
The facility collaborates with local moving companies and the U-Haul rental service to create a seamless customer experience. U-Haul’s customer base often turns into long-term storage customers for the facility, and movers trust Economy Self Storage due to their supportive partnership.

Maintenance: DIY vs. Outsourcing:
Blake emphasizes doing as much maintenance in-house as possible, both to save on outsourcing costs and to ensure employees are engaged and aware of the facility’s day-to-day conditions. Simple tasks like replacing light bulbs or routine cleaning are handled by staff.

Marketing and Outreach Tips:
  1. Google My Business: A solid Google Maps listing is essential for directing customers to your facility.
  2. Website: Maintain a user-friendly, informative site that showcases the business's unique value.
  3. Word of Mouth: Offer excellent service and incentives to customers, and they will bring in friends and family.

Challenges and Crazy Stories:
Managing a self-storage facility isn't without unique challenges. People forgetting to close doors is a daily frustration for Blake, but more serious issues like customers living in storage units are an unfortunate reality. These cases require sensitive but firm handling, considering the safety and legal implications involved.

The Future of Self-Storage Management:
COVID-19 sparked a trend towards contactless self-storage management. However, Blake advocates having an onsite manager to handle issues and keep facilities secure. Even remote storage locations need regular inspections to prevent misuse and ensure upkeep.

Blake's Advice for New Managers:
Blake advises new managers to be brave and try new ideas. The big chains rely on tried-and-tested formulas, so small businesses can differentiate themselves through creativity and innovation. He also stresses listening to the community, as they'll reveal exactly what they need.

Navigating the self-storage market in the shadow of large chains can be challenging, but Blake Angle’s strategies have proven effective. By focusing on customer service, transparent pricing, and community needs, his team maintains a competitive edge and garners customer loyalty. Being adaptable and creative will always set small businesses apart from formula-driven corporations.

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