By Mike Roberts, Executive VP of Sales and Operations, XPS Solutions
Your goal is to win in the self-storage industry, and you have what it takes to succeed. You have invested, or are planning to invest, in building, acquiring, or becoming a major shareholder in the perfect moneymaking site. You created a fancy website, Facebook and Twitter web pages, and are budgeting for SEO and Google AdWords to appropriately market your facility. You integrated with top-notch site management software, and hired at least one great operations manager to maintain your site and sell units.
Great! Now what?
You need a strategy.
The Trend of Tracking
Big Data seems to be the current buzzword of the tracking trend in the self-storage industry. But what exactly is Big Data? How is it collected and utilized? More importantly, how can Big Data impact your business?
Simply put: Big Data is the aggregate information derived from comprehensively tracking your business operations; and, if collected and used effectively, can dramatically grow your business.
So, how are you tracking your business operations, profits, and prospect data currently? Site management software is a great tool for organizing day-to-day business operations, but deriving customized reports from the software is usually very cumbersome. If you are serious about implementing tracking mechanisms that tangible Big Data can be extrapolated from, then you need a turnkey solution that collects a wide variety of information and makes analyzing that data easy.
Measuring What You Manage
Ultimately, data collection should center around two goals: discovering exact prospect demographics and desires, and gathering information to direct future business growth.
Successfully tracking precisely what your prospects want, starts first with implementing best practices on the actual phone call. We know from analyzing the data we continuously collect at XPS Solutions that about 3.6 out of 10 calls are prospect calls. If you miss these calls, prospects will absolutely ring your competition. Additionally, the other 6.4 calls are more than likely your current clients, so getting these answered is an important part of reducing excess churn, creating an excellent customer service experience, and tactically acquiring positive reviews. On average, every facility misses at least 3 to 5 calls per day. The first step is to ensure every single call is answered every single time. Since your onsite operations manager, although excellent at his or her job, is probably not able to superhumanly maintain your facility, sell walk-in prospects, create valuable rapport with clients, all while answering 100% of your calls 100% of the time, we recommend mirroring the REIT-like strategy of centralizing your calls for consistency and quality control.
Once your calls are centralized, track all of them. The way we collect data on the calls we service at the XPS Solutions Centralized Sales and Support Center begins with properly training our team. We employ professional self-storage specialists that do not just read a boring script; they actually sell units. On every single call, every single time, these specialists ask key questions to obtain valuable primary market area (PMA) information, geographic data, buying cycle statistics, and more. These figures then funnel into our BigData™ Dashboard, the real-time web-reporting tool we developed as an online analytical platform. Customized for each of the businesses we partner with, our BigData™ Dashboard enables our clients to get a comprehensive macro-view of the entirety of their business operations at just a click or a swipe.
In addition to tracking all of your calls, we highly recommend recording all of your calls. This function will serve to create a file for additional tracking and encourage consistent call quality. If a problem arises, you are immediately able to refer to the exact call and be completely in the know. If you ever wonder how prospects are responding to your current incentive or promotion, listen to a few calls to identify and interpret any intonation change. More than likely, you have been on hold far too many times while waiting to connect to a person on a call, and you have heard the prerecorded message, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” Well that is exactly what recording your calls will enable you to do: assure quality for your prospects and clients, and protection for your employees.
Now that you are ready to start pulling important data from your calls, exactly what information should you be tracking?
First, know as much as possible about your prospects.
We know from our research that there is only about a 3 to 5 mile radius primary market area (PMA) in which a prospect is willing to travel to store their belongings. Typically, within this radius, you will be 1 of 7, sometimes as much as 1 of 9, competing self-storage sites. Tracking the zip codes of every prospect caller will provide you with a more precise target market, which will help you accurately and effectively spend your marketing dollars.
Another valuable set of data is discovering your prospects’ average buying cycle. At XPS Solutions, we uncover this information when our representatives are selling units for our clients. Our specialists ask prospects this simple, noninvasive question, “When will you be needing your unit?” From the answers given, we are able to extrapolate the average timeframe prospects need their units. Sometimes during the calendar year prospects tend to plan ahead more, and may not need their units until 30 or more days from the time of the call. During other seasons, prospects are in immediate need for units, and will shop your competition if there are any delays in the rental process. Discovering the pattern of your facility will help your operations manager plan ahead for supply and demand.
Second, know where to grow.
Gathering data such as the most popular unit size prospects are asking for provides you with powerful information that can be used for strategic business expansion. When you decide to further buy or build, you will have a complete breakdown of the unit sizes that consistently make you the most money, and will be able to analyze any seasonal popularity changes among those unit sizes.
You can also measure the success of your advertising efforts by tracking how prospects are finding you. Internet searches? Client referrals? Just driving by? Are you paying for expensive direct mailers that are not resulting in any sold units? Simply asking how your prospects hear about you, and tracking their answers, can empower your advertising efforts with a laser like focus, and enable you to systematically grow your business.
Bottom line: whether you are new to the self-storage industry, or an experienced investor, the trend of tracking is worth your time. Big Data, when collected and analyzed properly, has the power to dramatically increase your business productivity and profit.
The wave of the future is here, and it is Big Data.