As technology opens up new cost-effective promotional routes, from social media to mobile marketing, consumer demand for 365/24/7 convenience and access is becoming more commonplace. Self-storage is a primary example of an industry where companies that make it easy to recruit and retain customers will thrive.
Self-service kiosks are one example of meeting consumer access and convenience requirements. Subject to individual company rules and regulations, these kiosks can make sign-up and payment available all day and night 365 days a year (or 366 in 2012, a Leap Year).
Of course, kiosks themselves require a substantial investment. Self-storage proprietors looking for an inexpensive alternative or a complement to kiosks increasingly are promoting Quick Response (QR) codes, a virtual 24-hour kiosk in one's mobile device. Creation and placement of these codes both on printed and digital media are typically easy, fast, and very low-cost. Just Google "QR code creator" to find creation and use options.
While most of us have seen a QR code, a square box graphic that looks (and acts) like a barcode on steroids, it still holds great mystery. Basically, smartphones and the like can scan a QR code with the aid of free and low-cost apps (just Google "QR code reader" for a list). The code serves as a conduit to any digital information the purveyor wants to communicate (e.g., sales information, registration form, website, offers, business card).
A news release from PhoneSmart, which provides off-site self-storage sales and reservation center services for 800-plus properties in North America and Mexico emphasizes that, "Almost all self storage software providers are able to serve plug-ins to their self storage clients, allowing the storage operator to take payments, reserve units and rent space online without a third party creating and maintaining additional interfaces."
Tron Jordheim, Director of PhoneSmart, points out that his company has been using QR codes to increase after-hours business. He says the QR code has resulted in many phone calls and some move-ins. In a low volume business such as self-storage, "One more inquiry or rental monthly because of a QR code is cool; it's a low-cost way to stimulate business."
While Jordheim sees stand-alone value in using QR codes for self-storage sales and sign-up, he acknowledges that they also can complement a kiosk. He emphasizes that the key is to make it easy for consumers to do business in the way they prefer. "It can be complementary, not just competitive. Some companies are using both QR codes and kiosks, along with a call center," notes Jordheim.
For people who enjoy automated and technology-driven ways of doing business, either the kiosk or QR code in tandem with their mobile device may fill the bill. Jordheim adds that there's a middle group of consumers who want to do research online, but then talk to someone before completing self-storage registration. This is where a call center or on-site employee becomes critical to the sales process.
As technology-driven, self-service solutions proliferate, Jordheim says he believes that, "People appreciate personal interaction even more, making it more important that people answering the phone know what they're doing. If you don't appeal to people who want to talk, you can miss out on 40 percent of the business," he notes.
In addition to aiding in the initial information-providing and sign-up processes, QR codes can provide an affordable and easy link to marketing initiatives. Ways to apply QR codes to self-storage promotion include:
- Place a QR code on posters, flyers, and any other marketing materials to offer incentives, provide information, and direct visitors to other resources. Possibilities are limited only by the imagination. Just recently, Bed, Bath and Beyond launched an in-store 20% coupon program in select markets. In their case, users viewing a poster at the store entrance were directed to text a keyword that led to a registration form-then the coupon was texted back for immediate use in-store. This also could have been accomplished via QR code placed on point-of-purchase posters and other displays;
- Promote self-storage giveaways and/or other prizes by encouraging mobile phone-users to enter via QR codes placed on any number of marketing materials-including the company website;
- Trumpet credibility-building customer testimonials, favorable media reports, and other endorsements via link to QR codes on-site and in selected marketing efforts. Since the QR code is essentially a link to whatever you want to say, promote or explain, you could create a "kudos" page on your website, or write a blog post discussing accomplishments-then simply link to it via QR code;
- Emphasize certain products or services (e.g., the automated attendant) through a specific QR code linked to information about its use and benefits.
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PhoneSmart Call Center and Off-Site Sales Force
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Learn more about PhoneSmart Call Center and Off-Site Sales Force on their Online Self Storage Trade Show page.