We’re all seeking a sense of certainty and normalcy after last year. While we don’t have a crystal ball, and can’t say exactly what the future holds, we can share the biggest marketing trend in 2021: being human. 

The Human Element of Marketing

As consumers navigated a slew of uncertain scenarios in 2020, we began to expect a little more from brands than we had in the past. We asked brands and companies to look inside their company culture and examine if they were living up to their own values. We needed them to be empathetic to the insecurity we felt as our world, and lives, as we knew them transformed in a matter of days. Your renters are no different. 

So far, this pandemic has lasted for almost a year, and because of its length, some of these shifts in renter behaviors and expectations will stick around, and continue to be important even in a post-pandemic world. 

At the end of the day as marketers we are humans, communicating with other humans. While we love data-driven marketing, we need to be mindful that the number on our screen or on our dashboard, is a person with needs. Your renters are looking for a safe place to store belongings. And, if we treat renters like people, with respect for their needs and empathy for their current situations, we can make the world just a little bit kinder through our individual interactions. Perhaps this sounds a little too altruistic, but let’s dive into what we’re talking about, and how to make your marketing more customer-centric, and human. 

What Do We Mean by “Be Human”?

Put yourself in your renters’ shoes for a minute. In 2020 alone they’ve faced dual health and economic crises, more frequent and more destructive natural disasters, a politically divisive election season, unrest of a civil rights awakening, not to mention the ripple effects on their individual lives and the lives of their loved ones. Oof. That’s a lot to take on. We’ve learned how adaptable and resilient we are collectively, that’s for sure. Moreover, our empathy muscles got a little stronger. 

Sometimes we break down the storage renting process into a very simple process. First: you research. Next: you call. Finally: you lease. When in reality, finding a storage unit and moving your belongings into it is a stressful experience — on top of everything else folks are currently navigating. Now is the time to be human and turn our empathy dials up to create genuine, authentic customer service experiences for renters.  

What does that mean in Self Storage Marketing?

Empathetic marketing can sound touchy-feely, and perhaps even vague. So for the skeptics and believers alike, let’s break down how to make it actionable. Empathetic marketing means feeling with your renters or residents, and creating solutions or sharing content to address their pain points, answer their questions, and create a frictionless experience.

Last March, properties intuitively took actions like this. In self storage, when renters couldn’t pay immediately many properties chose to negotiate a payment plan instead of immediately auctioning their belongings. That’s action-backed empathy that also builds trust with your renters. 

Human-centric self storage marketing could look like choosing a frictionless online leasing tool (bottom line perk: this can also increase occupancy). Or, it could be sharing helpful storage tips or answers to frequently asked questions. Now you might be wondering, won’t this hurt our bottom line? Won’t it make me less competitive in the market? Nope. Happy customers provide recommendations and reviews virtually and to their friends and family. For businesses like self storage that rely on physical properties, this network of goodwill within your neighborhood or community is an often undervalued form of “free” marketing. In fact, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over other types of advertising. According to Chatmeter, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 

Five Ways to Humanize Self Storage Marketing 

1. Help > Sell

Focus on delivering content and helpful information that empowers renters to make the best decision for them. Easily accessible unit size and availability, as well as streamlined online leasing, allows renters to self qualify. By making sure your messaging is helpful, you continue to build trust. 

2. Research, Research, Research

Best in class MarTech providers know your customers’ journeys and can prove it with data. Work with your MarTech provider to understand how your customers’ motivations, needs, and subsequently the buyers’ journey may have changed over the past year. Examine any metrics you have to understand their needs and then think of ways you’re able to answer questions and help. 

3. How Can You Make Their Life Easier?

Thoughtful gestures that make renters’ lives simpler or more joyful go a long way. Ask yourself, how can you continue to help your renters after they’ve signed a lease? Perhaps it’s adding a little levity to their days through social media or sharing packing tips, selling moving supplies, and letting them know any quirky moving tips you’ve learned along the way. 

4. Remember “Clear is Kind”

If something is changing at your property, clearly communicate it. Your renters aren’t mind readers, and they need to understand how changes will impact their lives. Communicating in a clear, thoughtful manner ensures everyone feels included and up-to-date about ongoing changes. 

5. Listen + Adapt

We know how important reviews are in building and retaining customer trust. Respond to every online review — good, bad, or rating only. In addition to responding, listen to what your customers are saying, and adapt in order to better meet their needs. 

Get Ready to Empower the People Side of Marketing

Are you ready to take your marketing to the next level this year? Over the coming months, we’ll share chapters from our new G5 MarTech Series. We’ll show you how to bridge the seemingly disparate gap between intuitive, frictionless customer experiences and cutting-edge MarTech. Here’s what you can expect in the coming months. 

February: Be Authentic: The Online Experience

March: Be Agile: Digital Trends

April: Be Savvy: Technology

May: Be Grounded: Data + CDP

June: Be Creative: Brand + User Experience

You can start now by outlining the goals you’d like to achieve in 2021 with our Goal and Intention Setting Journal