It Isn’t a Defunct Marketing Method!


Spending on TV advertising in the United States is on track to drop steadily over the next several years, from an estimated $60 billion in 2024 to $54 million in 2027, according to marketing company Statista. Money spent on radio ads is also falling. Meanwhile, advertising in the battered newspaper industry is projected to plummet over the remainder of this decade.

All these declines are happening as digital advertising continues to soar. In the U.S., digital media attracted about 75% of all media spending in 2023, according to marketing firm MarTech.

Amid the dramatic shift in the advertising landscape, self-storage operators may question whether buying ads from traditional mass-media outlets still makes sense. Industry experts maintain that this method remains viable—as long as operators allocate their dollars carefully.

“Mass-media advertising can still benefit self-storage companies by building brand awareness and reaching a broad audience, especially in areas with lower digital media consumption. However, we face challenges like high costs and changing consumer habits toward digital platforms,” says Christian Espinal, marketing director for SecureSpace Self Storage, which operates facilities in 14 states.

If mass-media advertising is an avenue you’d like to explore for your self-storage business, here’s what you need to know.

The Price Tag

When it comes to plotting your mass-advertising strategy, cost certainly should be at or near the top of your information-gathering checklist. Consider the following:

A 30-second ad on a local TV station can range from $5 to $100 per 1,000 viewers, reports “Fit Small Business,” a provider of online content for small-business owners. On top of that, it typically costs $1,000 to $50,000 or more to professionally produce a local TV ad, according to an article from marketing agency Motivated Marketing. Keep in mind that this differs from pricing for local cable networks.

A 30-second radio spot might cost $100 to $500 in a small market, $500 to $1,500 in a mid-size one and $2,000 to $5,000 or more in a large market, according to technology startup VoiceTalks. Again, that doesn’t include the expense of producing the ad.

Prices for newspaper ads vary widely. For instance, a full-page ad in a daily paper in Albany, Georgia, might cost around $7,000. But in a bigger market like Albany, New York, the same ad could cost $31,000, according to an article on “Fit Small Business.”

As these figures show, you could easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign. So, how do you figure out which mass-media types to consider? Of course, your budget will be a significant factor in your decision.

You must assess the cost-effectiveness of mass-media ads compared with vehicles like digital advertising and community outreach, notes Kristi Adams, vice president of marketing for OpenTech Alliance, a provider of technology and other services for the self-storage industry. She recommends ensuring you’ve got a handle on your target audience. Look at data that’ll help pinpoint who your best customers are, such as age, gender, location and income. This may steer you toward one alternative over another. For instance, it might tell you that a campaign anchored by radio ads and billboards may be the most effective option based on your customer demographics.

“Each type of mass media has its own advantages and reach, so determining what will bring you the best [return on investment] is the goal,” says Adams, who suggests hunting for leftover TV and radio advertising inventory, which typically can be purchased at a steep discount. In addition, pay attention to when election advertising is peaking, as mass-media ads can be particularly pricey during these periods.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose, mass-media advertising shouldn’t be a one-and-done proposition, notes Adam Kutner, vice president of marketing for Andover Properties, which operates the Storage King USA brand. To be effective, it should be treated as a yearly or multi-year investment, meaning you might not see substantial results right away but maybe six or 12 months down the road.

To carry out a long-term ad campaign, Kutner recommends setting aside funds in a special bank account and perhaps even paying for some ads up front. Otherwise, you might be tempted to trim or eliminate this method when cash flow is low. Such budget-cutting actions can make your initiative “completely ineffectual,” he says, because you aren’t consistently following and updating your advertising plan.

Compelling Content

In addition to determining your mass0media advertising budget, you need to ensure the message resonates with your target audience. This means creating TV, radio and newspaper ads consumers won’t overlook.

For TV and radio, Adams recommends an opening line that’s gripping and, in the case of TV, a great visual element. Repeat your call to action as often as possible during the limited run.

“The language in a TV or radio ad should be conversational and easy to understand, and that sound should be used to enhance your ad’s message,” Espinal adds.

If a TV ad offers no value, such as something informative or entertaining, it’ll be forgotten, Kutner notes. “People put boring ads on TV, and that drives me insane. The ads need to be entertaining,” he says. “We’ve all watched the Super Bowl, right? A lot of people don’t even watch the Super Bowl for the football. They want to see the ads.”

For newspaper advertising, Adams suggests focusing on a clear message, using an attention-grabbing headline and high-quality images, and zeroing in on your call to action. If you’re publishing in more than one paper, test different copy and designs to see which deliver the best results.

“Be creative and be different. People are exposed to hundreds of advertisements daily,” says Carlos Diaz, president of Value Store It Management Inc., a provider of management services for self-storage owners and investors. “If you’re the same as everyone else, you’ll be overlooked.”

Should You Outsource?

While mass media may appeal to many self-storage operators, you might not have enough in-house bandwidth to produce and buy ads. If that’s the case, consider hiring an agency that specializes in these areas, Adams suggests.

“Outsourcing can bring professional quality and insights but adds to costs,” Espinal adds. “Weigh the benefits against the cost and your business capabilities.”

There are advantages to both DIY and outsourcing. If you keep the work in-house, you retain full control of the creative elements, and you’re likely more familiar with the mechanics and quality of internal projects, Diaz says. “Outsourcing could be good if you’re in a time crunch and you’re willing to dish out some additional spend on a reliable team of several people to pump out your content quickly with quality,” he adds.

Performance Tracking

Once you’ve settled on the mass-media formats you’ll use and the details of creating and buying ads, determine how you’ll measure their success. This is the most important step in rolling out a campaign, Adams notes.

Tracking involves paying attention to various metrics and key performance indicators. Adams suggests examining leads and conversions, website traffic and other data. Also, consider using a unique URL and phone number to better assess performance in a specific market. This monitoring might help you adjust your ad spending, she adds.

In one market, Adams and her team noticed a surge of calls during the airing of late-night TV spots, but these callers yielded few solid results. They largely turned out to be “bored people asking questions about self-storage at 11 p.m.,” she says. “We saw this trend in a few other markets and then pulled [ads at] that specific time, as they were not generating actual rentals, just conversations.”

Derek Walker, a principal at self-storage consulting firm Box Pro, offers a more traditional approach to gauging the success of your advertising efforts. “Whenever a tenant rents a unit, ask them how they heard about your facility. Make it a required question,” he says. “It may add a few seconds to the rental process, but it will offer you invaluable insight as you allocate your marketing dollars.”

While your self-storage marketing approach will likely always include a digital component moving forward, don’t discount mass-media advertising. If it’s an avenue you’d like to explore, investigate your options, create a practical budget, and have a well-planned strategy that includes a method to track your efforts. You might discover it’s an effective way to promote your brand to a bigger market.

John Egan is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer and content-marketing strategist who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and health and wellness. He’s the former editor-in-chief at SpareFoot (now Storable) and the author of “The Stripped-Down Guide to Content Marketing.” His work has been published by outlets such as Nareit, Wealth Management, Urban Land magazine, Bankrate, Forbes Advisor, Experian, Investopedia and U.S. News & World Report.


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