By Chris Koenig
In 2008, I started a property tax appeal business in California that worked on contingency to lower commercial property owners’ property taxes due to the 2008 real estate market crash. California’s property taxes are based on their assessed/current market values, and if your value drops, so can your property taxes (potentially).
My business was vibrant until about 2016, by which time I was able to amass more than 2,000 clients owning over $14 billion worth of real estate in California. A key to this success was several successful marketing campaigns that were different from my competitors. These fundamentals can be utilized to market your RV and boat storage facility, and likely they will greatly benefit your business.
Have a face to the name for the RV and boat dealers
COVID lockdowns taught us, among other things, that the lack of face-to-face meetings hurts business development and marketing. Sales 101 teaches you to meet with a potential client at their office, shake hands, create a bond, and “always be closing!” I’ll save you from any more Glengarry Glen Ross quotes, but the principles from this iconic movie still apply. Selling a product or service by Zoom is hard and lacks the human-factor we all want from a service provider. I am not suggesting this tactic to the hundreds of potential customers but rather direct to the RV and boat dealerships and sales reps.
This marketing tactic was brought to my attention while attending a local RV show in Alameda, Calif., touted as “the Biggest in California.” I attended with a partner, 250 business cards in hand, ready to hook some customers to rent at our new facility. We spoke to 0 potential customers. But in talking to the dealers/salespersons at this show, it became evident that forging an in-person relationship with these dealers would open a portal for them to know about our facility, what we offer, the value-add propositions we have over other facilities and that we are obviously, genuinely nice people trying to offer a Class-A service, same as they are.
Several dealers said they have customers ready to buy but they say “not yet!” because they haven’t been able to find a place to store their boat or RV yet. Aha! We offer a solution there! The dealers loved that we provided them with new information about nearby storage; it enables them to close their sale ASAP, and we all know time kills deals. Possible incentives to dealers could include offering a referral fee (i.e., one month’s rent or $100) if need be; however, every dealers’ motivation is to close the sale, so I would be leery about also offering a referral fee.
Tricks of this trade that WORK
As part of pounding the pavement and forging relationships with your local RV and boat dealerships, here are a few tips and tricks that will help your name resonate with dealers as you compete for mindshare:
- Drop off marketing material/fliers so they have them “at-the-ready” when someone’s shopping for their new toy.
- If it’s in the budget, make custom-etched YETIs (or something similar with your logo, phone/email and contact info.) Why? Case in point: I was given to YETI mugs by a security company, VERKADA, that I have used routinely for years. Their name is subliminally adding clout in my mind every time I fill up one of the mugs. Have this mug on sales managers’ desks every day and your facility will be on the top of their minds, everyday. Not a bad investment!
- Go to the dealerships in-person more than once, check-in every few months, have a face to your facility’s name! When I first started my property tax business, I targeted local property owners and tried to meet them in-person to sell my service. Guess what! The closing rate was greater than 75%. By comparison, when I did mass-mailings for the property tax business, the close rate was 1-2% at best.
The in-person meetings took more hours and this process is certainly not scalable, but for our RV and boat storage business, we don’t need to market to more than three to 10 local dealerships to be successful.
My professional advice for you is to carve out the time in the day to do this at least quarterly until your site is full. Keep the follow-ups to one or two-times a year so you maintain good relationships as other business or service opportunities could arise.
4. For $15, you can get 250 custom business cards made online with your project’s name, your name and contact info. Hand these out to the dealerships! Carry these with you in your car or briefcase. That way, wherever you go, you’ll Always Be Closing!
Does distributing cards to dealers work?
Circling back to my original discussion of the RV show, passing out cards to dealers: We received a phone call from a very interested customer who’s been looking for a covered RV space for months, but with waitlists at existing facilities at 100s deep with no realistic date of availability in sight.
This customer had our project’s info from their RV dealer, and it just so happened that my partner and I spoke with this dealer at the show and handed out our card. Now, this is only one potential customer, but since then we have received several calls from that two-hour event handing out cards. With a well-thought-out-plan and tours of existing dealerships, this method only needs to work 500 times to have our facility full.
As is such in life, you get out of it what you put into it, and I firmly believe this same mantra applies in business. Simply turning the lights on, having a website, a phone number/person in the office to answer questions, a $300/month Google Ads campaign budget plus a nice Yelp page isn’t going to cut it in this evolving and growing market.
“If you build it they will come” does not work everywhere (see my other blog post about this). Putting in a minimal amount of effort will not only help fill your facility, but it will create relationships with dealerships in your business sector and create potential for other opportunities in town, like demand for a second location in town! You never know.
Chris Koenig is Managing Member of Kingsland Companies LLC, a self-storage and RV/Boat storage development, investment and management company.
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