One of the best ways to find a self-storage facility to buy is through “direct mail”. But what does that mean and how do you do it properly? In this Self-Storage University podcast we’re going to review how to use direct mail as a tool to find deals to buy, as well as some tricks and tips to increase your success with this method of prospecting.
Episode 56: All About Finding Target Properties With Direct Mail Transcript
There are many different ways to find a self-storage property to buy. You can find online listings on places like LoopNet. You can talk to brokers, they have both advertised listings and pocket listings. You can cold call around to different owners, see if they'd like to sell. But one of the most important is something called Direct Mail. This is Frank Rolfe, The Self-Storage University Podcast. We're gonna talk all about finding properties, buying properties, utilizing direct mail. Now, if you put in the word direct mail, you won't really find much, even definitionally online. It's kind of this nefarious amorphous thing where we try and find customers using the US Postal Service typically. But normally in this case, you're not trying to find customers, you're trying to find people you can give money to. So it's a little bit stranger than the direct mail that you will buy in a textbook down at the book store, because you're not trying to convince someone to buy something from you through your amazing direct mail piece, instead you're trying to get people just to basically pick up the phone and call you regarding their self-storage property.
Now, let's start with the basics. How do you get the list of people to send the direct mail to? Well, the first thing you have to do is you have to figure out what do you wanna be on that list? What part of America are you looking for? Where are you targeting? You can't just say, "I wanna self-storage blast the whole United States." Well, that's crazy, there's probably parts of America you wouldn't wanna own a self-storage in. So let's narrow that list down. For many people, their target is about a five-hour drive or so around their home, that way if a property pops up and the guy says, "Yeah, I'd sell it," they can jump in their car on a Saturday at 8:00 in the morning, and they can be there by noon and they can meet with the seller and they can have lunch and they can drive home for dinner. Now, that's true control American style. So if you can just get in your car, start the engine, drive over, that's a breath of fresh air in a world which is so difficult today with air travel, etcetera.
And so, if that's what you're gonna go with, you say, "Okay, well, here's my territory," it's this four to five hour circle. Okay, that's great and everything, but let's narrow it down some more. We all know that storage works typically in areas of higher population, higher demographics, let's start charting that out. No, let's not hit all that rural area over there where there's no people. Pretty soon, you're gonna find that... Within that circle, you're gonna find a series of metropolitan areas that fit the profile that would work for storage, and now you can start doing basically online searches for self-storage in those areas. If you just go to Google and put, I'm looking for a self-storage facility in Fenton, Missouri, well, that's gonna pop 20, 30, 40 of them. And if Fenton meets your criteria, well, now you've got a beginnings of a list. But how do I then take that list and translate that into direct mail, do I just take the address for the self-storage facility and mail it there? No, that's not gonna work, because most people don't self-manage, and if you just send that to the address, all you're gonna get is a direct mail to a manager.
And when a manager gets a direct mail piece, all they hear from that is, "Hey, I wanna fire you," because they know that if there's a change in ownership, there's typically a change in management and they don't wanna lose their job. So they're gonna deep six that, they're gonna throw that in the trash, they're gonna shred that every time that comes in. So here's what you do instead, what you do is, you take the address of each of the self-storages that pop up on Google, and they typically pop up right at the very first search, and now you take those addresses to the tax assessor's database. Every county has a tax assessor, every county assesses taxes, and it's all a public record, and you put in the addresses into the search tool, and lo and behold, there's the owner, there's the owner's name and the owner's address. You now have the actual information of the owner of the storage facility, not the manager. So now you got something that's actionable, something that's of quality, something you can go ahead and send out that the owner is actually going to see.
So if I'm now gonna send this thing out, what does it look like? Well, you have two options in direct mail, you have letters, and you have postcards. Over the years, we've found that the postcards are typically more successful than the letters, although everyone's experience may vary. The key reason being that when you get a postcard, it's very much in your face. When you send a letter and they think, they sense it's some type of direct mail, they'll just throw it in the trash and won't even open it. So at least on a postcard, they will take a glimpse at it, and in that glimpse, you have to grab them. If you're doing a postcard, the best way to grab them is to have the word self-storage owner, because they'll rarely get... You don't get the LLB and self-storage owner edition, and then possibly a photo of a self-storage facility. They now know that it relates to them and they're shocked, 'cause they rarely get anything other than maybe a magazine of the storage industry that comes like that.
Also put on there your phone number prominently, so they can call you. That's the whole point of this, is that they call you, so make that big, make that dominant, maybe in bright red letters. Many people hate brokers, so I wouldn't put on there that you're a broker, instead just put that you wanna buy it, that you're an owner. Send that out, typically, you'll get a 1% response rate, if you send 500 out, that means you're probably gonna get five that call you. That's what direct mail typically yields, it's about 1%, but 1% is fine in this case, you're not trying to sell a mass-produced T-shirt, you're trying to buy a single property. Now on the letter side, if you're gonna do the letter route, the people who have had more success with letters have done them where they actually send handwritten letters. That is extremely time-intensive to sit down and write a letter. And on top of that, your writing may not even be conducive for that. Your writing may be illegible.
But that's one trick people who have done the letter route done, but if you're not going to do that, if you're gonna put in some kinda form letter for the love of heavens, don't do a peel and stick label on the front of that envelope, that screams direct mail. Total turn off to your mom and pop. It can go straight in the trash, they're not even gonna open it up. So if you're gonna do it in a letter form, at least do the letters individually addressed. You can do a lot of letters, if you just take a stack of envelopes and you sit down on your favorite television show and you look up occasionally with it running in the background, you'll find you can get a whole lot of them written in just one episode of your favorite television show or sporting items that's on TV. And that's how you get your direct mail out.
Now, you'll notice I didn't say use a direct mail service, and here's why, 'cause many times they don't work. When you use a direct mail service, what do you get? Well, often garbage in, garbage out. Did they even load the data in properly? Who the heck knows. Did they even mail it at all? I'm not really sure. We found it mysterious back when we used direct mail firms, we got always a 1% or better response rate, but we use them, we got none, which begged the question, do they ever really go out? I don't know. Additionally, it's expensive to use these direct mail firms. If you do it yourself, you know it went out, and you only pay the cost of printing the thing and the postage. So I would definitely do it myself. I think you'll be a lot happier. You also don't even know that the list that they use are actually even legitimate lists, and they're not just all going to the manager, which is probably why you're not getting any return rate at all on your direct mail piece.
The bottom line to it all is that direct mail is a great way to find a self-storage property. So when you're out there looking and look into different ways to do it, direct mail should definitely be at the top of your list or near the top of your list. Often, you can do direct mail in conjunction with cold calling, they get the postcard or letter, then you follow up saying, "Hey, did you get my postcard or letter?" Gives you what? You get your foot in the door without looking intrusive, and it gives them double firepower, because you hit them real quick like in succession. And we all know from marketing, that's a very, very important item. It's called a marketing burst, you see it on TV all the time. You see a commercial, and then three seconds later, the same commercial again. The human mind then tracks and remembers those kinds of occurrences better, and that's why they do that. But again, if you're looking for a self-storage property, you should never overlook or underestimate the firepower of doing a direct mail piece. This is Frank Rolfe, The Self-Storage University Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.