Needs of small Omaha company give rise to big name in online self-storage
USStoragesearch.com provides an online directory for shopping, comparing and advertising self-storage space.
An idea born out of a small Omaha company looking to get more exposure and return on investment from its own local self-storage facility advertising has grown into one of the nation's leading online self-storage directories.
USstoragesearch.com is an Omaha-based online directory for shopping, comparing and advertising self-storage space. Today, the company founded by Michael Kucera (below) boasts a directory of more than 18,000 self-storage and mobile storage listings nationwide. But it had much humbler beginnings.
"Cornerstone Commercial Real estate services, back in 2001, had one self-storage facility here in Omaha; at that time, the only real option for advertising was the Yellow Pages for storage facilities," said Bill Hipsher, who's the director of business development at USstoragesearch.com and has been with the company through the transition. "We were paying $300 a month and weren't seeing the return we wanted, so we turned to the internet."
The first website was called OmahaStorage.com (now under different ownership) and was based on a different localized model than USstoragesearch.com. It provided a way for smaller facilities to compete with larger ones. "Property managers who had a need and were losing money, not getting a good return on the advertising dollars that were being put in, came to us," Hipsher said.
By 2004, OmahaStorage.com had run its course, and USstoragesearch.com launched with a more national focus. "Going national actually made things easier," Hipsher said. "By going on a national level, you end up having a national brand that is recognized and used."
When it comes down to it, Hipsher says, it's dollars and cents. "The question is, 'How much does each self-storage tenant cost you, and what is the acquisition price of each new tenant?' " Hipsher explained. "If we can get the time with a self-storage facility, we can prove to them that our online marketing services have the lowest cost of acquisition of anything they are going to do besides someone walking up to the front of the door."
Platform powers growth
Almost all of USstoragesearch.com's platform was developed in-house. One of the biggest hurdles for lead developer Brandon Taylor was creating a solution to display reservations and storage inventory for a customer in real-time. USstoragesearch.com also built out a custom CMS platform for storage facilities that need that technology piece in place to use USstoragesearch.com's service. It's a white-label solution for storage providers.
"If you want to continue to have your brand and have self-storage on your site, partner with us and you don't have to go out and build it yourself," Hipsher (left) said. "The site is primarily a lead aggregation site, we are generating phone calls, quotes, emails, coupons — stuff like that."
The online reservations occur on most of USstoragesearch.com's partner websites. "We power more than 200 different websites that have self-storage on them," Hipsher said. "Storage.com, one of our biggest partners, is 100 percent powered by USstoragesearch.com. We are the sales and marketing team for the site and reservations."
A look ahead
USstoragesearch.com currently has 38 employees, and 36 of them are based in Omaha. Competing in a space also occupied by the likes of StorageFront.com, which was created by Westwood, Kan.-based Red Nova Labs, and SpareFoot.com, USstoragesearch.com has three main objectives looking forward.
First is the continued growth of its membership and the number of facilities that are on its site. "We have the largest footprint of any self storage site in the industry, covering 30,000-plus U.S. markets," Hipsher said. "So we are the largest, but we want more options in each of those markets."
The second is the growth of company's self-storage network and the online reservations through its partners like Storage.com and storageunit.com. "Those partnerships mean heavier traffic though our call centers, which just recently began running at 24 hours a day," Hipsher said. "We are the only independent aggregation site that has a call center and operates 24/7."
Third is the launch of a couple of new products this year and development of new technology that continues to make online marketing and advertising an easier option for self-storage operators is key. "I can't exactly say what we have coming out," Hipsher said, "but we are very excited about the products we have coming out."
Credits: Screenshot from USstoragesearch.com. Photos of Kucera and Hipsher courtesy of Hipsher.