Ever seen the movie 'Pulp Fiction'?

What highly profitable advantage can the storage industry learn from the movie industry?

Just like any major budget block-buster movie, a storage business is an extremely profitable but complex proposition. Both with storage and with movies there is a plethora of concerns to be either excluded and discarded or included and meshed together to achieve the desired result (profit - and lots of it!).

In the case of a movie, for example, you need script writers, screen-plays, actors, extras, camera operators, editors, producers, plus a gazillion other things, all being guided by the Director towards the end product which must produce a profit or else the Director's career may well be permanently over. Yes, it is very true to say that a Director of movies has a really tough job. If the Director misses something, it can mean the death of the project. A Director of a storage business has the same problem. Unless, like a brilliant movie Director does, they can turn the "problem" into a money-making asset.

How? Let's take what Quentin Tarantino did when he Directed the movie "Pulp Fiction", see if he can reveal any profitable tricks, and if we can apply these to storage, uncovering a goldmine for you in the process.


Ever seen the movie "Pulp Fiction"?

Do you remember how the characters, (Vincent, Jules, Butch, Marsellus, Mia, Jimmy, and others), appear in seemingly un-related scene after seemingly un-related scene? Total confusion reigns in your mind until near the very end of the movie when the storyline returns to the heist in the cafe and the pieces finally start falling into place. This is when you start to realise that your confusion throughout the movie is due to one single, simple, albeit wrong assumption. And once you were able to change your assumptive "programming", everything became clear, and you actually started to admire Quentin Tarantino's story-telling expertise, whereas just moments before, you may well have been dismissing the entire movie as violent trash.

Tarantino employed one simple little trick to work this magic on his audience. He knew you would assume that the scenes were being shown in a chronological sequence. So on the editing floor the scenes were put together out of order. The offensive language and violence tempted you to be turned off, but something, maybe a glimpse of decency or honour in the characters, or maybe just your brain's nagging desire to make sense of something that appeared to be totally mindless which you had paid hard earned money to see, kept you hanging on.

In fact, quite honestly, without Tarantino's clever trick, most of us would have walked out on the movie. But then, near the end, most of us were glad we were able to hang in there because we were finally able to make sense of it all. Tarantino successfully orchestrated his symphony to repulse, confuse, disorient, and then (finally) to deliver absolute satisfaction to his audience.


What does this have to do with your storage business?

A storage business can be like the movie, "Pulp Fiction". It seems that there is so much different and seemingly un-related technology out there supposedly designed to make or save you money thus maximise the viability of your storage investment. There are software vendors, web page vendors, access control vendors, kiosk vendors, all of whom seem to be pushing their own products and asking you to spend with them in return for a promise that your business will be better off. You listen to these salespeople, in the hope that somehow what they have to say will be of use to you.

These vendors almost always have something that sounds cool, but then it comes with such a hefty price-tag that you decide you can live without whatever gizmo is being heralded as the answer to all your problems. You know that some businesses can make this new-fangled stuff profitable for them, but you doubt you can. Well, of course you can't. You are not a big multi-site operation with all of that extra capital to play with. But then, of course you can't, because you are not one of those family owned operations who can make an investment decision without worrying about what your share-holders will think.

There is just one reason why the decision is made not to invest in the new technology. Know this. The decision not to invest has very little to do with the money you would need to shell out for the investment. The reason you did not buy the new technology is the same reason why that salesperson should keep their day job and forget about going into the movies. My apologies if I have offended any Hollywood based salespeople hoping for a break in the movies but it is the sad truth. Let's take a closer look at the situation and try to understand why you did not buy and why the salesperson should not go into the movie business.


What would have happened if you had walked out on Pulp Fiction just before the storyline returned to the heist in the Cafe? Let's imagine that you find yourself sitting down over coffee discussing it with someone who hung in there. You would be saying to your friend that the movie was nothing other than a mindless string of violent scenes whilst your friend, who stayed and saw the whole thing, would be just as devoutly declaring to you that the story-telling of this movie was "brilliant".

At first you reject their claim, but they manage to get you to regret walking out on the movie, and you may even be tempted to rent it out on DVD so you can see for yourself what your friend is talking about. And when you do rent the DVD, you are better able to sit through the trashy violence because you know something really cool is coming. Have you ever declined to take a technology salesman up on a technology offer only to find yourself discussing things with a friend (or competitor) who has taken up the technology and is raving about it?


Well, just like Tarantino did in "Pulp Fiction", that vendor salesperson played one single, simple, trick on you to guarantee that you would miss out on the additional revenue your company could have enjoyed had you invested. Tarantino's trick disoriented and confused because, without the chronologically ordered scenes you were counting on to maintain your perspective, you could not follow the plot of the movie. In exactly the same way, that clever vendor salesperson managed to disorient and confuse you by neglecting to tell you that their latest and greatest technological marvel was not a stand-alone proposition.

That it required integration with the rest of the elements in your business model. And just like the moment when the storyline of Pulp Fiction returned to the cafe you should now be thinking, "Ahhhhhh... eureka!" Now, just like the movie, you will be wanting to hear the rest of the story, which is designed to help you to understand how the correctly interfaced employment of technology can help you get what Jules got - an early retirement where he could choose to follow a more constructive passion than that of a mercenary killer.

First, let's cover the individual technological components of a storage business's customer interface - that system which asks customers what they want, how they want it, and then gives it to them, just that way, whilst collecting the revenue due for services rendered along the way.


The Essential Customer Relation Storage Technologies

Yellow Pages Directory listing. Whilst it is true that most people turn to the internet when they are looking for a product or service a yellow pages listing is still important for those who do not search on the internet. It can also help internet searchers to find you as well.

Cost effective marketing technology which is not designed to help your business find customers. It is much better than that. It is designed to help your customers find, and buy, from you. For more information on this refer to my other blog post on the subject.

A fully interactive website. This should help people to find your business, research it, enable them to search for and reserve storage space, allow them to pay their account, or to ask your staff for the answer to a question they have about your business.

Business hours that suit the majority of your customers and technological means to serve the rest when the business day is over.

A Management Package (like StorMan). This should integrate with all of the above so that all customer activity is kept pace with. This system is the central nervous system of your business. It keeps a complete record of your customers, their history of business with your company, a list of who is and who isn't up to date with rent payments (this is the thing in StorMan that tells your access control system whether or not to give people at the keypad or swipe-card reader access into the facility), it can communicate with your customer to send them account reminders via various means including post, email, and in some places SMS ("SMS" is cell-phone text technology), it helps you to maintain your rental rates (including increases), it records account payments (whether these are made at the front desk, through your Insomniac, and via your website), it keeps a complete log of who visits your facility, when and how long they stayed, it generates reports on your business including sales, leads, and conversion rates. It also talks to your QuickBooks accounts system so that your accountant has all they need to accurately and efficiently handle your accounts and tax affairs.


Oh, and as a side note, here is an article on just one of the ways a good Management Package (like StorMan) can maximise your profits.

However, the problem is that no one, single technology delivers everything you need. It takes several technologies all integrated with each other via Management Software (like StorMan) to pull it off. Once everything is integrated you begin to realise how technologies help you make and save more money.

The important thing is that the return on technology investment is always equal to the sum total increase in revenue received plus the reduction in operating costs. And if the key to understanding "Pulp Fiction" is realising that the scenes are shown out of chronological order then the key to obtaining a return on investment with technology is realising the importance of technology integration. This is what a storage business without integrated technologies can look like to a storage customer.


Here is how we can help

All this technology stuff takes time and energy to evaluate, select, and implement. Time and budget constraints are probably the worst enemy of this extremely important process. We realise that time and budget constraints can hold people back and we would like to help.

StorMan has a Nine Point Checklist and Technology Employment Strategy Document which not only lists the essentials above but it also checks how each is employed. The idea is to ensure each component is meshing with the rest of your business so that you can more successfully avoid having your customers feel like the couple in the Gourmet Burger joint story, (if you have not read that yet, its definitely worth a read!).

Because the value of your business is so closely aligned to Net Operating Income (NOI) the Nine Point Checklist and Technology Employment Strategy Document could also facilitate something Jules in Pulp Fiction ended up with, that is, an early and successful retirement away from the "mayhem and madness of his working life"!

- Wayne (VP Sales and Marketing, StorMan USA; 2007 - 2010)